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FEATURE20 December 2017

Review 2017: buzzwords of the year

AI Features Technology Trends UK

In the UK, Oxford Dictionaries chose ‘youthquake’ as its word of the year while across the Atlantic, Merriam-Webster opted for ‘feminism’. Among our contributors, the focus was more firmly technological.

Artificial intelligence (AI)/machine learning

Ben Page, chief executive, Ipsos Mori
AI is now as fashionable as the ‘big data’ of a few years ago. It offers real potential to make sense of the mass of data streams now available to us rather than sitting under a fire hose of information.

Steve Phillips, chief executive, Zappistore 
AI – because everyone has started saying they use it and most don’t know or agree what it is. However, AI systems are already managing knowledge within research departments, selecting questions, determining best approaches to sample, analysing data, and writing reports. Soon they’ll dominate these areas and we as humans will need to decide what role to play.

Annie Pettit, research methodologist 
Without a doubt, artificial intelligence. This year, services using basic text searches, linear algorithms, or higher level predictive functions have rebranded or changed their marketing strategies to promote themselves as artificial intelligence. As such, we are currently in a state of buyer beware when it comes to AI. Buyers should ask detailed questions, insist on speaking to the engineers behind the products, and find out whether you’re paying for AI or for marketing.

Leah Kennedy, head of global insight, BT 
Machine learning/artificial intelligence has been around for ages, but it feels like this year we’ve reached a real inflection point as the technology gets more advanced and more affordable. But like ‘big data’ before it, the challenge will be turning this buzzword into real business benefit and finding meaningful real-world applications for the technology.

Tom Ewing, head of communications, System1 
Being 2017’s biggest buzzword is not necessarily a compliment! An idea in its buzzword phase tends to be all things to all people. But given that I’d say AI, which can mean anything from the genuinely uncanny to ‘we have a chatbot’. AI and machine learning are going to change research, but a lot (not all!) of the conversation about it is frustratingly unspecific.

and other mentions go to...

Harley Titchener, head of research, dunnhumby 
With potential fines of up to 4% of total annual global turnover or €20 million for breaching the incoming data privacy legislation, it’s no surprise that GDPR is top of mind for every company that deals with personal data. And with the rush to ensure compliance by May 2018, I suspect this is a buzzword that won’t disappear in a hurry.

Caroline Frankum, global CEO, Lightspeed 
Inclusion & diversity – it’s great to see our industry treating the importance of empowering people, by appreciating what makes them different, with the respect and prioritisation it deserves.

Andy Brown, CEO, Kantar Media 
Attribution. All of the players in today’s complex digital ecosystem need to be able to show the impact of the investments they make. The current absence of large scale, holistic ROI systems means that may of the answers around measurement have to be modelled after the campaign has run.

Joe Staton, strategic innovation director, GfK 
No, you're not imagining it, some of your favourite sweets really are shrinking. The phenomena where product sizes shrink but prices stay the same, Shrinkflation really captured both public and tabloid imagination alike this year. According to government figures as many as 2,529 products from chocolate bars to toilet rolls have shrunk in size, but are still being sold for the same price.

Frédéric-Charles Petit, chief executive and founder, Toluna 
Most brands now are familiar with influencer marketing. But this year, we’ve seen a big rise in ‘micro-influencers’. Marketers are allocating an increasing amount of their budget to tap into these individuals with more targeted and passionate fan bases. Brands have spent more than $1bn (£776.7m) on Instagram influencers alone over the past 12 months.

Desirée Lopez, CEO, Flamingo Group 
Uncertainty and disruption have been buzzwords for a while – but perhaps most profoundly felt in 2017 – whether that be disruption of brands, media or the on-going uncertainty in politics. The notion that everything is fair game when it comes to change has made this year one which has been challenging and inspiring. 

Will Galgey, UK CEO, Kantar TNS 
Voice. Because everyone is obsessed (rightly so) with what it means for the future of search, brands and customer experience.

Hayley Ward, head of insight partnerships, M&S 
Behavioural economics has been the ‘buzz word’ for a while now but in 2017 it has become more standard practice to integrate into insight work. It has challenged us to think differently about how we problem solve, and to be more creative in the solutions we propose. The technique also allows us to be more focused on the behaviour change we are looking to drive – helping us hone objectives so that all our work can deliver a more tangible commercial benefit.

Jane Frost, chief executive, MRS 
Increasingly brands have cottoned on the need to have a purpose, and while this has worked for some – particularly where corporate culture and KPIs are aligned – for others it has resulted in some spectacular own goals, particularly in the advertising space.

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