MRS Conference 2019 - Day 2

Thursday 21st March 2019

Kath Rhodes gives us the low down on Day 2 of the conference ... here is her Roving Report.

Keynote Conversation with Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP

Nicky was interviewed by journalist Richard Yong … and needless to say most of the talk was about Brexit.  Nicky is a Remainer, but a pragmatic one and felt that “most people in the country had reached an acceptance of what happened in 2016”.  She was pretty damning of Mrs May, spent a lot of time talking about ‘normal people’ and how politics wasn’t really reflecting what most ‘normal’ people wanted.  I got the feeling that she viewed herself as pretty normal person too..

She was pressed a few times about the role of research in helping politician’s stay in touch.  Every answer she gave circled back to opinion polls, and her own personal contact which she often trusted more than the polls…

She bemoaned the media, regretted that there wasn’t enough time for thinking these days and concluded by saying “it’s difficult to see what the future holds”.

Artificial Intelligence panel discussion

On the panel were Tabitha Goldstubb, co founder of CognitionX, a company that links people who need AI with AI providers, Stan Sthanunathan co-author of AI for Marketing and Product Innovation (and important person at Unilever), Francesco D’Orazio co-found and CEO of Pulsar and Kate Adams director of special projects at NESTA a charity focused on using AI for good.

The main thrust of the talk centred around AI for good or for bad?  Unsurprisingly, the panel were advocates: AI is an enabler to help us ask all the right questions (Stan); AI will create new jobs as well as replacing low-skilled ones (Francesco) and the new jobs will be high level ‘brain capital’ jobs (Tabitha).  All agreed AI has the capacity to deliver deeper insight and our job is then to harness that insight.

“Prepare to pivot” was the message – embrace the technology and get on with it.

Francesco Pulsar CEO made the point that AI can deliver some specific skills for our industry: helping us to label things better; cluster things better and make better predictions.

I walked away promising myself that I’d google CognitionX and Pulsar to see what AI could do for my business.  I recommend you do the same.

Stories for Change: case studies about new ways of delivering research

The chair Daniel Wain took us through three stories of how research agencies delivered greater connection by ‘electrifying and driving insight through businesses’.  We heard three impressive case studies from:

  • Budweiser Client Elyn Lyell and her agency Tom Ellis, Brand Genetics
  • Sony Music Client Martin Vovk and his agency Douglas Dunn, One Minute to Midnight
  • Rachel Westood Client at the Walt Disney Company and his agency Gemma Mitchell at The Mix

This was fascinating because all three agencies had really shifted research into the world of immersive experience, drama, storytelling.  No more debrief, all about the live experience of insight.  And the clients invested hugely in this in order to light a fire within their own organisations.  The line between research and entertainment is officially blurred – and it’s being blurred in the name of inspiration.  Good or Bad, as they used to say on Big Brother – You Decide!

Behavioural Economics Talk, how to correct cognitive error…

Talk by Bobby Duffy, kicking off a panel debate with Jan Gooding, chair Stonewall, David Halpern the Behavioural Insights Team and Andrew Tenzer director of group insight, Research Plc.

We covered what felt by now familiar territory into the world of cognitive error, and the evolutionary basis for our ‘system 1’ brain ops.  I feel like we all know this stuff, and what remained unanswered was ‘what we can do about it’ (which was promised in the talk).  A bit samey and disappointing for me.

And finally the keynote interview with Victoria Coren-Mitchell

Who was hugely entertaining.  Interviewed by Marc Brenner.  She talked Only Connect and poker, and her time at the Erotic Review.  Explained that even now men can’t help but think it’s fluky that she’s won at poker, which presumably gives her a big advantage (yeah, that old cognitive error…).  She was great, and of course, thinner in real life …(joking!) ... although she was.

 

 

 


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