Aligbe: Media Monitoring Requires Huge Investment in Technology

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Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Media Monitoring Services Limited, Uche Aligbe, speaks on how monitoring of television commercials and other campaigns are helping businesses to measure the impact of their advertising spending. Raheem Akingbolu presents the excerpts:

Before the advent of media monitoring in the Nigeria marketing space, what happened to business values then?
Over the years, brands have been having values but the values are limited. For example when I was in Nestle, we had this programme that was on network and we concluded that if we were sure it was giving us about 60 per cent coverage, we would pay them fully and appreciated their contribution. There was also one cigarette brand in the market that said if it was sure the media was executing its contract up to 70 per cent it would pay them 100 per cent. That is the higher value they were drawing.
Now that monitoring is involved, brands are saying sorry, if I give you a 100 slot for airing and you don’t air one, I pay you for 99. So nobody is paying 100 per cent for 60 spots anymore. They are paying 99 per cent for 99 spots. That is the value we have brought into the market.
Secondly, in the past, business owners often shoot in the dark. They would hear that their competition was doing this and they moved in that direction without any study or research to rely on. Even marketing people were running around by sales on the ground. The marketing director would say, the competition is doing so much in that market, throw in advertising there.
There is one big company out there, the managing director will wake up in the morning and call the marketing director and say sales in Kaduna is dropping, go and put advert there. He goes and put adverts, they don’t know whether the one they put before wasn’t running or not. He would just order that they put adverts and he would sign the bills for it. After one month or two, the sales pick up. Whether it’s because of the advert or not he doesn’t know but he will call and say we have now started selling, stop it. That is not brand management because you are not managing to sell today; you are managing to keep the life of the brand stronger every time
So with this, media monitoring firms are providing the brands with information as to what is happening not just around you but around your competitors on the media and so you can take a proactive step.

To a layman, what is media monitoring all about and how does it relate to the industry?
Like I said, media monitoring as the name implies is concerned about helping clients monitor their spending on campaigns as well as advising them based on information with us on their advertising spending. MMS Group is well over 23 years; we have been around since 1995 just to fill a gap that we saw in the industry. Before then I have been in the marketing field, I was a brand manager of a multinational company, I left as a marketing manager of the company (Nestle) and when we were doing this, we saw a whole lot of gap in what we were doing. There was absence of real data to do what exactly we wanted to do in terms of brand communications. So we needed to fill it, people didn’t know exactly what was happening between brands and media in terms of communication and communicating to the public.
Were they communicating? What was going on? Where would the messages pass to the public? How was the public receiving it? How much of the desire of the brand was the media meeting in terms of that communication to their target? It wasn’t there. We needed to fill it up because we needed it to do a better job for the brands and for industry as a whole. So that was the background to it.
Then, it was common to hear people asking whether an ad was ran or not. We were in Lagos, even with branches all over the places, we couldn’t help. Even in Lagos where we were, with so many channels, we couldn’t be available to monitor all the channels at the same time, meanwhile you were asking all the channels to talk for you.
We were really not sure and we needed to do something to be sure. We tried to do it internally when we were there as manager but it didn’t work. We bought radio sets and gave to staff in the various offices; we ask staff to listen to a particular station for anytime you hear advert for magi. Will you tell such a staff not to go to rest room or attend to something else? If he goes out for few seconds and the ad is run, how do you know? Those are the challenges we faced then.
So when they come and say sir, we didn’t hear anything, it may not be true. So we needed real evidence and we needed data that we could show as evidence to say yes it did, no it didn’t. This is the proof that it did or it did not. Again, then you would talk to your agency that you learnt your competitions were doing something somewhere in Jos, please find out and feed me back. They come back and say; oh they are doing this and that. How would you find out?
They just tell you, don’t bother how we get this information but we got the information, you are not standing on affirmed ground. So, we needed to put something down to be able to be sure of what we were doing. That was how the whole idea started.

