The Future of Marketing Research in the Age of Social Media: Life Support or Reinvention?

Geoffrey Precourt

The rest of the advertising and marketing industry simply has to live with the recession and the absorption of an entirely new media ecosystem. But the marketing research sector needs to find a purpose to survive, lest fulfill the prophecy of a Procter & Gamble research director who, in the summer of 2008, cautioned, "research as we know it will be on life support by 2012".

At its "Audience Measurement 4.0" conference, the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) assembled a keynote panel of thought leaders and pundits to address the short-term future of research and the sector's 2015 landing point. Or, in the event's own words, to discuss "the challenges facing current audience measurement methods and offer potential scenarios for the future".

Matthieu Coppet, UBS global media strategist and panel moderator, opened the discussion with the simple assertion that social media are different than the rest of digital media. And, because social media are still so new to market researchers, the weight of the discussion focused on its use and how to measure consumer engagement. The panelists included David Smith, ceo, Mediasmith, Inc.; Chris Cunningham, founder/ceo, appssavvy, Inc.; Dean DeBiase, ceo, TNS Media; Joe Doran, founder/ceo, Media6°; and John Burbank, ceo, Nielsen Online.