A recent survey found most media and advertising professionals skeptical of the quality of many commercial research studies. WARC sought the views of some research agency representatives speaking at next week’s Qual360 event in Berlin.

When Inskin Media and Research Now SSI interviewed UK industry professionals recently, they found a majority were dismissive of commercial research studies on digital advertising, regarding them as being driven by a sales agenda and not being of a good enough quality.

“Definitely there are many studies with the sole purpose to justify commercial interests,” agreed Oliver Spitzer, managing director at september Strategie & Forschung in Cologne. “It is no problem to design the scales of an online survey in order to get the results you want.”

Andrew Konya, CEO and Co-Founder of Remesh in New York, saw the finding as “a symptom of a research world which is trying to accommodate new expectations of cost and timeline without updating their methodologies”.

Both men come at this from their own particular angle, Spitzer’s business being focused on emotion research that can get beyond the biases of more traditional methods, while Konya’s is based on the use of an AI-powered methodology that seeks to maintain research quality while reducing timelines and labour.

Neither were particularly concerned about the rise of cheap online survey platforms, agreeing that clients knew perfectly well that these weren’t going to deliver high quality insights. But Konya observed that while clients might understand the need for additional analysis, there can be a “mismatch in expectation [as to] how much labour this additional analysis requires and therefore how much the research should cost.

“This is potentially a symptom of researchers undervaluing new technology while research purchasers perhaps overvalue them,” he suggested.

Spitzer reported that “price feelings are changing” and that professional market researchers are having to re-evaluate what they want and what they are willing to pay. Low-budget surveys that give up all quality aspects for cost savings will not be successful in the long term, he stated, but neither will expensive methods that ignore up-to-date technologies.

As well as looking closely at costs, clients increasingly want a quicker turnaround of research, adding yet more pressures to agencies seeking to meet this demand without sacrificing any aspect of quality. Konya’s views were unambiguous: “In order to achieve a quicker turnaround without negatively impacting quality, new methodologies must be adopted.”

And Spitzer was adamant that quality should not be impaired by cutting out essential elements of research design. “You should create new tools instead,” he said. For example, his organisation has developed a bespoke tool for one client that enables it to carry out effective qualitative research in a 48-hour window during the week the client takes to go from recording to broadcasting radio commercials.

Such agile methods allow clients to cut time and cost for qualitative research, he said. “The idea is to be ‘always in beta’ and to create a continuous cycle of creating, testing, improving, and releasing.”

When asked about the new technologies that will have an impact on the research sector, both men again had their own angles. For Spitzer, it’s all about getting into the consumers’ subconscious. “Here we find triggers for all buying decisions. The deeper you dive, the better you understand, and the sooner clients can create scalable and repeatable success.”

For Konya, however, “the application of AI, natural language processing and machine learning, will have a profound impact” .

Qual360 Europe is taking place in Berlin from February 7-8. The theme of "Evolve and Transform" will focus on opportunities created for and by qualitative research.