NIELSEN Media Research (NMR), which has from time to time been criticised for allegedly reporting over-inflated advertising expenditure (adex) figures, is taking steps to provide more accurate numbers.
Its executive director (South-East Asia) Philip Rich said the research outfit, whose adex figures are widely used in Malaysia, would continue to calculate such figures based on official rates set by media owners. But by early next year, it hopes to come out with a second set of figures that factor in discounts given to advertisers.
I'm reasonably confident we can do it by the end of this year if we get the industry's cooperation, he told StarBiz in Petaling Jaya, noting however that advertisers, media specialists and media owners might be reluctant to reveal discount-related information.
For a start, the second set of numbers would cover only macro-level data total figures for the various advertising media instead of specific spending figures at product or brand level.
The first step, we think, is to try to get macro data closer to actual spending, Rich said. We'll try to get the cooperation of the industry (media specialists and media owners) to determine the overall gross figures for TV, print, radio, etc this year. The next step, which won't happen this year, is to get more specific information on a brand and advertiser basis or to see whether it's feasible.
Three years ago, the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents (4As) Malaysia disputed the 1999 adex figures provided by NMR. The issue was resolved, but there is market talk that it might resurface. Last year the Singapore ad industry also criticised NMR, saying that reported media rates were not in line with actual rates.
Typically the industry hasn't wanted to be very transparent in revealing the extent of discounting, but this has become more of an issue recently because the advertising spending has been flat or dropping in some markets, Rich said.
However, the industry can't complain about reporting based on rate cards (official rates) and not be prepared to help us in the same breath. You can't have it both ways, he said, adding that those who had attacked NMR in Singapore eventually had to admit that they did not want to release the discount information either.
We can be criticised for reporting at rate card, but at least it's a level playing ground. The trouble is, as soon as you go off rate card, you'd get criticised again if you don't have perfect information.
On a different note, Rich said NMR Malaysia was thinking of panel expansion (increasing the number of homes surveyed) and measuring Astro audience.
NMR is also working towards delivering market information to clients faster and in a more interactive fashion through increased use of the Web.
By year-end, all of our major services will be on new software platforms so TV analyses will move from using Telescope (a tool first introduced in the late 1980s) to TV Dynamix (TVDX), which makes it easier for media planners and TV stations to operate and programme additional reporting options. Clients will be able to produce reports with less fuss, so hopefully, efficiency is improved, he said.
NMR is also in the process of relaunching its Media Index survey (primarily a print measurement vehicle but also includes data on product usage) this year, coupled with new software, Sesame.
At present, you can only do very limited cross-media analysis. We're very interested in looking at Media Index as a multimedia survey so agencies can compare and look at budget allocations between different media in the same vehicle, Rich said.
NMR is keen to do outdoor billboard audience measurement. We're doing studies in Hong Kong and Singapore, and we are interested to see whether there's an opportunity in Malaysia, he said.
Rich declined to reveal NMR South-East Asia's targeted revenue growth figure for this year. I think if we get to double digits, we would've had a very good year, he said.