Friday, June 25, 2010

Sampling in the ICE age

A report by Teresa Lynch, mrweb

Sampling in the ICE Age

A number of the world’s biggest online sample providers have announced they are working together with the market research SaaS company Imperium on a system which prevents respondents answering the same category of interview too frequently. Members constitute around 50% of all sample available globally, so what effect will the move have on those who are ‘in’ and those who are ‘out’?
The Imperium Category Exclusion (ICE) User Group is not a closed shop - it’s open to any panel providing company. Nevertheless we’d expect to find differences in the views of someone very much ‘in’ - say, Marshall C Harrison, Founder and CEO of Imperium - and someone who is currently ‘out’, in this case Pravin Shekar, kreator-in-chief at Indian consumer panel firm Krea.
Both are basically agreed that ICE is a very good idea. Harrison explains that the new initiative is in addition to the software services Imperium already offer not only to sample providers but also full service agencies and end user companies. These include branded products which variously de-dupe sample by digital fingerprinting, check respondents demographics against other databases (currently only in the US) and capture users' online experience of web sites. ICE is an extension of the first of these which utilizes the same digital fingerprinting technology to identify respondents who have completed an interview in a specific category (for example home shopping or health insurance) within a given time period. Marshall does envisage companies which use ICE advertising to their own clients on their web site that they 'are certified by ICE'.
So will this become some sort of 'kite mark' to which other companies must subscribe? According to Pravin Shekar, 'The panel business does not have too many distinct long term points of differentiation....therefore this move towards digital a good one to get the base standards in.' However he also makes the point that there ought to be an industry standard (perhaps the long awaited CASRO one) rather than firms favouring one product offering from one company. He also mentions other companies involved in the same type of offering such as Peanut Labs with their OptimusID product; and advances the idea that digital fingerprinting also has some 'local issues with PII and intrusion of privacy'.
Marshall is confident that Imperium is 'cognisant about privacy rules and regulations' and that their clients are 'conscious of the law' in relation to any product they would use in conjunction with their panel. And it is hard to see how checking that people are who they say they are and have completed the interviews they say they have need infringe their rights in any way when all panels are run on a strictly 'opt in' basis.
Will some companies feel pressure to join this new initiative? And what are some of the 'local issues' that maybe a higher authority such as CASRO or ESOMAR should address? We'd be interested to hear your view.