With over 300 members now using the format, it is clear that the BPA Brand Report has quickly become the new currency to assist media buyers and advertisers as they evaluate, plan and buy. On the flip side, the Brand Report does a great job of matching the needs of media owners as they communicate the value of multi-channel solutions.
“The BPA were pioneers in this and recognized the value of integrated campaigns early on,” Neil Stiles, president of Variety, noted in recent interview with Media Business. “They then sought to measure it. The first mover is usually the trendsetter.”
The healthcare market category is leading the charge with 87 titles presenting multiple audience channels with the Brand Report, according to an analysis of the December 2012 reporting period. Manufacturing (38 titles) and Legal & Financial Services (33 titles) were the next two categories with the most titles using the Brand Report to present two or more channels. The average number of media channels reported per brand has now reached five, with the most popular being print, web traffic, e-newsletter and social media metrics. One member, Flight Global, presented 19 separate channels on its December 2012 report.
Removal of the Brand Report’s “Grand Total”
Last month, acting upon valuable input from media owners, media buyers and advertisers, the BPA Board of Directors voted to remove the “total footprint” or “grand total” figure from the Executive Summary of the BPA Brand Report. The Board concluded that the sum of all media channels did not add value to the media buy as originally believed, and, in fact, has caused some general confusion in the marketplace over what the grand total number actually represents.
During its initial development, there was significant debate over the value of reporting the sum of all media channels on the Brand Report. A few saw value in reporting the brand’s “big number,” but most argued the sum of disparate media channels, with no attempt to identify unique individuals, provided no additional value to media buyers and advertisers.
According to David Niederkorn, Manager, Marketing Communications for John Deere’s Ag & Turf Division, the removal of the “grand total” from the Brand Report was a positive move since it “was not a reliable or valid number and media planners and marketers would not attach any meaning to it.”
“It was a ‘total of averages,’” he explained, “and did not represent the brand’s total reach to unique individuals.”
Part of the decision to eliminate the grand total of all channels centered on the question of duplication of subscribers across non-integrated channels.
When audit organizations include a grand total of all channels, “We find ourselves measuring not apples and oranges, but more like adding bananas and Volkswagens,” said Sandy MacLeod, Vice President, Consumer Marketing & Strategy at the Toronto Star. “There is probably a benefit in having all the [print] circulation, audience and web traffics in one place. However, there is less value in attempting to add them up into a total that is difficult to comprehend.”
Niederkorn echoed the sentiment on duplication, “The digital and e-newsletters are particularly problematic because, often-times, a publisher may only know the individual’s email address and not their identity, their company or physical address. So how do you de-duplicate against a print mailing file?”
He added, “If there is no way to remove overlap or duplication of reach within these numbers, we are probably better off to stay away from any grand total in the executive summary. “
Jim Franklin, Chairman, Marketing Technology Group, Inc., pointed out that different data sets are available across various channels of distribution. Some, Franklin said, collect email address only, no date of request, no title or function, etc. ”The ‘total’ number, therefore, is adding up ‘apples and oranges’ and is essentially meaningless,” he continued. Now add in metrics from websites that do not require registration and social media channels to the report’s grand total and the picture gets even cloudier since a single subscriber may use more than one registration or log-in name.
“Given the challenges inherent in identifying these accounts,” explained John O’Malley, Publisher at New Wave Media International, most media owners “do not have a reliable system to accurately identify the number of actual members.”
MacLeod added that the proliferation of mobile devices adds to the difficulty in arriving at an accurate grand total. “When you factor in multiple devices (I have at least six) and cookie deletions, it becomes nearly impossible to link unique users back to a real audience number.”
While other audit organizations continue to allow their members to report a grand total of all channels, the majority of industry experts—including both buyers and sellers—strongly believe that doing so only muddies the waters of the marketplace and allows for potential manipulation of the data. BPA staff and Board members side with those experts.
The Ongoing Search for Solutions
Looking to the future, BPA staff, committees and Board will continue to work with the industry’s buying and selling experts as we strive to identify additional metrics that add to the value of the media owner’s brand.
We value the opinions and insights of our members, and encourage any feedback you might offer on this important subject. To share your thoughts and opinions, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the comment box below. We look forward to hearing from you.