OPINION5 October 2018

Ich bin ein Berliner

Europe Opinion UK

Ben Hogg was in Berlin for this year’s Esomar Congress and shares his highs and lows from the event.


Esomar Congress by its very nature needs to appeal to a broad set of interests; but with three main stages and several new fringe style workshop events on the new ‘level-up’ stages – there was something for everyone on this year’s smorgasbord.

And event is truly global. This year we heard from Chileans, Columbians, Indians, New Zealanders and Japanese among others, as well as the more usual Europeans and North Americans. So you get a really different spin on what is going on in our industry and how different markets are dealing with the speed of change.

For me one of the highlights was the not-for-profit session – three presentations that explored how charities are using research to create huge human impact. As is so often the case this was a poorly attended session (after all, the perception is that there’s no money in it). But it really shouldn’t have been. Because these sessions, more than any other, show the impact of research when used well.

In particular, the presentation from Rebecca Lim of Better World, a Singaporean charity that uses the power of storytelling to create social impact, and Justine Lukas of Kantar Millward Brown Singapore, not only demonstrated great research, but also the execution of a digital marketing strategy designed to engage, comfort and support women who have lost a child in pregnancy. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and the effectiveness of the research and subsequent execution should put many of the commercial clients attending to shame.

From the tech side there were several presentations that covered voice technology in research, including a good session from the team at Skim. And for the marketing-oriented delegates, Bengul Robillard of Respondi and Thomas Gruber of Drogerie-markt presented their findings on social media influencers in the health and beauty sector and how they impacted on their digital marketing strategy.

Meanwhile, Hamish McPharlin demonstrated how the BBC is testing emotional engagement in non-advertising branded video content (bear with me) and how that emotional engagement can then be used to create video content for different stages of the marketing funnel. This was a really iterative way of using agile research to test, create and test again, with clear impact.

Some of the best content was during the break-out sessions at the aforementioned ‘level-up’ stages dotted around the exhibition hall. System1’s Tom Ewing hosted a ‘Marketing Murder Mystery’ which explored the declining effectiveness of the ad industry and who may, or may not, be to blame.

Sessions like these show how small, specialised, intimate and interactive sessions can sometimes be the most engaging of an event of this size (over 1,000 delegates) and how important it is to mix and match for best effect.

And the lows? Well, I’m looking for a keynote address to inspire me, to send me out on a high, and none of the keynotes at this year’s Congress had me up and dancing (as they have in the past, literally!). I also felt that while it is clearly vital to increase the number of clients speaking and attending, at the same time perhaps some brands get on the platform because of their name, rather than their content? 

So, will I be there next year when Esomar is finally coming back to the UK? I will pack my thermals and go. Ya know, Edinburgh…

Ben Hogg is EMEA manager director at Lucid