Q&A Interview with Michele Buslick - TargetCast tcm

Michele Buslik, SVP, Director of Media Research at TargetCast tcm is one of the most knowledgeable researchers in the industry.

She is very active in many industry committees and initiatives including the 4As Media Measurement Committee, Board Member of the MRC and a Board Member of the Council for Research Excellence.  Michele is a past President of the Radio and TV Research Council as well as a member of the CASIE and SMART initiatives two early pioneers in Internet and television measurement respectively.

In this fascinating interview, Michele talks about the future of the industry, set top box data measurement and the importance of full disclosure of data algorithms, the evolving role of research, accreditation and the challenge of “false rumors” that raise doubts about the accuracy of research data used in the industry today.

CW: Michele, please tell me your background - how did you get to where you are today?

MB: I started my agency career at Y&R and spent most of my time at Wells Rich Greene. Then I went to MediaVest and worked on the Coke account as Research Director. I moved to TargetCast back in 2004 and have been there ever since -- Interesting I have worked for the same Media Directors, Steve Farella and Mark Buttitta more than once in my career.

CW: Has the role of research changed in the industry or not? If so how has it changed?

MB: Research has changed dramatically. For many years things were pretty much moving along at what we would call a snail’s pace - very minor adjustments in research needs and techniques. The first big change was the move to Channel Planning, adopting or more appropriately reviewing what was done outside the US. The next big change was the impact of the many new ways to advertise to consumers, and the move from advertiser/vendor control of advertising messaging to the impact today of consumer control. And of course, along with the new communication technologies, we are seeing major changes in how research is conducted and the timing requirements to keep the research relevant and up-to-date.

CW: What type of research do you do at TargetCast?

MB: While my primary function at TargetCast is to make sure that we are using the most appropriate databases and the best tools to access this overload of information to make sure it is relevant and actionable for our clients, I’m equally engaged in keeping the agency and our clients up to date on all the new research opportunities. 

CW: What is the role of research in your agency?

MB: Research is the foundation of our work at TargetCast. From our beginnings, we have committed to having all of the research we need to service our growing and diverse client list, while developing a variety of proprietary applications to access these data with speed and accuracy so that we can arrive at actionable insights more quickly.  We also dive deep into consumer communications behavior through the development and use of our own primary research and tools under the management of the Director of Insights and Analytics, Wahab Ghaznavi.

CW: Can you talk a little bit more about these proprietary systems?
MB: Our proprietary systems cover the gamut from tools that aid in competitive analysis, television optimization, consumer insights and allocation of purchased television weight across brands.  We also have developed applications that are specifically designed for today’s digital marketplace in terms of media buying, buzz analytics and industry trends.   We are one of the few media agencies to have the capability to design and build technology solutions to communications challenges.  This capability enables us to quickly and smartly address the changing marketplace, and client curiosities. 

CW: What is your opinion of the future of STB data for measurement?
MB: I believe that STB data providers started out on the wrong foot. There was a lot of misleading information disseminated to the industry which was not grounded in good research. That said, I also believe that STB will find its place in the evaluation process, but there has to be much more openness about the inevitable "black box" algorithms that are employed. I sincerely wish that all of these providers would submit to the MRC for audit. The MRC provides a vital function for the industry. Most companies that have gone through the audit process will admit that their research services today are better than they would have been without the careful MRC review.

CW: Do you really think that STB Data companies will share their algorithms? Does the current currency share its algorithms?

MB: I absolutely believe that it is essential for the STB data providers to be open about their systems.  Yes, all of the major industry research companies, whether they are measuring television viewing behavior, radio listening, or print readership are fully involved with the MRC. So too are the companies involved with measuring digital behavior.  The MRC members take the responsibility of confidentiality and respect for these companies very seriously.  I can personally say that before I cast my vote as a member of a committee or board member I think long and hard about the research protocols, the work done by the skilled auditors and the impact and responsibility of my vote.

CW: I believe that there is at least one STB data processor that is currently being audited by the MRC. In addition, the data from this company is accepted into Media Ocean. Since all of this is occurring, is there a thought to then accepting their data as part of the planning, buying and selling process?

MB: Certainly.  Access to the STB data is a tremendous stepping stone for these companies.  It is not a matter of accepting the STB data but more a matter of finding where having this additional information fits best and makes the most sense for our Clients.

CW: Michele, you’ve written a fascinating blog on the industry. Can you talk about your concern about “false rumors”?

MB: I thought I was the only one who read as many of the newsletters that I can on a daily basis -- but I was wrong.  For some unexplained reason, Media Directors and Clients always find the newsletters that raise a doubt about something that is happening in the industry which impacts their media plan or strategy.  This starts a flurry of emails until the issue is more fully understood and accurately written about.

It is not productive to raise these issues of where and how these rumors and misunderstanding of the facts of the situation occur.  It’s more important to address the issue, and ensure that the truth will out.  Excuses are just that, justification for poor information, and we need to discourage that behavior.
CW: Can you give me three predictions on where the media industry is headed in the next five years?

MB: Sure – I’ve got my crystal ball… The next few years will be a testing ground for the industry. Consumers will continue to gain control over the media content and advertising which crosses their path. It will be a shakeout period for both the research community and the media content providers to keep up with the fast paced changes. Only the best will survive.

Interview conducted by Charlene Weisler, Weisler Media LLC. She can be reached through her research blog or at Twitter:

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