FEATURE1 September 2007

Talent for today, talent for tomorrow

Research magazine, in association with RPCushing Recruitment, is proud to present 50 industry notables who are likely to make a splash over the coming year. They all have one thing in common – talent. Marc Brenner introduces the stars of today and tomorrow

Identifying talent and spotting those likely to make an impact can, as outlined in the previous feature, be a tricky business. Research encountered problems of its own in the compilation of this list. Our problem? Not a shortage of names worthy of the moniker ‘One to Watch’, but just the sheer number of those who could have made the cut. The talent is out there, and frankly, we were spoilt for choice. Not everyone can make the final 50, but be assured, with the names that were being floated we could have filled this list five times over.

Before we get to the list itself, a word about how we put this list together. Both Research and RPCushing Recruitment put out a call to the industry to nominate its brightest stars and those most likely to be of influence in the coming year.

The industry responded in kind by swamping us with possibilities. However there were, the editorial team believed, some surprising ommissions. And so the list you have before you is a combination of the successful nominees as well as our own predictions.

We were keen to ensure that there was even representation across the research business. From those starting out on their careers to the thought leaders, from the entrepreneurs to the research clients. Talent, ability and a proactive approach to the industry is the common thread.

Research would sincerely like to thank RPCushing Recruitment for its help in gathering together this list and for its support throughout the process.

The Agencysiders

Alexa Arrowsmith, quantitative partner, Hall & Partners

It’s quite apt that the first name on the list is someone who, herself, acknowledges the importance of talent in the industry. And she started that crusade within her own organisation. Arrowsmith, newly-promoted quant head at H&P, took the lead in the company’s internal ‘people initiative’. It’s an initiative that has not only seen H&P storm people satisfaction measures across companies within parent group Omnicom, but it also helped H&P to a nod from the Sunday Times for being one of the 100 Best Small Companies to Work For. Her inclusion on the list offers a great example of talent nurturing talent.

Angela Browne, senior research executive, QA Research

A rising quallie star in public policy research. Browne, four years a researcher, scooped an MRS Excellence and Effectiveness Award nomination last year for her work with the Social Exclusion Unit.

Her engagement skills were also highlighted during the ‘Breaking the Cycle’ consultation event with young offenders hosted by The Prince of Wales in December 2006.

Browne’s passion for research transformed normally reticent young offenders into confident and talkative individuals. QA says this work will make a significant contribution to public policy over the next five years.

Nick Coates, head of research, Freshminds

Coates is increasingly well-known around the research industry conference circuit, involved in both steering content and presenting.

His session on culture at Research 2007 was one of the conference highlights with its focus on culture jamming, online role-playing and youth research.

Why does Coates deserve to be on this list? Simple. Freshminds is the reigning joint-winner of Research’s Agency of the Year category at the annual MRS Excellence and Effectiveness Awards. Freshminds is an ambitious company, and his is an enterprising department.

Ben Davis, data processing manager, ORC International

All too often the real research engine room is forgotten about. The ‘boys in the backroom’ rarely get a mention, despite being a vital part of the insight chain. Guardians of technology, quality and efficient process. We were delighted to receive this nomination and are proud to have him on the list.

Davis manages a team of scriptwriters and programmers. He develops data collection and analysis solutions, ranging from bespoke data analysis tools, online reporting systems, and mobile data collection technologies. He was also on the team designing and implementing ORC’s new data collection and analysis platform.

Christian Dorffer, SVP Europe, Millward Brown Optimor

Dorffer has, throughout his career, advised at the top table. If you’re going to play at that level, you’ll need to broaden your research and marketing skills set. He built up that armoury throughout his time at Corporate Value Associates, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Millward Brown. Combining market research, branding and financial skills, his job is to maximise the financial returns from brand strategy and marketing investment. During his career he’s advised CEOs at companies such as UBS, Visa International, Siemens, Coca-Cola and Dell. He has taught at Harvard Business School and the London Business School.

Jonathan Fletcher, group creative director, Illuminas

A researcher not afraid to commit ideas to print. Twelve years in the business and having had experience on b2b and consumer research, Fletcher is co-author with David Smith of two books ‘The Art and Science of Interpreting Market Research Evidence’ and ‘Inside Information – Making Sense of Marketing Data’.

