Do we need Saarf? Yes!

Do we need Saarf? Yes!

2006-06-29 00:00

A RECENT DEBATE on the future of the SA Advertising Research Foundation raised more questions than answers. Except for one emphatic conclusion by the panellists: that the need for Saarf is non-negotiable.

Saarf is a non-profit industry body that oversees the major media research vehicles in SA: Amps (print media), Tams (TV) and Rams (radio). These are the "bibles" of media planning, without which advertisers would lack the audience data on which to base the placement of their advertising.

However, Saarf has increasingly come under pressure from users due to its rising costs, smaller and less frequent Amps surveys and its inability to deliver accurate information about some media categories. Reliable data requires bigger audience samples - but bigger samples cost more money.

Saarf recently had to ask one of its stakeholders, the print media industry, to fork out an extra R2,9m to make up a budget shortfall for this year.

The debate was held at the last monthly meeting of the Advertising Media Association of SA and pitted Saarf MD Paul Haupt against TGI representative Tim Bester and media consultant Gordon Muller.

TGI is a research organisation whose activities compete with Saarf in some areas. Saarf sees TGI as a threat; TGI insists it wants to work with Saarf to fuse their data and avoid duplication.

"The biggest world trend in joint industry research is the ability to fuse data from one research project to another," says Bester. "That's what we'd like to do with our branded survey, which is more extensive than Amps' branded survey.

"An impression has been created that TGI is out to 'get' Saarf. That's not true. I believe it would be a tragedy to lose Saarf. We want to work with it, not against it."

Says Muller: "Amps is an institution? but the problem with institutions is when they believe so much in themselves, they think they're above criticism. The need for Amps is non-negotiable, but we can ask whether its funding model or basic structures are correct. I don't believe Amps was conceived as a one-size-fits-all study. It's unrealistic to expect it to perform the entire gambit of research."

Haupt pointed out that despite a 14% cut in its budget to R38m in 2004, Saarf has made a number of improvements, including overnight TV ratings, six radio surveys a year and current work on introducing a survey to measure outdoor advertising. "That's ground-breaking work."