OPINION1 December 2009

Closing one book, opening another


The number of agencies relieved to close the book on 2009 is dwarfed only by the number fearful of opening the book on 2010.


The number of agencies relieved to close the book on 2009 is dwarfed only by the number fearful of opening the book on 2010.

By late spring it was clear that the research business was not going to duck this recession. And after that cheery start, things got progressively worse. This year has clearly tested the mettle of some of research’s biggest names and, as we cast a glance towards the future, we can expect them to be tested further. Most pundits predict that, with the expected election of a new government in the UK, the bottom will fall out of the social research business. Research has dined out on public sector research expenditure for many years. Dessert’s been served, the bill’s arrived and the waiters are stacking chairs on tables. Some of the industry’s most innovative and challenging work looks set to wizen as cuts bite deep.

What else have we got to look forward to? Well, despite anaemic signs of recovery, client spend is fully expected to remain cautious. Few clients look likely to break ranks and indulge in a spending splurge. It’s likely that the work commissioned next year will adhere to a safety first template. Few daring, inventive and exploratory studies. Many straight and rather uninspiring projects.

The research business will lose staff, respondents will become more disengaged and four horsemen will ride across the marketing landscape. The end is nigh.

Before you decide to bury yourself under a duvet and hibernate for the next 12 months, consider this. Despite this feeling that we are approaching the End of Days, I can’t remember a time when the research business has been more chipper, inventive and resourceful. It has embraced skills and techniques from way outside its natural habitat. It has become less precious about what research is and isn’t. It has truly connected in a Web 2.0 world and openly shared ideas. There is a tangible sense of excitement about a business that is on the verge of reinventing and reinvigorating its approach to service provision. While the advertising, PR and marketing businesses seem to have become sluggish in rejuvenating their various value propositions to market, researchers are summoning up all sorts of creative and commercial energies.

While 2010 will undoubtedly be a year for the strong of will, cashflow and nerve, we also believe that it will be the year when the research business lays out a refreshed proposition. One that is more inventive, more consultative, dynamic and fleet of foot. While the payback for this reinvention may not be immediate, research agencies will be enviably placed when the horsemen decide to spare us all.


1 Comment

13 years ago

Fully agree Marc - it has been tough and will continue to be tough for a while yet....but with my cheery festive hat on I think this will be a period we look back on and say it was all getting too easy and we, as an industry, were getting complacent. This has been the kick up the proverbial the research world needed....and I hope in the long run we will be a better industry for it. Still wish they would get on with the general elcetion though!

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