The WFA Blueprint: Everyone Gains from Evolving Media Measurement

Robert Dreblow
World Federation of Advertisers

The cancellation of Project Apollo, the US-based initiative to develop a consumer-centric holistic system for measuring audiences across media, made news round the world. 

The demise of the service, which was led by The Nielsen Company and Arbitron, was blamed on its capital cost, and the decision to end it drew both disappointment from Apollo supporters and cries of "I told you so" from critics. 

However, the underlying need identified by the project has not disappeared. Arguably, it has grown stronger. When the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) surveys members about their priorities, improving marketing accountability consistently tops the bill. For instance, in a July 2008 survey, Asia-Pacific members cited audience measurement and return on marketing as the two biggest challenges they faced.

WFA strongly believes that industry-wide development of media audience measurement - a crucial piece of the accountability jigsaw puzzle - needs to keep pace with the fast-changing industry landscape.

In the WFA Blueprint, we articulate a global vision for audience measurement. The goal is not to replace existing audience measurement, but rather to develop additional research to build on the strengths of current, siloed activity. 

As part of our work, we surveyed interest and development of single source measurement in 17 countries - 10 in Europe (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain and United Kingdom), five in Asia-Pacific (China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and India), and two in the Americas (Brazil and Canada). The information came from the WFA's global network of National Advertiser Associations.

The results showed that 50 percent of those markets have initiatives up and running that fully, or partially, meet the Blueprint criteria. Both Australia and Brazil have more than one such initiative. 

This figure rises to nearly 80 percent when you include the markets planning to launch an initiative. Only Russia, China, South Korea, and Canada have yet to start planning, although there is interest in both Russia and China to do so soon. Interestingly, 42 percent of live projects are industry-initiated and 58 percent are private ventures.

We discovered that there are three broad categories of consumer-centric, holistic measurement system:

  • Hub: In this model, information about how, when and where people spend their time, including media exposure, is all collected from one individual. This information is then fused with other media research and other relevant surveys and potentially proprietary data. This solution is now being developed in France and Poland.

  • Single-source: With this concept, all information is obtained from the same person (as witnessed in Project Apollo or Media Monitor in Italy), often employing devices such as personal people meters (PPMs). 

  • Hybrid: This solution that combines both the single source and hub/fusion approaches. The best example of this is the UK's IPA TouchPoints. The most recent wave of this survey graduated from a hub to hybrid approach, with the local single-source TGI survey being fused into the hub.