Metrics that could make life easier

If there is one topic likely to raise temperatures and make the blood of marketers and media types boil, it's media research.

For years the refrain from media buyers has been the same: let's rip up the measurement systems of Barb for TV, Rajar for radio, Jicreg for the regional press and Postar for outdoor. In their place, the suggestion went, let's build an integrated system that monitors a consumer's media habits on the whole, rather than across individual media.

The interdependency of channels, growing even closer thanks to the rise of search, creates a need for a universal evaluation tool as never before.

But direct marketers aren't exactly leading the clamour for such a system. Which is strange, given that inserts, door drops and direct mail are in the firing line as marketers prepare their 2009 budgets.

Take the marketing director of a top 10 mailer, who shrugged as he told me last week that he was axing all acquisition direct mail in 2009. "The internet is working so well for us," he said.

It's a statement familiar to every printer and data vendor in the land, used to walking the tightrope of marketer sentiment. They have scant empirical evidence with which to fight their corner and prove that direct mail and inserts play a big role in driving consumers online.

The research project that the DMA Inserts Council is championing (see Think Tank, page 22) is a step forward. If it's successful, the bodies representing the other channels should feel compelled to do likewise.

For now, direct marketers must get used to walking that tightrope, preferable as it is to walking the plank.

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