LONDON: Impactful insights are needed more than ever, though coming up with them requires both clarity on the issue to be solved and precise research design, according to a leading industry figure.

Writing in the 50th anniversary issue of Admap, which looks ahead to the future of brand communications, Eric Salama, CEO of research giant Kantar, welcomed the fact that most people in client organisations and agencies now understand there is a commercial purpose to data and insight gathering.

In an article titled The future of insight gathering, Salama advocated a Stop-Start-Change approach to this activity: what do you want to stop doing, to start doing and to do differently.

"It's simple, links the future to the present and gives you a sense of both the destination and the way you will get there," he said.

There were some very obvious issues falling under Salama's stop banner. Long questionnaires and even longer attribute sets were a particular bugbear.

Shorter surveys had been shown to improve data quality, he said, "quite apart from leaving the people who are willing to give up some of their precious time feeling better about the experience".

And, if research wanted to be regarded as a science, it also had to stop ignoring data quality issues, both in the quantitative and qualitative fields. Clients need to take more care over their choice of panels and pay more for decent samples, Salama suggested.

Before they did that, however, they could start looking again at research that had already been undertaken. "Much insight and knowledge can be derived from mining existing work," he noted, by assembling a team of diverse experts and getting them to spend a week in a room grappling with a particular issue. "No new fieldwork, low cost, but great insights."

Insights needed to be then translated into action. Salama referred to how Kantar had worked with clients and agencies "to identify segments, targets, then to map those segments on to larger databases in a way that enables an effective media buy".

Salama called for changes in clients' approach to briefing and remuneration. "Brief the problem you are trying to solve rather than the way you want it carried out," he advised, while suggesting that clients could pay retainers for insight teams in the way that they do for planners in creative or media agencies.

Data sourced from Admap