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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Notes from MRG Conference 2011

A couple of weeks ago I took part in a short session at the 2011 Media Research Group Conference, which took place in London. I took some notes during the day (mainly with the earlier speakers). They are below and in chronological order, though firstly a quick exec summary:

The four papers I enjoyed most were

Synthesising these talks, my key take-aways were:

  • Run lots of prototypes and versions
  • Ask audiences what they think, rather than just infer from behaviour
  • Set up the tests in such a way to drive people towards the behaviours/answers you desire
  • Be aware of contextual reasons that might provide counter-intuitive answers

And now for the detail…

 

Tim Harford – Problem Solving In a Complex World

Tim Harford, author of books such as The Undercover Economist) , initially walked through examples of problem solving such as

  • Archie Cochrane – a Prisoner of War who conducted experiments to find out what was making people ill in the camp
  • Thomas Thwaites – a student who took 9 months and spent over £1,000 to try and make a toaster from scratch and even when cheating largely failed
  • Cesar Hildago – who has mapped 5,000 product categories. But Wal-Mart has 100,000 types of product in a store, and in New York there are probably 10bn

His point was around the God Complex – the conviction that no matter how complex something is or how little data is available, you know the answer. It is dangerous and yet you see it everywhere.

We need to step away from the god complex as we can’t solve things in one step. Instead, we gradually learn over time through trial and error.

For instance, Unilever wanted to create a new nozzle through for their detergent production. They hired a mathematician who failed to sufficiently improve it. Instead, they created ten random computer generated models and picked the best. They then created ten variations of this. They repeated this process twenty times. Ultimately the nozzle was much improved, although they don’t know why.

Business successes are random processes – there is no silver bullet for the perfect CEO or strategy. However, instilling a start-up culture allows experimentation to see what is best. Google has a target failure rate of 80%, but this failure has to be quick, rather than being too big to fail. In order to do this, we have to overcome loss aversion.

In the BBC documentary about Fermat’s last theorem,  Goro Shimura said in reference to his colleague Yutaka Taniyama :

Taniyama was not a very careful person as a mathematician. He made a lot of mistakes, but he made mistakes in a good direction so eventually he got the right answers. I tried to imitate him but I found out that it is very difficult to make good mistakes.

Tim fielded a couple of questions relating to popular business books

  • Tom Peters’ In Search of Excellence profiled many companies to see what made them successful, but three years after the book was published around one third of them were in trouble (e.g. Wang, Atari). Were they actually excellent, or is excellence fleeting?
  • James Surowiecki’s Wisdom of Crowds is often misunderstood as he himself said that it only works in specific situations – when expert judgement is no help and where the crowd can be polled independently (Duncan Watts has shown how randomness becomes important when things are dependent

Claire McAlpine – Mediacom – How are you integrating behavioural economic thinking into your work?

Inspired by thinkers such as Steven Johnson (Where Good Ideas Come From) and Chip & Dan Heath in addition to Thaler & Sunstein etc.

Hunches are where we collide ideas – these could be our ideas over time, or our ideas with other people’s. For instance, the Gutenberg printing press was inspired by the wine press.

We need to overcome cognitive biases (such as picking the second cheapest wine on the list) and recognise things such as information deficit and availability bias. We are more Homer Simpson than Spock – we are not rational agents. We may have good intentions but these can quickly be forgotten if we are in a “hot state”.

There are three stages to integrating behavioural economics

  • Identifying the behavioural context
  • Identifying the behavioural journey
  • Identifying choice context and ultimately creating choice architecture

Claire gave the example of Special Constable recruitment. By identifying two choice contexts – career and inspiration – Mediacom were able to frame their media strategy (both in terms of creative and placement) for two separate audiences

By understanding how behaviours differ, we can seek out how to encourage the desirable ones to be replicated. The ultimate goal is to be able to switch the default behaviour, which we often resort to as a mental shortcut.

 

Mark Barber (RAB) and Jamie Allsopp (Sparkler) – Media & the Mood of the Nation

Mark and Jamie went through the research findings of this research which covered 3,500 smartphone survey responses from 1,000 people, qualitative depth interviews and diaries and EEG brain scan experiments.

The research came about from the general move in advertising from systematic (logical) to heuristic (emotional) processing, and observations that advertising works better in mood-enhancing environments.

The findings were framed using James Russell’s Circumplex Model of Affect, which places results on two -5 to +5 scales of arousal (energy) and valence (happiness).

