FEATURE26 October 2010

TNS development chief talks digital innovation and insight

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Digital media has a ‘wild west’ feel to it, says TNS chief development officer Matthew Froggatt, and he sees gold in ‘them thar hills’. The man tasked with mapping the agency’s path to success gives us a glimpse of the route he’s taking.

Two of the most common problems that clients look to research agencies to help solve are how to engage their customers online and how to develop an online presence of their own, says TNS chief development officer Matthew Froggatt. “Digital is evidently big and important and needs people attending to it. But there’s always the concern that people doing traditional stuff see digital as being done by ‘those guys down the corridor’ and feels like a bolt-on. So what we really want to do is bring digital into the heart of our offer.”

Froggatt heads up a new corporate development division within the global research group, made up of the firm’s qualitative, digital research and global marketing operations. Its purpose is to develop new digital products and services – “to provide a route to the future in terms of products and in terms of innovative ways of working,” says Froggatt.

“We’re on a learning curve with digital, and I think all of our competitors are too.”

The firm recently launched the Digital Life survey, which the agency claims is the world’s largest-ever study into online consumer behaviour. Froggatt said that the large scale study of global internet behaviour will help prove to clients that TNS has a handle on how people live their online lives, and is the first of a new wave of digital products to be rolled out of the division. The corporate development team is also currently experimenting with new ideas such as techniques to measure mobile clickstream data and the use of mobiles to collect ethnographic information.

Froggatt says the firm needs to “put innovation at the heart of everything” and to “spend more time and resources on renovating our products and bringing new products to the marketplace”.

“We’re tooling up our sector and regional businesses with offers, techniques, databases and bodies of knowledge to go and help them sell more effectively and get better insights,” he said.

Much of this innovation will be developed in-house but there is the possibility of acquisitions to bolster the firm’s digital offering. “WPP has been acquisitive company and that’s not changing any time soon,” Froggatt said. “The idea that all of our growth will be organic is inaccurate.”

It’s clear Froggatt is relishing the journey he’s embarked on. “The interesting and exciting – and sometimes scary – part of digital is there’s a bit of a ‘wild west’ feel to it in that nobody has established themselves as an unequivocal leader,” he says. “There is a lot of white space and we want to use our assets to win as much of that white space as possible.”

Snapshots from a Digital Life
Launched earlier this month, TNS says that the Digital Life covers 90% of the world’s online population through 50,000 interviews with consumers in 46 countries. The survey examines online behaviour from around the world, such as how often people log onto the web, which countries have the highest rates of engagement with digital activities and how mobile phones are driving the growth of social media sites.

Froggatt said that the firm researched beyond basic internet behaviour to “provide more detailed data into attitudes and emotional drivers of that behaviour.”

Some of the findings are: 88% of web users in China contribute to a blog or forum compared to 32% of Americans; 92% of Thai users have uploaded photos to social media or photo sharing sites; and on average Malaysians have the most amount of friends on social networking sites, compared to South Koreans who have the fewest.

More about the survey and its initial findings can be found here.

1 Comment

10 years ago

Interesting initiative - especially at the 'front-end' / the client-facing side. Back office ops and logistics will have to be set up so that they can leverage the scaleabiliity that technology - driven business models like this and the TNS 'business mass' require I believe. Otherwise, in a fragmented social comms / digital media apps and platforms market, TNS might find it challenging to achieve the margins it is looking for.

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