Two years in the making, their plan could revolutionize international media buying and planning.
The European Broadcasting Union, the European Association of Advertising Agencies, the Group of European Audience Researchers and World Federation of Advertisers are about to review a 45-page draft proposal after the U.S.-based Advertising Research Foundation approves it. The proposal defines, for the first time, various universal audience measurement principles.
"As major conglomerates go global they need standards to evaluate programs, both before they buy them and afterwards," said Roger Godbeer, global director of media, sales and marketing effectiveness for Colgate-Palmolive Co. and one of the driving forces behind the measurement proposal. "The No. 1 word here is accountability."
Currently, it's next to impossible to compare values when trying to evaluate ratings from various countries, said Ned Greenberg, chairman of the ARF subcommittee working on the project and VP-research for NBC cable networks.
Take, for example, the simple task of defining-in research terms-the word housewife.
"In Austria that means a male or female housekeeper 18 years old or older," he explained, "While in France, it's a female shopper."
In compiling the standard, Mr. Greenberg said no country has been asked to give up the way it has been collecting data or change media definitions used within each country.
"This has been additive. We're asking everyone to collect enough
Global TV measurement data so they can fit information into the standard definitions everyone agrees on. Then we can exchange meaningful data across borders."
Called "Towards Greater Transparency & Accountability in Global Television Research," the document begins with a sort of international media bill of rights-11 statements that make up the so-called "Principles of Harmonization."
One statement, referred to as the "universe principles," says that all persons 4 years old and older are measured, and that the coverage area is unbiased (i.e, it includes everyone living in an area).
Another major statement is the measurement principle. That requires data collection of all live viewing, all VCR usage, all guest viewing on an age-qualified basis, and that the measurement recognize the existence of village or communal TVs.
"We hope this will be a global document," Mr. Greenberg said, adding that all the organizations should sign off on the standards by yearend.