Making Sense of it All: Andy Brown sees ‘what happened’ as the future

Making Sense of it All: Andy Brown sees ‘what happened’ as the future

‘What happened’ will become more important to advertisers relative to ‘how many people’ have seen an ad, The Attention Council’s CEO Andy Brown predicts.

In the latest episode of the Making Sense of it All video series, Brown tells Crater Lake & Co’s Brian Jacobs about the dramatic changes that have happened in media research in recent years.

Brown says: “As television begins to look more like digital, it becomes perhaps more of a performance medium than it has been in the past. I see greater emphasis on ‘what happened’ rather than ‘how many people’.”

Brown is the former CEO of Kantar Media and in September was appointed as the first CEO of The Attention Council, a non-profit organisation of advertising and media leaders helping the industry advance “the next generation” of measurement.

He is leading the organisation as it attempts to become a membership organisation that will lobby for the wider adoption of cross-platform attention metrics in the planning, buying and selling of media.

Watch the video below or read an edited interview transcript further below.

Making Sense of it All is weekly video interview series by Mediatel News in association with Crater Lake & Co. Each Tuesday, we publish interviews with the industry’s most thought-provoking marketers, agency executives and research thinkers to find out how people working in media can make sense of this ever more complicated and fragmented ecosystem.


JACOBS: So Andy, you’ve spent your career (and a very admirable and long-standing career it is too) in research agencies. How do you find that the way in which the research that you have provided over these years has changed? How has the use of it changed over time, do you think?

BROWN: If we went back towards the start of my career (which was a very long time ago) I think data quite often used to stick, so to speak, in the research function – it wasn’t called an insight function in those days – in the client company and didn’t really get access to other parts of the marketing function or indeed other parts of the broader organisation.

I think that’s changed over the years. I think some of it is around initiatives that research agencies have invested in: the idea that we will present the results but then do an implementation workshop with maybe the marketing function maybe involving even sales management from the client organisation has partly changed that. I think that technology and more user-friendly tools to put data on the desks of people in the marketing function, as well as the insight function, have changed part of that.

And I think the other piece is: access to first-party data and integration with client-owned data has begun to unify the communication of the data throughout the organisation.

If I think about it in a media context, the days when (again) we would send data into the research function and then once in a while, you know, you pull out a couple of bullet points to go in the pitch document are long gone.

If I look at what’s happening in the US and it’s happening to a degree here, we now have media vendors – on the traditional media side I’m thinking here, I’m not thinking of Google and Facebook, I’m thinking here of major TV networks selling and training. And research companies and attribution companies training the sales people so that they can go out and sell an attribution service as part of a package of inventory that they might be selling directly to a client.

So it’s changed dramatically. I think the data touches many more hands in the client organisation than it did when I started in the industry.

JACOBS: Of course, at the same time, clients and agencies as well are in danger of drowning under a great tsunami of data, aren’t they? And data coming in from every direction.

It must be, well it is, a bit scary. Do you think that research agencies these days should be playing more of a role as navigators and consultants, as well as providing the information?

BROWN: Yeah, I think you’re right, Brian. Certainly there is a well documented data deluge and and there is so much data out there for clients. There’s the data that they commission, there’s also lots of data they can get from media vendors from free APIs that they can plug in.

From a research agency point of view, particularly the larger research agencies, from time to time they will get a brief like that that says can you really run an audit of my data sources and then try and synthesise that and tell me “make sense of it all” (to coin a phrase!)

I think, though, that those are not that common in the big research agencies. Part of the challenge there, Brian, is – and I can see some parallels to the media agency industry – is that research agencies still tend to run largely on “give me the answers; tell me what it means; tell me what the implications of this are”.

But the question is [around] the degree to which you’re able to charge a client and get paid for that advice. If I walk in from a research agency, the chances of me being able to leverage the same kind of pricing power that a big consulting house might have; they’re just not comparable.

We’re not able to do it and you’ve seen even in my former company, Kantar, that the consulting division has now been in effect folded into the the mainstream research, customer research business.

