Unlike in most competitive worlds, where the existence of more than one player denotes healthy competition, in the case of research, it often creates controversies.
When the National Readership Survey (NRS) hit the industry way back in the eighties, it was a relief to have at least some survey or research to base the media planning assumptions on. As years went by, it almost became the Bible for data on the print industry. It brought some sanctity to the plans that planners worked on. And advertisers knew if their monies were well spent and if the message actually reached the target audiences.
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Invariably, publications used the figures from the survey that suited them the best and was to their advantage, creating confusion in the minds of the planners. A publication that lost out in the IRS would use some figures from NRS to its advantage. While it helps the seller, it creates confusion in the minds of the planners and that's what the existence of two currencies for the same output does.
An analysis of the cost, the time, the resources, the respondents and the fieldwork shows a huge duplication, which is actually unnecessary. A consolidated survey allows for pooling in of resources and capabilities of both the bodies, basically allowing the research to choose from the best of both worlds - a situation that works to the advantage of publishers and planners alike. It also reduces the chances of controversies, bringing in more robustness in the data generated.
It means less conflicting claims from publishers and more transparency for advertisers to base their decisions on, turning into a win-win situation for the industry at large. A joint survey is likely to have a much wider acceptance; it can become the de facto currency for the print industry. Larger sample size allows better extrapolation of data being calibrated to the entire population base.
It is important to paint a true and correct picture for the publications involved, so that the advertiser's money is well and correctly spent. The advertisers know who they are reaching and through which print vehicle. Media planners are sure of adding the most relevant publications to their plans, ensuring the highest reach in the desired target audience. A message that reaches the maximum number of people through the right choice of publication ensures robust planning.
Two or more currencies will always lead to doubts; there will always be questions, leading to disputes and controversies. In a market which is already complicated with far too many options available, it becomes absolutely important to take the right decisions. Let there be one dependable survey serving the cause of every stakeholder.
(The author is CEO, India and South Asia, Havas Media)