He has won a number of awards including: the Best Methodological Paper Award at the 1999 ESOMAR Congress, the ISBA award for Effectiveness in Advertising Research in 2003 and the Best Written Paper Award at the 2007 Business & Industrial Group Conference.

Fletcher’s an excellent example of a researcher unafraid to raise his head above the parapet.

Harry Foster, manager of market intelligence team, Mintel

A nomination that refreshingly came from outside of the ‘traditional’ market research industry. The list stands stronger as a result of Foster’s inclusion. As the research business stretches beyond the old definitions, companies such as Mintel are starting to be regarded as both colleagues and competitors.

An ex-clientsider, Foster works across 118 markets in the food, drink and personal goods sector and developed and rolled out Mintel’s new Brand Elements product.

Matthew Froggatt, managing director, global technology sector, TNS

Froggatt’s is a story of talent spotted and nurtured to the company’s benefit. He started his TNS career as a graduate trainee with Infratest Burke/NFO in 1992.

He has worked in a number of different client service and management roles based in the UK and France. After the merger with TNS in 2003, Froggatt became managing director of specialist markets with responsibility for the financial services, technology and media sectors. In 2006 he took on responsibility for TNS’s global technology sector.

Froggatt’s involvement with the research world goes beyond client projects. His more recent management roles have involved leadership of the integration processes associated with the consolidating UK industry.

Adele Gritten, media director, Quaestor

We’ll be honest about this one. Other magazines beat us to it when it came to spotting Gritten’s potential. She was named as one of Mediaweek’s “30 under 30” and one of Campaign’s “ones to watch” in 2004. That said, we’re not simply playing catch-up, her inclusion on this list is fully deserved.

Gritten started her career as researcher at the BBC and joined Quaestor in 2005 after stints at Clear Channel, PHD, CIA, and WARC. She’s a sometime contributor to Research and as such she’s clearly one to watch. Gritten is a frequent conference player, broadcasting her knowledge via papers for the likes of Admap, Haymarket and the Media Research Group.

Richard Jameson, managing director, business and technology, GfK NOP

Another story of a stellar rise in the world of research. Jameson has 20 years’ experience in the research industry, and in that time has held a number of positions, ranging from research executive to general business management.

He was one of the first UK researchers to begin assessing the effect of the internet on business and consumer behaviour, and in 1995 he initiated GfK NOP’s Internet User Profile Survey.

Jameson has been a special advisor to the Consumer Association on online markets, and is a regular speaker at research and marketing conferences.

Marie Laver, senior strategist, EMEA, Initiative Media

Laver was the deserving winner of last year’s award for Best Newcomer at the MRS Conference 2006. Her paper on obesity amongst children was praised for its “confidence and conviction”. She joined HPI Research Group in 2000 as senior researcher where she worked across a number of sectors from food to finance and from travel to telecomms. She moved from HPI to Initiative Media in 2006 where she gets to grips with the shifts in brand advertising and communications.

Nicola Lindsey, director, Evo Research & Consulting

Evo seems to have a knack for producing “ones to watch”. Co-founder Davina O’Donghue was named Research’s Talent Magnet winner a couple of years back and now, from the same house, comes Lindsey. She has just been has just been promoted to run the New York office of Evo and is on a ‘fast track’ to become a partner within the next year.

She’s no stranger to high-level strategic discussions– during a stint in academia, and at the age of 22, Lindsey was a special adviser to the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology.

She’s also had rare experience working on what the research industry often misguidedly terms “the dark-side”, having worked in management consulting prior to joining Evo Research in 2005.

Kieron Mathews, global head of research, Kadence

An alumnus of the Cranfield MBA Matthews has travelled to Australia and back in his twelve years experience of designing and developing research studies, from small company initiatives to multimillion-dollar projects.

There has been much debate as to the worth of an MBA in the research industry, especially for someone with a research development brief. It’s a debate that is fast reaching a clear conclusion. The more business-nous that a researcher can prove, the more his worth to his company and clients. Matthews worked as a project director at RI before leaving to join Kadence Australia as head of research in 2003. He transferred to London to take over the global head of research position in 2004.

