I attended the Warc 2014 Next Generation Market Research Conference in London last week - as a Keynote speaker, no less. It was - as per the last two I attended in 2013 and 2012 - a great event, well attended, plenty of interesting papers. What did I take away from the Event?

The immediate presence of Admap - surely one of Warc's most valuable assets - is always reassuring and inspiring. Seeing its pre-eminent Editor, Colin Grimshaw, sitting in the front row of the Audience looking pensive is both exciting and slightly unnerving at the same time for speakers, at least for myself. Did I say something intelligent or stupid?

Joking aside: meeting people in the flesh I've only ever encountered virtually is always an interesting moment: Zappistore's Stephen Philips, On Device's Siim Teller and Elina Halonen of The Irrational Agency were there, for example - the latter speaking astoundingly excellent English, a linguistic role model for the inter-culturally attuned.

From a content perspective, here are some key points that stuck in my mind-

  1. Neuroscience - however you define it - is gaining traction.

    Millward Brown presented findings together with Unilever on how its facial tracking tool had successfully pinpointed the moment in an ad when valency dropped for a key audience. It was a tool that Unilever stated they are using globally - a vote of confidence without a doubt.

  2. Twitter can Enhance TV viewing Engagement.

     David Fletcher, media insights specialist with MEC presented a case with Heather Andrews of Neuro-Insight showing how engagement in TV programmes shifted TV viewing engagement up a sensational + 9% amongst audiences twittering and watching.

    The brain needs to work harder to "get back into the storyline" after interrupting with Twitter.

    TV as a medium - as David pointed out rather humourosly - has done another Houdini act in the face of apparently immanent disruption.

  3. Hyperpersonalisation could signal trouble for Social Media Marketers.

    Gfk's Colin Strong shared (verbally) the challenges facing those interested in further monetising Social Media as part of a panel discussion.

    He quoted - quickly - two interesting stats to paint a picture of internet consumers pushing back against intrusion:

    • 38% of internet users in the UK (I quote from memory, hopefully correctly) use some kind of ad-blocking online software
    • 70% find internet advertising creepy.

    Adding to this, Colin quoted a study or studies (I don't recall the precise source reference, input gratefully received) demonstrating that "hyperpersonalisation" on the web - where sellers use more and more of the individual data available to them to try to push products or services - leads to a massive drop in users' engagement.

    This has huge implications for how media companies and brand owners approach online marketing in future. Collaboration and transparency were words the panellists suggested should characterise future interactive web strategies. Bring it on.

  4. Google sees the future of Research as Massively Mobile.

    Google's Jon Sadow take on research 2 years after the launch of Google Consumer Surveys was a clear focus on mobile.

    The company - as per this presentation - saw the future of MR as about "massive mobile scale" to align with how we live and communicate globally - an age of mobile, "not a trend, a reality".

    No doubt there is much to support this viewpoint - especially if your survey format specialises in very short, 1 - 10 question length surveys. What did Mandy Rice-Davies say famously… I can't quite remember ;). Still - another powerful voice highlighting how key mobile is to MR.

  5. Massive Need for Strong(er) Supplier - Client Partnerships.

    Unilever's Catriona Ferris stated that precious little of her time - only 5 - 10% - was dedicated to advertising and communications evaluation within her cateogry (detergents). Suppliers need to deliver precisely and quickly on key insights - there simply isn't time clientside anymore for multiple iterative loops. Hmmm - a stark but important challenge.

  6. Implicit Measurement Techniques - Destined to Go Mainstream?

    I was intrigued by NeuroStrata's Thom Noble suggesting that implicit speed reaction testing would soon become an important toolkit in commercial market research alongside facial recognition and EEG techniques to help access emotional and subconscious reactions.

    Maybe I missed a section of his presentation - I wasn't sure at the end quite how far and well validated which methods were suggested. However, as a technique that claims to access System 1 reactions in a way that any Q & A approach doesn't seems worthy of serious attention.

  7. Realtime Insights - or McInsightisation?

    Stephen Philips' presentation of Zappistore's capabilities - results that deliver 80% of the insights in 5% of the time and 5% of the cost - wasn't new to me, but it made me wonder: how on earth can you get hundreds of responses in a couple of hours in a given geography and category?Who are these people that have the time and the inclination, as well as a matching profile, to participate in a market research survey at such immediate notice?

    No doubt there are excellent quality controls in place, but it certainly made me wonder how well-squared the circle is in this instance. "When and where does speed lead to a meaningful dilution of quality insights?" was the bigger question that the presentation triggered off - a question that should be closer to Clients' hearts than it should concern Agencies, who can only respond to market forces and client demand.

In summary, I found the Warc Event thoroughly invigorating. It confirmed my perception that we Researchers are sitting on an absolute mountains of knowledge, we have expertise in spades that is of extreme value to Marketers.

Substance we have aplenty - but we still need to work harder to ensure our MR excellence in evidence is matched and not trumped by the style (influence and communication abilities) that others service industries offer better.

We need - as I posited in my Keynote - to become both more effective, not just more efficient. The onus on us. I remain hopeful, even optimistic.

Curious, as ever, as to others' views.