NEW YORK: The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) is aiming to expand its research efforts in a bid to tackle some of the "big, hairy, audacious" problems currently facing the industry.

Scott McDonald, the ARF's President/CEO, discussed this topic at the organisation's 2017 Annual Conference. And, having recently been appointed to the role, he outlined an "aim to expand the ARF's research program even more ambitiously."

"Perhaps more than ever before, our industry is rife with conflict and with uncertainty," he said. (For more details, read Warc's exclusive report: McDonald proposes ARF academy of ideas.)

"At least some of this uncertainty, and the resulting crisis of confidence, can be addressed by disciplined research, by the propagation of quality standards, and by the trust and consensus that comes from transparency and scientific discourse."

Among the main obstacles facing brand custodians at present are ad fraud and various related issues across the digital supply chain, he asserted.

"But, even if we cleaned up that pipeline and had a perfect verification process, we would not have solved the problems of measuring ad exposure to marketing contacts across all consumer touchpoints," McDonald said.

"Nor would we have reached consensus on how to estimate unduplicated reach and frequency, or how to build a fully-loaded ROI calculation.

"We sense that reach is not sufficient – that we need to engage consumers – but we've only begun to discover how attention, engagement, and emotional response [work together]."

Such matters help inform McDonald's vision for the ARF: "We won't make any real progress without making a concerted effort to engage in the hard work of scientific inquiry, with all the obligations of transparency that entails," he said.

"What's distinct and unique – and vitally important – about the ARF is its role in creating neutral, unimpeachable research to advance the practice of advertising and marketing," he said. "I think that continues to need to be our true north."

Data sourced from Warc