FEATURE31 December 2012

Preview of 2013 – part 4


Rounding off our Preview of 2013, Howard Fienberg considers what four more years of Obama might mean for research, Phil Burgess talks co-creation and Mark Zielinski raises the prospect of tapping IPTV as a real-time source of consumer opinion.

Obama says the best is yet to come – but maybe not for research

US elections that returned Democrats to the White House and Senate and Republicans to the House of Representatives could bring greater turmoil for the key policy interests of the survey, opinion and marketing research profession. A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) emboldened by a second term for President Obama might decide that researchers have not adequately and publicly described every piece of data they collect from their online panellists, or did not meet the unexplained moving target of adequate data security for personal (but not particularly personally identifiable) information.

“The FTC, emboldened by a second term for Obama, might decide that researchers have not adequately and publicly described every piece of data they collect from their online panellists”

Barack Obama

Source: Getty Images

Barack Obama

The agency has already demonstrated its seemingly unfriendly interest in research in its recent investigation of, and costly settlement with, marketing research company Compete. Several other major research companies are believed to be under similar investigation at the moment, portending more regulatory scrutiny in the near future.

The Marketing Research Association (MRA) will continue to push for constructive results from President Obama’s “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” multi-stakeholder process. Currently focused on mobile apps privacy, MRA and other industry stakeholders fear that activists will seize upon failure to push for more aggressive regulatory measures than the FTC has so far seen fit to pursue.

Or perhaps the US Labour Department might declare that every respondent to whom an agency paid any amount of incentive is a company employee. This might mean that agencies owe some of their respondents overtime wages, that they failed to pay many of them the federal minimum wage and violated youth employment law by conducting surveys among 12-year-olds, even though they had parents’ explicit consent. The continuing risk of misclassifying respondents was MRA’s motivation to introduce the Research Fairness Act (H.R. 5915 ) in Congress, which would clarify in Federal labour law that respondents are independent contractors.

There’s little reason to expect dramatic changes to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the law prohibiting most research calls to cell phones. With the 2011 failed attempt in Congress to modernise the TCPA, it could be many years before any elected politician tries again. However, our success this year in beating back a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposal to make the TCPA even more restrictive for research led to a series of requests for clarification from the FCC that may yet lead to an easing of the burden on research.

Howard Fienberg is director of government affairs for the MRA

Co-creation as a game-changer

The double-dip recession has been a challenging time. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Marketers are spending and learning to take risks again, but they’re making savvier choices about how to spend their budgets.

That’s where co-creation is becoming a game-changer as a technique for generating alignment among internal audiences and facilitating quicker decision-making, while also de-risking the insight and innovation process.

Co-creation is no longer just about getting consumer input during the final phase of an innovation project. Instead, it’s about bringing together the right mix of internal stakeholders, consumers and experts early enough to tackle truly strategic business problems – not just NPD challenges, but big issues like ‘How should I reposition my brand?’

Phil Burgess is director of Promise Corporation

Data on demand

The way we watch television has changed. The switch from cable to satellite to on-demand services has very rapidly advanced an industry where network control of content in pre-allocated timeslots is no longer the norm.
The delivery of content through media such as IPTV is markedly different than what publishers are used to: scheduling is no longer a consideration for most. Consumers are becoming accustomed to viewing what they want, when they want, through their televisions, personal computers and mobile phones.

Through IPTV in particular, interactivity and additional features become paramount to the viewing experience. No longer is the viewer simply a one-sided consumer – he can also be a contributor. This presents an interesting proposition to market research: the ability to tap into consumer insights in real-time. Shows like American Idol have long made use of viewer feedback mechanisms, but with IPTV programme makers are able to get direct and instant feedback on whatever elements their producers or advertisers desire, including opinion analysis.

Social networking, already pervasive, is an integral part of many companies’ IPTV strategies. By allowing users to share, comment on and interact with their programmes, users are able to channel this content to their friends.
Companies that have begun to mine social media for research insights can more acutely pinpoint the times, dates and sentiments toward content that users choose to share when they interact with the appropriate IPTV resources. What we’re beginning to see now is only the tip of the iceberg for interactive content. As the technology matures, we will see an increase in both the volume and the quality of the data
being produced.

Mark Zielinski is the founder of Market Research Technology