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Thursday, 18 September 2014

How ESPN changed the ad conversation

From: Reporter's Notebook

Sports broadcaster ESPN is one of the companies that has been pioneering cross-media measurement. Findings shared by the firm’s research bosses at the ARF’s Re:think conference in New York showed what can be learned from understanding media usage on multiple platforms, and how it changes the firm’s relationship with advertisers.

Under a research programme that began in 2001 the company has been trying to understand how fans access its content through its TV channels, radio stations, websites, mobile content and print magazine.

At the centre of the ESPN XP research project is the Touchpoints study of multimedia behaviour funded by media research consortium CIMM, of which the company is a founding member. But vice president of integrated media research Glenn Enoch said that ‘minute stacking’ - dividing up how much time people spend using different media each day - is just the easy part. “If all we had to do was work out what people are doing with their time, we’re done. But that doesn’t help you with your ad planning,” he said. A single-source survey like Touchpoints allows you to determine “the truth”, but you have to combine that with “very healthy” measures of the individual platforms - and supporting research including ethnography - to determine the reach of each medium and get a more complete understanding.

The research has helped ESPN understand that cross-media viewing is not a “zero-sum game” - more online viewing doesn’t necessarily mean less viewing on TV. It has also helped demonstrate how campaigns that combine TV with other media show much stronger effects than if the same media were used separately.

The firm has also been able to see how different media platforms fuel word of mouth throughout the sporting season, with radio’s influence building up steadily and mobile spiking towards the climax of the season as people check for the results of crucial games.

Senior VP of research and analytics Artie Bulgrin said it had been “remarkable” how ESPN’s cross-platform research has changed the way its sales staff operate. “There’s a new way of selling,” he said. “It’s about consulting with and advising our clients.”

Barbara Singer, VP of advertiser insights and strategy, said: “It’s been a great thing to watch… They realised that it changed the conversation they were having with their clients. It makes it much more of a business relationship and a collaborative relationship.”

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