FEATURE12 October 2011

Didier Truchot introduces the new Ipsos

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Ipsos has completed its acquisition of Synovate, bringing together around 16,000 employees in 84 countries to create the world’s third-largest research company. Now comes the task of integrating the two businesses.

We spoke to CEO Didier Truchot today to hear more about what the merger means for the company’s clients and employees.

Research: What’s the rationale behind this acquisition?

Didier Truchot: There are three important reasons why we wanted to do the deal. Looking at our clients, they want to work with companies which are able to deliver the same level of services all around the world, in a consistent and relevant manner. But they want also to work with companies which are able to tell them the full story about their brand, about how the markets are moving, about what consumers are expecting and so on. And finally, because their own markets are changing, they want to work with companies that can bring new solutions.

How have your clients responded to this deal?

Generally speaking they are supportive, but they are waiting to see. We may have questions from a couple of clients when the combination of what Synovate was doing and what Ipsos was doing is large, but there are not so many clients where we are facing these situations. As soon as we can tell them exactly what Ipsos is ready to offer them in terms of methodologies, in terms of quality of service, in terms of the team which will work on their business, we’ll see how they will react.

One of the reasons why our clients have reacted positively to this acquisition is because they want to work with a small number of large suppliers which can provide the depth and creativity of services that their business requires.

We are in a market where – if I put aside IMS Health, which is a very specific company – in terms of large research agencies they have the choice of working with Nielsen, Kantar, GfK and us. And of course they also have the choice of working with all these boutiques or very specialised IT-driven companies.

You’re talking to staff at Ipsos and Synovate today. What are you going to be saying to them?

For this combination we have set up a project led by Brian Gosschalk with the goal of building a better Ipsos. So I will explain to them what this project is and how we will do it. We want to have everything in place to be able to start to engage our clients in February, so we started a couple of months ago on the Ipsos side, and now the Synovate teams are contributing to this project.

The fact that Ipsos is still controlled and managed by research professionals gives employees more chances to have their views taken into consideration

I’ve already talked with several Synovate teams in different parts of the world, and from what I’ve understood I think they’re pretty positive and happy to have an opportunity to work in a larger market research organisation. Many of them have understood that the fact that Ipsos is still controlled and managed by research professionals, gives them more chances to have their views taken into consideration, which is important.

But they want to also understand what our goals are and how they will contribute to these goals. It’s like anything in life: at the end of the day people are thinking, what does it mean for me? It’s true for the team, it’s true for the clients.

Ipsos and Synovate were very different companies in terms of corporate structure. But in terms of spirit, and in terms of doing research, the differences were not huge.

Will anyone lose their job as a result of this merger?

On the front-office side – that’s the research, the client service people, the managers of teams and countries and organisations – we have made a commitment that when we set our budget for 2012, the total headcount will be at least the combined headcount that Ipsos and Synovate had in their 2011 budgets. There might be some differences from one country to another, but overall from a front-office perspective it will certainly not be a cost-cutting exercise.

In the back office [which accounts for about 45% of staff] in support functions, operations and so on, we are not planning to decrease overall staff by more than about 5%. There will be some reductions because there are some clear overlaps. But that doesn’t mean all the people we don’t keep will lose their jobs – we’ll offer many of them another position within the company.

Neither Ipsos nor Synovate are fat companies. You will not find easy savings

Neither Ipsos nor Synovate are fat companies. When the private equity firms bought Nielsen in 2006 Nielsen was a fat company. It probably made sense to cut. You will not find these kinds of easy savings with Ipsos or with Synovate.

Synovate’s ex-CEO Adrian Chedore said you should be careful to protect the company’s ‘golden nuggets’. How will you do that?

To understand what we will do with Synovate you have to go back to the history of Synovate. They had, from 2003 to 2008, a very bright period of expansion and growth, then came a period starting in 2008 when, to be polite, the relationship between the parent company and Synovate started to deteriorate. This problem started before the [financial] crisis, but was exacerbated because of the crisis and the difficulties that the market faced in 2009.

So since 2008 the momentum of Synovate has disappeared in some ways, meaning that there are a lot of great teams and great capabilities, but which have not been fully implemented and developed. Some small pieces are there that could become popular in the market, because they’re very powerful. Censydiam is a good example of that, but there are a couple of others.

If you look at Ipsos, it’s different because we don’t have a parent company. We don’t belong to a conglomerate. So we can set our own plans, explain to the financial markets what we want to do, what the timing will be, how we will maybe be a little less profitable at some points, because of what we want to build, and so on.

We’ve been a listed company now for 12 years, we know our shareholders very well, and they have been very supportive. Our equity issue in September was oversubscribed by a factor of nearly two. That’s because our shareholders believe in our history, in what we’ve achieved in the last 12 years, so now we are in a position to choose our priorities and invest in those priorities to build an even stronger business.

You don’t think Synovate was in a position to choose its priorities?

Being independent and dependent is not the same status, neither for an individual, nor a country nor a company.

What are the big changes in geographic coverage?

There are two main areas where Synovate had a very strong business: the US and Asia. But they were also pretty active in the UK and they have started to develop a strong presence in Africa, which is for many of our clients the new frontier. These are the places where the acquisition will clearly change the game for us.

What will happen to the Synovate brand?

It will disappear, more or less. All the branding will change in January. We want to have a coherent organisation and branding is part of that. If you have too many brands, you don’t know where you’re going.

When we spoke a few months back you talked about the social responsibilities that big research companies have to the industry as a whole. What will that mean for the newly enlarged Ipsos?

There are a few things that have to be said, including the fact that, as an industry, we are accountable for the precise measurement of what we do. For instance in France, media are using their websites to do surveys. There is a newspaper called Le Figaro which is very supportive of the president, and so three times a week you have a poll, but it’s among the readers, so of course the polls are very supportive of the president. At some point we need to clarify what’s going on.

More and more, we use information coming out of social media, but we have to recognise that social media doesn’t represent the overall population. It doesn’t mean the information is not useful, is not important, but we need to [process and analyse] all this information.

Secondly, I think that we need, as an industry, to demonstrate our ability to help our clients as much as we can. This industry deserves more attention from clients, but if we don’t have the right level of attention, it’s not because clients are stupid, it’s because we don’t properly demonstrate the importance of what we do. Setting up an organisation like the one that you will see next year, after we have combined Ipsos and Synovate, is an opportunity for us to do this.

5 Comments

9 years ago

Didier is the Man of this Era and no one else...

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9 years ago

I can only say long live Ipsos and goodbye to a weird brand Synovate.

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9 years ago

Looking forward to Better Synovate that is Better IPSOS

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9 years ago

Didier is on the right way. Wish him health and strength .

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9 years ago

Combination of IPSOS and Synovate is a big opportunity for clients to leverage the strengths of the combined entity. Didier is a true visionary and he is able to change the face of Market Research Industry for good. Exciting times ahead !!

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