A RACE WHERE NO ONE WANTS TO COME IN SEC­OND

The long-last­ing trend has been to ques­tion and crit­i­cize the num­bers, ver­sus look­ing in­wards, to ex­plore ways to im­prove. It is an industry that can­not and will not please ev­ery­one – and there is no pos­si­ble way, ac­cord­ing to sci­ence, that ev­ery­one can b

ArabAd - - RESEARCH -

Since the emer­gence of mass media, at­tempts to cap­ture au­di­ence share have ex­isted, pushed for­ward by both public and pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tions, seek­ing to en­gage their tar­get mar­kets. Broad­cast au­di­ence mea­sure­ment sys­tems soon de­vel­oped, uti­liz­ing sci­en­tific method­olo­gies to gauge what au­di­ences watch, how they re­spond and how their be­hav­iors can be in­flu­enced.

Ninety years later, we find our­selves in an era with sci­en­tific and ac­cu­rate method­olo­gies to mea­sure media con­sump­tion at our fin­ger­tips, uti­liz­ing ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies, such as those of­fered by Nielsen, that are adopted by AGB Stat Ip­sos in Le­banon. Yet, de­spite the sci­ence be­hind gath­er­ing in­sights, im­prov­ing the sam­ple and up­grad­ing the tech­nol­ogy to en­sure proper rep­re­sen­ta­tion of au­di­ences, the num­bers con­tinue, and will al­ways be ques­tioned. What we find, re­port af­ter re­port, fig­ure af­ter fig­ure, is that no­body wants to rank sec­ond, let alone third…

In Le­banon, two gi­ants lead the industry, two spe­cial­ized multi­na­tional re­search com­pa­nies: Ip­sos and Nielsen, op­er­at­ing as a joint ven­ture lo­cally. In 1999, they joined forces cre­at­ing an en­tity for­mally known as AGB Stat Ip­sos, to pro­vide the Le­banese mar­ket with ac­cu­rate, trans­par­ent and qual­i­ta­tive re­sults, via in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized tech­nolo­gies used to conduct Tele­vi­sion Au­di­ence Mea­sure­ment (TAM) ac­tiv­i­ties. Since, AGB Stat Ip­sos has been the of­fi­cial en­tity as­signed by the JIC and the Ad­ver­tis­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (AA), to conduct au­di­ence mea­sure­ment ac­tiv­i­ties on be­half of clients.

“I have been in the industry for over 30 years, ded­i­cat­ing my ca­reer to help­ing clients and au­di­ences find a

com­mon lan­guage. How­ever, along­side the sci­en­tific ad­vance­ments in this field, a con­tin­ual ques­tion­ing of the num­bers ran in par­al­lel,” said Edouard Monin, Chair­man & CEO of Ip­sos in MENA. “The long-last­ing trend has been to ques­tion and crit­i­cize the num­bers, ver­sus look­ing in­wards, to ex­plore ways to im­prove. It is an industry that can­not and will not please ev­ery­one – and there is no pos­si­ble way, ac­cord­ing to sci­ence, that ev­ery­one can be num­ber one,” he added.

Is­sues as such arise glob­ally, in all mar­kets. What gov­erns the sec­tor, to en­sure trans­parency and ac­cu­racy of re­sults are pe­ri­od­i­cal au­dits. In this re­gard, the AA over­sees an on­go­ing au­dit on the data and method­olo­gies, by as­sign­ing in­ter­na­tional au­di­tors, on be­half of clients, to over­see the work of media mea­sure­ment com­pa­nies in Le­banon. In­de­pen­dent au­di­tors also ver­ify the ac­cu­racy of the to­tal process, from the Estab­lish­ment sur­vey and the re­cruit­ment of the homes that are part of the sam­ple size, un­til the data is pub­lished.

“The au­di­tor fol­lows a thor­oughly vig­or­ous process, tapping into ev­ery sin­gle de­tail, fig­ure and method­ol­ogy that the com­pany uti­lizes,” said Monin. “The au­dit re­sults are no se­cret, shared with all industry pro­fes­sion­als, as a stamp of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and com­mit­ment to im­prove and cre­ate the trust be­tween all stake­hold­ers in the mar­ket. How­ever, even when the industry is gov­erned in such a way, the num­bers are still ques­tioned. This is even the case, when the re­sults from dif­fer­ent re­search and au­di­ence mea­sure­ment com­pa­nies that op­er­ate in Le­banon, are rel­a­tively sim­i­lar. So they are ques­tion­ing the en­tire re­search busi­ness,” he added.

In the case of French multi­na­tional Ip­sos, the method­olo­gies uti­lized are all based on rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ples pro­vided by of­fi­cial govern­men­tal en­ti­ties in Le­banon. Cur­rently, the TAM sys­tem, equipped with Nielsen’s most ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy, ex­tends into 600 house­holds across Le­banon, cap­tur­ing a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of a di­verse na­tion.

Since its emer­gence, the re­search and au­di­ence mea­sure­ment industry has al­ways been a heated one, with TV sta­tions ques­tion­ing the num­bers and method­olo­gies used to de­rive the num­bers, rather than look­ing in­wards. This phe­nom­e­non will al­ways ex­ist and is in fact part of a fair and cred­i­ble part of the process, en­sur­ing trans­parency at all lev­els. How­ever, the num­bers per­tain­ing to au­di­ences are dy­namic, just like the TV sta­tions. The fluc­tu­a­tions in rank­ing are tied to the pro­grams that TV sta­tions of­fer, as well as the pro­gram­ming grid. Some sea­sons, a spe­cific show will lead in the pro­gram rat­ings and boost the TV sta­tion’s view­er­ship, at other times the rank­ing might change ac­cord­ing to the grid of­fer. The sci­ence be­hind re­search even shows that the tim­ings (down to min­utes and hours) can im­pact the rat­ings. The re­search com­pa­nies are only tasked to ob­serve, sci­en­tif­i­cally mea­sure and fairly re­port what au­di­ences are watch­ing, as is, without any pos­si­ble in­ter­ven­tion.

A thor­ough anal­y­sis of the way au­di­ence mea­sure­ment is cap­tured is com­puter-gen­er­ated, with spe­cial­ized tools used, and data re­ported as is. How can one ques­tion the num­bers? Some choose to ac­cept the fig­ures, tak­ing them as a chal­lenge to im­prove if their rat­ings have dipped. Oth­ers choose to wage defam­a­tory wars against those is­su­ing the data, dis­cred­it­ing the num­bers, de­spite the sci­en­tific method­olo­gies that are used to de­rive the fig­ures.

To safe­guard the industry and en­sure a smooth process is adopted, re­search com­pa­nies should not be held ac­count­able for what the sci­en­tific fig­ures show. In­stead, we must fos­ter a cul­ture of healthy com­pe­ti­tion, open and con­struc­tive crit­i­cism and be en­cour­aged to look in­ter­nally, to iden­tify ar­eas for im­prove­ment. That is what in­de­pen­dent au­dits con­ducted for re­search com­pa­nies do – per­haps TV sta­tions should adopt a sim­i­lar ap­proach.

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