Media All-Stars 2004

It’s been SAID that Stacey Lynn Koerner possesses the skills of a salesman and the temperament of a diplomat. Koerner has applied her broad research expertise to a wide array of critical research issues, with an emphasis on understanding consumer media behavior. She’s been called “a striking duality of a right-brained analytic genius and a left-brained artistic and creative force.”

The right brain–left brain description pops up again and again when discussing Koerner, executive vp, director of global research integration for Initiative Media and this year’s Media All-Star for Research, with those who have worked with her.

Says Fox TV network president Ed Wilson: “Stacey is one of those rare individuals who can operate from both sides of the brain. She’s very good with the creative community because she’s very creative, but because she’s very analytical, she works well with the business side. She really grasps both sides of our business.”

Not only a powerful resource for Initiative because of her unique grasp of both the scientific and the creative, Koerner is also the first known Media All-Star who can boast having performed scratch tracks for the likes of Chaka Khan via her alternate career as a studio vocalist.

“Stacey Lynn understands the numbers and the research extremely well, but she goes beyond the numbers to really understand what is driving consumer behavior,” says Initiative Media Worldwide’s CEO Alec Gerster. “Also, she turns around and makes [data] very understandable, very accessible.” Even Koerner’s extracurricular musical activities contribute to her business success, Gerster maintains: “She has a performance background. On the one hand, that has nothing to do with media research, you would think; but it provides her with a presence that enables her to engage an audience.”

Koerner’s engaging personality and solid research knowledge have made her a popular figure in trade and consumer journalism, often quoted and interviewed by news outlets including CNN and CNBC. Furthermore, Nielsen Media Research and the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau have showcased Koerner’s studies in their resources for industry professionals and academics. She has played an integral role in Initiative’s exclusive research partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Koerner was instrumental in the launch last month of the TV analytic tool PropheSEE, a joint venture of Initiative and the research companies and Trendum. PropheSEE evaluates key aspects of a TV series’ popularity and forecasts a show’s prospects in its earliest stages. (After tracking Internet chatter, the tool correctly predicted that ABC freshman series Lost and Desperate Housewives would be big hits, months before they premiered.)

Koerner joined Initiative in 2001, when TN Media merged with Initiative. Prior to her promotion last year to her current position, Koerner was senior vp/director of broadcast research. Before joining TN Media in 1997, she was in TV and print research at D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles. She began her career as a programming and local market research analyst at Katz Communications.

Koerner’s professional activities have made her visible throughout the business. She is president of the Radio and Television Research Council and a member of the Media Rating Council, and this year she was elected to the board of the American Advertising Federation and will be inducted into the AAF’s Advertising Hall of Achievement.

The 34-year-old Koerner points out how much research has changed in the few years since she got into the business. “Now, technology has flourished to a point where the audience is fragmented, the choices are fragmented, and you have finer and finer cuts of data about how consumers behave. So, you have this balancing response from industries creating products for finer and finer groups. There’s not only one brand of soap, there are thousands of brands of soap, catering to all segments of the population, and success can be measured and monitored. The landscape has become extremely diverse. There’s a lot of data, so much that it’s almost unmanageable. That puts a heavy burden on researchers, who have come to be more at the center of developing brands than ever before.”

Koerner asserts that the Internet will play an increasingly important role in research and, in particular, in determining consumer responses to media product. She sees big possibilities for the PropheSEE product. “Imagine that one of our clients wants to partner with Desperate Housewives,” she says. “We can tell them from applying this tool, if they want to do something that resonates with this audience, what people are saying about these characters, the topics, the themes, even their clothing—whatever it might be that people are discussing—we can present that feedback to our clients so they can engage with fans at a better rate than just shooting in the dark.”

Koerner isn’t surprised that scripted fare such as Lost and Desperate Housewives and CBS’ CSI franchise have caught on in an environment where reality remains king. “[There are] a couple of truisms about how an audience behaves: Everything old is new again, and everything in TV is so cyclical that no matter what anybody tells you, there are always genres coming in and out of favor; they just wax and wane,” she says. “When one concept works, there are lots of copycats out there, which is why procedural dramas like CSI have taken off. Comedy will come back again, too.”

Like her boss Gerster, Koerner believes her experience performing (in addition to her studio work, she occasionally performs with her husband’s band in Manhattan) has more relevance to her research career than one might think. “You would be amazed at the number of [agency] people who are in the music industry,” she says, adding that she got into research because of her love of all things creative, not in spite of it. “Most people say, ‘But [research] is all numbers,'” she says. “But when you do research, you’re investigating something, and you have to be creative about the way you approach a problem.”

Koerner adds, “It’s all sales, no matter which medium you’re performing in. There are lots of parallels—when you get up and sing in front of a group of people, you’re marketing yourself. What’s true in all this is, you’ve got to be genuine, you’ve got to be true. If you get up and sing and you don’t feel it, you don’t believe it, the audience knows it. It’s the same thing when you’re selling a client. If you don’t feel the brand and understand the true essence of it, you can’t do the work. You have to understand the consumer and the brand.”