In the six years since Kate Lynch left the United Kingdom and came to the U.S. to run the research operations of Leo Burnett's Starcom media unit, she has done more to change the way advertisers and agencies use media to target consumers than most researchers have done in their lifetimes. Lynch, now 38 and global research director of Starcom MediaVest Group, oversees a worldwide research budget of more than $36 million and has developed systems and methods that are routinely imitated, if not actually copied, by her peers.
Lynch left Leo Burnett's U.K. media unit to help the agency's Chicago office pitch Procter & Gamble's $1 billion-plus media buying account. P&G had made the development of an optimizer â€” a high-powered computer system that scientifically optimizes the reach of an advertising campaign to specific audience targets â€” a prerequisite for winning the account. All of the agencies in the review scrambled to develop optimizer systems, but it was Lynch and her boss at the time, the now-retired Jayne Zenaty Spittler, who successfully negotiated access to the raw Nielsen data that could make the systems work.
Burnett did not win the P&G business, but the move opened Nielsen's database for the entire industry to develop optimizers. Meanwhile, the early proprietary insights into optimizers that were gained by Starcom ultimately helped it win an even bigger prize, General Motors' $2.6 billion media planning account.
It was neither the first nor the last time that Lynch's research innovations led to major new business for the agency. In fact, her job currently focuses on developing client-funded research-only partnerships. Lynch has also developed a suite of media accountability systems that help advertisers tie product sales to media exposure, and she even created a system that utilizes biofeedback technology developed by NASA to measure the physiological responses of viewers to TV programming and commercials.
Lynch's current passion is developing a communications planning system that will enable marketers to optimize not just media schedules, but also their entire marketing mix. Her latest project: creating a TV commercial ratings system with Nielsen. â€œNobody has billions and billions to spend on research,â€? says Lynch. â€œSo to do it well requires more creative approaches.â€?
In Her Own Words
We've developed optimization/analytical tools to help us understand and predict how Americans watch TV â€” by age, sex, ethnicity and even their passions, so we can build the schedules accordingly. Looking ahead, I see innovation in entertainment â€” new forms, new sponsors, new ways to market â€” from the return of branded content, to the latest hit single from P&G and from Sony, to the much celebrated BMW films. We have already seen the start of this. I predict this will be the main source of income for the traditional media owners in the future.
In the next 25 years we will continually evolve the way we use what is left of mass media types â€” TV, print, outdoor, radio. Television will be able to provide information on how many people saw our ad last night, how many avoided it, how many need more info, and last, but not least, how many changed purchase behavior because of it. We'll stop moaning about the lack of perfect data and start using the good data with much more advanced analytics and data-matching techniques. Advertisers will court the most desirable consumers in much more direct, relationship-building ways than have been seen.
John Philip Jones
A longtime advertising executive at J. Walter Thompson, John Philip Jones is one of the world's most influential academics on the theories of how and when advertising works. His research proved that advertising doesn't work solely over long periods of time by influencing brand awareness and preferences, but that it often has a relatively immediate impact, which can be measured in terms of actual product sales.
Born in Wales and educated at Oxford, Jones initially handled market research at JWT and rose to be one of its top account management executives during its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s. Since leaving the agency in 1980, he has been a professor and an academic researcher at the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, as well as a consultant to top packaged goods brands like Unilever, Gillette and NestlÃ©.
In the early 1990s, Jones conducted research using Nielsen's HomeScan single-source database, which links media exposure to product sales, and ultimately was able to empirically prove that a single advertising exposure creates significant incremental increases in product sales. This research led to a concept he dubbed â€œcontinuity planning,â€? which recommends that marketers expand their advertising plans to reach as many people as possible with as much continuity as their ad budget allows. This theory, which ultimately was embraced and popularized by consultant Erwin Ephron [see profile] as â€œrecency planning,â€? is widely acknowledged as having done more to change TV planning and buying than any other development in the past several decades.
Jones's theories liberated advertisers and agencies from an older school of media planning, one that sought to achieve a specific number of exposures to an ad â€” usually three or more. The older approach assumed that consumers needed several exposures to an ad message to be motivated to buy. By proving that just one exposure can be effective, Jones shifted the ad industry's focus from frequency to maximum reach and continuity.
When Barry Fischer left one of the most powerful media jobs on Madison Avenue in 1996 to oversee the market research and sales strategy for Turner Broadcasting, some people thought it was another example of a top agency exec selling out to the media side. After all, Fischer was regarded as one of the toughest and smartest buyers in the business. And as media director of Wells Rich Greene and top negotiator for a big chunk of Procter & Gamble's national TV advertising account, he had clout.
Fischer was courted by then-Turner sales chief Steve Heyer â€” a former top executive at Booz Allen Hamilton and Young & Rubicam, and now president of Coca-Cola Co. â€” to come up with a bulletproof piece of research that would change how advertisers thought about buying cable and broadcast TV.
That was no easy task. After years of marketing and research, the cable industry had managed to convince ad agencies that it was a cheaper option than broadcast, but not a substitute. Instead of developing research that reinforced cable's cost-value ratio, Fischer came up with a sophisticated study that deconstructed and reengineered the TV advertising schedules of the nation's largest advertisers to create alternative scenarios that would generate the same or greater audience reach with mixes that relied more on cable TV. And his method did so without sacrificing the buying of high-rated broadcast shows, like Friends, that marketers cherished.
