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Hybrid media measurement influenced by COVID-19

by John Carroll , 22.09.2020

“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change”
-Giuseppe di Lampedusa, The Leopard

The media measurement industry depends on stable sampling and data collection methodologies to reliably measure changes in consumption. It is this that delivers the all-important trusted audience currencies for buying and selling advertising. However, changes in methodologies and response rates have led to us moving toward hybrid media measurement solutions.

We must change to stay the same

For many years, face-to-face in-home interviewing has been regarded as the gold standard methodology to capture a representative sample of the population. But with declines in both response rates and affordability, fewer companies offer it. If it were a species, it would be on the endangered list. The COVID-19 pandemic immediately halted face-to-face interviewing, bringing extinction even closer. For some, there is a yearning to hold on to the methodology with a belief that things will return to normal; or maybe it will be a “new normal” with doorstep, rather than in-home, interviewing.

At GfK, we are ready for innovation and change. Five years ago, we established our first cross-functional scrum teams to work on agile principles and focus on steady and regular releases of new measurement developments and new features. This model broke with the traditional “waterfall” project management. Rather than focusing on extensive documentation, long-term planning, processes and tools, we opted for quicker technology and closer customer collaboration. As it turned out, this model suited us perfectly in pandemic crisis management.

During the pandemic, we urgently assessed each of our television and radio measurement systems and agreed with our clients the best course of action in the short term. In markets that do not use in-home interviewing, no change was necessary. In others, various adaptations were required. This included the use of mobile video calls with our households to remedy smaller technical issues, or our telephone interviewers working from home.

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Hybrid media measurement solutions reduce risk

In Australia, where we paused the radio audience measurement fieldwork, we worked alongside Commercial Radio Australia on issues ranging from pre/post lockdown listening reports to an e-diary listening study to provide valuable insights into radio consumption.

Ultimately, it’s not the best quality measurement system that will survive, but those most adaptable to change. The pandemic has accelerated the need for hybrid media measurement systems which have in-built redundancy. Our portfolio of measurement tools allows us to offer hybrid solutions, for example:

  • Our people and router meters can be installed in panel households by technicians on site or remotely or installed by the panelists. We can blend the two in the measurement system to suit the household’s preferences.
  • We can capture radio listening using diaries or personal meters, such as the Mediawatch or mobile app. Our Super Pilot work in Australia will provide the radio industry with a valuable hybrid measurement roadmap; there will be exciting news on this in the coming weeks.

Such hybrid systems not only reduce risk in times of an unprecedented global crisis, but they also maximize panel and sample representatively, enhancing the quality of the data. But what about the longer term? For many, the pandemic has brought about, or reaffirmed, a fear of a dystopian future in the media industry.

Understanding consumer behavior

Will we see a future with less advertising expenditure and therefore less money to fund measurement currencies? A future that has a more private, yet a more digital-savvy society? A future that will demand more measurement innovation on smaller budgets? Whatever transpires, the need for understanding consumer behavior and its relationship to media consumption and advertising spend is now more urgent and acute than ever.

The future of hybrid media measurement

At GfK, we recognize that need and have built a connected consumer community. Through data partnerships and fusions, we capture sales of smaller consumer goods and brands, and all purchase occasions including out-of-home. We connect all touchpoints to the actual purchase via our long-established passive cross-media measurement capabilities such as the power of cross-platform video ads. This measurement improves the ROI of marketing activities near real-time.

With this, and our agile development and hybrid methodologies, we can provide flexible and trustworthy measurement of media and consumer behavior. They allow a sharper picture of what consumers buy and their purchase journey, thus delivering near real-time insights and recommendations to help FMCG manufacturers, retailers and media companies grow their businesses. We satisfy the need of big global advertisers to have consistent data across publishers and platforms and we’re actively developing this solution both with our cross-media panels as well as a stakeholder for the WFA peer review process and following that up with our clients and partners.

We must change to stay the same.

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