NEW YORK: Companies like Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and Philips are creating new market research models suitable for the social media age.

Speaking at the Advertising Research Foundation's Re:Think 2011 conference, Joan Lewis, Procter & Gamble's global consumer and knowledge officer, suggested such a transformation is vital.

"We need to be methodology agnostic," she said, according to Ad Age.

This principle should replace the tendency of treating techniques and procedures "like ideologies" and "believing a method, particularly survey research, will be the solution to anything."

"We are all brought into the research industry with the almost dogmatic belief that representation is everything," Lewis added.

"We need to get away from the notion that being representative of something is the only way to learn."

"I still hear people say, 'That social-media thing, that's not really going to pan out.' We will learn enormously whether [opinions gathered in this way are] representative or not."

However, Lewis warned Web 2.0 platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can be a substitute for certain tools, but also makes securing insights challenging.

"The more people see two-way engagement and being able to interact with people all over the world, I think the less they want to be involved in structured research," she said.

"If I have something to say to that company now, there are lots of ways to say it."

Joe Tripodi, Coca-Cola's chief marketing and commercial officer, proposed moving from monitoring "impressions" among shoppers to understanding their "expressions".

The soft drinks manufacturer has instituted innovative remuneration schemes concerning its ad agencies, and Tripodi posited a similar approach might be valid for research rosters.

"I would gladly pay a lot more money to our agency partners in the research area if they delivered for us that game-changing insight," he said. "Absolutely, where do I sign up?"

One key problem, he continued, is that social media analytics are currently somewhat short of the "level of sophistication we need it to be".

Roxana Strohmenger, an analyst at Forrester, asserted the need to modernise is increasingly pressing as the number of information sources explode and "do-it-yourself" projects become viable.

"We're seeing a lack of internal checks and balances on internal data collection," she said.

"We're seeing other departments that may not have professionals on their team who have the right methods to collect data."

Federico Trovato, vice president, consumer market intelligence and strategy at electronics group Philips Consumer Lifestyle, argued constructing a hub to coordinate activity is essential.

"You need a mechanism for control of the information that is running around the company. Philips is a large organisation, I don't know all the surveys that get done," he said.

"But I'm trying to bring a way of working which means you have a brief that you fill in, and a request for data, and if it's stored in a centralised system."

An example of this unified operational model in practice is drawing together advertising effectiveness data across various countries, and conducting detailed analysis to prove return on investment.

"That led to decisions to pull out of advertising or invest more - the media departments tend to keep this data for themselves, but we acted as a clearing house," Trovato said.

Data sourced from Ad Age/Research Magazine; additional content by Warc staff