OPINION17 June 2014

Dealing with risk and other insights


Highlights from the first day of the Insight Innovation Exchange (IIeX) in Atlanta.

So, where are we going?

Day 1 of the Insight Innovation Exchange (IIeX) in Atlanta couldn’t have been busier, aiming to kick start this year’s conference with a lot of head-scratching, soul-searching, and plain old provocation. With such a busy schedule, sound bites came thick and fast; and with a fantastic blend of perspectives from across the spectrum, apologies to anyone not singled out here.

Alex Batchelor of Brainjuicer started by telling us how lots of behaviours change with no corresponding change in attitude. Using one of the metaphors of the moment (the rider on the elephant), he asked whether we spend too much effort trying to catch the attention of the rider, when maybe we should be building a path for the elephant. With an interesting anecdote about Rolls Royces on sale at boat and plane shows (something I’m sure we can all relate to), he showed how choice architecture is sometimes more important than the subtleties. To sum up a somewhat dispiriting message: “You’re not rich enough, you drink too much, and you’re all idiots. On your way.”

A fascinating panel discussion later in the morning looked at bridging the supplier-client gap and began with a desperate cry: why aren’t we acting like content marketers when it comes to insights? Some suggested that clients were the ones stopping suppliers dead, because they’re trained to avoid risk and mistakes at all costs. Hany Mwafy told us that in his experience for ad agencies, the margin of error is allowed, which in turn allows them to deliver business-changing work. This session went on to become a fairly robust review of some of the failings and challenges the industry faces. The big message was to embrace a soupçon of risk, and also to devote more time to delivering content.

Tim Bock took us through an intriguing perspective on visualisations, and why the ugly ones are sometimes the best. At the root of it all was the observation that if audiences haven’t ‘got it’ in three to five seconds, they probably won’t. Tim’s (somewhat ambitious perhaps…) comparison to the Sistine Chapel made sure we all ‘got it’ pretty quickly. The answer to it all? Well, start with colour. We’ve evolved to interrogate colour, so that’s the most fundamental thing to consider. We’ve also evolved to recognise height and size, which is why the dreaded/brilliant 2x2 matrix map remains so popular. For the design geeks out there, he then showed us that the key to good communication was the tension between the ‘focal mass’ and ‘supportive mass’ – find the point you’re trying to make and massively exaggerate it.

David Steinberg presented a crash course in Big Data 2.0, starting with something to show the scale of the issue. One Fortune 500 client was binning 100% of the customer data it was capturing every day because the sheer cost of storing it was prohibitive – let alone analysing it. He then covered the detail with a case study of wireless contract purchase, where the insights for acquisition could also build an algorithm for ‘flight risk’ customers. The versatility of Big Data insights should be genuinely terrifying for ‘old fashioned’ research agencies.

TNS’s Jan Hofmeyr was typically provocative, asking whether the old adage that big agencies are lethargic and small agencies are nimble and innovative is, in fact, false. He then went straight from that to the lofty heights of ‘the quest for truth’. He told us that we rely on memory too much – and rationality and old technology to boot. On top of this, and this is perhaps an issue we all sweep under the carpet, we often go where we can find people, not where people are. Purism vs. Pragmatism? Perhaps. Next in his sights was the purchase intention question, along with aided awareness, unprompted awareness, anything that requires memory or prediction, and anything that rates things in isolation like satisfaction or value for money. What is ok? Well, mobile, although this was suggested with the caveat that ‘dark markets’ of non-internet enabled phones mean that very often, even this isn’t suitable as a research approach, especially for the key market of the future: old people.

On this disheartening note, I’ll leave you for the first day in the hope that Day 2 should bring us some more positivity and optimism. In the meantime, here are some of the key metaphors and themes essential to any 2014 IIeX presentation:

IIeX Cliché Watch, Day 1

1.      ‘Xxx approach is a lot like teenage sex – everyone talks about it but no one does it properly’

2.       ‘Humans are idiots’

3.      ‘From reporting, to insight, to leading decisions’

Charlie Richards is a senior account manager at Tonic