James Morris, senior researcher, Opinion Leader

Opinion Leader has something of a reputation of being a hothouse for talent. High-profile contract wins including the 2012 Olympics have helped the company attract high-achieving talent. Morris began his career at the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, before moving into advertising.

He worked on the Labour party’s election campaign in the run up to the 2005 General Election and the 2004 Local and European elections, conducting qualitative research in marginal seats throughout the country.

Morris, an industrious writer, has published work on road pricing, local governance, and the residents of the Thames Gateway.

Alex Prince, partner, Jigsaw Research

Prince started in market research with MORI in 1989 and then opted to sample life on the clientside with NatWest, managing the research for a number of product areas. Ten years ago he was lured back to the agencyside to look after one multinational client. Prince has been working with them ever since, primarily managing and conducting communications work.

In a research industry where all too often solutions are cookie-cut and engagements ad hoc, such in-depth knowledge of a client’s needs and culture is a skill all should cherish.

Giovanni Romero, director, marketing science centre, Research international

Romero specialises in ad-hoc research and consultancy for clients in many industries, including the lucrative telecoms, financial and automotive sectors.

During his ten-year career, he has built up extensive experience in quantitative tools applied to management and strategy issues, with particular expertise in segmentation, pricing, positioning, portfolio optimisation, brand architecture, product development, forecasting, and general market strategy definition and implementation.

Romero represents a compelling movement in the research industry, blending research science with strategic business issues.

Kalpesh Varsani, operations manager, FDS

The fieldwork operation, alongside the data processing operation mentioned earlier, is rarely given its due credit. On the evidence of the quality of debate at the recent MRS Fieldwork Conference, it’s about time that more attention was paid.

Varsani is the rising star of the new FDS operations unit. If the future of market research fieldwork is all about knowledge workers who bring creativity and flexibility to their role, Varsani combines all of the traditional operational characteristics including numeracy, organisation and people skills, with an enquiring mind and excellent IT skills.

The Clientsiders

Nick Bonney, head of UK research, Orange

We can reveal that when we put out a call for nominations from the Research readership, Bonney was one of the most cited. One nominator wrote, “Nick has been instrumental in challenging the way things have been done at Orange.

Not only is he a great people leader, developing junior researchers into skilled, confident researchers, but he’s also a research leader, innovator and advocate.”

Bonney started at grass roots level in market research working for NOP, RDSi and Maritz Research where he specialised in customer satisfaction and customer loyalty research. He made the jump clientside in 1999, joining Orange UK where he set up their b2b research programme.

Caroline Bridges, head of self service programme, Norwich Union

Bridges was another oft cited clientsider when we put out our call for names.

She has a passion for engaging senior executives in the commercial implications of insight findings, and believes firmly that there is too much pontificating in the research industry and far too little practical and hard-nosed commerciality. Because of this, and following heavy investment in customer insight, she is currently seconded to the business as head of self-service programme which enables customers to manage their own relationships with Norwich Union/RAC through a variety of automated and interactive services.

Before this, she headed up the research function at Norwich Union prior to the merger with CGU in June 2000, when she became head of insight for the combined organisation.

Ruth Buchanan, insight manager, Royal Mail Group

Buchanan was the deserving winner of last year’s Best Research Newcomer gong at the Research awards.

Not only is she one of the driving forces behind work at Royal Mail, but also puts the hours in to build the wider young research community with her work for the networking group R-Net. She is actively involved in speaking at conferences and has often acted as a media spokesman.

She’s a real all-rounder and we’re proud to have someone on this list who not only dispatches the ‘day job’ with skill, but who also has the commitment to address such issues as attracting and retaining talent in the research business.

Danny Russell, marketing strategy director, British Sky Broadcasting

Russell’s name cropped up frequently in the list of nominations sent to this office. No real surprise there –Russell is a forthright, business-minded advocate of strong research put to strong business use. A real advocate of research that transforms business. His has been a commanding voice on the ideas group for the Research 2008 conference and a refreshingly commercial focus has been brought to bear. Rusell joined Sky in September 1998, one month before the launch of Sky digital, as the company’s first ever consumer researcher.