Were there modifications to the idea with the world going technological now?
Even if the world is not going technological, to be 25 years is to grow old. One has to garner experience and put into the system. As a result of this, we expect lots of improvement even if we were doing it before but I can tell you that a whole lot have changed today. Technology has come in, experience has come in and therefore what you see now is sometimes beyond what technology alone will give to you. So we are at home with technology and we are at home with experience. Since we are at home for both of them, we have excelled with both of them. Those who knew us so many years ago, if they haven’t been in touch with us and they come in now, they will be surprised with what they are seeing and what is happening.
What is the relationship between media monitoring agencies and media planning agencies?
Let me put it in the simplest way, media monitoring firms provides the pre and post ammunition and artilleries to Media planning agencies to be able to do what they are doing perfectly. For example, you can’t plan for a station you really don’t know it exists. You don’t know much about its airing and you don’t know the volume of advertising that is passing through it. In that case, how do you know if it will help your clients to grow their brands?
For example, in the course of our business then, we found out that there were many electronic media outfit in this country that would come on when there is electricity, if there is no electricity, they shut down. Sitting down here, you won’t know that, you would think you have given them your material and they are ruining. Also, everybody would believe that an electronic media house television/ Radio owned by government at different levels would be running all the time but it’s not true.
Besides, there are some stations that would break down for months and they keep quiet and the planner keeps buying into what is not in existence. We say to them it doesn’t exist, it’s not ruining don’t put your money there, so they don’t buy. That is the first thing. If they have made the mistake of buying, if they have paid upfront or not, we come in and say sorry no show in this place, we have evidence and it will be reconciled. For the media buyers out there, we provide before and after buying value.
What do you do to ensure 100% compliance?
We don’t ensure 100% compliance because we don’t have the machineries to do that. It is the media that will ensure 100% compliance. In the past we ensure 100% compliance of the time. In the past, when they were not monitored, they would not do anything and take their money, now that there is credible proof with evidence to say you did not do it, things have changed. They have learnt to brace up, to improve overtime. Even the government stations have improved tremendously since we came onboard because it’s no longer take it or leave it.

What is the technology you are using to monitor the various media in the country and what are the methods you use?
Even before technology, we have offices in about 13 locations and now we have offices in about 14 locations. Because whether you have the technology or not, if you sit down in Lagos, there is limits to number of stations you can pick up here no matter the technology. Even with digitalisation, you know the problem that is going on is that media owners are trying to limit the numbers of transmissions. So with that, no matter what you have, if that doesn’t come, technology won’t pick it, you need to be specific in some locations to be able to pick it.
Now, with technology, we have that spread and we are well equipped in our locations. What technology is doing for us is that we can go to sleep and technology is working. We don’t have to be there to check. All we need known is that there is light. We have top flight and I can tell you that have been replicated in 14 or 16 other locations in this country. Every transmission that comes in here and as it comes in, whatever information we desire to sieve out of it, is done automatically in terms of the grants and basic information.
On services, we have been talking about compliance because you don’t plan in the terrain you don’t know. There is what we call competitive advertising services. With it, we tell clients how well they are doing and how well their competitions are doing, not just in terms of numbers but in terms of all the parameters they require to be effective in reaching their audience. Now that we are getting to the end of the year, they are going to do their big plan. The clients are going to say we are appropriating 1billion naira for advertising. Where is the 1billion naira going to come from? You have to rationalise it based on the information. You want to know how much of advertising went on in various locations and you want to ask yourself what is the competition do in it. You now want to look at it and say I am 20% in the market in terms of market share. My competition is doing 30% in terms of the media and I am still 20%, they are likely to pick market share from me. I want to step up. Unless you know this, you can do all these plans as a brand manager. It’s when you have it as a brand manager and you have the budget that you can plan your spending

With huge advertising spending, plus additional media monitoring funding, don’t you think the client is spending double money?
It’s better to invest 1million naira and get value for 1million naira than to invest N500, 000 and get no value at all. What media monitoring does for you is that without it, every naira you invest, the chances of getting 50 kobo from it are slim.