TouchPoints2's value is all about understanding the consumer

Anyone with half an interest in how media fits into people's lives will have been excited at the recent launch of TouchPoints2.

This ambitious and rigorous consumer-centric study, developed under the auspices of the IPA, should be mandatory reading for all media planners (and mandatory purchase for all agencies). At ThinkBox, we are busy mining its treasures as I write.

Some of the early PR centred on how much more media we are using these days, and, increasingly, concurrently with one or more others.

However, I'm not convinced that multi-tasking is a new phenomenon. My mother rarely watched TV without also ironing, knitting or doing the crossword; I completed my homework to the accompaniment of Radio Caroline. Are we genuinely consuming more media - or just defining more things as media?

TouchPoints2 classifies shopping or banking online as media time, although not when done offline. Communication via any sort of phone also now counts towards daily media totals. It seems to be the digital display screen that makes you ripe for inclusion; maybe we can look forward to TouchPoints3 recording time spent in front of the microwave or an ATM.

If you think I'm joking, the IPA recently hosted a presentation from The Media Behavior (sic) Instititute from Ball State University, to whom it has licensed the TouchPoints methodology.

The US observational studies count all uses of computers as media time, including offline use of software such as Word or Excel.

So here I am, writing this article and apparently, according to them, I'm "consuming media" rather than working jolly hard.

This behavioural information is all very interesting, but is there a danger of becoming distracted by information where there is no, or scarcely any, advertising opportunity?

It plays into the hands of those people who think ad budgets should be allocated to each medium by the percentage of time spent with it, without any understanding of whether it works for brands. And I say that despite TV dominating the media day.

People can spend as long as they want using BBC services, but it's not going to offer much to advertisers.

Similarly, time spent on e-mail or on the phone is of limited commercial value.

I am a fan of TouchPoints2 when used to understand the consumer and to assess the total coverage and frequency of a multimedia plan. However, I start to become worried when it's touted as a future currency.

Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox, tess.alps@haymarket.com.

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