Prior to joining Sky, he was a planning manager at British Airways responsible for the frequent flyer Executive Club as well as branding and advertising.

Amanda Wigginton, head of IPC Insight

In May, UK magazine publisher IPC Media formed new consumer insight and magazine data teams. Wigginton was appointed head of IPC Insight.

She is responsible for spearheading consumer research across IPC Media, generating and co-ordinating a broad range of research initiatives. She works closely with key clients to ensure IPC develops more effective relationships with consumers and measures the effectiveness of their communications.

This is a big initiative for IPC. The traditional publishing world is feeling the advertising squeeze. Anything that helps an organisation get closer to its customers is no bad thing in this climate. Definitely a researcher and an initiative to watch.

Peter Wilde, group head of employee research, UBS

The arrival of Peter Wilde from MORI at the end of 2004 prompted what UBS refers to as a “seismic shift” from ‘measurement’ to ‘insight’ in research. As an organisation the bank is now able to boast a ‘best in class’ annual census of its 80,000 staff. The company says that management are now “sitting up and taking interest”. A real example of research driving business. Wilde began work at survey company ERS, before moving to MORI Ipsos as part of the employee research team. He directed large scale, global employee research projects under the tutleage of then MORI Chairman Bob Worcester.

The Captains of Industry

Mike Brochu, CEO, GMI

This is going to be a key year for MR software and services firm GMI and new CEO Mike Brochu will be the man to watch. A refugee from the world of digital music, Brochu came aboard as the “professional manager” to replace Rob Monster, the company’s “evangelistic” founder.

His confession to Research that he was “within months” of taking the company public was the first clear sign that he will not steer the conservative course first believed. Although he wants to ensure that the “day-to-day stuff” is right, he does not rule out opportunistic puchases. To anyone with a vested interest iin the technology that drives MR, Brochu’s progress will be of great import.

Jonathan Carson, CEO, Nielsen Buzzmetrics

There was a considerable buzz surrounding Buzzmetrics even before Nielsen discovered its worth. Jonathan Carson’s firm has been one of the most successful at tapping into the need to measure online word of mouth. It scours blogs, message boards and social networks in a bid to unlock insight for its client brands.

With the slew of online activity for researchers to get their analytical minds around, Carson’s word is as close as you get to the law. As co-founder and director of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, his predictions and strategic views hold much weight. The frenzy for online social networks and blogs shows no sign of stemming. As Carson’s business develops over the coming year, the industry should keep a close eye on the innovations and techniques generated.

Bob Chua, CEO, Pulse Group

Ex-Nielsen man Bob Chua has, over the past two years, built Pulse Group into something of an Asian juggernaut. The research processing outsourcing firm posted a 400% rise in revenue last year, won venture capital funding and announced its intention to list on London’s stock exchange.

He’s already predicting triple-digit growth for the next five years, fuelled no doubt by capitalising on the expansion of the Asian research market and by acquisition. In an interview with BizWeek in Kuala Lumpur, Chua faced up to the fact that whilst he has a strong foothold in the Asia, the lucrative US market presents far more competition from the likes of Greenfield Online, Harris Interactive and ToLuna. Chua’s half-joking response? “Maybe one day we’ll acquire these companies.” Chua has been on the smart investors’ radar for some time. We believe the really interesting stuff is still to come.

Michael Connors, CEO, Information Services Group

The appearance of Connors on this list is a no-brainer. Always keep an eye on a man with ambition, a hunger for growth and a shedload of money in his pocket. The former head of VNU’s measurement arm raised $250m on the stock exchange, and went shopping. His goal is nothing less than building a research and information behemoth. His first purchase was sourcing specialists TPI.

There is no doubt that Connors’ firm is going to be a major player in the very near future. He is a canny player and knows this market inside out. The research world should keep an eye on his progress as it is clear that there is much empire-building to come.

