Raymond Snoddy on media: IPA survey could provide missing link
It would be easy to mock the IPA TouchPoints survey; three years in the making, the behaviour of 5010 people tracked every half an hour - at least on Wednesdays - and all at a staggering cost.
The result? The first ground-breaking, world-class research that shows irrevocably that people relax by watching TV in the evening, that middle managers are short of time, that young people send lots of text messages, shop online and multi-task, or as you might prefer to express it, do several things at the same time.
If all of that doesn't blow your mind, there is the fact that most people's written communications these days flow through computers and mobile phones, rather than the pen, although, you've guessed it, this is less true of old people than the young.
It you want your mind expanded further, there are copious insights to drill into. These include the finding that when a commercial message is delivered, consumers' mood is important, so catching them relaxed, comfortable and concentrating on a decent TV show is a good idea; making the connection just before the hordes go out for their regular Saturday retail therapy also helps.
It may be easy to mock this eagerly awaited survey, which is attracting interest from Timbuktu to Vanuatu and all points in-between, but it would be completely wrong.
The record-breaking crowds that turned up for its launch last Thursday were not wasting their time. Despite being presented with what seemed, at times, rather banal conclusions, we were in fact being handed a very important piece of research that was indeed, in its own way, ground-breaking.
Its importance lies in the creation of what is a holistic and, presumably, robust baseline for how people behave in a digital multimedia age.
The surprising thing about the IPA survey is that it has taken so long for anyone to carry out what is patently necessary work. For years, the marketing industry has nodded wisely, absorbed all the chatter about convergence and the digital revolution and argued about where the balance of old and new media would actually settle down, without a proper understanding of what the consumer was actually doing.
Millions of pounds have been, and continue to be, spent on separate industry research data for each medium, displaying a total absence of multi-tasking.
At least the traditional media invest in producing more or less respectable viewing, listening or readership figures.
However, the folks in interactive advertising do not seem to have got there yet, since there is no common currency for the rapidly expanding industry. They whinge about the cost, while in the same breath boasting that the industry in the UK is now worth £1bn, ahead of commercial radio and outdoor. They can't have it both ways. Decent research, which would have considerable financial benefits, would cost only about 1% of turnover. Perhaps the IPA survey will be the baseline for them too; something that can be expanded and developed.
The exciting thing about the survey is what happens next - if it does.
If, as promised, the findings really can be connected to existing viewing and listening figures, it will prove to be more than the sum of its parts.
One day, fanciful as it may seem now, a single communications research project that produces a universally accepted common currency for the entire industry and does not duplicate effort and waste millions could be envisaged.
Of course, the survey will have been a complete waste of time, or at least nothing more than an illuminating snapshot, unless it is taken forward as a properly funded rolling project that can measure trends as well as saying what 5010 people were doing on one Wednesday night in 2005.
30 SECONDS ON ... IPA TOUCHPOINTS SURVEY
- The IPA TouchPoints survey is a consumer-centric planning tool that tracked how 5010 consumers spent their week and how they interacted with traditional and new media.
- The survey was designed by TNS and conducted using PDAs (personal digital assistants).
- The findings are intended to enable the marketing community to compare the effectiveness of all communications channels, including the internet, mobile phones, direct mail, broadcast and print.
- Participants in the survey also completed questionnaires about their attitudes toward the media, with 51% saying that there is too much bad language on TV.
- The survey showed that the young tend to multi-task. While sending text messages, 32% of 15- to 24-year-olds were also watching TV, 18% were listening to the radio and 10% were online.
- Young people rarely use a pen and paper, with 48% using SMS instead, 28% using email and 20% using online instant messaging.
This article was first published on Marketing
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