The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Is The Market Research Industry As Deluded As Adland?
June 27, 2008, 7:00 am
Filed under: Comment

So this is it … three and a bit years in a social experiment and it’s all over.

As I wrote here, it has been a very interesting time – but nothing lasts forever and I/we are really excited about what we’re embarking on next. [a clue to one of the things I/we will be doing can be seen here]

Anyway, I’ve packed up the office … I’ve sent away the oodles of shit that I’ve amassed … I’ve said my goodbyes to the people that matter [and the people I haven’t should realise there is a reason for that!] and I’m now typing my last blog post for a while, in a room where I can now hear the echo of every key I tap.




[As an aside, I realised that by filling up my office with so much personal shit – it became abit like a ‘second home’ [not that my real home is so shit-laden] so I was quite happy to stay late because it felt comfortable. With this in mind, maybe companies who claim to care about their employees wellbeing should NOT allow staff to ‘cutomise’ their space because this will encourage them to work more effectively so they can get the hell out and enjoy personal/family time. Of course in reality, most companies want people to work themselves into an early grave, but it’s quite interesting how much personalisation results in increased energy being spent at work]

I feel a real mixture of emotions – happy, sad, excited, apprehensive – and while we took the decision to end the relationship, I have nothing but positive things to say about the guys I worked with because in the main, they were [well, still are actually, ha!] a nice bunch of clever talented people – though I still intend to beat them on every pitch we contest in the future, ha!

Right enough of the sentimentality shite, back to the point of this post. [Yes there is one]

So the question is ‘Is The Market Research Industry As Deluded As Adland?’

And the answer is ‘Yes’

The end.

The Focus Group Guidebook #1 Photo: Miller Info Commons

OK … as you would expect, I have an opinion/rant on this.

So a couple of weeks ago, I spoke at a Market Research Society Conference and to be fair, it was pretty good and the people were [generally] very welcoming.

However despite all this, one thing that really bugged me was how many researchers [and clients] talked about their ‘insights and data’ in absolute terms.

Don’t get me wrong, market research is incredibly valuable – and when done well [and with a real purpose] it’s bloody brilliant – however this blinkered belief that brand and consumer research is undeniably accurate just astounds me.

The fact is that ‘truth’ is relative and given human beings have this thing called ‘a brain’, it means our opinions/thoughts/attitudes/feelings can change or be changed by external circumstances – and yet so many of the researchers at the conference didn’t acknowledge this at all. Hell, one guy even implied he should be able to dictate the creative execution [look, feel, tone, manner, core idea] thanks to the comment one of his research respondents made via SMS.


I know we’d all like to pretend our work/views/thoughts are the most important of the entire communication process – but common sense alone should dictate we don’t talk in ‘absolute terms’. I appreciate business needs to be able to make decisions to go forward, but to blindly believe market research can always tell you what the masses specifically want [or in most cases, what they ‘wanted’] is madness. I mean it’s not like we’re in a science lab dealing with controlled elements – we’re in bloody advertising – dealing with people who sometimes lie and events that can turn on a sixpence!

kiss my ass Photo: Random Dude

Saying that – what really upset many of the delegates was when I pointed out that many Marketing people in Asia don’t really care what their market research says – hell, to a certain extent they don’t even care how well their campaigns perform – their whole purpose is to ensure they don’t upset their bosses and so the research they undertake is more for job justification than to liberate/grow their business.

Not all marketing people are like this … but there’s a hell of a lot of them that are.

And while I’m saying there’s flaws in the market research industry – I don’t want people thinking adland is perfect because there’s even more shit going on there.

The thing is, I believe both disciplines are contributing to eachothers downfall because with clients budgets becoming more and more limited, their business strategies seem to be to undermine the other parties value/credibility in a bid to get their ‘UNfair share’ of the monies available.

