ARF Kicks Off Online-Research Standards Initiative

The Advertising Research Foundation Monday held its first meeting regarding its online-research initiative, setting up for four committees to kick off its effort to set standards for such data-gathering.

More than 200 people participated in the initial meeting of ARF’s Online Research Quality Council, either by attending the three-hour session in Manhattan or via webcast.

The council’s mission is to develop a set of standards and metrics for research gathered via the Internet, to ensure its quality for use by ad agencies and advertisers alike.

The goal of the meeting and council is “to rally some of the industry around the need and the opportunities to address online-research quality standards,” Robert Tomei, chairman of the council’s steering committee and executive vice president and global director for access panels for TNS Media Intelligence, said after the session.

“Our clients are asking us to do that,” he said. “We as individual companies are asking ourselves to do it. Today was really a start to rally some independent initiatives that companies have been doing, as well as elicit support, resources and participation.”

According to Tomei, “We want to get it right … and we want to get it done relatively quickly.”

The large turnout for the meeting reflected the industry’s interest and desire for objective standards for online-research panels, according to the ARF.

“The number of people in attendance spoke volumes to me about the fact [there is] this broad recognition that there is a need to take some action in improving the quality of online research,” said Bill Cook, the ARF’s senior vice president of research and standards. “I think there’s pretty good recognition that we’ve got a lot more questions than we do got answers to work from at this point.”

At the meeting, the council set up four working committees to: define quality; determine to what extent quality matters; to develop a set of metrics; and to find funding and do outreach on the possible standards.

In regard to quality, the council is looking at issues such as how online panels should be recruited; how online questionnaires be designed and visually presented; whether data be replicated; do online panels reflect the general population; whether the data be validated; and what metrics should define accuracy.

“We’re in agreement that whatever standards in place [need to] have a solid knowledge base behind them … [that they] have good empirical foundation,” said Renee Smith, a steering committee member and vice president of panel quality for Harris Interactive.

At the meeting, participating companies expressed a willingness to share information about how they have been doing online research, and very little information of that kind has been exchanged in the past, according to Efrain Ribeiro, a council steering committee member and chief operating officer of Ipsos Interactive Services.

“Companies up until now didn’t really talk about what they were doing,” he said.