Don Elgie, group CEO, Creston

Another chief, another acquisition war-chest. This one squarely directed at expansion into the US market. Creston’s MR companies include ICM, CML and Marketing Sciences. The idea is to find US agencies that will provide “sister relationships” with these firms. For Elgie the cultural fit is all. He has $100m to spend and has also identified other markets of interest including western Europe and Asia.

Despite his funds, Elgie shuns all-cash deals and is keen to walk before he can run. As he told Research, “Walking is America, running is China.” Having hired ex-Foote, Cone, Belding man Steve Blamer as his US CEO, it appears that the ‘walking’ is about to begin.

Patrick George & Jerome Sopocko, co-founders, Askia

It’s stylish, iconoclastic and fast gaining traction among research agencies. Askia’s end-to-end MR software exudes the passion and pragmatism of the partners behind it: LSE graduate Patrick George, a Belgian based in Paris, and Jerome Sopocko, a Parisian based in London and schooled at the Florida Institute of Technology. Several major signings in 2007 are propelling this very international duo onto a global stage they look well prepared for, after ten steadfast years of development.

Vin Gupta, CEO, DataUSA

Last month, Vin Gupta told the research world that his company’s goal is to build “a truly international global market research business”.

With the Opinion Research Corporation already under his belt, he moved on to US research agency Guideline and Australian firm NWC.

After having reported record revenue of $160m in the second quarter of this year, he restated his acquisition strategy.

It’s worth remembering that InfoUSA is, ostensibly, a database marketing firm with big ambitions in the world of research. It’s a fascinating example of two worlds, traditionally at arm’s length from each other, moving closer together.

David Calhoun, CEO, The Nielsen Company

We can keep this short and simple. Ex-General Electric star Calhoun steers the world’s largest research company. He’s attempting to steady the ship after a choppy restructuring period. That said, when Nielsen shifts direction, the industry takes note. When it makes an investment, the industry takes note. Nielsen has always been one to keep an eye on, and we see no reason to think things will be any different under David’s watch.

The Thought Leaders

Aziz Cami, creative director, Kantar

A fascinating addition to the list. Cami has been tasked with building up the ‘creative capabilities’ of staff across the Kantar group of companies. Sounds a little amorphous? Not really.

Cami’ has 30 year’s of design and corporate branding experience that he aims to bring to bear on helping Kantar’s research companies “deliver insights in more compelling ways” and to help clients “visualise the way in which insights can be deployed”.

It’s a bold initiative and it’ll be interesting to see whether Cami can effect a sea-change in the way in which research is communicated.

James Cherkoff, director, Collaborate Marketing

Cherkoff is making a name for himself at conferences, in the media and the blogosphere as a big thinker in the field of networked media environments. An alumnus of global marketing consultancy Burson-Marsteller, Cherkoff and his colleague Johnnie Moore made quite a splash at the Research conference last year with his paper on co-creation, which showed how researchers, marketers and customers can combine forces to shape new marketing campaigns.

Using a blend of research, marketing and branding nous, Cherkoff offers the corporate world a thorough grounding in how to capitalise on blogs and online communities. He brings an energetic, and often evangelistic, fervour to this task

Piers Fawkes, founder, PSFK

Three years ago, Fawkes started a side project in his spare time. He created a blog called PSFK where he wrote about consumer and cultural trends. The blog today gets 250,000 international visitors a month and has grown to six sites.

In 2005, Fawkes was approached by Microsoft’s brand agency Modo Group to help them understand trends better. Since then he has built his team to provide trend analysis services to companies like BMW, Converse, Corona Beer, Mars Philips Electronics and SK Telecom.

Jamie Hamilton, managing director, Nqual

A graduate of the Open University with a degree in psychology, philosophy of mind and neuroscience, Hamilton developed a love of research, and belief in the benefits of cross-pollinating disciplines.

A contributor to Research, Hamilton has offered the market some fresh, weighty and credible thinking around the subject of how researchers and businesses can build effective social networks online. His advice and analysis is serious, cool-headed and most importantly, practical. His inclusion on this list is a victory for academic rigour brought to bear on business.

Paul Marsden, founder, Clickadvisor

Nobody can criticise Marsden for not being a man of ideas. He was one of the founding fathers of the wildly successful Brainjuicer, and last month he announced plans for what he terms, Brainjuicer 2.0. Clickadvisor will harness the power of social networks to gather feedback for product development.

