FEATURE10 December 2012

‘MR doesn't stand still’


A former Unilever researcher and two directors from brand consultancy Clear have founded Antedote – an innovation hub offering research based on psychological principles such as behaviour change. We found out more.


Together with Anne Lacey, head of product development and talent at Clear, the trio have established a new San Francisco-based innovation consultancy called Antedote. Research caught up with French (right) and Anderson to find out more.

What is Antedote all about?
Antedote is a research and innovation consultancy that focuses on people rather than processes. We run via a dedicated community, but rather than just asking them questions we execute research programmes based on psychological principles, such as behaviour change, perception and implicit measures. It’s not about getting to know the person and their point of view – that’s secondary – but focusing on analysis first.

What is your ambition for the company?
Our desire is to help brands identify something that will take them somewhere new, and in the current economic environment this has never been more important. It centres on a combination of factors: from people’s psychological and behavioural patterns – how they make decisions consciously and subconsciously – and pursuing this through a hybrid of online and face to face. The hybrid approach means we have real-life experience to track along with unconscious choices made when online. Ours is a true type of ethnography. It is timely and fits with budgetary requirements.

Who is your target audience?
Sometimes ad agencies want us if they don’t have the technical expertise but we’re mainly working direct with clients. Importantly though, as well as innovation they want strategic insights – facts that they can cut and use to create something bespoke, something new. Effectively, it’s a co-investment vehicle for them.

How do you work with clients?
We’ve been fortunate to have a great client book from our pasts. We’ve worked with over 50 CPG brands so far and always have two partners handling a project and four or five freelance partners on board too, according to how busy we are. Our ambition is to have a staff of 10 in the next 12 to 18 months and continue our global expansion. At the moment, we have five or six projects going on at any given time.

What’s your advice for anyone looking at founding a startup?
It’s important to remember that research doesn’t stand still. Innovation is the most important aspect but that’s not just about what’s happening online. Comments are big, but having a panel that talks and responds to visual cues is more representative. We are building a panel ourselves to do this and are experimenting with mobile apps as a co-creation resource. In our mind, it’s not about having 70,000 people but staying smaller. Clients are pushing back a lot more now and we’ll see a lot more experimentation in the year ahead. It’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all community, there will be more fragmentation in the industry.