U.K. Ad Group Unveils 'Touchpoints' Media Usage Database

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LONDON ( -- Want to know what time of day to catch a working mom in a good mood? When people who habitually shop between 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on a Saturday are most likely to be on the Web? Or when a 15-year-old is focused 100% on the TV set? The U.K. Institute of Practitioners in Advertising has developed TouchPoints to answer such questions about how to reach the consumer in an age of media fragmentation.
Adam Swann
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The project aims to help marketers understand the interrelationship between different activities and offer a picture of how consumers use all the media channels available. The survey of 5,000 Brits over the age of 15 was taken between April and November 2005. Participants were given a PDA to collect information on where they were, who they were with, their mood, their main activity and what media they used on an hourly basis.

Three years in the making
TouchPoints has been three years in preparation and cost $1.75 million to produce. At launch it already has 40 subscribers who pay on a sliding scale according to income and size. (Their joint contribution has not yet covered the cost of the project.)

“We have to chase after the consumer. This means looking at life from the consumer’s point of view, seeing them as receivers rather than us as transmitters,” Paul Edwards, chief strategic officer at Publicis U.K., said at the launch event. “To do this we have to get creative and media to reconnect. We can now define a unique target audience and find the right opportunities to influence them.”

“This survey goes into a huge amount of detail and provides a wealth of information on how people use media,” Jim Marshall, chairman of Starcom U.K., said. “And the information is not in isolation, it is presented as part of the whole pattern of media consumption, reflecting a new generation of media behavior.”

'Innovation, idea generation'
Adam Swann, director of European Media at Kellogg’s and chairman of the World Federation of Advertisers Media Committee, also spoke at the launch event. “This looks great on the shelf but it’s only as good as the implementation. These insights need to be used for innovation, idea generation, reality checks and to tap into trends. The U.K. is a much-observed market and is a showcase for the world.”

Mr. Swann said countries including Australia, Canada, India, Italy and Japan have already shown an interest in TouchPoints. “The primary intention is to replicate TouchPoints in their own markets,” he explained, “but countries that are unlikely to get the project off the ground in the next five years would be wise to use [the U.K. version of] TouchPoints. There is a level at which these findings make sense to pretty much everybody.”

Less grand than Apollo project
The initiative is not as ambitious as the U.S. Apollo project, backed by Arbitron and VNU. However, as Mark Cross, TouchPoints commercial director, pointed out, “It is practical, usable, doable and it’s here now. Project Apollo cost 50 times the money and will take longer to have an impact.”

The survey provides a huge amount of data and insight into how people live their lives. For example, it found that full-time working mothers tend to be in a better mood all day than stay-at-home moms, and that (aside from the unemployed) senior managers spend the most time with their children, while middle managers spend the least.

TouchPoints is funded by the IPA, although it began to recoup costs at an early stage by attracting subscriptions from most of the big media agencies as well as media partners including News International, AOL, JCDecaux, BBC and Wanadoo.

Level playing field
Denise Turner, director-insight and effectiveness at MPG in London, attended the TouchPoints launch presentation. “Hopefully it will move us all on in terms of consumer insight. We’re always talking about the multitasking generation and it’s useful to be able to put some numbers to it,” she said. “Our clients are already talking about TouchPoints and asking if we’re going to use it, which is unusual. Usually they don’t mind what we use as long as we come up with something interesting. TouchPoints provides a level playing field -- everyone now has access to the same information. It’s up to us how we make the best use of it.”

Peter King, TV research manager at OMD, was also at the launch. He felt that a lot of the findings discussed were pretty intuitive but said he was generally “impressed.” He said, “It’ll take a while to see exactly what it can do, but it’s about time someone did something to bring all media together.”

The launch of the TouchPoints survey will be followed in June with the addition of a dedicated integrated planning database. This second stage will integrate TouchPoints with media industry data on individual media to produce what it claims is the first multimedia planning database.

The IPA hopes to begin updating TouchPoints next year, but the continuation of the project is dependent on funding.

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