Strengthen the media sector through better research

The top brands wouldn’t dare advertise without using audience measurement data because when you cross a certain threshold of expenditure you can’t gamble your resources. Last year Ksh. 105 billion worth of advertising on television, radio and newspapers was traded in Kenya using a media currency based on audience research data. Kenya is one of the countries that has a well developed media currency and for that reason the industry has benefited by attracting advertising spend from multinational brands even through the last global financial crisis.

At the core of media currency are the ratings which define the percentage of audiences who are consuming media at a given time. With the ratings advertisers choose which segments to place their commercials and the media houses decide what to charge for the space and time. Media planners claim that there are 4 factors that are commonly used to decide which spots to buy.

The first factor is the ratings achieved by the channels and time segments of the media under consideration. The second is the deal that is offered by the media houses, and higher discounts and value-add offers are attractive. Thirdly, the relationship between by buyer and the seller, where history of successful campaigns and mutually beneficial interaction takes precedence. Finally, and what is generally new in the market, is the engagement level of the spots under consideration, where we scrutinise the intensity of the viewers interest or emotional investment in the content. In markets that don’t have regular audience research, the relationship as defined above is the biggest factor.

Traditionally we have used the paper diary tool to collect audience data and the Kenya Audience Research Foundation (KARF), through their research supplier Ipsos, has now employed new technology based on smart phone apps to collect the data. The use of this technology is a great milestone for the media industry and points to the future direction of providing robust and daily measurement. However, we are still not at par with the developed nations because the data collected through the app is based on declarative and not passive measurement, which is considered more accurate. Declarative data is generated from the respondents inputting information about their viewing habits and this relies heavily on memory and strict compliance from the people included in the study. Passive measurement is based on data collected automatically as the respondents consumes media content and limited actions, if any, are required by the participant.

The best media data currently is only available to the top advertisers who purchase the information regularly. The rest of the market is left guessing and using relationships to make their decisions which isn’t ideal especially when it comes to determining the ROI. The country’s advertisers would benefit tremendously if they all had access to this data, and from observations around the continent, this would lead to increased investment in advertising.

Rather than having a handful of advertisers and media houses with audience data, the future depends on getting the data into the hand of the 7,500 advertisers in Kenya. This means that the burden of paying for the data is therefore spread among the advertisers and shrinks into a token amount required to get world-class data. The additional amounts collected are then invested into state-of-the-art data collections systems based on passive measurement from both individual and household based media consumption. This would then cover not only traditional media, but new media as well including online media and various forms of ambient media. The funds would also be used to train executives in media houses, ad agencies and advertisers in understanding and using the data.

KARF is of the opinion that the funds can be raised through a levy included in the cost of media, which would stand at about 1% of the price of a spot. In order for this system to benefit the entire industry, it requires the support of all the players and a belief that Kenya can lead the way in media development not only in Africa, but globally.

The nation’s advertising activities can be more effective and provide a better return on investment when we bring our audience research into the 21st century and we can do this by employing an equitable funding model that provides robust daily data.

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