FEATURE1 December 2010

Ups and downs – Chris Riquier

TNS’ CEO for Africa, India and Oceania Chris Riquier tells us about the highs and lows of his research career.

The best advice I’ve had is…
make yourself redundant. It’s the easiest way to get a promotion. Also, for the younger researchers out there, jump in at the deep end and gain experience in the rapid growth markets of Asia, Latin America or Africa. These markets are moving quickly and European and North American clients value the advice of researchers with experience of fast-growing and emerging markets.

…and the worst advice I’ve had is
that market research should play a role in all company decision making. If every business decision were based on research there would be very few dynamic organisations in the world. Companies need to take risks and be prepared to fail. It is usually the organisations that have the guts to try something on instinct that have the greatest success.

“The calibre of individuals in the industry is such that we can begin to harness the wealth of digital, behavioural and observational evidence already in existence”

A campaign that grabbed me recently was…
‘The Man who Walked Around the World’, a six-minute film on the history of Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky. Incredibly, it is filmed in one continuous sequence with actor Robert Carlyle walking through the Scottish highlands narrating the brand’s journey from its inception to what we are familiar with today. Apparently it is the longest tracking shot in advertising history and was only successfully executed on the fortieth take.

…and a campaign that needed more research is
BP’s response to the recent Gulf of Mexico disaster didn’t seem to capture the honesty that the world was looking for. This type of disaster triggers many human emotions and there is no perfect solution, but people need to perceive honesty from the outset. It wouldn’t take much more than a few focus groups or a trawl through the blogs to establish this. Research firms must evolve to provide advice within hours in such scenarios. Traditional surveys cannot provide the necessary speed or depth of response to allow clients to respond appropriately. Online moderated forums and monitoring of internet traffic can provide instant feedback on consumer and community sentiment.

One thing this industry could use more of is…
people who are not afraid to speak their minds. Market research is both an art and a science and sometimes it seems we are just too concerned about the science and forget that we have a wealth of experience stored in our heads which can be used to guide our clients. A lot of people talk of taking research into the consultancy sphere – it just takes confidence to stand up and do this because the expertise is already there.

…and one thing this industry could use less of is
primary data collection. The days of door knocking and cold calling are numbered. We are now at a point where the calibre of individuals in the industry is such that we can begin to harness the wealth of digital, behavioural and observational evidence already in existence to enhance the success of our clients.

One thing I hope to do is…
make Asia Pacific the most dynamic, most innovative and largest region for market research. As an industry research is seriously underweight in the region compared to the size of the economy. However, I think this will change, as the pace of development in Asia Pacific presents many unique opportunities for research. For example, the region will soon overtake Europe in the use of smart phones for data capture.

…and one thing I wish I hadn’t done is
nothing. You need to look for the positives in all your mistakes, and there are many of these in my portfolio.

If I hadn’t become a researcher…
I love playing the guitar and would not have minded becoming famous for this. Having said that, after not selling any records I probably would have become a builder.

…but on the other hand if I hadn’t become a researcher
I wouldn’t have had the chance to experience exotic and diverse cultures, from Kenya to Cambodia and from Delhi to Dubai. It is also a great way to fill your passport with colourful stamps.