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OPINION26 March 2012

The times they are a-changing

The theme of this year’s ARF Re:think conference in New York is change. The research business is on the brink of transformation, said the ARF’s president and CEO Bob Barocci. So what are agencies doing about it?

The theme of this year’s ARF Re:think conference in New York is change. The research business is on the brink of transformation, said the ARF’s president and CEO Bob Barocci. So what are research agencies doing about it? That was the question put to a panel of large research agency leaders in the opening session today.

The session kicked off with comments from two of the world’s biggest research spenders on what they want from their providers. Joan Lewis of Procter & Gamble and Gayle Fuguitt of General Mills said the industry needs to “reinvent itself”, that providers need to be more open to collaboration with each other, and that they should seek to match the research technique with the business question – not the other way round.

Symphony Technology Group CEO Romesh Wadhwani threw the challenge back at them, saying that clients, too, need to be willing to change. They may talk about wanting innovation, Wadhwani said, but when it comes to budgets and RFPs, they often turn out to be reluctant to let go of what they know.

Nielsen’s CEO Dave Calhoun picked out global population growth as the biggest change facing his firm, throwing up challenges for how best to serve clients in new markets. Ipsos’s Didier Truchot and GfK’s Matthias Hartmann said the recent explosion of data was the biggest change facing them, with Hartmann saying his company aims to become a “trusted integrator” of data from multiple sources.

Both Wadhwani and Eileen Campbell of Millward Brown spoke of the challenge of dealing with empowered consumers, with Campbell saying she sees a “restlessness” among clients and consumers, and a need for research agencies need to keep up.

So if we’re on the brink of change now, where will be in 2022? Same place, said Campbell. “I’ve been in this business for a long time,” she said. “And the one constant is we’ve always been on the brink of massive change”.

@RESEARCH LIVE

1 Comment

7 years ago

"The theme of this year’s ARF Re:think conference in New York is change" Perhaps one day a conference will announce its theme is "Taking stock" or "The comfort zone" or "A bit of tinkering round the edges".

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