Research News Live

Time for couple’s counselling?

Event report: Glennys Marsdon reports on a lively debate at the 2018 WA State Conference.

How can the market research and advertising industries work better together? It seemed like a simple question. Little did we know what one question, one hour and a panel of advertising industry experts would uncover.

The question has been pondered at many a conference. This time, however, we scrutinised the underlying relationship. Were we soul mates, destined to ride off into the sunset together? Or were we inches away from divorce, only staying together for the children, our clients? An insightful discussion followed, which sparked considerable debate and ultimately uncovered a need for couples counselling.

The discussion began with a status update of ‘it’s complicated’ from John Linton, planning director at 303 Mullen Lowe. Having worked with most Perth research agencies, he felt he was ‘dating, a lot.’

Nicole Cikarela, general manager of client solutions at Marketforce, opted for a ‘fly in, fly out’ arrangement, where both partners take ‘extended absences and live separate lives.’ She painted the scenario of advertisers going off to do the ‘exciting work’, while the researcher ‘is perhaps staying at home and really looking after the kids, and keeping the domestic duties going on.’ The lack of ongoing cohabitation meant ‘each time we come together we have to find the common ground again.’

Next up, Melanie Wiese, chief strategy officer at Meerkats, emphasised the impact of the tight local economy, which resulted in an increasing incidence of research being conducted in-house. Consequently, Wiese considered herself to be ‘sleeping around’, adding that ‘in the absence of a steady partner, we have learnt to fix the toilets while you were gone.’ Monogamy, she felt, only works on bigger accounts that have the budget, ‘a luxury that doesn’t exist at the moment.’

Richard Beards, strategic director at Rare, also mentioned DIY, explaining the decision came down to budget and time. Budget-wise, he said, sometimes advertisers ‘have to turn to Google’ for research. He felt time was a major issue with everything now being ‘on demand.’

Rod Killick, group account director at Gatecrasher, also derailed the idea of a committed monogamous relationship. He described a ‘polygamous, but comfortable relationship’, with a select number of partners ‘you know and can trust.’

Thus, having dissected the ‘it’s complicated’ relationship status, the panel then pondered how best each party could move forward. The advertisers suggested market research companies needed to:

• Keep up to date with the rapid changes in the advertising industry, and ensure they are changing quickly enough to meet them. ‘The advertising industry has changed so much in such a short amount of time. My opinion of the market research industry is that it hasn’t changed so quickly,’ explained Nicole Cikarela.
• Give advertising agencies a ‘heads up’ if the research uncovers a problem.
• Have a deeper understanding of the clients’ business so the research can provide stronger insights.
• Support clients to be courageous and bring everyone together and demonstrate the benefits of collaboration: ‘Provide better case studies, featuring successful ad and research agency partnerships,’ suggested John Linton.
• Be open about the fact that they are promiscuous too.
• Realise not all clients want the two industries to have a relationship.

In return, advertisers appreciated that market research has a big role to play in analysing and providing insights based on the copious amounts of data being generated and were aware of the paradox; not being given the time to do so.

The comments generated a spirited discussion amongst audience members after the panellists had left. Audience members documented their own thoughts, which uncovered four main suggestions for moving forwards:

  1. Get to know each other better
  2. Offer relationship-building opportunities
  3. Review how we work together
  4. Educate clients about the benefits of industry collaboration.

Comments from the audience included:

• ‘We need to bust the myths and misconceptions that exist on both sides.’
• ‘By getting to know each other better and working more collaboratively we can learn the strengths and weaknesses that exist.’
• ‘Many research agencies are doing innovative and forward-thinking research projects using technology and new frameworks.’
• ‘Collaboration from the start of the project and continued through so a united front can be presented to the client. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.’

In conclusion, what started out as a simple question turned into a fascinating afternoon, thanks to the openness and honesty of all participants.

The outcome was best summed up by these two comments:
‘What an insightful panel session! It highlighted that our industries need to speak to each other. Perhaps AMSRS could organise events to bring us together? Like any relationship, communication is key to understanding each other and working together to achieve common goals.’

‘Everyone is looking for a piece of value: the researcher, the agency, the client. It’s a threesome sometimes. But then we have to know the boundaries, and everyone understanding their role in that relationship.’

Author: Glennys Marsdon, Owner, The Customers’ Voice

This article also appears in the May-July 2019 edition of AMSRS publication, Research News – State of play. Check out the rest of the articles in this edition.

Photo by Will O on Unsplash


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