NEWS15 March 2016

Let it go – agencies and clients urged to transform the way they work

News UK

UK – Disney-inspired manifestos for change in the research business call for rigour, independence and warmth.

Frost crop

Three experienced hands from the research industry presented their calls to action at the MRS annual conference, Impact 2016, in a session punctuated by a musical, research-themed version of a song from the Disney film Frozen.

Annie Pettit, chief research officer at Peanut Labs, said there was a creeping lack of rigour in the industry, with too many people admitting to having designed and launched a survey in 24 hours, requesting hundreds of pages of cross-tabs, creating false precision in research results, or admitting they don’t understand the numbers they’re presenting.

In their eagerness to make research simple and fun to look at, researchers were in danger of forgetting what their job is. “It’s about rigour,” Pettit said. “Not making things pretty and fun. Let’s really put some rigour and our expertise into the work that we’re doing.”

John Griffiths, the barefoot insighter at Planning Above and Beyond, said it was high time agencies stopped hiding behind processes that make research look complex and mysterious to justify its value. They should give clients to do as much of their own research as possible, and provide a service that only they could provide – when clients really needed it.

The current “sausage machine” of research was not what people in business really needed to solve their business challenges. Agencies should act as “hawkeyes”, spotting patterns and identifying insights that others couldn’t, and let in-house teams do much of the rest. “We have to stop picking up the dross,” he said.

Adele Gritten, vice-president and managing director Europe with Lieberman Research Worldwide, said the relationship between clients and agencies had become frosty, with a lack of trust on both sides, and agencies made to feel like hostages to the relationship, unable to speak up for fear of being dumped.

She said clients needed to start to listen, as they did years ago, to the advice of agencies, and agencies needed to push back when clients make unreasonable demands. Clients must put more faith in agencies, not tag along to interviews and interrupt, and both sides must work to foster a warm, friendly relationship – despite the best efforts of procurement to stand in their way.

“The good news is that the relationship doesn’t have to remain frozen … all that distrust and aversion, it’s really time to let it go.”

The session was chaired by Richard Ellwood, head of audience strategy EMEA, The Walt Disney Company.