How quickly not only quantitative but also qualitative research comes together-and how thorough and useful it is to those who need it-has yet to be seen. But one thing is certain: With electronic and print penetration high, and global markets quickly emerging, research is the fuel that will power future growth.
Nowhere is this clearer than in TV, where satellite transmissions are beaming signals into regions where individual nations once survived on broadcast alone.
As research improves, programmers will be able to tap into the "trillions of dollars that are out there," money once reserved for the local broadcast market, said David Levy, senior VP-international sales with Turner International in New York.
`The reason we're launching these products is we see the opportunity of international television," he said. "It's huge."
The development of pan-regional research will hasten the spread of cable and satellite TV programming into new regions, said Mr. Levy. He compares pan-regional TV with the evolution of cable TV buys in the U.S.
When cable became a larger portion of media buys, advertisers and agencies demanded more research on the medium, he said, adding that pan-regional TV has evolved to the point where agencies are demanding numbers on who watches it.
"If agencies don't have the information, they're not going to be able to recommend or not recommend the buy," he said. "We have to be able to tell them why they need to pull money out of local markets for pan-regional buys."
Individual market research has long been strong in regions like Europe and Latin America. But programmers and ad executives were not keen on simply taking numbers from the U.K., Germany and France, for example, and compiling an opinion on European penetration or viewing habits. That's where pan-regional research has become necessary.
The new European Media & Marketing Survey, out next April, will represent the Continent's first multimedia and marketing database effort. The survey of some 18,000 people in 17 countries will provide a glimpse at a universe of 33 million upper-income people. Initiated by Dutch research company Inter/View International, Amsterdam, the $2.4 million study includes media supporters Time International, Newsweek International, Reader's Digest, NBC Super Channel, CNN International and European Business News; marketers ABN Amro Bank and consumer electronics giant Philips Electronics; and Bozell Worldwide, the sole agency sponsor.
EMS appeals mainly to titles with broad readership bases. James McLeod, advertising director of the International Herald Tribune, said EMS is of little use to publications like his with a relatively small but very affluent readership.
EMS should prove useful to multinational marketers of such products as travel services and office equipment. And it will provide a bridge between national research and pan-regional efforts, said Belinda Barker, manager-marketing services, Time International, London.
Europe is the subject of other studies. Pan-European Survey, or PES, from Research Services Ltd., London, surveys the top 10% of the market. But unlike the other products, EMS goes deeper into product tracking, TV viewing habits, consumer buying habits and demographics, and it uses a uniform methodology across all borders, said Graham Williams, manager-media research, Reader's Digest, London.
"We felt there was a need for data comparative across borders," he said. "Because readership is very sensitive to changes in [research] techniques, you want the same techniques across borders, and nobody has tried to do this before in all these countries."
Added Peter Masson, a London-based consultant to Inter/View: "It has a lot more tracking information allowing you to relate the progress of a corporate identity with media exposure."
The Media & Markets of Latin America, a 1995 pan-regional media study of Latin America from Audits & Surveys, New York, has some research executives looking south for the model on future global research efforts.
The study was conducted for a 29-member consortium of advertising agencies, marketers and international cable and satellite media. Now preparing to re-enter the market for a second round of studies, LACTAP (Latin American Cable & Television Associated Programmers) could provide insights on how best to study diverse pan-regional markets, said Paul Donato, senior VP-media and communications with Audits & Surveys. Already, the research company is looking into a similar project on the Pacific Rim.
Asia will be an especially difficult market for a pan-regional study, said Mark Buckman, senior VP-international media director, McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, and co-sponsor of the LACTAP study. Consider India with 800 million inhabitants, China with 2 billion or Indonesia with 187 million spread across 6,000 inhabited islands. Population densities can skew survey results, he said, as was apparent in LACTAP with Brazil and Argentina.
"That unfortunately comes through in the results," said Mr. Buckman. "So we're going to have to be careful in how we go about wave two and how we establish the sampling parameters in Asia."
Even those in Latin America have found LACTAP short of the mark. With the recent surge in cable, no baseline exists against which to compare findings, said Dylan Williams, deputy regional director of Bates Worldwide, Buenos Aires, one of the 10 agencies that participated in LACTAP. In Argentina, for example, cable penetration has grown from 3% in 1987 to 54% as of August 1994, according to IPSA Nielsen SA, Buenos Aires. How can a survey like LACTAP be meaningful without comparison? Mr. Williams asked.
"The change here has been so rapid. You need to know what's happening in the consumer's head and not just numbers," he said. "To build a brand and to do what's right you need to look qualitatively. If not, you might miss something."
But the genesis of LACTAP-complaints from advertising agencies longing for qualitative numbers on the fast growing Latin American cable TV market-could be impetus enough to spur research companies to begin looking at pan-regional surveys of Asia, said Mr. Buckman. Already, Asian Profiles 7, a 1994 print study from Survey Research Group, Hong Kong, has given broadcasters a better understanding of consumers, though no similar product exists for satellite TV.
A barrier to pan-regional research is cost. That's why consortium efforts like LACTAP draw eager participants-even though the information is not proprietary.
Discovery Networks, the Bethesda, Md.-based owner of The Discovery Channel, paired with The Economist to co-sponsor a recent Roper Starch Worldwide research survey. The survey hit 41 countries, and allowed Discovery as a co-sponsor, to enter its own questions.
Proprietary research is the most costly, said Daniel Fischer, senior VP-research, Discovery Networks. "Of course, the second we get the data, we're immediately using it against each other."
Campbell Soup Co. hired BBDO Worldwide, New York, to expand its country-by-country media research, said Kevin Lowery, Campbell's director of public information, because "syndicated research on a global basis doesn't exist. It's important to bring some consistency [in information] for the media planning process."
Apart from developing qualitative and quantitative research models, though, is the need to measure what media are being used on a global scale. Some programmers cited pan-regional electronic measurement as the pressing need worldwide.
While many countries have metered panels, either the sample size is small because they are designed to serve local broadcasters, or the methodology is flawed, and no U.S. advertiser would accept it.
Development of a metering system will take five to 10 years and will be costly. "It's expensive and it requires a lot of groups to work together. However, this is the future," said Mr. Fischer, a member of a LACTAP subcommittee evaluating pan-regional electronic measurement.
Coming full circle, pan-regional-or even global-media studies will allow agencies and advertisers to view the globe as American executives viewed the U.S. just years ago, said Mr. Donato. And with quality data, what once was a "gut feel" will be replaced by justifiable recommendations. "If someone has to defend his instincts, it makes it a hard buy to make."
Michael J. Galetto, Juliana Koranteng and Laurel Wentz contributed to this story.