Flexible research standards would boost Net ads

Although there are various systems to measure the impact of Net advertising, the medium is crying out for an evolving set of industry standards

No one now doubts the Internet’s power as an advertising medium. But it seems that in the rush to get online, reliable empirical research has been given a back seat.

Although advertisers have been quick to embrace the electronic age, they are being short-changed in their attempts to assess ad effectiveness.

Accurate ad delivery figures are common, thanks to the introduction of adservers. However, there is a lack of industry-wide reliable data to help plan more effective ad strategies.

The Telegraph Group has spent a lot of time investigating this issue and how it affects the UK online community. As you might expect, we have discovered a huge variety of measurement information. Yet, when it comes to ad growth forecasts, there are dramatic differences between published projections – sometimes in terms of millions of pounds.

There appears to be no generally agreed industry standard for Net research. With the medium changing so quickly, it would be difficult to constrain research within parameters meant to last as long as their offline equivalents, such as the Target Group Index (TGI). People must acknowledge that an evolving market demands evolving research, otherwise we will be left pitching our tents in shifting sands.

Media owners, clients and agencies must attempt to produce industry-wide research standards, as has always been the case in the offline world. In my dual role co-ordinating both online and offline research, I’m looking to translate offline industry-wide research standards and disciplines to the new media world. For both our strategic needs and those of our clients, we need to be ahead of the game in terms of changing online shopping habits.

It’s an issue that was identified in some preliminary research (MW April 6), when consumers recognised their Net usage patterns will change dramatically in the years to come.

This dual role is key to the future of planning strategies. It provides a hands-on opportunity to monitor the influence of the online domain against that of print, or vice versa.

The Telegraph, certainly, will continue to seek partnerships and alliances which develop understanding of the new media landscape and answer some of the many issues surrounding the Net enigma and ever changing consumer and business demands. Remember, to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Tim Jones is head of research and strategy at HTNM and the Telegraph Group

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