Radio was compared to both TV and online. While all displayed rises in happiness and energy, radio showed the highest average increases in total and across the most dayparts. While this may be caused by other activities people are doing while they listen to the radio, it nevertheless means that people are in a more receptive frame of mind when it comes to processing advertising messages.

 

Becky McQuade (Sky) and Anne Mollen (Cranfield School of Management) – Online Engagment: We might be getting there

Anne said that there are two schools of thought with engagement

  • It is bankrupt as it is not a metric since it is too abstract and not credible (unlike retention and acquisition)
  • It is viable (she is in this camp)

The academic studies in this area have been focused on perceived interactivity and telepresence (her paper is here), but it hasn’t as yet properly been joined up to commercial requirements.

Her definition of engagement is “cognitive and affective commitment to an active relationship” and requires

  • Utility/relevance
  • Pleasure/enjoyment
  • Dynamic and sustained cognitive process

Using Survey Interactive, they ran an online pop-up survey with 60 engagement statements (reduced from an original list of 150) on 12 point scales across 14 Sky websites (and on a NetMums panel), resulting in over 12,000 responses. This found four drivers of correlation. From the largest to smallest, these are:

  • Cognitive processing e.g. enjoyment
  • Temporal needs e.g. hedonic and utilitarian value (what we need and want)
  • Self-congruence (identity with the brand)
  • Social identity (context, environment, peer to peer communication)

Conversely, engagement isn’t

  • A measure of human behaviour – there was low correlation between engagement and time spent, frequency and recency
  • Behavioural footprints (actions such as subscriptions or likes) – there was only a small positive correlation among a subset of those engaged
  • Activism (such as loyalty) – engagement is context dependent and not a behavioural type

The study was specific to advertising, and found those engaged had higher ad recall, improved core message delivery, more favourable opinions towards the brand and a higher likelihood to purchase (but not higher purchase intent).

Becky and Anne closed by saying for engagement to be viable it has to have a close relation to ROI and KPIs. Their NetMums study showed engagement has an impact on trust, satisfaction, loyalty and add responsiveness and has a high positive correlation with the Net Promoter Score.

Anne isn’t linked exclusively to Sky and will talk to others on a confidential basis around her engagement scale, but given academic competition to publish there is only a limited amount she can say publicly.

 

Stuart McDonald (News International) and Euan Mackay (Kantar Media) – Show Me the Money: Proving the value of tablets

Given that the results of the research are being used to inform News International’s commercial strategy, they didn’t really go into how value was proved. The research was conducted among News International’s subscriber base, and tested interactive advertising on a beta app (The Times app doesn’t yet have advertising) against a premium engagement index, comprising of perceptions of an ad being

  • Memorable
  • Relevant
  • Engaging
  • Trustworthy
  • Premium

 

Richard Curling (Google) – YouTube Skippable Pre-Rolls: Measuring the power of choice

Given “Hurry sickness” – the malaise where people feel short of time so perform tasks faster and get flustered by any delays – we’re increasingly looking for shortcuts.

YouTube “true view” means that users get to choose their adverts – if they don’t like an advert, they can skip it. Advertisers only pay for adverts that are viewed all the way through. Google interpret a high view rate as a high quality score, and this will factor in alongside price when bidding in an auction for advertising space. Thus, high quality ads are rewarded (though arguably very low quality advertising can benefit from a lot of free, interrupted views).

Using Ipsos MediaCT, Google tested the effectiveness of these ads using biometrics (heart rate, respiratory rate, skin conductance, motion- via Innerscope), depth interviews and eye-tracking. These found that both skipped and “true view” ads scores higher on their engagement metrics, though the true view ads scored highest. However, this wasn’t as clear-cut as you might expect – people opting in might have higher expectations and so could be harder to please. Conversely, the engagement of people forced to watch an ad might pick up towards the end as they get ready for their content to start

Richard’s recommendations for advertisers were to

  • Entertain the user, since you are the content
  • Be clear, and support user choice
  • Embrace “natural” targeting

 

