NEW YORK: Scott McDonald, who spent 14 years as Condé Nast's SVP/Research and eight years as Time-Warner's Director of Research, has become President/CEO of the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF).

The organization has been supporting the interests of advertising practitioners and academics in creating and curating original research for 81 years.

"If you think about the set of issues that the ARF has within its scope, it's very easy to get excited about all the wonkier, digital multi-touch attribution things, and big data," McDonald said in an interview with Warc.

"They're new and they're fascinating, difficult, and controversial. Who wouldn't want to tackle those issues? But when you go and talk to ARF members, a lot of them are simply asking, 'How do I get consumer insights that will help me come up with a great new ad campaign?'"

McDonald stepped into the ARF's top position in the first week of March 2017, replacing Gayle Fuguitt, who resigned from the organization at the end of October 2016.

And he is aware that his skillset will shape the future of the institution that represents the interests of some 400-plus member companies.

"My entire experience was always on the media side," he admitted, "In some ways I have to guard against being media centric; in fact, the organization probably has that tendency naturally over its history.

"But the more I talk to the ARF’s advertiser members, they actually are thinking about advertising in a much more fundamental way – about consumer insights, about how you create an advertising message."

And turning to consumer insights, he said: "Our members would appreciate help doing a better job extracting consumer insights—a better way to extract insights from their data.

"If you want to figure out why things sell, you can't only look at media placement and multi-touch attribution. You really have to think a lot about that other side of the brain where your artistic side demonstrates some yearnings or some identification."

A past ARF Board Chair, McDonald insisted: "There has never been a more important moment for the ARF to provide the high ground of science – independent, unbiased, empirical, transparent, replicable science – to resolve the questions and inform the arguments that arise at such moments of rapid change."

The new President/CEO will address his new constituency at the ARF's 63rd Annual Conference on March 21-22 in New York.

Data sourced from Warc