Perhaps when you go to smaller research agencies you have that ability to leverage the pricing around that sort of more consultative work in a way, at that some of the big agencies, it’s somewhat harder to do.

JACOBS: You said something very interesting just now about outcomes and outputs. You were saying that some of the big media vendors these days, we’re not talking just about the platforms but the big traditional vendors, are starting to Have their people trained in how to sell what would be marketing mixed modeling-type econometric type data that’s around outcomes. Could you expand a bit on that? How is it actually working?

BROWN: I’ve actually just done a paper around tracking and a little bit around what the impact of the the deprecation of cookies would be for the IPA Eff Works event. In the course of that I interviewed a number of people from the research industry from the media industry, both mainly around the US and and UK.

One of the things that I see, particularly in the US, and I see it beginning to happen here, is a much greater focus around outcomes in terms of weight of investment around data.

There is a major issue at the moment in the US with Nielsen’s de-accreditation.

If you had 100 chips to allocate, the amount that you would allocate now to head counting audience measurement (whatever you want to call it, GRP measurement impressions measurement) is going to diminish relative to the amount of investment going into outcomes-based solutions.

I would argue it’s been there for quite a long time in the digital world or the online world, but as television begins to look more like digital, it becomes perhaps more of a performance medium than it has been in the past. I see greater emphasis on ‘what happened’ rather than ‘how many people’.

It’s not to say that ‘how many people’ isn’t important – it will always be important – but there is a shift in emphasis that I’ve certainly seen in the US and I’m just beginning to see signs of it here in in the UK and Europe as well.

JACOBS: I would absolutely agree with that. Now finally Andy you’ve just taken on the role of CEO at The Attention Council, which of course is a trade body representing the various companies that are making names for themselves measuring attention in one way or another.

Do you see this whole topic of attention contributing to currency data or do you think it’s always going to be a planning tool or planning measure that was then added into currency in the way in which people will use the medium in question? How do you see attention playing out over the next year or two?

BROWN: Let me just pick that up in a second Brian. Just to be clear, The Attention Council is in effect a lobby group.

Part of my role is to develop it into a membership group and the goal of that is to really to unite across the various different parts of the church, whether that be advertisers vendors, buyers or research and insight businesses and trying to promote the utilisation of those metrics in the relevant components across creative and across media.

But, to answer your question specifically: as you know well and I think has been picked up elsewhere in this series of videos, there is a real challenge at the moment simply to bring the audience measurement head counting together across TV and online or digital, however you want to describe it.

Throwing attention metrics directly into that process at this point is probably not the right approach. I would probably advocate more of a stepwise progression from that point of view.

So, right now, I would suggest that it probably is going to be an overlay, if you will, on those currency data sets.

What I would say, however, though is that, if you think about programmatic media, on particularly the digital side and, who knows, maybe as TV becomes traded more on a programmatic basis, the point becomes a little bit moot. I can tell you today that there are agency holdcos incorporating attention metrics into their buying algorithms, and the same will probably happen I would expect on the sell side as well, so that inventory that scores high on attention is up-weighted in that mix within the algorithm.

NEXT WEEK: Sir John Hegarty, co-founder of BBH

ELEVEN: Nick Brown, founding partner of The Garage Soho and Electric Glue
TEN: Kester Fielding, head of commercial procurement at Bacardi
NINE: Dominic Grounsell, UK & Ireland MD of Entain
EIGHT: Kathryn Jacob, CEO of Pearl & Dean
SEVEN: Phil Smith, director-general of ISBA
SIX: Bob Hoffman AKA The Ad Contrarian, author
FIVE: Tammy Charnley, CMO, Suzuki Automobiles 
FOUR: Paul Feldwick, author and ex-head of account planning at BMP
THREE: Abba Newbery, CMO, Habito

TWO: Nick Emery, founding partner, You & Mr Jones Media
ONE: Prof Karen Nelson-Field, founder of Amplified Intelligence

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