[The following is a guest Q&A column presented by CTAM]
Horst Stipp is the SVP Strategic Insights & Innovation for NBCU. He’s a 40-year veteran and currently involved in all aspects of sales research, social research and strategic insights for all the NBCU properties.
You are in a very unique position in the industry because you work for a company that has a broadcast network, a range of cable networks and a very strong off-platform. How would you say that the research community and the research that you do has changed in the past 5 to 10 years?
HS: There are a lot of issues. One is, of course, the currency. That is, the need to get more data on the smaller networks, as well as to get measurement of the DVR, time-shifted viewing and online viewing. That’s been a major issue in the last [few] years: the movement of a plain, old-fashioned television exposure currency to cross-media and online measurement, and time shifted measurement. You may have heard about NBC’s creation, TAMI – Total Audience Measurement Index. It’s how we describe the total reach of a television program on all these new platforms, in the absence of a true cross-media, cross-platform measurement tool, which we don’t have yet. So, that’s the ad exposure issue.
Secondly, there has been a move towards more sales research at all the networks and certainly at NBC. Part of that has been our embrace of IAG [Research] in the early stages [IAG measures, among other things, how consumers engage with commercials and in-program product placement]. I think we were the first network to actually use IAG data as a secondary guarantee for some of our clients. So it was establishing working with new measures.
We did, at the time, a very innovative study on galvanic skin responses and eye tracking measures to establish that, when people see commercials, they time shift and fast-forward. They still get a lot of information, even though they are watching in fast-forward, because they are very much focused on the screen, and apparently the brain is ‘hard wired’ to make sense out of what is in front of you, even in fast forward. So that was an interesting new methodology.
Finally, there is an increased demand for cross-media research, simply to demonstrate and establish that if you advertise across platforms, you get more bang for your buck.
Where do you see the biggest challenges for your job in research coming from in the next five years?
HS: Oh boy… I think research in general has two challenges. One is a very old one and one is a little more recent. The older one is to sell the research to management –.make it useful, show that it is useful, provide the kind of information that is really needed, but on the other hand not oversell it either. That is a very fine balance, and sometimes we tend to oversell as researchers, because we are very passionate about the data. The shortcomings are that people don’t always know what they want or don’t always tell you the truth. Respondents are notoriously bad at telling you about the future, such as what kind of programs they would like to see that aren’t currently on TV. The typical answer is more of their favorite programs right now. They are also very bad at predicting the adoption of certain technologies. That has always been an issue.
The new issue that has come up is that, because of the quickening pace of technology and of changes in media, there’s an increased demand for [answers to] the kind of questions that you just asked, which are ‘What’s going to happen’ and ‘How is this going to develop?’
You are very involved in CTAM and recently co-chaired the CTAM Research Conference Planning Committee. Can you tell us about your work with CTAM?
HS: When you first asked me about my history here at NBCU, I recall those days when NBC was just a [broadcast] television network, but now our president Jeff Zucker is on record as saying that the majority of our profits come from our cable properties. So our cable properties are not only incredibly important, they are also of growing importance. For me personally, it has been exciting to get involved in this more varied world of television, looking at the [broadcast] network and what that does, along with all the different cable networks, their niches, their branding, their audiences. I’ve been involved in segmentation studies for the various networks, and it has been fascinating. CTAM deals with all of these issues and at CTAM you also meet other people dealing with exactly these same issues.
At the Research Conference, there is a great sharing of very interesting information. It was exciting to put the program together and work with Colleen Fahey-Rush. We were very happy with the outcome. We were proud of the program. The reason why I even agreed to do the work – and believe me it is more work than you think as a co-chair – was because I’ve been to several Research conferences and have always found them to be really good, really interesting and really valuable. It’s the conference itself, it’s the program, the information you get and it’s also the networking and sharing.
(Interview conducted by Charlene Weisler, Chair of the CTAM Research Committee and a research veteran. She can be reached at WeislerMedia@yahoo.com. Video segments of the full interview with Horst are available for viewing here).