NEWS18 June 2018

How media research is tackling assumptions

Media News Technology Trends UK

UK – Brands, broadcasters and agencies gathered in London on Thursday ( 14 June) for the annual Media Research Summit held by the Market Research Society.

graphic of multiple media screens

One of the themes to emerge from the day was the gap between perception and reality, and how this fault line manifests itself in media – from misconceptions about channels both new and old, to deep-rooted psychological differences between the marketing industry and the mainstream population.

In an increasingly complex, fragmented media landscape, the conference reinforced the importance of evidence-based decisions and using insight to addresss ingrained assumptions. We took a look at four key highlights of the day:

TV broadcasters collaborating on BVOD

With various misconceptions surrounding broadcaster video on-demand (BVOD), Channel 4, ITV and Sky came together to combine their first-party data to research behaviours and consumption, explained Martin Greenman, Channel 4’s head of advertising research and development for consumer insight, and Glenn Gowen, head of audiences at Commercial ITV.

Working with Tapestry and Point Logic, they recruited 2,600 participants for a two-week media diary including their BVOD moments. Combining this observed data with around 50m first-party data records, they could investigate BVOD and better understand its implications for advertisers.

Perceptions of BVOD as a one-to-one channel used mainly for catching up with TV during the commute proved to be false; the research found that it’s a central part of the TV ecosystem, with seven out of 10 people watching BVOD programmes on their big screen in the living room. As a result of their findings, Channel 4 and ITV suggested that advertisers should rethink how they approach BVOD.

Freeman said: "It’s something Barb’s Project Dovetail will look at when it launches, but there’s an absence of data about who is in front of the screen [with BVOD]. When you start to see how people watch, there’s 20 screens but not necessarily 20 people watching those 20 screens, which is an assumption carried across the digital world that one impression equals one person – not true, certainly not for BVOD."

Uncovering psychological differences between media and the mainstream

The industry is beginning to take unconscious bias more seriously, but new research from Trinity Mirror and House51 suggests the issue is deeper-rooted than previously thought. Grounded in the work of psychologist Richard E. Nisbett, the research explored the differences between a sample of media agency professionals and a population survey sample in terms of cognition (how the world is perceived and experienced) and personality dynamics.

The study found that the modern mainstream tended to have a more holistic thinking style – meaning a greater tendency to understand the world in terms of universal patterns, context, and an awareness of how things interlock. Analytical cognitive styles – possessed by those in the media agency sample – are characterised by logical reasoning, individualism and an ability to distance objects from their context or background.  

"We need to manage subconscious bias otherwise this chasm is going to get wider and wider between brands and audiences," said Andrew Tenzer, head of group insight at Trinity Mirror. He suggested four key takeaways for advertisers:

  • Context matters more than you think, but people in the industry value context less than people in the mainstream
  • It’s nothing personal. The modern mainstream is not necessarily motivated by the individualistic. Advertising works best by tapping into social proof
  • Don’t assume that people get bored of advertising and established media. Advertising doesn’t always need the new and shiny to be effective
  • Diversity means more than you think it does. The industry needs to be thinking about cognitive diversity as well as having a more diverse range of social backgrounds in the workplace.

Tackling heuristics in media decisions

Donna Burns, insight manager at Radiocentre, presented the organisation’s recent ‘Re-evaluating Media’ research, conducted by Ebiquity. The research emerged from the trade body’s concerns that radio is overlooked as a media channel in favour of digital channels (radio takes only 4% of advertising revenue).

"Our fear is that heuristics are playing more of a role in media decision-making, due to complexity, resulting in data overload, and the increase in specialists trying to understand the media landscape," said Burns.

Ebiquity’s research found that radio is the second-most effective media channel after TV, but sixth in terms of marketers’ perceptions, indicating the power of perception over evidence. Recommendations from the report were:

  • Advertisers should re-evaluate the media mix: online media may not perform as well as perceived when it comes to long-term brand building
  • Recognise that conventional targeting is still effective – there’s a balance to be struck between granularity of online with conventional targeting
  • Push for more research on the effectiveness of online channels.

Plugging the attention/viewability gap

While the industry’s viewability standards stipulate that 50% of a digital ad must be visible for at least one second to be deemed viewable, Lumen eye-tracking research of 500 households has highlighted discrepancies between an ad’s viewability and whether or not it is actually seen, suggesting that as many as 78% of viewable ads are not viewed.

British Gas is working with the company to address what digital marketing manager Patrick Smith termed "a limited link between viewable impression data and sales". The two have been working together to shift the company’s media strategy towards buying based on attention, with the objective of eventually establishing a correlation between attention and sales. "The ads most likely to be seen are also the ones most likely to convert sales," said Smith.