ARF Re:Think 2014 Celebrates Research

Why is this year’s ARF Re:Think different from other Re:Thinks? For one it is Gayle Fuguitt’s first conference as chief of the ARF. For another, there has never been so much great research presented, at one time in one conference.

The media landscape has seen an explosion of viewing content possibilities. And Media research, with the increasing amount of Big Data intelligence, has become the epicenter of business performance solutions. Which is why having events like Re: Think are vital to get the issues and measurement solutions out into the media ecosystem.

This year on Day 1, the focus was on cross platform measurement solutions, impact of mobile and social media datasets to understanding today's consumers and their media usage. Day 2 was on creative strategy and Day 3 was dedicated to the next generation of researchers and how to fortify career paths.

There are several important industry priorities in my opinion including cross platform measurement, integrating big data into currency measurement and preparing the next generation of researchers. I polled several top researchers at the conference and asked them what their top research priority was and the range of their answers was significant. Here are their responses:

In the area of cross platform measurement, Project Blueprint, now in phase two, is positioned to become a standardize-able way to combine the measurement of television, tablets, mobile, computers and radio into one measurement platform. Brands are “looking to get better measurement across all touch points and combinations to optimize investments” according to Amaya Garbayo of Kellogg. But the industry is still fairly silo’ed. MediaVest’s Jeff Chaban said that cross platform measurement, “is not where it needs to be but we are making significant steps.” Artie Bulgrin of ESPN, a major supporter and contributor to Project Blueprint, is experiencing success in monetizing cross platform for his networks. He said, “ESPN is an outlier in that 80% of our deals are done on cross platform.”

In the Big Data realm, there are advocates who see the vast potential of unlimited datasets containing media usage, consumption and shopping collected and combined to produce meaningful, insightful and actionable results. There has been a lot pf press about using STB data to help political campaigns win elections. Allant is partnering with Comcast Spotlight to using STB data to pinpoint voters on a hyper local level. Allant’s Eric Schmitt noted that it is “interesting how quickly political campaigns adopted the techniques (of using big data in their campaign targeting). They see success and jump on it…. Political is spurring (STB data use in) other industries.” Announcements like the TIVO / Symphony AM partnership that combines STB data with passive audio app media usage data adds to TIVO cache of data including Fourthwall, TRA and shopper data.  All of these big data sets combine to form a clearer picture of viewer to shopper ROI. But we need to do more. Lee Garfinkel of Draftfcb believes that we are “not using new world of data to its full potential. 90% of ads have been mediocre and still are.” Yet Keith Reinhard, chairman emeritus DDB spoke for those who believe that we could get carried away by the sheer enormity of big data. “There is a difference between big data and a big idea. The haystack is now so enormous we can't find the needle or we find something that is not the needle.” Obviously great data interpreters and data story tellers are critical.

We may never all agree on the path to cross platform or the value of big data and how it is used in our industry but it is nice to have a forum to present findings and air all the opinions and insights. That is the value of the ARF and its research conferences.

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