Sunday, September 26, 2010

ESOMAR Congress Overview: Pravin's take

Key Takeaway:
1.       MR is getting democratized. We can’t run away from it (Case in point: DIY research).
2.       Be open to push the boundaries of research (Mass ethnography-DigiViduals, Nielsen Life 360)
3.       Have the consumer at the heart of what you do!

The conference started earlier for me, with the ESOMAR Representatives meeting organized by Helen Parker. The meeting was well attended with a lot of new Reps added to the mix. Gunilla and Finn opened the discussion followed by an update from Kathy Joe. Jennifer Granger then presented the Global Market Research report. Though the MR spend dipped for the first time in a few years now, there is hope! And positive signs! A lively discussion was chaired by David Smith and a bunch of us threw in queries, suggestions and action items. Finn Raben mentioned that ESOMAR wants to go more local in spreading research standards and in propagating research. To this effect, I am confident of a regional forum for us to plan local events (meetups, workshops) with shared costs and sponsors. (Pictures at 

Ask the experts session was a new introduction this year and gave an opportunity to interact one-on-one with experts (Semiotics, Neuroscience, WOM). I went to the discussion with the ESOMAR President Gunilla Broadbent who provided an overview and responded to queries. 

The welcome reception was packed and the highlight was the official launch of Ray Poynter’s book (Handbook of Online and Social Media Research). Relevant and much-need for students and young researchers. I am sure this will be a big hit across universities in APAC as well. I have known Ray for quite some time now and it was an honour to buy his autographed book at the Congress. The reception was followed by the e-Rewards and the Askia parties! – great to have fun and network with fellow researchers from around the globe.

The sessions at the Congress seemed packed and all the ones I wanted to attend seemed to be planned at the same time in parallel halls! Hence, I missed a few of the talks (amd am only covering those that I attended). The interactive session on DIY (chaired by Andre Linden) was followed by presentations from David Bakken and Richard Thornton. The lively debate/discussion before and after the speaker sessions was well planned out. DIY is considered a major threat by the traditionalists and democratization by others! Incidentally, David’s paper (Only the paranoid survive) won the best paper at the Congress.

Helen Parker (ESOMAR) assisted me in organizing a country-lunch and it was good to meet and discuss with fellow Indian researchers about the conference and action points.

Post-lunch, it was the Pecha Kucha session where I was a speaker as well. Rapid-fire 20-second slides and smooth flow marked this session. The message from Patrick Young on the need for storytelling to present results resonates with relevance.

I liked the “What the buzz!” presentation by Kristin Hickey, especially the need for researchers to get a grasp of the brand buzz, differentiation from clutter and its measurement – in a social media age. From the paper: “Brand BUZZ is new to marketing and therefore needs its own definition, set of measurement tools and understanding.”

Research Superstar – as always was to ensure the research community drops the ‘serious/conservative’ veil and takes a dig at ourselves. Very good performances by Sophy, Richard Casper and Will Goodhand; and Will won the crown on the second day. As a part of the jury, Simon Chadwick, Adam Philips and yours truly had a ball as well.

Digital Ethnography in FIFA 2010, the multi-modal approach paper by Dave King and Hala Matowska. This project has pushed earlier thresholds for methods and overall complexity. A study across multiple screens (TV, Internet and Mobile) with a diary study built in (420 South Africans provided with BlackBerry phones).

Science-Fiction: Another paper I enjoyed was John Kearon and Peter Harrison’s Online segmentation for insight generation. Parts of the paper sounded like science-fiction to me, except for the fact that these were live projects (with real clientsJ).  In this huge and diverse web, how can individuals or segments be identified? Insights generated? This is the basic premise of the paper and John delved into Sentiment analysis and netnography as key modes for answers. DigiViduals was a BrainJuicer product that was demo-ed – online robotic researchers searching social media sites for pictures, references, songs, blogs etc to create a persona! An example of mass ethonography as one of the ways forward!

The Talent Contest: It was a pleasure to listen the young researchers: Hannah, Catherine and Abhishek Sharma. All three of them were impressive in their own way. Such an event serves as encouragement to younger researchers and assists in the creation of a grassroots movement – to bring more into the fold of marketing research.

Finishing keynote: Paul Marsden was the speaker and my TOM response was “Bodybuilder”!. He spoke about simplifying research….and the fact that research is prevalent and a part of our everyday decision making process. We just need more glamour!

All in all: Lots of new faces. Younger researchers in attendance. And new messages/methodologies!

All this bodes well for research and I look forward to work towards more local events for research – and of course, the APAC conference in Melbourne next year.

Pravin Shekar
kreator-in-chief, krea
ESOMAR Representative for India