OPINION1 October 2007

Love, poetry, and tall tales in Berlin

The Diary

I ‘heart’ research

There was something in the air at last month’s Esomar Congress in Berlin – everyone was eerily happy to be a researcher. The cheery tone was set by the first keynote with a rousing “Thank God for market research”, and maintained over three days by conference chairman John Kearon from Brainjuicer, with his wide smile and giddy enthusiasm for all things research.

Further evidence of the happiness epidemic was to be found at the merchandise stand, where T-shirts bearing the snappy slogan “I ‘heart’ research” were flying off the rack. Tellingly, it was the adult sizes that were snapped up first, so by the time Diary got to the front of the queue, there were only tiny ones left. And while there are many ways to express one’s love for research, a skimpy, skin tight pink T-shirt is not one.

I see your haiku…
Diary witnessed an exciting duel between two researchers in a Berlin nightspot during the Congress. Fuelled by free-flowing German beer, the pair battled it out over who could deliver the briefest debrief. The opening bid of a single A4 side was beaten by a postcard, which in turn was trumped by a haiku poem, which fell to a postage stamp, which eventually was defeated by a single word. Of one syllable.

But while there was much bravado, a binding handshake on the wager was not forthcoming. Diary would like to make it interesting by offering an “I ‘heart’ research”T-shirt to anyone who can provide evidence of a monosyllabic debrief.

Edited highlights
The awards always get it wrong. Clearly the best presentation at this year’s Congress was the client roundtable discussion. It was revealing, provocative, unflinching, and brimming with incisive input from top-level players. At least, one assumes it must have been, as it was held behind closed doors.

Diary was turfed out and forced to sulk in the back row of one of the other, more lacklustre presentations, but was comforted by the thought of what Groucho Marx might have said: “I don’t want to attend any conference session that will accept me as an attendee.”

Height adjustment
This year’s Congress offered thought-provoking insight into the power of web 2.0. Not least when John Kearon introduced Oscar-winning director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck as being 6’ 9” tall – a fact Kearon had gleaned from (where else) Wikipedia. The audience applauded, and in a scene reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz, out walked a man of approximately average height. Von Donnersmarck began by stating sheepishly that he is actually only 5’ 9”.

It’s a cautionary tale on the dangers of trusting Wikipedia. Kearon, who is 102, lives in a rabbit burrow in the Faroe Islands, and once played kazoo with the Bay City Rollers. He is 4’ 11”.

October | 2007