The Future Of Tracking Studies

Nigel Hollis
Millward Brown

Evolution is a discontinuous process, no less for research methodologies than for the natural world. Tracking studies have been with us for over 50 years now. Every couple of decades has seen a new approach that caused a leap forward in the acceptance and utility of the discipline. These leaps have typically been driven by a combination of changing  needs, understanding or data-collection methodology, as summarised in Table 1.

One leap forward occurred in 1976 when Maurice Millward and Gordon Brown conducted their first continuous tracking study. In this case it was not the data collection that was innovative: it was the way the data were analysed that made the real difference. Prior to 1976 tracking data had been collected continuously but then typically aggregated over time on a period-by-period basis. By presenting the data as continuous trends, plotted against the timing and scale of media events, Millward and Brown took tracking from a static report card to a dynamic view of the changing marketplace. The utility of this approach has become widely acceptedand it is now an industry standard.