MRSummit 17 – A review

05 Jun 2017 | ICG News & Announcements

MR Summit 17 – A review

Karen Cooper and Robin Shuker recently attended MR Summit 17 – here are their thoughts on the day.

MR SUMMIT 17– the good, the bad and the ugly by Karen Cooper

MR Summit is relatively new on the market research conference scene, so I was keen to see how it differed from MRS conference, Insight et al.  Attending on behalf of the ICG, I felt I should report back on whether it’s worth diarising and coughing up for next year’s gathering.

The short answer is yes, but it wasn’t perfect and I have some constructive criticism for the organisers to consider.

Firstly the good stuff – it was a small, good mix of client and agencies, had a friendly vibe, very interactive, a reasonable lunch and a fabulous location (Hilton, Tower Bridge).  The theme of ‘joining the dots’ was prescient and well debated through the day, and the discussion went wider and deeper into the inevitable topics du jour – automation, AI, data ownership, privacy and the very future of agencies (back to that in a mo). Speeches were short, whilst discussion and audience participation was plentiful.

However, as a conference with tech (rightly) at the centre of discussions, the tech employed didn’t live up to its potential, and was frankly an embarrassment.  The organisers suggested we use ‘Brella’ – a networking app in advance of  the day.  Fabulous idea, matching buyers and sellers for 5 minute networking chats through the day.  I offered myself up to four or five people, got a response from one, then was politely declined on the day, with a pertinent comment around the impracticality of the networking sessions – squeezed in between a fast-paced agenda with no time for coffee (or indeed loo breaks – confirmed by a few disgruntled clients at first break in the ladies!).  Secondly, we were told to log on to an app called glsr for the agenda and voting exercises – well, it wasn’t just me who couldn’t log on.  After the first vote, this plan was quickly aborted and we reverted to the quaint practice of hand raising for the votes, which worked a treat.  Aside from the funny side, it was quite annoying not having an agenda to hand.  There may have been a reason for not printing it though – the agenda seemed to change, with room confusion and timing issues throughout the day.  Some sessions were set up as client only, but changed last minute (and changed back again depending on who you spoke to) – so it all felt a tad unprofessional.

But, my biggest gripe was how quickly the discussion turned into agency-bashing.  Not going to name and shame, but there were a few sweeping assertions about the increasing irrelevance of agencies.  The clients I spoke to through the day were, thankfully, in disagreement, citing the more complex, differing and dynamic roles and relationships they had with their agencies.

So, MR Summit – I will come back next year if you can sort out the tech, and perhaps try and focus on inspiration rather than negativity.

Connecting the dots – Robin Shuker

The theme of this year’s market research summit was “connecting the dots”…  And we were privileged to hear from a range of brands and research providers looking to combine different methods of research and/or data sources.  Compelling presentations highlighting the power of new techniques. But at the end of the day, I felt the dots still had a long way to go before they could be described as “connected!”

For me the underlying tension and debate (unspoken at times) throughout the conference was how brands and research providers could work together in harmony and with synergy, to get the most from the wide-range of techniques that are available in today's digital mobile connected world.

Some feared that “AI” would put their jobs in jeopardy, a fear that the audience reported had certainly increased after listening to presentations. A fear that highlighted how the traditional client/agency model is not best placed to get brand owners listening more closely to customers.

Ever since Survey Monkey offered client insight teams the ability to conduct their own online surveys at a fraction of the cost of employing a large full-service research agency, the stage was set for a radical rethink on the value that Research Agencies delivered.  And perhaps the increasingly large multinational networks are not best placed to re-engineer their business models?  (Dare I suggest that is perhaps why they were not well represented at the conference?)

Perhaps what is required is for the lines of demarcation to be redrawn to enable clients to do what they do best (e.g. considering the implications of customer research and business data to engage stakeholders so that they felt compelled to take action).  And Research Agencies to provide customer insight in a strategic yet cost-effective, powerful yet flexible manner.

And given that research budgets are getting increasingly stretched, trying to cover “all the dots”, perhaps a key word is “flexible”.  An agile flexibility that enables Research Agencies to focus on uncovering the strategic issues and thinking creatively as to the most powerful way these can be communicated.

Another benefit of today's digital mobile connected world is that enables smaller research organisations to be better resourced and yet still nimble to deliver faster, better (and cheaper) customer insight.  Offering clients, a slightly different model which enables them to buy the services they require and gives them the freedom to undertake elements of the research programme best conducted in-house.

So my take out from the conference was that clients are looking for research partners to work with them harnessing new technology and new ideas to enable customer insight to be captured in a way that engages key stakeholders…. 

The challenge for clients is finding a team of agile, experienced and talented researchers with a flexible working model.  A requirement the ICG network is ideally placed to meet.  So I would encourage the ICG membership to embrace new technologies that you can embrace with a wrapper of research expertise  and provides clients the  service they looking for..