The research, which was presented in two waves in 1996 and 1997, in a series of studies and events dubbed â€œMedia at the Millennium,â€? worked brilliantly. Coming just as marketers and agencies were trying to develop systems that would allow them to optimize their TV mix to gain greater reach and better efficiencies [see Kate Lynch profile], Madison Avenue embraced Fischer's Millennium research as a way to rationalize shifting money from broadcast to cable.
Ironically, Fischer says he doesn't think of himself as a researcher: â€œFor me, research is an end to the means. I don't like doing it, but I like what it can do.â€?
In His Own Words
The most important dynamic in consumer media usage or advertising in the past 25 years has been the advent of choice in the national TV arena. Ultimately, client advertising campaigns improved their effectiveness by improving targeting, minimizing waste, improving efficiencies and finding more creative ways to reach the consumer. National cable delivered on these promises. Most importantly, it has allowed people to maintain continuity. People may long for the more simple days of the three-broadcast-network world, but it's hard to imagine an advertising schedule in which clients could afford only one 30-second announcement every two weeks. When managing the Procter & Gamble agency-of-record assignment, along with a variety of other national accounts â€” all of which were heavily invested in cable â€” I was able to see firsthand the remarkable advantages the medium brought to individual client brands.
In looking ahead 25 years, just as national cable grew to be a full substitute for national broadcast, so will local cable be seen as an equal to â€˜spot TV.â€™ Once biases have been removed from the currency, and technological improvements in the transaction process have been adopted, clients will realize the same advantages locally that they enjoy nationally.
In the early 1980s, when Edward Dittus was part of a group of bright young executives toiling in the media department of Young & Rubicam, he was introduced to the concept of â€œmarketing mix modeling.â€? This concept helped analyze which components of the marketing mix â€” promotion, direct marketing, PR, advertising â€” contributed to incremental sales of a product, and promised a true measure of accountability.
Though not new, marketing mix modeling was too complicated to be done on a wide-scale basis for a broad category of brands. For most marketers, the cost of setting up the models was not justified. Dittus set out to accomplish that seemingly impossible task of making modeling a scalable and cost-effective marketing tool. Initially, he championed the idea within Y&R, but the notion of making advertising mathematically accountable for product sales, at least at that time, was not something the agency was ready to embrace.
Dittus left the agency business and, following short stints at Information Resources, Inc. and Burke Marketing Services, launched Media Marketing Assessment (MMA), a broad-based marketing-mix modeling service in Wilton, Conn., in 1989. His big break came when General Foods agreed to model its Maxwell House brand. The results dramatically improved the brand's efficiencies and led to other work from General Foods and, ultimately, from Kraft Foods as well. By the time MMA was acquired by Carat North America in 1997, many of the top packaged goods companies were using MMA to fine-tune their marketing mix and revisit their advertising programs.
Today, most top agencies have their own modeling systems or are developing them. By helping to establish Carat's credibility, MMA contributed to the unbundling of other full-service agency media departments that followed the Carat model. The sale of MMA to Carat made Dittus wealthy enough to retire, but lately he's been dabbling in developing a cost-effective system for modeling an even broader scheme of business disciplines â€” everything from marketing services and human resources to materials resourcing â€” to help marketers manage during an ever more complex business environment.
In His Own Words
A key development in the past 25 years has been media usage trends. The growth in the past 25 years, 10 years and 5 years in the number of eyeballs glued to a computer monitor, as opposed to television, is incredibly powerful. It hasn't been leveraged yet, but some smart person will figure that out. This will cause a shake-up. We're beginning to see it. Recently evolved media, like DVDs and computers, are changing the way people entertain themselves. The studios' regressive way of dealing with this is to bring suit against these [personal video recorders] and [digital download services]. They're trying to put toothpaste back into the tube. That is the kind of thinking that dooms companies.
There aren't many agents of industry change known on a first-name basis, but if you've attended any major advertising research event in recent years, you've heard the name â€œErwinâ€? mentioned at least once.
An influential consultant to some of America's leading marketers, Erwin Ephron is widely acknowledged in media circles as the person most responsible for the radical shift toward â€œrecency planning,â€? a media planning approach that jettisoned old-school notions of advertising reach and frequency in favor of advertising schedules that seek broad and continuous reach. The old belief was that for advertising to have an effect, it needed to reach a certain number of people a specific number of times â€” usually three or more times. The idea of â€œrecencyâ€? freed marketers and planners from having to meet that increasingly impossible task, by arming them with proof that just one exposure is powerful enough to have an effect.
Ephron was acting in concert with John Philip Jones, whose advertising effectiveness research was the basis for Ephron's central theory. While Jones proved that just one exposure to an advertising message was powerful enough to persuade consumers to buy a product, Ephron was the person who articulated it into a media planning strategy.
Ephron served as the top media executive at several ad agencies, including one of his own, before becoming a founding partner of media consultancy Ephron, Papazian & Ephron in New York City in 1989. Ironically, he got his start in the business as a public relations executive at Nielsen, where his job was, he says, to â€œkeep Nielsen out of the press.â€?
one to watch
Andrew Green fell into media research accidentally. He started as an assistant to Saatchi & Saatchi founder Maurice Saatchi, who put him in charge of the agency's media research operations. Green concedes that he didn't know much about statistical research at the time, but quickly mastered the skills necessary to run media operations at Carat, Nielsen and Zenith Media. Today, he's managing partner and director of communication insights at OMD USA, a division of Omnicom Group. Green has been testing a new generation of ad verification systems and is leading the development of communications planning systems that can determine when and where consumers are most receptive to advertising messages.