Afternoon sessions

I was paying less attention to these, since I was mentally rehearsing my speech

  • Ross Williams and Becky from Ipsos MediaCT presented their “Big Brother Research – Who’s Watching Who?”, which combined social media monitoring of Big Brother properties. with Facebook polls. While Big Brother wasn’t as big as other properties, it had a 80-20 proportion of comments to likes on Facebook (indicating an engaged audiences), while alternative programmes had the opposite ratio
  • Steve Cox of JC Decaux presented “Airport Live” – following a small number of passengers at both their departure and arrival airports to see what they were noticing
  • Matthew Dodds of Nielsen and Nick Metcalfe of the Telegraph presented “Telegraph Print + Net Online Multiplier study” which took 5 groups of people (Telegraph print readers, Telegraph online readers, readers of both, non-print readers with matched demographics, non online readers with matched demographics) from UKOM to test uplift in advertising measures
  • The Good The Bad & The Ugly of Media Research was hosted by Max Willey and featured myself, Dave Brennan, David Fletcher, John Fryer, Stef Hrycyszyn and Loraine Cordery talking about whatever we wanted to for three minutes. David Fletcher won the prize, for his tale of why people think they want online dashboards but don’t

 

Industry Updates

  • BARB is looking into a non-linear database that would report on archive programmes on demand, and catch-up from longer than seven days after transmission. They will also evaluate, and possibly publish topline results of, the TV+online data
  • POSTAR – now have tube and bus data, and are looking at GPS devices to see how people move around. This is being validated and they hope to get it into a reporting system soon
  • NRS – concentrating on fusion with UKOM data, but hope to get more granular data and move online in future
  • RAJAR – moving the diary online, and continuing to explore the viability of passive meters
  • IPA – bedding down touchpoints. Touchpoints 3 included word of mouth, mobile internet, social media, gaming and on-demand. Touchpoints 4 will bring in tablets and apps, and change from a device-first structure to a content-first structure. It now has 60 subscribers (including each of the top 20 agencies) and has launched in the US. They are also piloting an app to go alongside the diaries
  • UKOM – the past year has been about stabilisation after some data issues. The contract is currently out to tender and whomever is successful (they would take over in January 2013) would look to measure all devices and locations (ie beyond home/work fixed internet to include mobile and video)

sk

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Mediatel Media Playground 2011

My previous blog post covered my notes on Broadcast in a Multi-Platform World, which I felt was the best session of the day. Below are my notes from the other 3 sessions (I didn’t take any notes during the bonus Olympics session)

The data debate

Chaired by Torin Douglas, Media Correspondent for the BBC

Speakers:
Andrew Bradford, VP, Client Consulting, Media at Nielsen
Sam Mikkelsen, Business Development Manager at Adalyser

Panellists:
David Brennan, Research & Strategy Director at Thinkbox
Kurt Edwards, Digital Commercial Director at Future
Nick Suckley, Managing Director at Agenda21
Bjarne Thelin, Chief Executive at BARB

Some of the issues touched upon in this debate were interesting but I felt they were dealt with too superficially (but as a researcher, I guess it is inevitably I’d say that).

David Brennan thinks we need to take more control over data and how we apply it. There is a dumb acceptance that anything created by a machine must be true and we’ve lost the ability to interrogate the data

Nick Suckley thinks the main issue is the huge productivity problem with manual manipulation of data from different sources (Google has been joined by Facebook, Twitter and the mobile platforms), but this also represents a huge opportunity. He thinks the fight is not about who owns the data, but who puts it together

Torin Douglas posited whether our history of currencies meant that we weren’t so concerned with data accuracy, since everyone had access to the same information. Bjarne Thelin unsurprisingly disagreed with this, pointing out the large investment in BARB shows the need for a credible source.

David Brennan said his 3 Es of data are exposure (buying), engagement (planning) and effectiveness (accountability)

Nick Suckley thinks people would be willing to give up information for clear benefits but most don’t realise what already is being collected on them

Kurt Edwards thinks social media is a game-changer from a planning point of view as it sends the power back to the client. There is real-time visibility, but the challenge is to not react to a few negative comments

David Brennan concurred and worried about the possibility of social media data conclusions not being supported by other channels. You need to go out of your way to augment social media data with other sources to get the fuller picture

Bjarne Thelin gave the example of BBC’s +7 viewing figures to show that not all companies are focusing purely on real-time. He also underlines the fact that inputs determine outputs and so you need to know what goes in

David Brennan concluded by saying that in the old days you knew what you were getting. Now it is overblown, with journalists confused as to what is newsworthy or significant

Social media and gaming

Chaired by Andrew Walmsley, ex i-Level

Speakers:
Adele Gritten, Head of Media Consulting at YouGov
Mark Lenel, Director and senior analyst at Gamesvison

Panellists:
Henry Arkell, Business Development Manager at Techlightenment
Pilar Barrio, Head of Social at MPG
Toby Beresford, Chair, DMA Social Media Council at DMA
Sam Stokes, Social Media Director at Punktilio

The two speakers gave a lot of statistics on gaming and social gaming, whereas the panel focused upon social media. This was a shame, as the panel could have used more variety. All panel members were extolling the benefits of social media, and so there was little to no debate.

