Red carpet at awards ceremony

FEATURE24 December 2021

Review 2021: Person of the year

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Market research leaders name their person of the year, either in industry or beyond.

Nick Baker, global chief research officer, Savanta
This year marked the untimely passing of John Gambles, chairman at Quadrangle. He was a true inspiration in his work and in how he dealt with his cancer. As John had said, “cancer made me better”, and he was pretty damn good before.

Kelly Beaver, CEO UK and Ireland, Ipsos
Our captains of industry selected Pascal Soriot as their person of the year, which is certainly a great choice. Although I would also add Rishi Sunak – he is one of the most loved chancellors that we have seen in the Ipsos Mori political monitor, and personally I think he has done a fantastic job of managing a very difficult period, though fully recognise that he will have more difficult times ahead.

Caroline Frankum, global CEO, profiles division, Kantar
My person of the year must be Rod Ponton, the Texas lawyer whose mishap with the cat filter on zoom made him an internet sensation. For me, watching this situation on News at Ten not only provided a welcome break from all the bad stories that were dominating the headlines at the time, it also made me laugh harder than I had in a very long time by epitomising some of the relatable circumstances we’ve all experienced during the pandemic – not least of all overcoming the struggles of being suddenly thrown into a more unknown virtual world.

Shazia Ginai, CEO, Neuro-insight
For me there is one person who has stood out who I absolutely must give a shout out to.  James Pickles. James and I met when I worked at GHD and he worked at Toluna, our professional relationship turned into a lifelong friendship before we knew it. A couple of years ago he had a major breakdown which led to a profound breakthrough. He has talked about this publicly, sharing his story as a way of helping others.

The reason he is my person of the year is because he is literally saving lives. James now works as a coach helping individuals and organisations to turn around toxic culture and recognise the signs of burnout before it’s too late. I myself struggled a great deal with my mental health over 2021, and James was on the end of the phone listening and holding space for me when I felt like I couldn’t go on. His wisdom is priceless.

Ryan Howard, marketing science consultant
Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Grand National. When Minella Times popped over the second last, and began to cruise, our eyes were drawn to an almost motionless jockey. Not a soul was surprised and, this year, even losing punters were richer for the sight. It was a long-awaited reckoning served up by a battle-hardened tactician, and in that moment, everyone forgot why the stands behind her were completely empty.

Ben Shimshon, co-founder and managing partner, BritainThinks
The home-schooling, working parent.

Lisa Wilding-Brown, CEO, InnovateMR
I don’t have to look far for my biggest inspiration: my son Cian. Despite being autistic and struggling from both learning challenges and anxiety, Cian made the academic honor roll at his high school in a fully virtual learning environment. I cannot imagine being a school-aged young person during something so life-altering as this pandemic. Not only have both of my sons adapted to this new world, but they have been incredibly successful. If they can handle it, we can all dig deep and persevere.

Frederic Charles-Petit, CEO, Toluna
It’s not one person; it is many. It is the frontline workers around the world in hospitals, first and foremost, but also in supermarkets, in shops, and in delivery vans. These people have given us a sense of normality and safety during the pandemic. They have ensured we can still live as freely as possible while keeping safe and being cautious about the virus. They deserve to be – each of them – the person of the year.

Jane Frost, CEO, MRS
I don’t have any specific person of the year, we published a whole list of market research heroes. I do want to give a big shout out to the MRS team and all the volunteers from the sector who have supported us in delivering so many new initiatives, be that on Covid-19 support, diversity or sustainability. The whole team has stepped up and met the challenges of the past year – and I’m extremely grateful for all their efforts.

Andrew O'Connell, managing director UK, Dynata

Marcus Rashford (even though I’m a Liverpool fan).

Barrie Brien, CEO, STRAT7
I’m not a big football fan, so I have no idea about his on-field performance, but what Marcus Rashford has achieved off-field is worthy of praise. He put himself out there to do the right thing, despite the inevitable risk of criticism from certain sections of the public, and then continued to the right thing – raising more than £20m in charitable donations, forcing the government to increase their funding by more than £170m and last summer alone helping to provide more than 1.3 million children access to food support.

Joe Staton, client strategy director, GfK
Vaccine scientists – many thanks from three-jabs Joe.

Matilda Andersson, group managing director, Crowd DNA
Brene Brown – there’s so much for us to learn about her work on vulnerability, as leaders of research teams but also as researchers/people trying to understand other people. 

Bob Qureshi, CEO and managing partner, I-View
For me, in our industry in the UK, it’s Monique Drummond, founder and chief executive at Relish Research. She galvanised a number of research businesses from varying sectors and went about creating a forum to establish the pulse of our industry during the harshest trading condition some firms had ever faced; seeing how firms evolved and regenerated.

Monique led by example in adapting and pivoting not only the needs within her own company but set about researching, interrogating and using insights in launching her own face mask business, the Curb Mask. 

Peter Totman, head of qualitative, Jigsaw
Kathleen Stock for her bravery in standing up to political and personal ‘pressure’ without being pushed to the other extreme – and for being such a great poster-person for the importance of an open-mind.

Rebecca Cole, managing director, Cobalt Sky
Emma Raducanu. In becoming the first British woman to win a grand slam singles title since Virginia Wade in 1977, she brought such joy and wonder to the summer. Inspiring stories like that happen rarely, and she took the entire country on the journey with her – and looked like she was having a whale of a time.

Graham Idehen, director customer success, Emea, Lucid
Sia Najumi from One Global Solutions and co-founder of Colour of Research (CORe). An outspoken advocate for diversity and inclusion, she is known and loved by the industry and beyond. Sia has endured an extremely tough year, faced with overcoming adversity as well as unfolding events in her homeland, Afghanistan, which she has been very open about.

One Global Solutions, CORe and the industry is lucky to have someone like Sia – a force of nature and someone who is so passionate and driven to create and drive change where it’s truly needed.

Sinead Jefferies, consultant, Vela
I’m going to name two people within our own sector – James Pickles and Stephanie Rowley. For me, both of these have done a huge amount to open up the dialogue on mental wellbeing, burnout and people struggling with pressure. The more open we are to facing up to these challenging, but crucially important, topics, the more able we are to initiate conversations and provide support to those who need it.

I think it’s also shifting the debate to a more collective one of what can we do to stop the status quo of trying to do more for less. 

Jane Rudling, managing director of insight and analytics, Unlimited
COP26 felt a bit flat, but there is no doubt that Sir David Attenborough’s speech was one of the highlights. His ‘Earthshot’ prize is at least an attempt at looking for positive solutions. At 95 years of age, he is as inspiring as ever and his speeches are always masterpieces of storytelling.