Conference Report: Admap’s ‘Bonfire Of The “JICs”‘

Conference Report: Admap’s ‘Bonfire Of The “JICs”‘

The theme of last week’s Admap conference, ‘Bonfire of the “JICs”‘, was the question of whether media industry research could survive in the UK in the late 1990s. Chaired by James Best, chairman of BMP DDB Needham and held at the Café Royal, the conference examined the theory that JICs could be done away with, or put on the ‘bonfire’, and that research could be carried out individually by separate media bodies.

The first speaker, Phil Georgiadis, chief executive of Initiative Media, believed that the interests of the industry were best served by the abolition of JICs: in his opinion they were ineffective in finding research solutions for an industry which is going through an accelerated period of change and could not assess communication effectiveness. He said that the industry often needs change which JICs cannot accommodate: there are enormous problems within the structure of JICs and abolishing them would make decision-makers aware of the needs of media. Recent innovations such as the inclusion of readership data for newspaper sections and Channel Four funding research into light-viewing shows what can be achieved by individual research. Overall, Mr Georgiadis believes that abolishing JICs would “make us tougher, cleverer and more flexible.”

Chris Ingram, chairman and chief executive of CIA, followed this theme in his speech. He said that the media revolution is causing chaos and it has become imperative to devise a new method of measuring these changes and the effect they are having on client’s customers. Among the problems of the changing media he highlighted increased fragmentation and information overload. He believes that there is the need for larger samples to pick up smaller numbers of consumers and that the media should move from concentrating on OTS to communication effects. Mr Ingram’s vision of the future if nothing is done to change the situation includes agencies grouping into consortia to conduct their own research, meaning the ‘big players’ will buy less industry research leaving small and underfunded JICs.

Brian Jacobs, of Carat, said in his paper that planners have too much data and not enough knowledge, adding that the data being used at the moment is inappropriate for today’s media. A thorough rethink of the data needed is required, yet JICs are still very important for providing a common currency for buyers. He said that many of the research questionnaires are too complicated and technically and politically driven. He would reduce the budgets of JICs by 10% over three years.

Tim Cox, of BBDO, had a differing opinion and believed the bonfire should not be lit yet. In abolishing JICs he warned that the industry might get something a lot worse. Whilst he conceded that JICs are slow to change they do have the benefit of a common currency which is widely accepted and an open and transparent system which shares the costs and resources across the industry. They avoid monopoly of data, avoid conflict and avoid media owner control of data.

Speaking about BARB James Walker, of JWT, raised the question of where this fundamental research was going. He believes that BARB does not have the consumers at heart and is too concentrated – it looks at television for its own sake. Where agencies believe that less should be spent on BARB Mr Walker said that more should be spent – to make it more flexible so that if you want more data you can pay for it. This would make BARB more of planning tool rather than simply providing a trading currency. He also believes that BARB should be privatised – to “kill” the bureaucracy and make it more flexible.

After lunch Mike Baker, of IPC Magazines, argued that magazines and newspapers should stay on the same survey. Any split would create no cost saving, only a slightly shorter questionnaire (by about 3 minutes), would not provide a better response rate, would provide less comparable data and be less stable.

Ian McLellan, research director of Express Newspapers, continued this line of argument saying that the NRS is “not so much a bonfire, more a beacon of light.” He said it was important to maintain a single source of data – to split would require extra funding (about £1 million) which the IPA, PPA and NPA would not agree to. To illustrate the fact that JICs can be flexible Mr McLellan pointed out that a pilot study of some 50 interviews was being carried out to research newspaper sections. So far these have been successful and the next step is to carry out a half-sample test which should begin on July 1st. If this doesn’t work, then a separate survey will be carried out under the auspices of the NRS.

Communications consultant Vic Davis argued that a fragmentation of research into smaller, more specialised surveys would greatly benefit the industry. He said that the industry looks at data in an old-fashioned way: it should not be only a currency but a language. Without individual research there is no dialogue and clients cannot be persuaded. Politics should also be taken out of JICs – the research should be dynamic, have a positive role and serve all who use media.

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