What is the Archive of Market and Social Research? And why should ICGers care?

25 Mar 2022 | ICG News & Announcements

ICG Member Paul Gebara mentioned the AMSR in a recent ICG jitsi meet up and so of course we encouraged him to tell us more about it.  Judith Staig (AMSR Marcoms) has written the following introduction specially for us. It really is worth reading.

Are you proud to be part of the research and insight sector? From the outside, we can sometimes be seen as the underdogs; less glamourous than the ad industry, a subset of marketing, lower down the food chain than management consulting. But this is far from the truth.

In financial terms alone, this is an industry to be proud of. In 2021, during which you may recall we were in the grip of a global pandemic, the revenue from market research and polling in the UK alone was estimated to be £5.1bn. To quote the wonderful Danielle Todd at the recent MRS Impact Conference, that’s 3.9 Kim Kardashians.

And beyond revenue, there is hardly a product, a service, an ad, a political campaign or a policy decision that has been made in this country in the last 70 or so years that hasn’t been touched in some way by market research. We have an incredible history and heritage. And that is where the Archive of Market and Social Research (AMSR) comes in.

The AMSR was established in 2016 by a group of the UK’s senior researchers. The charity’s volunteers preserve the documents, papers and other research materials of the industry’s achievements over the past 70+ years, making them available in digital format, freely available to all, on the AMSR website.

We have built up a collection of some 7,000 documents so far but we are not just building a library. Education is AMSR’s key purpose as a charity: the education of the public in the fields of the history and significance of market and social research.

In talking to modern British historians we have found that they are interested in post-war culture, consumerism, changing gender roles, youth, politics: all studies that we have in our collection. They demonstrate not only what people thought at the time, but also the attitudes of government to their citizens and businesses to their customers. They are ‘gold’, as one professor told us.

We are now moving on to safeguard the future heritage of our industry by establishing ‘modern’ collections. There is a growth area in very contemporary history – that of the 80s, 90s and 2000s – so collecting recent material is now a particular focus of our endeavours. In particular, we are establishing collections that focus on diversity, Brexit and COVID-19.

What can the Archive do for ICGers?

We encourage you to make use of the Archive. It’s free and it’s fascinating. Sometimes we need to look to history to make sense of the present and to put our findings into context. Our instincts, feelings and beliefs don’t always stack up with the facts. As Ben Page highlighted, also at Impact 2022, crime has been falling for a number of years in the UK – but three in four of us think it is going up. It’s only when you look at the longitudinal historical data that you can start to pick apart why it might be that so many people hold this belief.

There are so many situations in which it can be helpful to step back and look at the bigger picture. Is what we are measuring in our research really a change? Or was it ever thus?  Our latest book seeks to answer that question on topics including sustainability, food, women at work, the arts and diversity. How We’ve Changed: Social Trends from Post-War to Present Day and Beyond is available here for the cost of postage and a donation to the AMSR and showcases the some of the fantastic artefacts that we hold.

What can ICGers do for the Archive?

  1. Once you have explored the Archive, please tell your friends and colleagues about it.
  2. Consider contributing your completed research to us for the historians and researchers of the future. This page tells you more about what we are after and how to negotiate issues of IP and client confidentiality.
  3. Become a volunteer. We always need more help and support as we continue to grow and safeguard the heritage of our industry.
  4. Consider making a donation. With your financial support we can ensure that the contribution that the market and social research industry has made to the culture and economy of the UK is not forgotten or undervalued.
  5. Subscribe for free and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter. We are the curators of our industry’s history and heritage – an industry that is valued at nearly four Kardashians every year. That has to be worth a ‘like and share’.

Judith Staig, AMSR Marcoms.