A world without AMPS, maybe ! But a world without Fred Perry?

In view of the alarming standoff between the media-owners and Saarf, I’m often asked to reflect momentarily on a world without AMPS, as there seems to be a perception in some sectors of the media industry that nobody is actually addressing these issues.

Firstly that perception is incorrect. Interested parties are putting in a massive amount of work behind the scenes to try and preserve the rich heritage of media and marketing information contained in AMPS and I, amongst many others, have been commenting on this for the past two years through this blog.

The problem is that many people, people who should know better are confusing the need to preserve the information contained in AMPS with attempts to preserve the legal entity which is Saarf.

As I have indicated in several blogs, AMPS has not been without its shortcomings. Some of those shortcomings may be directly attributable to the intransigence of Saarf’s previous management, others to the inability of traditional research methods to keep pace with quantum change in the manner in which people consume media. Indeed these days the really interesting insights come, not so much from the large sample quantitative evaluation of the consumer’s media consumption, but from a qualitative interpretation of their user generated content.

Whatever the case though, throwing the baby out with the bathwater is rarely a sound behavioural practice. Certainly it tends to be terminal for the baby and conceiving another baby is very rarely an effective compensation to mother for losing the first one.

The industry needs to fix AMPS and if in fixing it to everybody’s satisfaction we give it another name, then so be it. For the moment that name seems to be JES (Joint Establishment Survey). Call it Fred if it makes you feel better. If in creating JES we have also to reconstitute Saarf, to make it more inclusive of stakeholders and make its management more transparent, then let’s do that as well.

Right now the industry likes the name JIC (Joint Industry Committee) but if it needs a new name, call it Perry. You remember Fred Perry? He’s not the last Brit to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon but he’s certainly the last interesting one.

Speaking of interests, what then do we want? Very simply as data users, responsible for investing hundreds of millions with media owners, we want …

  • Unrestricted access to media data.
  • Improved and more inclusive sampling
  • Valid and reliable data and this implies media consumption data that is not produced by media-owners for media-owners (my recent blog Radio – The Sounds of Silence  refers). In this context, the phrase ‘publish and be damned’ springs to mind. Here’s the bottom line for media owners. When it comes to producing audience figures, you can’t mark your own homework.
  • More transparency in management of data-production and more engagement from both advertisers and media agencies in the process of data creation.

To a very large degree the impasse between media owners, marketers and agencies can be attributed to the fact that there has been an increasing juniorisation of the participants in industry based market and media research initiatives, to the detriment of both AMPS and Saarf. So for heaven’s sakes, put the egos aside for the moment and let the big players sit around a table together. As The Economist once observed, “When you’re brawling on the edge of a cliff the big question is not ‘who is right’ but ‘what the hell are you doing on the edge of a cliff’“.

So I can conceive of a world without AMPS and Saarf. In fact I can even conceive of a better world without AMPS and Saarf. But I can’t conceive of a world without Fred Perry. I believe in longevity and that even the oldest moth-eaten brands and services can be rejuvenated if they are subjected to intelligent and honest scrutiny. You don’t get to stand the test of time (and the AMPS-Saarf model has been around for 40 years) unless the brand has inherent substance. It will need to be refreshed. Sure. Its role will need to be refined. Sure. But it can endure and it can remain cutting edge.

You can of course chase after the latest fad but after Morbid Murray’s exit from Wimbledon, I wonder whether in another 80 years, stylish young people will be aspiring to wear branded Murray gear, as they aspire today to wearing Fred Perry.

When media owners rush off to create their own little Fred Perry clones, or worse, still attempt to create their own alternatives to Wimbledon, they should not expect that somehow media strategists will a posteriori find a way of putting the pieces together again. That is the stuff of fairy tales.

And that is something I do know about because unless we get the egotists off the edge of the cliff I’ll be spending the final years of my life in media, not diving headlong into the new and exciting media challenges in Mzansi, but reading Humpty Dumpty stories to my grandchildren (see my earlier blog … The Saarf-AMPS Debacle: Stick ‘em in the naughty corner … or learn to play darts!).

Now we don’t know whether Humpty Dumpty jumped or whether he was pushed. But we do know one thing. You can’t put him back together again.

Gordon Muller is Africa’s oldest surviving media planner. Follow him on Twitter @mzansimedia He writes the Khulumamedia Blog.


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