Ascription: There's Still No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Dan Mallett
Simmons Market Research Bureau

Ascription has been a part of syndicated research for some thirty years now, and all this time it has remained mostly out of view. Of the key procedures that potentially impact the numbers, ascription has probably received the least public attention. However, the situation appears to be changing. I think this is a good thing. That said, I should make our interest clear.

Two years ago Simmons made a major change in methods for our main study, the SMM. One reason for the change was to eliminate ascription. Obviously, it is not my purpose to promote ascription, but I'm not here to knock it, either. Simmons used ascription for many years in the SMM, we continue to use it in other studies, such as Hispanic, Stars, and Kids, and we want to be constructive.

First will be a brief review of some basics – why we ascribe, how we do it, and some of the choices and trade-offs made. Then we'll look at some actual results, using data from the 1994 SMM, the last SMM that used ascription. While the details of these examples are particular to the 1994 SMM, they provide a general basis for looking at the issues inherent in the process.

Why Ascribe?