U.K. ad group launches its own Apollo

BBC, AOL use new tool to learn who's using what when, and how it all relates

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When is the best time of day to catch a working mom in a good mood? When are people who habitually shop between 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on a Saturday most likely to be on the Web? When is a 15-year-old focused 100% on the TV set?

The U.K. Institute of Practitioners in Advertising has developed a tool called TouchPoints to answer such questions. The aim: to help marketers understand how consumers use the media channels available to them, and find out what influences their purchasing patterns. TouchPoints aims to uncover much of the same information as America's Project Apollo-conducted by Arbitron and VNU and backed by a handful of the biggest U.S. marketers-but it was cheaper and quicker to complete.

The group surveyed 5,000 Brits over the age of 15 between April and November 2005. Participants were given a PDA to record where they were, who they were with, their mood, their main activity and what media they use on an hourly basis.

"We have to chase after the consumer. This means looking at life from the consumer's point of view, seeing them as receivers rather than us as transmitters," said Paul Edwards, chief strategic officer at Publicis U.K., at the project's launch. "To do this we have to get creative and media to reconnect. We can now define a unique target audience and find the right opportunities to influence them."

"This survey goes into a huge amount of detail and provides a wealth of information on how people use media," said Jim Marshall, chairman of Starcom U.K. "And the information is not in isolation-it is presented as part of the whole pattern of media consumption, reflecting a new generation of media behavior."

The initiative, which has been in the works for three years, cost $1.7 million. So far, it already has 40 subscribers, among them AOL, JCDecaux, BBC and Wanadoo. It is not as ambitious as the Project Apollo, but, said Mark Cross, TouchPoints commercial director, "It is practical, usable, doable and it's here now. Project Apollo cost 50 times the money and will take longer to have an impact."

Adam Swann, director of European media at food giant Kellogg and chairman of the World Federation of Advertisers Media Committee, said how the information is used is key. "This looks great on the shelf, but it's only as good as the implementation," he said. "These insights need to be used for innovation, idea generation, reality checks and to tap into trends. The U.K. is a much-observed market and is a showcase for the world."

He added that countries such as Japan, India, Italy, Australia and Canada have already shown an interest in TouchPoints. "The primary intention is to replicate TouchPoints in their own markets," he explained, "but countries that are unlikely to get the project off the ground in the next five years would be wise to use [the U.K. version of] TouchPoints. There is a level at which these findings make sense to pretty much everybody."

how they're living

The survey provides a huge amount of data and insight into how people live their lives. For example, it found that full-time working mothers tend to be in a better mood all day than stay-at-home moms, and that (aside from the unemployed) senior managers spend the most time with their kids, while middle managers spend the least.

Denise Turner, director of insight and effectiveness at MPG in London, said, "Hopefully it will move us all on in terms of consumer insight. We're always talking about the multitasking generation and it's useful to be able to put some numbers to it."

Ms. Turner added, "Our clients are already talking about TouchPoints and asking if we're going to use it, which is unusual. Usually they don't mind what we use as long as we come up with something interesting." She said the tool "levels the playing field" for agencies. "Everyone now has access to the same information. It's up to us how we make the best use of it."

Peter King, TV research manager at OMD, said a lot of the findings discussed were pretty intuitive but said he was generally "impressed."

"It'll take a while to see exactly what it can do," Mr. King said, "but it's about time someone did something to bring all media together."

The launch of the survey will be followed in June with the addition of a dedicated integrated-planning database, which will integrate TouchPoints with media industry data on individual media to produce what it claims is the first multimedia planning database.

The IPA hopes to begin updating TouchPoints next year, but the continuation of the project is dependent on funding.
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