OPINION21 December 2020

It’s time to make some noise

Media Opinion UK

Insight agencies should become more adept at showcasing their work and celebrating their successes, says Monique Drummond. 

pink graphic megaphone against a yellow background

A few weeks ago, I posted a ‘crie de coeur’ on LinkedIn in response to the flurry of coverage on this year’s blockbuster Christmas advertising campaigns. Not surprisingly, the focus of these articles was on the work, and the creative agencies which bring them to our screens. It’s important to also recognise the major influence that clients’ teams (comprising people from marketing, advertising, brand, events, insight departments) have in shaping and steering these final campaigns. 

But what about the insight agency partners? Despite the fundamental and integral role we play throughout this process, we are rarely mentioned. Now, more than ever, as an industry we need to put our head above the parapet and make some noise. 

Who, outside our immediate circles (or even within it!), can name which insight agencies work with which brands, or any of the strategists, consultants and brilliant minds working within our ‘market research’ world?   

Many readers supported this view. I’m very grateful for the thought-provoking responses which emerged from this post, some of which I have included here (in bold).

Let’s ‘work on a better descriptor than market research’. I agree – it feels outdated, passive and undersells the scope of what we actually do. It probably does little to ‘attract the great minds we need to in the future’. This industry descriptor also ‘reinforces the technical side of what we do, rather than the creative aspect of what we deliver’. We should focus more on promoting the outcomes we help our clients achieve.

Contentious though it may be, I doubt the MRS slogan ‘Evidence Matters’ does us many favours outside our own world. On the one hand this is banal (well, yes, obviously it does) but on the other, we deliver a lot more than pure evidence and reportage. It epitomises the view that ‘the language used by agencies is very methodology driven, scientific whereas client-side we use more strategic marketing labels. There is no ‘language alignment’ across the two sides. MR needs more modern descriptors’. Hear, hear! 

‘Research is seen as a non-creative discipline despite the fact that insights can be incredibly creative and inspire creative teams. Creative development is still viewed as creative testing, despite the evolution of language’. Advertising agencies should not see insight agencies as a threat, or a potential ‘kill machine’. It’s up to us to position ourselves as partners in the creative process, collaborating with them, bringing them great insights and inspiring them to create great ads.

If we’re to elevate our research supplier status, it’s also up to us to ‘change our mindset, attitude and behaviour and to be more like the creative and media guys’ and similarly ‘we researchers tend to be a little bit backward at coming forward when it comes to requesting recognition’. A great challenge here – there’s no room for false modesty, but this does not mean we need to be brash. 

Most of us are ‘not good at our own PR’ – be that on an individual agency level or as an industry. This means gaining a voice and presence in publications read by our clients and a wider business audience (Impact, Marketing Week, The Drum, Campaign and The Grocer, to name but a few).  

  • Let’s encourage industry heroes who will elevate what we do
  • Let’s not talk about case studies. Let’s tell stories, promote our work, be more dynamic and demonstrate our entrepreneurial thinking
  • Let’s debunk the ‘need for client confidentiality’ myth unless it’s truly relevant and necessary. Just as creative agencies showcase their work and their great client relationships, so should we. With permission, of course
  • Let’s shout out about roster wins, new client gains. Celebrate our successes, and show some excitement about the work we do.

I hope 2021 will be the year we become both more visible and more audible outside our own insight world. I’m up for the challenge. Who’s going to join me?

Monique Drummond is founder of Relish Research