OPINION1 August 2010

Drive, he said

Opinion

I would be prepared to place a sizeable wager on the possibility that research agencies will be somewhat put outover this month’s interview with Steve Gatt, Volkswagen’s insight chief. It’s probably best for you to be seatedbefore you begin reading.

I would be prepared to place a sizeable wager on the possibility that research agencies will be somewhat put out over this month’s interview with Steve Gatt, Volkswagen’s insight chief. It’s probably best for you to be seated before you begin reading.

Gatt is not one of those clients who has laid-back expectations. He does not appear to be satisfied with the state of debriefs and he certainly has a pointed standard response for those agencies who cold call in search of work. Gatt is not alone in thinking this way. He is one of many clientsiders who struggle to get what they want out of an industry they believe is out of synch with the modern business metabolism.

So what will agencies make of his comments? I’m sure that privately agencies will think that an awful lot is being expected by the likes of Gatt despite ever shrinking margins and provided timescales. And yet those same agencies will smile, nod and ask ‘how high’ when the jump command is given. It was always thus, but I wouldn’t count on it always being so.

It simply beggars belief that there exists a single client who still gets served up with poor debrief materials. How, in the name of sanity, can you cold call a client in search of work armed with little other than soft assurances and the belief that much will become clear over a cup of coffee and a chat. This magazine has been chronicling such agencyside shortfalls for decades now and it does seem incredible that they still exist.

One thing has changed. Clients used to get pretty angry about this sort of thing. It was something they used to raise their voices about. That’s changed. There appears to be more of a tone of resignation in their reckoning.

However, do not be fooled into thinking that they’re settling for second best and lowering expectations. Not a bit of it. They are ever more likely to embrace other players in the insight chain and explore the possibility of DIY research more seriously. After all, if a client isn’t getting the streamlined presentation of insight they desire, why seek it out from an agency at all? It’s at this point that the DIY approach looks mightily attractive.

Gatt is no ranter. He comes across as a level-headed sort of chap who wants to inject some much-needed vim into the research operation. Either you’re going to keep him happy, or someone else will.

I’ll make you a deal. Research agencies, I beg two things. Serve up compelling insight and sell hard benefits. In return, I guarantee we’ll never run such a client interview again for the sole reason that they’ll find very little to criticise.

@RESEARCH LIVE

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