OPINION22 January 2018

Why research agencies still have the upper hand

Data analytics Media Opinion Trends UK

Jane Ostler, UK managing director of media and digital, Kantar Millward Brown, responds to a study of ad and media professionals which indicated poor perceptions of commercial advertising research, finding that research agencies are the most trusted providers. 

Laptop and graph with pen

I’m not surprised that research and insight agencies come out top on digital effectiveness research for publishers. It’s what we do, day in, day out.

If you want the longer version, there are lots of reasons why rigorous, high quality market research continues to be of such great importance and value to advertising and media professionals.

First, a third party can give objective advice – regardless of the platform – whether it’s a campaign-wide view or looking through a narrower lens at one element of the campaign. And by providing similarly rigorous insight services to publishers via their commercial teams, an agency makes sure they are not ‘marking their own homework’. This means the end clients can rely on quality outputs.

Typically, research agencies will provide insights based on a profound knowledge and experience of markets, categories and brands, as well as building and positioning those insights within a broader media context.

We can also use research to shine a light on the differing views which are held by clients, agencies and consumers. Kantar Millward Brown’s 2018 AdReaction study, launched last week, highlighted a disparity in perceptions of the effectiveness of online ad targeting, for example. While 58% of marketers believe their targeting measures are very or somewhat accurate, only 27% of consumers echo this opinion.

Research agencies also have the benefit of robust, tested and validated methodologies. The best practice approach when undertaking digital effectiveness studies, for instance, is to recruit respondents evenly throughout the course of the campaign, rather than applying the blunt instrument of doing it all in one go. This evens out any external factors that may affect brand perception during the campaign.

We also have the ability to operate research platforms globally, which benefits clients and publishers who wish to undertake multimarket studies. This in turn enables us to collect years of normative data, at scale. So what if there’s been a 4% uplift on a campaign? Is that good, bad or indifferent? With normative data you can compare campaigns, markets and categories, even formats; and end clients or publishers can create their own norms to compare campaigns.

To support the planning process, research agencies can provide longer term insights, as well as tools which aid shorter term decision-making. Clients are increasingly asking for platforms that give them a near real-time dashboard which allows media agencies to optimise brand measures in-flight. We would also encourage media owners and publishers to undertake joint studies, so they can understand synergies between media channels.

Publishers also need support to constantly demonstrate the unique value their platform can bring to a media plan; equally, clients expect publishers to prove their worth and to explain their role in the schedule. In 2017, much of the discussion relating to digital advertising was about last-click attribution and sales generation. This year, I expect the debate to be more balanced in favour of the kind of detailed brand metrics provided by research agencies, as clients and agencies both start to recognise that digital marketing has a significant strategic value as well as a tactical role on marketing plans.

Finally, research agencies have the capacity to evolve and innovate at scale. The possibilities for digital advertising – and for honing digital campaigns to improve their effectiveness – are ever-changing and increasingly complex. As more media becomes digital, the integration of passive TV data with geolocation data for outdoor exposure or footfall tracking, for example, will become more prevalent. We’ll also see more developments in effectiveness research with social platforms, along with the capability to correlate sales or behaviour with brand metrics.

In summary, what gives us the upper hand over commercial providers is the combination of high quality insights with a holistic view of the marketplace. Whether you’re a publisher, a media agency or a marketer, you’ll always get more meaningful insights on digital effectiveness from a specialist.