MRS Impact Conference: The future landscape of market research

Kirsty Brown, Senior Business Development Manager at Capita TI, has just returned from the hotly anticipated MRS (Market Research Society) Conference in London. Kirsty tells us all about the event and the way that Market Research (MR) is heading…

The event blasted off to a great start on Tuesday 15th March with opening interviews by the CEO of BT Group Gavin Patterson, and Stan Sthanunathan from Unilever.

Without a doubt, Stan’s energetic, lively and informative presentation resonated with the research savvy audience, especially when he presented his “10 commandments” on what he believes will be essential for businesses in the future –  emphasising the rise of technological advancements and how this will not only shape the research industry to become something ever-changing, but also something subsequently ever-evolving.

The impact of digital

Feeling refreshed and inspired I made my way to a seminar on “Will ‘curious computers’ replace curious minds?” The panel for this session included Elina Halonen (in-chair), Colin Strong (Verve Ventures), Dr. Nick Baker (Quadrangle), Cat Wiles (AMV BBDO) and Nick Bonney (Camelot).

What I most enjoyed about this session was the debate aspect and audience interaction as we were all provided with the opportunity to answer questions raised by the chair by using our smartphones to vote via an online polling app. In addition to this, we could also post questions to the chair for the panel to answer.

In this debate, both Colin and Carol stood out with their strong views, and who couldn’t with such a sensationalist subject matter?

Cat leaned on the side that no matter how advanced a computer will be, they will never have “free will” therefore in the MR industry, there will always be an argument for a human touch, especially on the creative side of things. Colin on the other hand was a little stronger on the side that the industry will have to justify exactly what it is we are (as researchers) providing for clients, as he believes through analytics and computers advancing on gathering data, that everything will be predictable and we won’t for example, have to do any surveying, as we will already have an idea of what the participant would do anyway.

What was conclusive from all of the panel members though is that with technological computer advancements, the role of the “traditional researcher” will change, and that we will be seeing this more and more in the next couple of years and looking into the future.

This very subject was echoed later by PWC who put together an infographic on how they think the MR Industry is changing, as is the researcher of the future, who they say will embody the following attributes: to be business savvy, have strong data analysis and interpretation skills, become a good communicator/story-teller and lastly be a flexible, agile, early adopter.

Market Research in the Entertainment industry

After lunch there was a special seminar on “meet the author” whereby John Yorke was interviewed about his insight and experience into how stories work and why we tell them. John was formerly Managing Director of Company Pictures, the UK drama independent producing Skins, Shameless, The White Queen and Wolf Hall.  John’s very down-to-earth and positive approach really inspired us all.

I think we will see more research houses and advertising agencies change their strategy to tell inspiring stories about their products. It doesn’t even have to be about their products/services in some ways!

After some busy networking throughout the remainder of the day, the conclusive seminar with Richard Osman was very interesting indeed. At a whooping 6ft 7 you could hardly miss him! Richard professed about his negative findings when conducting his own market research into viewers of certain programmes, and how certain forecasting regarding the success rate of a particular programme has turned out to be quite false. When asked about the future of TV programmes of our much loved channels – he believes that they will be phased out over time, as the emerging generation Y will not be so interested in the daytime current channels/entertainment or gameshow programmes.

What I enjoyed most about the day’s event was that all the seminars did exactly what they said they would…impact was the topic of discussion, and I was really happy to have witnessed some exciting and inspiring speakers, with of course, some gritty debates in between. Well done to the MRS on delivering a really captivating conference – I will definitely be back next year!

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