Firms want professional-level advanced analytics, on a global scale and on a budget. But how brands know what they know is less of a discussion at IIeX as knowledge-sharing takes centre stage (and top sponsor billing), says Sam Peña-Taylor.

In 2014, when D’Arcy Rossiter first arrived at Hive’s offices in London, as the smart-home business’s Head of Insight, he found himself down the pub. A lot.

With an office on Rathbone Street, the company’s product team used what Rossiter termed an admirably guerrilla research tactic to understand how the company’s app was going down with consumers. The Marquis of Granby pub is much beloved of the agencies based nearby, and for Hive’s team it became a site of testing in which patrons would be offered a pint in return for some comments on the app.

For the Canadian, the reliance on the pub was almost terrifyingly informal. How could they know this crowd was actually representative of the public at large? (It’s not). And, if nothing else, how many pints had the sample already had?

In Amsterdam, the IIeX conference audience almost laughs at this, but for a lot of research professionals, such a cavalier attitude to their discipline from others in their business is a kind of depressing reality.

Or if not cavalier, then there’s an attitude of extreme expectations crossed with little understanding of the skills good research entails, even if it’s supposedly infused into the company.

For Sky’s Head of Qualitative Research, Sarah Jousiffe, the answer has been to begin turning down more tactical briefs from teams across the organisation. In part, this is a result of the “customer closeness” initiative that has sought to push insight through the organisation.

Where this leaves the research team, even with the legion of professionals that make up Sky’s insight department, is tricky. Putting together some research work is easier than ever, with the simplicity of a quick survey and a panel partner – that’s if you want to be a little more formal than the pub – but the results won’t necessarily be useful.

Instead, Jousiffe notes, an insight/market research department should slot into an ongoing process of customer understanding just as finance or legal slot in: as supervisors to a process whose expertise and guidance is necessary when interacting with frameworks or financial realities.

A wasted survey that tells you either nothing new, or, worse, just what you want to hear, is ultimately wasted money. But it hints at how research and analytics is moving up to a more strategic level.

This is ever more important in light of a growing trend that took serious form on Tuesday afternoon. Sometimes you can see what’s going on from what the big companies are doing; other times, you just need to look at the list of the event’s sponsors to judge who is feeling bullish.

Today, it’s the turn of platform businesses whose role it is to centralise research and sales data from across large organisations and put it in a system that can begin to open up access to insights across the organisation.

What it indicates is not that big companies are necessarily struggling to find the information that they need – if anything that appears to have become table stakes – it’s that they need a way to sort through that information.


  • Global snack giant Mondelez is working with the Berlin-based insights platform Market Logic (a conference sponsor), to activate the €175 million that the company spends on market research every year.
  • Danish brewing group Carlsberg took to the stage to talk about the centralised knowledge platform it has built with Stravito (a conference sponsor) in order to activate the research it owns and turn it into business-wide impact.
  • WPP Health worked with (title sponsor) Bloomfire to centralise, harmonise, and ultimately create better insights through a knowledge library for the entire organisation.
  • Finally, in a session that indicates an actual trend rather than a flurry of event sponsorship, Coca-Cola European Partners (the combination of Coca-Cola’s European bottling companies that is minority-owned by the drinks giant) worked with Interrodata, a platform through which users can enter questions in natural language and receive a response in a legible form that illustrates the story for non-research members of the organisation.

There are echoes here of the history of Marcel, Publicis Groupe’s attempt to build a platform that would do some of this type of work, alongside a handful of other less obvious functions, which was announced to gasps in 2017 when the holding group announced it would be sitting out the next year’s Cannes in order to save money and build the thing. A global roll-out is planned for mid-2020.

If I were Publicis, I would feel some vindication sitting here. Yes, much of the bluster was just that. Yes, making such a big noise right in the middle of the most high-profile event in advertising was always going to draw uncomfortable scrutiny, but looking out over the platforms betting on a bit of business from Amsterdam, and the PLCs with literally more data than they know what to do with, it’s safe to say that research has – much more quietly – reached its Marcel moment.