Marsden describes himself as “a social psychologist and freelance market researcher specialising in word of mouth influence”. He’s a frequent speaker at conferences and has scooped a number of awards for efforts. He’s certainly not media-shy and is often called upon to comment on his thoeries on the copycat effect.

Graham Page, global director of innovation, Millward Brown

Page’s job is to scope out new tools and techniques for Millward Brown, so he gets to mess about with a lot of slick toys and exciting ideas. But the trick in this line of work is to keep a cool head, and only get carried away about the ideas that really merit it. He recently co-authored an award-winning paper on neuroscience and marketing research, aiming to separate the fact from the fiction.

Page is responsible for creating new research techniques, and developing Millward Brown’s suite of brand, advertising and consumer research tools for implementation across the company worldwide. He and his team are also responsible for furthering Millward Brown’s learning about successful brand marketing.

Samantha Smith, head of new media research, BBC

She’s part of the engine room of research ideas that is the BBC. Smith, ex-head of TV research, moved across to head the audiences team within Future Media and Technology. Her team work across the internet, mobile, red button services and digital switchover. Her focus currently is on how technologically enabled the population are at the moment and will be in the future, and what that means for organisations like the BBC.

Her paper on ‘fragvergence’ at the Research conference last year and the resulting piece in the magazine was a real talking point.

The Entrepreneurs

Matthew Bayfield & Steve Mattey, joint managing directors, Tree London

The research and data analyst firm made quite a splash earlier in the year when it was bought by marketing services group Cagney. In a research world where hefty, multi-million dollar acquisition activity is becoming almost commonplace, it’s interesting to note that small, lithe and creative agencies still hold attraction for the big players.

The founders are slating plans to take a more creative approach to the look and function of research viewing labs, and with regard to growth, they have stated their intention to grow through acquisition. The second half of 2007 was announced as kick-off time for this activity, and so industry watchers should start to pay attention.

Fiona Blades, co-founder, Mesh Planning

Blades represents a compelling mix of fresh ideas with business acumen. An ex-planning director, she scooped a Best New Thinking award at the Research conference in 2005 and soon after developed an approach for tracking multiple touchpoints, TROI (Touchpoints Return on Investment). She co-founded communications research agency Mesh Planning in 2006.

Mesh has already signalled itself to market as resourceful and effective communicator of ideas and is not shy of creating a stir. It is one of the partners behind the Research Liberation Front, a ‘movement’ that has issued a cry to arms for a fresh, shoot-from-the-hip and creative approach to the research process.

Andy Dexter, founder, Truth Consulting

One of the best-known faces in the research industry, Dexter struck out from his DVLSmith and Illuminas roots earlier this year, with news that he was to start his own agency.

Dexter was one of the folk responsible for reshaping the style, content and format of the annual Research conference. He aims to bring similar reconstruction skills to the way in which research is conducted and communicated within his own business.

Truth is ‘a strategic insight consultancy.’ Truth, he says, isn’t about mountains of facts or reams of research. It’s about distilling this raw material into compelling and profitable business intelligence.

Dexter has always been regarded as resourceful, creative and highly-effective. There’s no reason why his business shouldn’t offer such a compelling mix to his clients.

Douglas Dunn, managing director, Tuned-In Research

Dunn is part of a new generation of researchers who are entrepreneurial, creative, fully-versed in the traditions of research whilst being fully-tuned into trying and developing new techniques. He has a real passion for his market and a real hunger for finding out what makes it tick.

We hesitate to use the word ‘funky’, but there is a buzz around Dunn and his agency which is no bad thing considering that he makes his living talking to the canny, switched-on, youth of today.

You won’t have to look far for Dunn in future as he’s a frequent speaker at industry events and has appeared in the press and on television talking about youth marketing issues.

Andrew Hawkins, chief executive, Commmunicate Research

After only four years of operation, Hawkins’ Communicate Research scooped the headlines by winning the political polling account for national newspaper The Independent. The company recently conducted a free survey for the ‘Find Madeleine’ campaign to identify the views of European members of parliament concerning child abduction policy.

