FEATURE30 July 2010

Nielsen’s Benezra reflects on a Life360 in South Africa

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The final whistle of the 2010 World Cup has blown, but for researchers there is still work to do. Like data analysis. Research spoke to Nielsen’s Karen Benezra about the highs and lows of the firm’s South African campaign.


Some 700m people around the globe were expected to watch the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. The focus of all that attention was the teams, the managers, the players, the drama and – of course – the vuvuzelas. Nielsen, meanwhile, was watching the watchers – 400 of them, all South African natives who were part of a project called Life360.

Each was equipped with a BlackBerry mobile device in an effort to measure how engaged they were with brands and advertising over the course of the tournament and provide information about where they watched the games. Respondents were asked to take a short daily survey every day and take pictures of what they were doing and send it back to Nielsen.

The data, consisting of 62,000 data points and more than 54,000 images, is now all collected and being analysed. Project lead Karen Benezra said: “The World Cup was the first international effort for Life360. We’ve used it in the US for the past two-and-a-half years, mostly on custom projects with no more than 100 to 150 people. Here we were in market for four-and-half weeks with 420-plus respondents and we were constantly collecting data – so it really did push the boundaries of where we’d been before.”

Respondents took part in a “three-to-four minute surveys” five times daily, Benezra said, where they were asked where they were, what they were doing and who they were with. They were also asked what sort of mood they were in and told to send in a picture to illustrate what they were doing at the time.

“But then there was a retrospective question that was the most important in terms of data for feeding the ratings dashboard,” said Benezra. “We asked things like, ‘Between the hours of 6pm and 10pm today did you use any media and if so where were you and what did you use?’

“We can get granular in that respect and go back to the actual channel or programme type. If someone said they were watching the World Cup on TV we could get down to the game they were watching.”

Amid all the excitement of the tournament, Benezra said there were concerns about whether panellists would remain engaged with the project for more than a month. A ‘Study Buddy’ system was introduced, where panel members were assigned another respondent to help with any problems they might have in completing the research or to give them a nudge if and when one was required.

Benezra said: “If we noticed that there was a fall off [in activity] the Study Buddy would call them and say ‘I’m just checking in to see if there’s anything wrong’ so they did have that constant reassurance from the group”. With such a system in place, Nielsen achieved “terrific” compliance rates of around 85% for the whole tournament, said Benezra.

Respondents, she said, were so keen to be a part of the survey that on the day the BlackBerrys were being given out in Johannesburg, panel members started queueing around an hour before Nielsen was scheduled to turn up.

“There was a huge amount of national pride among the South African population that was on display,” Benezra said. “You could see this through the photos they were taking and the yellow colours that so many were wearing to back the Bafana Bafanas [the South African team]. They were very clearly aware that South Africa was on display for world to see and I think they felt they were part of something important because Nielsen tapped them on the shoulder and said ‘Please be part of our study’. There was a level of responsibility and acceptance that they took on.

“Those who could not comply turned up with their mobiles and said ‘Listen, I can’t do this, please let me out of the panel turn this over to someone who can,’ but there were very few instances of that.”

Benezra was pleased, not only with the amount of respondents who stayed the course, but with the amount of handsets that were handed back. “Out of 420 handsets we lost eight where respondents said they were stolen or misplaced,” she said. “You get at least 20% fall off in some studies.”

As for the future, Benezra said that the success of the project in South Africa means that it will be rolled out for other studies – with the London Olympics in 2012 and the US Superbowl earmarked as potential targets.