There was discussion about the difficulty in determining the value of a fan, the privacy implications, Facebook’s domination across the web and the different ways in which social media can assist an organisation in marketing and other business functions.

Mobile advertising

Chaired by Simon Andrews, Founder of addictive!

Speaker:
Ross Williams, Associate Director at Ipsos MediaCT

Panellists:
Gary Cole, Commercial Director at O2
Tamsin Hussey, Group Account Director at Joule
Shaun Jordan, Sales Director at Blyk
Will King, Head of Product Development at Unanimis
Will Smyth, Head of Digital at OMD

Ross Williams gave an interesting case study on Ipsos’ mobi app, which tracked viewer opinion during the Oscars.

Simon Andrews’ approach to chairing the debate was in marked contrast to the previous sessions. He was less a bystander and more a provocateur – he clearly stated his opinions and asked the panel to follow-up. He was less tolerant of bland sales-speak than the previous chairs, but was also more biased in approaching the panel with the majority of panel time filled with Simon speaking to Will Smyth.

Will King things m-commerce will boost mobile like e-commerce did with digital. Near field communication will move mobile into the real world.

Gary Cole pointed out that mobile advertising is only a quarter of a percent of ad spend but that clients should think less about display advertising and of mobile as a distinct channel. Instead, mobile can amplify other platforms in a variety of ways.

Tamsin Hussey said that as there isn’t much money in mobile, there is no finance to develop a system for measuring clicks and effectiveness of all channels. Currently, it has to be done manually.

Will Smyth said the app store is the first meaningful internet experience on the mobile. The mobile is still young and there is a fundamental lack of expertise at the middle management level across the industry. Social is currently getting all the attention (“Chairman’s wife syndrome”) but mobile has plenty to offer.

sk

Could targeted ads work on TV?

I’ve been exploring the concept of targeted advertising on television. Loosely defined, it is the ability to purchase advertising space against a diverse array of groups that go beyond the traditional trading audiences.

This post accumulates the background information I’ve collected on the topic and speculation (mostly mine) on how theory may become reality.

Because it is such early days, I’d love to hear the thoughts of people (media side, client side, planners, buyers, researchers, interested parties) on the subject. Do you think it will work? What would you like to see and what would you like to avoid?

(Disclaimer: I have no involvement in targeted advertising – this is purely background research. This is preliminary work and any errors are fully attributable to myself).

1. Background

Traditionally, trading television advertising is a complicated beast, but Thinkbox have a gentle overview of the topic here. Essentially, there are several criteria that advertising can be bought against – channel, time of day, region (for analogue channels) and so on. Specific trading audiences can also be bought but unlike other criteria they can only be estimated.

To use a simple example, I may want to purchase 300 ratings against Women on ITV1. My advertising would be placed in shows that would be expected to deliver the required number of female viewers. However, only when BARB viewing figures become available do I know how many ratings were delivered. If ITV1 delivered more than 300 ratings that I am in debit; if they undelivered then I am in credit. The difference is carried over to the next advertising campaign I run.

However, as we all know, TV is changing. On-demand and IPTV, to give two examples, are changing the concept of what TV means.

The concept of targeted advertising emanates from this seachange. As it is still (largely) a concept, definitions are loose and the vague. Targets could theoretically be grouped according to demographics, lifestyle, behaviour, attitudes or a combination thereof. While an internet connection is the likeliest means of delivery, it is not the only option.

Whoever delivers effectively targeted advertising first will have a tremendous competitive advantage. The future is up for grabs.

2. The Players

In the UK, the platform providers are best positioned to introduce targeted advertising

In the US, Project Canoe is looking to develop consistent metrics which in theory could then lead onto targeted advertising

It is also theoretically possible for non-platform providers to offer targeted advertising. These could include

3. Strengths and weaknesses of targeted advertising

With the concept still fluid, it is difficult to come up with specific answers but broadly speaking: (NB: Several of these came from a Mediaweek piece by Barry Llewellyn of Packet Vision)

Strengths may include

  • Ability to target a more tightly defined audience – less wastage
  • Greater relevance for viewers
  • If ads are interactive, there will be greater accountability for direct response
  • Frequency of exposure can be capped
  • Advertising watersheds could be removed in adult-only homes (e.g. alcohol advertising in the afternoons)
  • May be more affordable for niche advertisers with small target audiences
  • Greater flexibility in pricing options – pay by impressions or acquisitions?

