Gotlieb Cautions Against Overreliance on Data at ARF Conference

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New York — At a gathering of advertising research executives, GroupM Worldwide chairman Irwin Gotlieb cautioned the room against reading too much into research in an age where data is abundant but often unreliable.

“Research at the end of the day, is only meant to give us a representation of the truth,” he said in a keynote speech at the ARF Audience Measurement 7.0 conference here Tuesday morning. “With a massive growth in the volume of data, we will find ever more creative ways to misuse it.”

While evolving technology has allowed a move toward census-level data from set-top boxes, which most in the industry agree is an improvement over the Nielsen samples, Gotlieb reminded that such census-level data isn’t perfect either because it lacks demography.

“We need to fully understand just what census-level data is about,” he said. “It does provide highly accurate components of the total picture, but it’s not the total picture.”

As for what’s on his wish list to improve advertising research, Gotlieb called for a standardization of definitions and a reduction in the number of protocols, especially to account for Web and mobile video.

“We need much more consistency across device measurement.” he said. “We can’t have different protocols by silo.”

He also advocated the need to standardize such definition quickly to keep up with ever-changing technology, so that the industry does not find itself constantly chasing its tail.

“We have technology and media evolving so rapidly, that if we take too long to establish protocols, the research may not be relevant by the time it is delivered.”