NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Omnicom Group's OMD is establishing a research partnership with CBS Vision and its Television City research facility in Las Vegas called Communications Lab @ OMD, which already has marketers Pepsi, McDonald's and Hershey's signed on for the program.
With more than 1.1 million visitors annually, the facility will serve as a sort of Petri dish for the agency's clients to test the effectiveness of multiplatform marketing campaigns, regardless of whether they are traditional, digital, standalone or highly integrated efforts. Via the program, marketers will be able to do cross-media effectiveness testing to determine if traditional TV and print components of an ad effort will work with digital platforms such as mobile and gaming. They will also be able to determine what the effective levels of multimedia exposure are. And if they want, OMD's clients will have the chance to dive deep and do consumer eye-tracking to perfect size and placement for digital, mobile and video-game ad placements or even do some brain scanning to explore consumer response to advertising.
Seth Kaufman, director-media strategy at PepsiCo North America, said figuring out which media to use and how well they work together is one of his biggest challenges as a marketer. "All advertisers and media companies are challenged right now with trying to figure out the right model in the changing media sphere," Mr. Kaufman said. "At the end of the day the standard insights within the media world that existed up until very recently are not good enough to inform our business going forward."
Alan Cohen, U.S. CEO of OMD, said as the level of media fragmentation continues to rise, marketers need to have a stronger understanding of the impact their media options have on consumers.
"Marketers need to understand media effectiveness in a world where there are so many choices," Mr. Cohen said. "And they need to know not just individually what works better -- digital, TV, radio or print -- but how these things work together and what the right mix might be."
The Las Vegas facility, located in the MGM Grand Hotel, was established in April 2001. It has 16,000 consumers pass through it every day and uses traditional qualitative and quantitative methods, such as focus groups and surveys, along with advanced biometric techniques, such as eye-tracking and brain-scanning using NeuroFocus technology.
David Poltrack, chief research officer and president of CBS Vision, the research arm of CBS, and a client of OMD's, said any media-buying shop or ad agency could come in and set a similar arrangement if they chose to and that this effort was not exclusive to OMD.
Mr. Cohen said the Lab will not compete with OMD's current research practice other than that it will be an "additional service." Client research at the facility will be run by people from OMD's Research and Business Intelligence groups in New York and Los Angeles. OMD staffers will also manage all client analysis and reporting while recruitment and technical operations will be provided by CBS Vision. OMD is expecting to have 15 to 20 clients using the program by the middle of next year.
Pepsi's Mr. Kaufman said he would have liked to have had access to this program when he was doing planning for 2010. "This enables us to learn stuff about our business and media that can make our ads and integrations work harder for us," he said. "It's probably the first time where we have a specific set of problems and questions we think we can answer through the capabilities this lab has. We need to understand not just where audiences are because that's what the ratings say -- we need to understand how they are engaging with our content, if they're actually seeing our stuff and what they're getting out of that. It will help us make decisions that will move our business ahead that other advertisers won't have access to."
Conducting research through the Las Vegas facility allows OMD access to a higher volume of consumers, Mr. Poltrack said, and allows them to do research more efficiently and in a controlled environment.
"Each test will be done in the same place using the same techniques, allowing them to build up this normative data bank -- which is the real value in all of this, that allows them to evaluate each ad," Mr. Poltrack said. "By concentrating an effort across all of their clients in this one facility using these techniques, they'll build up this template for advertising effectiveness testing that they'll correlate to the actual on-air performance of the commercials. And as time goes on, they'll be able to develop which aspects of this advertising testing are the best predictors of on-air and online performance. The product will just get better with time and consistency."
Usually when marketers look to do consumer research, they shoulder much of the cost of recruiting participants and renting a space -- often one that doesn't much resemble an environment conducive to interacting with media.
"We are not recruiting here and it's a more realistic engagement mode," Mr. Cohen said. "The Communications Lab allows people to experience these media types in an environment that's natural to them, like watching TV or looking at a computer monitor."