Here is a short piece I wrote for Mediatel Newsline, looking at what 2020 is likely to bring on the Media Research front in the UK. It is part of a longer piece in which various industry luminaries give their views on 2020 and they are all worth a read, but here for the record is what I had to say:

2020: the year the other shoe drops

Richard Marks, founder, Research the Media

From my perspective at least, 2019 in UK media research seemed to echo the political situation that intertwined with it in my Twitter feed. A year of imminent change but also of waiting for the other shoe to drop: waiting to find out who would buy Kantar and how Nielsen would reshape its business, waiting to find out what would happen with the new BARB and UKOM contracts. 

Waiting to hear the result of the much-vaunted Dutch ‘Total media’ measurement contract and whether that initiative provides a blueprint for the UK or not. All of that played out against persistent rumours of an advertiser cross-platform video initiative, nicknamed ‘Project Voldemort’ by those most worried about it.

Well wait no longer, as 2020 is set to be a year of answers, outcomes that will have profound strategic implications for media research companies, media owners, currencies and agencies alike. 

We will know what Kantar will look like under BAIN Capital ownership and the implications of Nielsen separating its media measurement and consumer businesses (back) into separate entities. 

In January 2020 we should (officially) know the shape of the next UKOM contract. Yes, I know, you probably know, but at least we will be able to talk about it soon!

By the end of Q1 we should know what the BARB panel will look like for the next decade in terms of measurement technology and sample size. The Dutch TMAM contract should also pull into enough focus for us to evaluate whether it is a canary in a coalmine for cross-media measurement, a red herring or a mixed metaphor. 

One initiative that is certain to dominate discussion in public forums and darkened board rooms and that is that ISBA ‘Origin’ initiative, finally unveiled at the asi Conference last month. Not the feared ‘Voldemort’ but positioned as a desire for collaboration. It’s a UK pilot for the implementation of the WFA guidelines for cross-media measurement, an advertiser initiative with Google and Facebook on board. 

The objective is to build what is referred to as the ‘pipework’ for a cross-media solution in the UK. Will it be a true cross-media solution involving audio, print media and outdoor or will it perhaps inevitably focus initially on cross-platform video? The strategic implications are many. How involved will the JIC currencies want to be from the start? What will their answer be when the pipework is built and Origin wants to attach its pipe to the BARB, RAJAR, PAMCo and other data nozzles? Will the data flow freely or will industry politics prove insurmountable? 

Finally where will Origin leave the measurement companies? If Google and Facebook are building the pipework is there a role for a Nielsen, Kantar, GfK or Ipsos? If so what? Could the new UKOM currency provide a piece of the research solution?

If 2019 was a year of waiting patiently, 2020 should certainly keep Mediatel’s news and comment pages busy, as all aspects of the media research business in the UK look for answers to inform their strategy.