Weaknesses may include

  • The whole concept will succeed or fail on the quality of the information captured
  • Different platforms offering different options could hugely overcomplicate matters; can a consensus model emerge?
  • The current pricing model will be completely destroyed; with a near infinite number of targets a new system, such as Google style keyword auction bids, will need to be introduced and accepted
  • Similarly, how will total advertising audiences be audited? Everyone could be seeing different adverts around the same programmes. BARB would also need to be overhauled
  • No-compete clauses can severely inhibit the ability to target e.g. a beer brand may pay a premium to ensure it is the only beer brand in the spots they have identified as being key
  • Unpopular targets may get the same few ads on continual rotation e.g. will 65+ C2DE spinsters only get ads from the COI?
  • Serendipity of appealing to people outside of the perceived core audience is lost – do targeted ads have the same attraction to brand-based advertisers as direct response?

4. Potential methodologies

Largely speculation on my part, but potential ways to target ads include

  • Geographic/geodemographic information – the most basic targeting option. Homes can be targeted geographically through IP address or MOSAIC/ACORN postcode information. Geo targeting may only be attractive to local advertisers, but these could make up a long tail of demand. Alas, these methods are far from flawless. I’m a male 16-34 ABC1 (highly desirable, if I do say so myself) yet live on a council estate – would I ever see Leffe, Audi or Playstation 3 adverts?
  • Registration data – when homes purchase a new TV or set top box, they could be asked to register not only demographic information but also lifestyle/behavioural information (additional information would need to be opt-in). This gives a richer understanding of viewers beyond demographic profile, but there will be ambiguities over individual and household information and usage, and the data needs to be regularly refreshed in order to be useable (for instance, my cat may die and I may get a dog instead)
  • Return path behaviour – Interests can be inferred from the types of programmes that are watched, or the types of website that are visited. For instance, if I watch a lot of DIY shows, an ad for Ikea may be suitable. This is achievable but it is an art rather than a science. What if it is my girlfriend watching the DIY shows, not me. I could get all the DIY ads during football, and she wouldn’t get any during Hollyoaks. This type of targeting can be quite transparent and with an uncanny valley, is the method most likely to irritate.
  • Panel information – whether a panel like Skyview or an extension of BARB, a sample of viewers can be recruited, with advertising targeted around their behaviour. This could be extrapolated to all viewers through programme audience profiles or registration information. However, this would only effectively be targeting a small proportion of viewers, with the majority guesstimated. With around 35,000 Skyview homes representing over 4m households with Sky+, the level of accuracy may not be high enough.
  • Opt in system – give people the choice to submit information – either through an in-depth registration or regular surveys. By communicating the benefits, people may actively choose to receive targeted ads, creating value for everyone. This could be achievable, though the proportion of those opting in may be too small to be useful. With an opt-in, several additional steps could be taken to ensure accuracy e.g. a BARB style remote control (each viewer needs to “sign in” by pressing a button) could be introduced so advertisers know exactly which members of the household are watching.
  • Social profiles – Bringing social networking to TV – such as this BBC/Microsoft prototype – offer a lot of information that could be harvested. People like to communicate their favourites, and this could be utilised. And with users logged in to their profiles, advertisers will be sure of at least one viewer in the room. This could work – Joost is currently the number one contributor to Facebook Connect – but again, it would only be a limited dataset and a lack of take-up may prohibit effectiveness

5. Implementation

We should be seeing several prototypes and trials following in the wake of the Inuk experiment. Due to the difficulties of implementing targeted advertising within live broadcast, I believe targeted ads will initially concentrate on on-demand and interactive content (whether red button or the electronic programming guide).

There appears to be a first-mover advantage, and so the stakes are high. Virgin would seem the best placed to lead the way – the internet is already connected to the box and with subscription fees they are partially shielded from any effects to advertising revenues – but I wouldn’t rule out any of the other players leading the charge.

Indeed, the first implementation may not even be within advertising. What if I could let Sky know which sports I like and dislike, and then get a customised news ticker on Sky Sports News? I’d certainly opt into that.

6. Further thoughts

This is an early stage outline of how targeted ads appear from my perspective. I’m really keen to hear other people’s views on the subject. Do you think targeted ads will take off? What would you like to see? What problems do you envisage?

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated

sk

Image credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pbo31/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/melilab/

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