We all know that we live in challenging economic times. Research conducted for Ipsos MORI’s End of Year Review 2011 reveals an underlying feeling of pessimism about the state of the nation. Furthermore, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says that median household income will be no higher in 2015-16 than in 2002-3. According to the Advertising Association, UK ad expenditure for 2011 is forecast to grow by 0.9%, which is lower than its previous estimate of 1.4%. But brighter growth is apparently expected for 2012.
In a year sandwiched between the General Election and the Olympics, what has 2011 meant for the media research industry? If the research showcased at this year’s Media Research Group (MRG) Conference is anything to go by, then it has been a year of experimentation and change.
Tim Harford set the scene perfectly in his keynote speech on solving problems in a complex world. Those who succeed should demonstrate a willingness to adapt through trial and error and indeed to accept failure and start again. Fortune favours the brave. I did wonder though whether our industry is less willing to experiment in this current climate for fear that there is no such concept as ‘failure for free’. I particularly liked his take on the ‘God Complex’ where those who insist that they are right are not always so and with disastrous consequences. Can we identify anyone in our own organisations with this ‘affliction’?
Throughout the day, various themes emerged. It appears that we are all embracing behavioural economics, but none of us is an expert. That said, a paper from Mediacom demonstrated how BE is being integrated into campaign strategies and media plans.
From the media agency perspective, the future of media research is ‘personification’. We are finally starting to get to grips with mobile, both as a marketing medium and a data collection tool. Some of the papers presented featured both Smartphones and tablets in the research methodologies employed. This will lead to interesting challenges on the subject of comparing claimed versus actual data.
Brand owners are also experimenting with methods to harness social media. Channel 5 and Ipsos MediaCT’s paper on Big Brother demonstrated the value to the broadcaster, both editorially and for advertising, of analysing Facebook and Twitter data.
The industry currencies are not, I’m pleased to say, experimenting with a willingness to accept failure, but they are adapting to meet the needs of the current media climate. All the organisations were able to cite new methodological or reporting developments in 2011 or planned for 2012, mostly related to online in one way or another.
Online was another theme and the subject of the quality of online research reared its ugly head again in the Conference’s Good, Bad and Ugly session. For all the good it has brought our industry, it has probably also brought a lot of pain. It’s quite an emotive topic and one we will revisit in a MRG evening meeting in the New Year.
With some examples of good quality research helping to give a financial return for media owners and agencies, there is a flickering of optimism on the horizon. Willingness to experiment and change has got to be a good thing for media research otherwise we will forever stand still. 2012 will be an interesting year with the Olympics and further advancements in technology. We should look to it with more optimism than we did for this year. The next MRG Conference will be held in Monte Carlo in November 2012 and will provide another timely opportunity to reflect on our changing industry.
John Carroll is Senior Director of Ipsos MediaCT and Chair of the Media Research Group