NEWS28 June 2011

Kantar and GfK’s online quality consortium collapses

Features News

US— Research described Kantar and GfK’s online quality consortium when it was announced 11 months ago as a bold move. Too bold, apparently: the Promedius Group, as it was called, is no more.

Kantar said today that it has left the group, leaving GfK on its own. Ipsos, which helped to develop the group’s online quality tools at the early stages, has not been involved for some time.

In the US, Kantar will instead adopt MarketTools’ TrueSample quality tool for all of its consumer research, but says that it still wants to move towards the “ideal” of creating “a robust, industry-wide solution” for panel validation. Kantar, whose agencies include TNS, Millward Brown and panel provider Lightspeed, made nearly $915m of revenue in the US last year.

Meanwhile Debbie Pruent, a management board member at GfK (pictured, with Kantar’s Eric Salama), told Research that the agency “continues to support the free-market development and use of cost-effective online data quality tools and encourages independent industry validation of these techniques. While the withdrawal of Kantar from the Promedius Group means that this collaboration can no longer continue in its current form, GfK will continue to pursue independent and other collaborative developments, as well as utilise cost-efficient third-party tools.”

The Promedius Group was envisaged as an independent, not-for-profit consortium – complete with its own staff and research-on-research programme – that would have provided online quality tools for the whole industry. When the initiative was announced last July, Kantar and GfK (respectively the world’s second- and fourth-largest research businesses) emphasised the importance of independence, inclusivity and standardisation.

The group had made significant progress in developing its technology but not as quickly as had been hoped, and its products were never presented to the industry.

When it was launched, Lightspeed CEO David Day spoke of developing a “holistic” solution – allowing respondents to be verified across numerous panels run by different clients and providers – that would promote sustainability in the online research industry, rather than just the interests of particular companies.

The aim, he said, was to “create an environment where companies can come together and agree standards in an independent way and those can be operated at an industry level.” That hasn’t happened – perhaps because, as Day also said, “it will be end-clients who will make a judgement on whether this meets their needs”.

Today’s announcement of the deal with MarketTools suggests that end clients weren’t willing to wait for an industry-backed solution when alternatives are available. Sample and technology providers including Toluna, Opinionology, Mo’web, Peanut Labs, Globalpark and Mktg have all developed online quality tools for rooting out fake and duplicate respondents.

MarketTools’ TrueSample Quality Council includes figures from a number of panel providers, research agencies and end clients, and Kantar said that by going with TrueSample in the US, it has adopted “the industry’s most widely used quality solution”. Lightspeed’s chief operating officer Efrain Ribeiro and Kantar’s chief research officer Renee Smith, have now joined the council.

For the moment the MarketTools deal is limited to the US but Salama said Kantar has committed to some pilot studies in other countries. Kantar also said it would be working with MarketTools to help improve the TrueSample technology and processes.

“We would like in the future to have an industry-wide solution,” said Salama.