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NEWS13 July 2010

Anderson ousted as Esomar US representative over ISO opposition

North America People

US— Anderson Analytics boss Tom Anderson has had his status as Esomar US representative revoked over his vocal opposition to the introduction of the ISO research process quality standard in the US market.

Anderson has been critical of the ISO via his blog and the Next Gen Market Research (NGMR) group he runs on business networking site Linkedin.

The criticism started following the publication of an article on the Research website reporting US trade body Casro’s decision to set up a body to audit and certify agencies in accordance with the international standard. The article was linked to on the NGMR group page, asking whether ISO would matter to US research buyers.

As reported in a follow-up article on Research: “Anderson’s initial response was to ridicule Casro’s move, suggesting that ISO certification was better suited to cement companies or fishmongers than MR agencies, and inviting people to post ISO-related jokes. Anderson called ISO ‘useless’, ‘insidious’ and ‘great stuff for killing innovation and the human spirit’. He went on to say that he would think less of a firm that boasted ISO accreditation than one that didn’t, given his experience of the firms that tout it as a benefit.”

However, his stance brought him into direct conflict with Esomar, which is a strong supporter and promoter of the ISO standards and maintains a working relationship with Casro.

According to a member communique circulated by Esomar (and posted on Anderson’s blog): “Esomar has monitored the situation closely and after reviewing feedback in the group, contacted Tom to express our concerns that the stated objective of his role as a representative, i.e. the promotion of international standards supported by Esomar and support of local associations, was seemingly in conflict with his arguments in the NGMR group. Our communication highlighted our support for Tom’s individual opinion and free speech, but requested that he, as a representative, respect long-standing relationships and commonly shared objectives.”

Those discussions ended, however, with the Esomar Council determining that Anderson’s “continued stance on this issue was not compatible with his role and obligations as an Esomar representative and as such has asked him to step down from his role as representative”.

“I am of course deeply disappointed with their decision,” said Anderson, announcing the news.

He will be replaced until December 2011, the end of his elected term, by Brainjuicer’s Susan Casserly Griffin, who had previously stood for election as representative.

Anderson was Esomar’s US East Coast representative. Its West Coast representative is Beth Uyenco, global research director at Microsoft.

@RESEARCH LIVE

8 Comments

9 years ago

Of course, while criticizing ISO, he of course recommended his own FTO certification, as Tom has such a unique qay of standing on his soap box wherever he goes and trying to push his FTO endeavor, which seems like a far more useless and futile undertaking than ISO. For such a bright guy, he could use a PR101 class, and realize that when you are a representative of a world-wode organization. you need to be a bit more cognizant of what you choose to pioneer, and the forum in which you choose to pioneer it. Otherwise, well, you could end up like he did - booted out o-f a position that I know he very passionately wanted.

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9 years ago

There is some sense in what he is suggesting I have experienced companies who can put together a file that appears to adhere to proceedures but constantly cut corners on validating data etc

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9 years ago

Tom is fundamentally correct. ISO suits organisations with repetitive tasks - for example mass production of widgets. I'd say that Esomar is trying to thrust its members back into the 1980s on this one. ISO is what you have when you're not a profession. I suggest ESOMAR needs to look up, once more, the definition of professionalism. The body ought to consider ISO as benefitting certain aspects of the MR process - aspects of fieldwork for example - but seriously, do professional researchers really need (let alone want) to elave an ISO paper trail every time they use their judgement over, for example, which stastistical procedure to use? If they need ISO to get it right, they shouldn't be in research.

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9 years ago

Anonymous - your sly dig at Tom over FTO certification rather misses the point. What you're suggesting is that ESOMAR, when it appoints professionals from within the ranks to work as representatives - that it expects that they totally cease from expressing their own opinions. Researchers of all people, (doesn't ESOMAR get this??) know the difference between personal feelings and the information they report in the line of duty. Ask any non-smoker researcher who has worked on projects for Big Tobacco. You can present the official figures, but you're still allowed to keep your personal opinions. It wasn't as if Anderson was putting out his opinions on ESOMAR's flash letterhead. I think in this case ESOMAR is both off the rails in the basic argument for ISO, and way off beam in the way they have handled Tom's personal expression. "Agree with the party line or you're out." Doesn't sound like the open professional body that ESOMAR want to be. I was gobsmacked by their response to be frank. A quiet word, "Listen Tom...this is a bit awkward..." might have been far better than a summary dismissal. Right now ESOMAR looks draconian and, in light of their beleif in ISO - somewhat dated and out of touch.

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9 years ago

I too was shocked by ESOMAR's action in this situation. After all, (1) Tom is entitled to his opinion and (2) he was elected to "represent" the US. I hear a good amount of non support by US MR professionals for ISO. Now that POV will not be represented.

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9 years ago

Really. When you act as a representative of an organization your purpose should be to benefit that organization. If you disagree with central values either you take it up with them and try to bring about change or you vote with your feet. Ridiculing them and encouraging others to do so is an extremely odd approach, purile even.

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9 years ago

@Anonymous, under the current rules Tom was not elected to represent the US to ESOMAR, he was elected to represent ESOMAR to US members, to US organisations, and to the US in general. Maybe this should change, but that is current position according to the long-standing ESOMAR rules.

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9 years ago

Which rather begs the question Ray, who represents researchers from the various markets to ESOMAR? If reps are the mouthpiece of the organisation - the representatives - and if these people are not the voice of their constituency - then ESOMAR may well be labelled Draconian - i.e. excessively harsh, especially in light of their one way definition of representation - reinforced as it is by their new pledge that reps are now being asked to sign. In the past month of debate over ISO, and the brouhaha over the comments on the NGMR - many very well directed - ESOMAR execs have been conspicuously absent from the forums, save to offer statements to journals (such as RESEARCH) explaining their new rules. Their objective, very clearly, has been to close down debate, not open it up. That's very disappointing.

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