Research was once a backwater of the media business, important but low-profile. But content companies, media agencies and advertisers have increasingly viewed their researchers as rock stars-largely because intuition and past practices have become unreliable guides.
"This is a time of change and I'm really betting that Betsy's going to be able to come in and lead the way," said Ann S. Moore, chairwoman-CEO, Time Inc., a self-described "nerd" on research. Ms. Moore noted that she was speaking to Advertising Age from home, where she had three 21-year-olds visiting for spring break. "Their media habits are amazing," she said. "They're still shifting around and changing. I'm quite fascinated by it all."
Creating a position for Ms. Frank is one of many changes Ms. Moore has made since last summer, which also included a reorganization that trimmed the upper ranks of executives and two rounds of layoffs. "I'm really pleased with how well the organization has taken hold," she said. "Decisions are much easier. We have been doing some reorganizations at the middle and will continue to do that."
For now, a well-regarded research chief like Ms. Frank is a must at any media company, said Mark Rosenthal, chairman-CEO, Interpublic Media. "She's probably the single best and most focused and most credible research authority on niche audiences that's out there right now-and who comes from a content side," he said. "If you're a content provider, it's very important to showcase the advantages of the audiences that you reach."
Ms. Frank had been consulting for Viacom since December, but before that was exec VP for research and planning there and was previously held the same title at MTV Networks. Time Inc. represented a chance to have a big influence and lead a team again, attributes that Viacom did not offer as much as her old job at MTV did. "Given the realities of how the company was developing, I felt like I could do more and different things," she said. "Managing and leading people is something I love to do."
Ms. Frank, 60, will continue working on two Viacom projects-one of which is an analysis of the consumer experience across screens from movie theaters to cellphones-through mid-April.
Then she will join the world of magazine publishing, a big departure from her experience in TV. Ms. Frank said she has always tried to focus on the people consuming the medium at hand more than the medium itself. "TV or print or the Internet are the distribution mechanisms," she said. "What's really important are the consumer and the connection the consumer has to brands."