Advertising Research: Study to determine consumer receptivity

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Some of the biggest names in media buying and selling, including AOL Time Warner's America Online and Turner Broadcasting, Meredith Publications, Starcom MediaVest Group's MediaVest, and Viacom's CBS, have teamed with a trio of veteran market researchers to gauge consumer receptivity to advertising.

The study is an ambitious attempt to finally answer advertisers' famous question first voiced by Philadelphia retailer John Wanamaker in the late 1800's: "I know half of my advertising is wasted, but don't know which half." To learn that, the study will ask consumers how receptive they are to ads about certain types of products within certain media, including TV, print and Web sites.

The pilot study, launching next month, will ask 1,000 consumers by mail what media they consume, then later question how interested they are in ads in some 85 categories ranging from automobiles to IRAs to yogurt. The researchers believe they can match answers to provide insight into which which product categories have the most ad-receptive users and in which media those ads might be the most efficacious.

"Given the person is a fan of `Friends,' `ER' or `Survivor' this is a way of looking at how receptive they are to advertising for, say, new cars," said Ed Papazian, president of Media Dynamics, which has partnered with researcher Mike Ephron and Conde Nast Publications' Senior VP-Market Research Steve Blacker for the project. For agencies and their clients, the study's results can help devise a media plan or gauge a current one. For media companies, evidence showing their medium works for specific categories could help them better target advertisers.

Barry Fischer, exec VP-marketing and research, AOL Time Warner's TBS, said it could help cable channels show that ads are as effective on cable as they are on broadcast, even though the reach may be different.

Results should be available in June and the researchers hope to use the results to upgrade to a study of some 10,000 individuals in November. Currently 21 sponsors are on board, five from the media-buying side and the remainder from media outlets. Media companies are paying an estimated $7,500 to take part, while agencies get a slight discount. Other entities can purchase the results.

ALL OVER THE MAP

Mr. Papazian concedes results could be , but that alone will be telling. For example, it may show consumers are largely unaffected by ads for laundry detergents, but "that people are so barraged by ads for fast-food, cars and so on that they have formed a mindset/opinion the ads are helpful, they're not helpful, they're lying to me. ..."

The researchers do not intend to replace research done by MRI or Nielsen Media Research, but to supplement it. "Those are good currencies, this is something to add to the media mix. ... I think the business has become too just numbers-driven and this will provide some needed perspective," Mr. Blacker said.

Said Ken Meltser, Meredith's magazine advertising research director: "It's a test. We have no idea what's going to happen. But it's kind of an intelligent, educated crapshoot on our part."

Fast Facts

What: A study to try to measure ad receptivity in multiple media outlets

Researchers: Ed Papazian, Mike Ephron, Steve Blacker

Agency Sponsors: Starcom MediaVest, Carat, Optimedia, OMD with BBDO Worldwide

Broadcast Sponsors: CBS, ABC

Cable Sponsors: Turner Broadcasting, Discovery Channel, A&E

Print Sponsors: American Express Publishing, Conde Nast Publications, Hachette Filipacchi Media, Hearst Magazines, Gruner & Jahr USA, National Geographic, Meredith Corp., Smithsonian, Reader's Digest, The Wall Street Journal

Online Sponsor: AOL

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