Possibly the most unexpected ally in the history of the universe has come to the aid of Wireless Group chairman/ceo Kelvin Mackenzie in his battle with RAJAR (Radio Joint Audience Research) -- the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, affectionately known to the voters as 'Red Ken'.

For the last year or two MacKenzie has conducted a virtually single-handed campaign against the manual diary system of audience measurement used by Britain's radio and advertising industry, condemning it as "out of the Ark" and favouring vested interests. Instead, he has hyped an alternative electronic 'wristwatch' system used by research specialist GfK.

This week no less an entity than Transport for London -- the body responsible for the capital's transport system, reporting to Mayor Livingstone, has come out unequivocally in favour of the GfK system. A resounding endorsement by one of the UK's biggest radio advertisers.

Following research conducted by NOP on behalf of TfL and its media agency, Omnicom's PHD [WAMN: 19-Dec-03], TfL marketing director Chris Townsend announced this week: "The results of the market research … do appear to support claims made by GfK and [MacKenzie's flagship station] TalkSport.”

TfL head of advertising Nigel Marson was yet more enthusiastic: "We went into this with a view of trying to find out who was correct and GfK are absolutely on the money. It couldn’t have been more accurate. It’s phenomenal.”

According to PHD, use of the GfK system enabled TfL to halve its ad expenditure while reaching the same audience when using GfK data for media planning as opposed to that provided by RAJAR.

Enthused PHD's UK managing director Morag Blazey: "This was a sample of 3,000 radio listeners. It's extremely exciting. This is going to set the agenda for our radio planning for TfL."

And to add to RAJAR's misery, another senior media figure this week came out in favour of the GfK system. Said Frank Harrison, strategic resources director at ZenithOptimedia: "I discovered the potentially huge improvements in audience measurement that passive meters are capable of. In media audience research terms, it could represent a great leap in progress.”

WAMN is unable to confirm reports that MacKenzie, for years the UK tabloid megaphone for Rupert Murdoch's political views, will be endorsing Londoners' favourite leftist 'Red Ken' in the capital's next mayoral election.

Data sourced from: Media Week (UK); additional content by WARC staff