"Involvement and environment play a big part in advertising effectiveness [and] whether people will notice advertising and then remember it. This is particularly true of print media," said Sheila Byfield, MindShare's London-based global director of consumer insights.
While media planners in the U.S. have access to in-depth research about magazines and newspaper readership, their counterparts in developing markets, particularly Asia, receive little more than bland Average Issue Readership statistics from local researchers and publishers.
"But AIR figures are not appropriate, considering the diversity of titles in Asia and the great numbers of niche titles. Advertisers want a credible currency situation with a deeper set of data which is more brand- and product-linked, a solution that reflects the money at risk," said Annette Nazaroff, MindShare's Hong Kong-based director of consumer insights in Asia/Pacific.
The agency's frustration in India prompted planners there to develop their own research tool that could probe consumer behavior through five "passion drivers" that are combined to give each title a passion score. A high passion score equals high ad recall.
The five drivers are how much time a reader regularly spends with a title, particularly through home subscriptions; how focused readers are on each title's content; how often they revisit titles as reference sources; how much they trust editorial reporting; and whether they only read some titles out of habit.
In New Delhi, the first city in which passion scores were researched, MindShare discovered readers have vastly different relationships with titles. For instance, New Delhi has two leading dailies, hard-hitting The Hindustan Times and the tabloid Times of India. The latter lacks the regular, heavy readership and content variety of the Times, but Indian readers really enjoy the News Corp.-styled daily as a fun read.
Among the top three business magazines, Business India has the strongest positive perception rating, Business Today scored highest on readership regularity, while Business World had the highest reference factor. "But all three business titles have very similar average issue readership figures, so understanding their passion score improves planning efficiency and effectiveness, a catalyst for better negotiation," added Ms. Nazaroff.
The passion scores suggest marketers for high-end car models spend less on media but improve their reach 15% by relying less on general interest titles in favor of business titles like Business World. "Even though it isn't the most widely read business magazine, Business World has the highest level of readership involvement," said V. Balasubramanium, the Bangalore-based national director for Group M, the WPP media arm that manages MindShare.
Success in New Delhi has inspired MindShare to roll out the survey in other major Indian cities and, eventually around the world. "We believe that the methodology can be successfully employed in other countries," said Ms. Byfield in London. MindShare is testing it now in Asian countries such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Thailand. "If it is successful there, we will adopt it" in other European studies, she said, and if successful, incorporate it into all its 35-country studies globally by early 2005.