ARF AT 60;MAKING BELIEVERS IN DOUBTING AD WORLD;RESEARCH'S VALUE FOR MADISON AVE. SINCE '30S 'COPY TESTING REPORT'

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Advertising and research grew up together in the 1930s.

The fields' marriage took place in 1936 when the Advertising Research Foundation was formed with its goal: "The furtherance, through research, of the science of advertising and marketing."

Set up as an independent organization to promote improved effectiveness of advertising through impartial and objective research, ARF was jointly sponsored by the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies in what was then considered a "surprising" display of cooperation between the two groups.

BEGAN AS A SPECIAL UNIT

Two years earlier, ANA had set up ARF as a special unit. But advertisers and agencies soon realized they both sought the same information, and the organizations agreed to jointly fund ARF as a free-standing organization. Lee Bristol of Bristol-Myers Co. was elected as ARF's first chairman, with Richard Compton of Blackman Advertising as vice-chairman.

This new player on the advertising scene warmed up with a study published in 1937, reviewing store-window display audiences based on data from 19 cities.

The big event, though, was the "Copy Testing Report," issued in 1939, which analyzed five methods for testing print ads: opinion tests; recognition and identification tests; recall tests; inquiry and coupon tests; and sales tests.

This highly regarded study remained in circulation for many years. George Gallup, then at Young & Rubicam, was a member of the committee that prepared the final report for this landmark study.

THROUGH THE MINE FIELDS

ARF's mission-evaluating research in a super-competitive media environment-could be compared with walking through a wartime mine field. But despite flareups of controversy, ARF thrived in its early years. Its endorsement of a study always increased the likelihood of its acceptance by advertisers and agencies.

During its first 15 years, ARF sponsored more than 200 studies, including 143 involving newspapers, 14 on farm magazines, four on business magazines and one on an executive management publication.

A key player in ARF's early years was Al Lehman. He was hired as the foundation's technical director in 1941, beginning a long and productive partnership between Mr. Lehman and ARF. He served four years as technical director, moved up to managing director in 1945, became president in 1960 and served until his retirement in 1966.

EXPANDING THE MEMBERSHIP

In the early 1950s, ARF opened its roles to media companies as well as advertisers and agencies (research companies weren't invited in until 1967-and didn't get full rights until 1974). It then reorganized to become less dependent on media research projects for its well-being. An enlarged board embraced all facets of the business, and ARF stopped competing with the professional research organizations. Its management ruled that any studies it undertook would use the services of outside research companies.

ARF's chairman at the time, Hamilton M. Warren of National Carbon Co., explained that "Advertising research is more than media research. Advertising is copy, art, human motivation, techniques and habit patterns, and each of these parts of advertising is a proper subject for research."

The broadened membership created difficulties for the foundation, however. Conflicting pressures between buyers and sellers of advertising sometimes resulted in bland opinions from ARF that did not resolve the problem.

MAGAZINE DATA BATTLE

One of the more noted disputes involved magazines, and it lasted almost two years, until 1958, when ARF decided to kill a study measuring the audiences of 35 consumer books "in view of the desirability of avoiding divisiveness within the industry." The ill-fated study, however, laid the groundwork for syndicated magazine research.

LEARNING ABOUT TELEVISION

The foundation turned its attention to the infant television industry in the 1950s. It supervised a 1954 study on household ownership of radio and TV sets, and in that same year published "Recommended Standards for Radio & Television Program Audience Size Measurements."

In 1955 ARF persuaded the U.S. Census Bureau it was in the public interest to know the number of homes with TV sets, and to include a TV ownership question in its questionnaires.

The following year ARF held its first annual conference in New York, and these annual gatherings have increased in importance over the years. By 1960, Journal of Advertising Research was launched.

In the ensuing years, a number of landmark studies were issued from ARF:

The "Printed Advertising Rating Methods" study evaluated various research methods for measuring advertising readership.

"Toward Better Media Comparisons" created a six-stage media-buying model that became a framework for intermedia research.

ARF's consultation service was used frequently by magazines until 1963, when syndicated studies eclipsed the individual surveys. Newspapers continued to use ARF consultations until 1973, when the Audit Bureau of Circulations began to include newspaper survey data.

In all, foundation consultations involved 95 completed studies that made important contributions to upgrade print audience research studies.

MORE LANDMARK STUDIES

Sherwood Dodge succeeded Al Lehman as the head of ARF in 1966 and undertook a number of landmark studies. The "Field Audit & Completion Test" was designed to certify that research fieldwork was completed and that proper procedures had been used. It was soon adopted by research companies and became generic to the industry.

ARF also broke new ground in 1977, initiating Project Payout, equating food store sales with advertising and promotion efforts. The test was in Kansas City, tracking sales in one store for four weeks and relating them to ad-promotion activity in that market.

In 1980 the ARF published its "Comparability Study" analyzing three magazine rating methods, and it resulted in significant modifications in magazine rating methods.

FINANCES ON THE BRINK

But the '80s brought financial peril to ARF. In 1981, when Michael J. Naples took over as president, he found debts of $800,000. He reordered many of ARF's priorities, raised nearly $200,000 in a fund-drive appeal and righted the ship. Three years later the ARF was in the black.

The leadership roles in ARF also began to shift to professional research people, rather than top corporate executives. In 1984 Gale Metzger, president of Statistical Research Inc., became the first research company executive to serve as chairman. He was followed by Rena Bartos, senior VP, J. Walter Thompson Co.

Also in the '80s, perplexing problems beyond methodology arose. In 1988, Mr. Naples gathered 120 research executives in an ARF Leaders' Forum at a Phoenix retreat to mull over the industry's problems and see what role ARF should play. The highly successful gathering led to every-other-year meetings, now called the Research Industry Leaders Forum.

In 1992, it identified four major problems: Waning responses, legislative threats, the need to communicate the value of research to top management and others, and the need for more training in research.

The legislative problems led to an independent lobbying group, the Council for Marketing & Opinion Research, which ARF helps support.

In 1991, the ad industry's dissatisfaction with the TV ratings system erupted with a Four A's committee issuing a plan for improving national audience measurements. ARF revamped its People Meter committee as the national measurement committee and expanded its charter to serve as a clearinghouse for various initiatives by industry segments.

THE SIMMONS FLAP

Veteran agency research executive Lou Schultz (then with Lintas Worldwide), unhappy with the magazine research methodology of Simmons Market Research Bureau, prodded ARF and the Magazine Publishers of America to devise new standards in 1992. He said he could guarantee $300,000 to build a better research model.

ARF and MPA convened a symposium on the matter in 1993, but concluded such research would cost millions. The Four A's weighed in as arbiter in 1994.

Simmons later announced some changes in its research methodology, scrapping its costly "through the book" research method in favor of a "recent reading" method. In the mid-'90s, ARF is striving to help guide the research industry into the interactive age. ARF last year held a summit meeting on interactive media measurement and joined with the Coalition for Advertising Supported Information & Entertainment to release a paper calling for third-party measurement of interactive media. Mr. Naples says, "We don't want every home page to have a different measurement approach."

ARF has loaded its '96 annual meeting with a number of crystal-ball gazers. The conference theme: "The 21st century is now. Are you ready?"

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