FORT LAUDERDALE, FL: The marketing research industry needs to seek "atonement" having "dropped the ball" when it comes to dealing with cross-platform media consumption and programmatic advertising, a leading executive has argued.

Duane Varan, the Founder/Chief Executive Officer of MediaScience, discussed this subject at The Media Insights & Engagement Conference, an event convened by the Institute for International Research (IIR).

"As an industry, we've dropped the ball," he asserted. (For more, including further challenges facing researchers, read Warc's exclusive report: Marketing research is broken. Can it be fixed?)

"This is our day of atonement. The good news? We're responding to this challenge. Now that we can see the light, we can start figuring out how to start measuring this better."

While most of the research industry has long talked about the adoption of cross-media habits, the practical response has largely fallen short of the rhetoric.

"Everybody thought, 'Oh, yeah, that's a nice idea'. But people didn't put skin in the game. People didn't respond to the challenge," said Varan.

The result? "Senior-level executives were left with a perception of the loss of audience, which was actually a distorted perception," he continued.

"But, in our business, if you don't measure it, it doesn't exist. If we could not demonstrate where the audience had moved, then we had to be accountable for the loss of that audience."

The evolution of programmatic advertising was considerably more rapid, but once again posed a major hurdle to legacy research practices.

"It came out of nowhere. And it was almost [an] epidemic. We used to be an industry where it took a decade for anything to happen. Now, suddenly, overnight, the entire structure of our industry had changed," said Varan.

With data scientists also enhancing their status – frequently at the expense of established research teams – it is clear that insights teams must work harder than ever to prove their worth. Fortunately, they have new tools available to achieve this task.

"The tools that are available to us right now are incredible. Look back at the tools we used to use; look back at the tools we have right now. The change is dramatic. And it gets better every day," Varan said.

Data sourced from Warc