Hawkins may be a recent entrant into the research market, but with an impressive list of clients, and a ‘quietly getting on with it’ approach to the sometimes stormy world of polling – his appearance on this list is well merited.

John Kearon, founder, BrainJuicer

Some people just seem to generate headlines wherever they go. John Kearon is one of those people. His online research agency always created a buzz, but things got really interesting earlier this year when it began trading on AIM.

At the time, Kearon said, “We need our clients to know that we are more than a creative boutique.” A growth rate of 57 percent last year goes some way to help prove that.

Although Kearon is still pioneering new boutique-like work, such as his proprietary test to unearth creative individuals within the population, it is clear that his ambition goes way beyond such techniques. He’s building a serious business, he has a nose for news and publicity and, undoubtedly, he is chasing success with considerable energy.

Luca Antilli, Alex Charlton & Stuart Knapman, founders, Essential Research

A hefty number of nominations for these three. The ex-BBC trio were well-known as thought leaders within the corporation and now, having struck out on their own, built themselves a reputation for thoughtful and insightful research. The agency specialises in consumer research within the media, technology and entertainment sector. But the trio are not just ‘thinkers,’ as their business acumen proves. Essential achieved 400% growth in turnover in 2006-7. The agency was also runner-up in Research’s Best New Agency award in 2006.

Within a very short amount of time they have built a brand that is as much about its forward-thinking strategy as it is about the heritage of its founders.

Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO, Google

Google is already synonymous with web search, and it makes a mint from its ad-serving business – but its ambitions don’t end there. This makes CEO Eric Schmidt arguably the most closely watched man in any industry, research included. In an increasingly internet-enabled world, Google acts as a hub – helping people find what they want, and helping advertisers find the types

of consumers they are looking for. Research and insight will never be the company’s raison d’etre, but the wealth of behavioural data it holds is what makes it such a valuable property. One day – maybe – it could become a one-stop for all you need to know about online consumers.

Stephan Shakespeare & Nadim Zahawi, co-founders, YouGov

YouGov is one of the research industry’s undisputed success stories. Both Shakespeare and Zahawi are what one would call ‘connected’ in the media and political world. They have used these contacts cannily and build a thriving business and robust brand in a very short amount of time. They have already started to extend the YouGov brand overseas and with recent news that they secured £38m through an institutional share placing, their international ambitions look set to be actively pursued.

Graeme Trayner, partner, Brunswick

An alumnus of agency Opinion Leader, Trayner’s roots lie in political campaign research, having started his career working for Blair pollster Philip Gould and Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg. His paper on Research 2.0 was shortlisted for the ‘Best New Thinking’ Award at the Research 2006 conference.

So, why an entrepreneur? Trayner moved to PR firm Brunswick, where he set up and leads the group’s opinion research practice – effectively creating an internal research agency from scratch.

He was promoted to partner in 2007, becoming at 29 one of the youngest partners in the firm’s history.

We spotted Trayner’s promise when he was a runner-up in the magazine’s TalentMagnet competition, a few years back. He’s always been a research star, but he’s now had the chance to flex his business-building skills to great effect. Definitely one to watch.

Alex Willcock, founder, Imagini

Alex Willcock believes visual communication is the new universal language, and is setting out to gather people’s ‘visual DNA’. His brainchild, Imagini, brings together the best of his experience in design and communications and puts it to use for research, with an online profiling tool that eschews words in favour of images.

Since March, 4,250,000 people have profiled themselves on www.imagini.net – all visitors have come through viral activity. Imagini is also working with clients providing profiling services to such clients as Microsoft, Vodafone, Nectar, and The British Army.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder, Facebook

Facebook is already becoming a refuge for millions of individuals as well as a fair proportion of the market research industry. Even Research has established its own successful group within the space. Not only does Zuckerberg’s tool offer an excellent base for network building, it is already signalling itself as a highly-effective mechanism for feedback on products, socio-demographic gatherings, polling, and new product gossip. The technology will not win any awards for being methodologically sound, but no one can doubt the way in which this website, and other such similar social networking sites, have served up individuals ready to talk.

September | 2007