Now I appreciate money makes the World go round but all this practice is doing, is resulting in bad research, bad advertising, bad companies, bad results and fucked off customers and bored populations.

pierluigi-collina Photo: Slashkurt

In my opinion, the best market research tends to be when it has been conducted by an independent organisation who have been given the resources to truly understand the issues being faced and the power to be able to truly express them without ‘commercial influence’ – however I do believe that unless both parties come together again [interms of really understanding and valuing what the other discipline does – as well as what the other discipline wants/needs to be more effective] then we are going to see a continuation of this marketing devolution – and that would be tragic as great research leads to great creative.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I truly believe in the power of research – I mean who is going to spend millions of dollars without having certain assurances they’re in the right ‘area’ – however like the legal industry, it is not perfect and seeing so many ‘experts’ continually deny their industries shortcomings upset me immensely. Saying that, the people who should be really pissed off with this attitude are the powers-that-be at WPP because they currently make more money from research than they do from adland so if they allow this ‘market-research-is-infallible delusion to continue, then their future financial revenue could be put in real jeopardy.

Anyway, the reason I was invited to speak at this conference was because the organisers wanted me to talk about the research methodologies cynic developed based on criminal profiler techniques – and whilst people like Malcolm Gladwell think profilers are nothing more than fortune tellers [which is funny given he argued New York’s crime rate was solved by cleaning the subway trains every night] the fact is we’ve had a great deal of success [and some classic failures – but then so have those who have spent millions on classic research] using these techniques to develop potent, pragmatic, relevant [based on ‘now’, not the past] creative and effective communication.

So whilst the preso says very little [you think I’m going to give away 4 years of very expensive research FOR FREE?] … covers most of the points I’ve detailed in this post … is written with Asia in mind … and has case studies that relied on me explaining in person [though if you look, you’ll find most of them detailed in depth somewhere on this blog] … I thought some of you might be interested to see what I blabbed on about, though in all liklihood, most of you probably got bored of this post about 20 paragraphs ago and are now reading something else while supping a cup of tea.

So that’s it … it’s all over.

[“Thank Fuck For That” I hear you cry]

Even though the boys will be keeping me mentally busy over the next couple of months, I’m pretty sure I’ll be posting the odd thing here and there – so in the meantime I just want to say ‘ta’ for all the comments, advice and ideas and may you all have toptastic times and continue the fight against mediocrity!

If you can be bothered, I’ll ‘see’ you when I get back and hopefully I might even have some exciting news to tell. [Well, there’s always a first time!]

33 Comments so far
Leave a comment

self indulgent, self important, over long, sentimental but underneath it all, if you look fucking hard, you see why i think youre quite a clever bastard. not as good as george and definitely not as good as me, but better than a few. namely the fuckwits on youtube who view your telephone film as a fucking documentary.

you are officially human again, god help us all

Comment by andy@cynic

oh oh oh ! I MUST HAVE that key chain ! Topastic !!

Comment by fan

You are going out on a bang.
Great, great post and you raise very valid points, issues and opportunities for both research and advertising industries. Whether anyone will any take notice is anyones guess but your observation about WPP having to take a stand before their research companies start experiencing declining revenues is interesting and your presentation looks great even if it is your usual “talk around the slides so no one can copy what I am saying” approach, lol.
See you in a few days and congratulations on getting your soul back πŸ™‚

Comment by Pete

This blog is so much more enjoyable when the posts are written by your brain rather than your mischievous gene. Excellent points well made and I have now nominated you to give your forensic planning presentation at our upcoming meeting.

Enjoy the big g but remember who got you the opportunity.

Comment by Lee Hill

so rob is officially forgiven is he lee? maybe youll reconsider when i remind you the fucker will be back in adland (and your biz) in a matter of months or possibly even weeks if he fucks up or fucks off the great folk at nerdland.

and i wont ever forget who got us the “big g opportunity”. george. πŸ™‚

Comment by andy@cynic

I ‘m sure getty images and flickr will find your presentation very interesting πŸ™‚

Comment by Billy Whizz

congratulations billy, you have just written 2 comments in a row that made me smile. now if you could do that with the work you get paid a fucking fortune for, wed really be moving forward

Comment by andy@cynic

So I’m improving? Fucking A.

Comment by Billy Whizz

am i allowed to call an employee a fucking cock?



well if i was, id be calling billy one right now.

Comment by andy@cynic

brilliant post. and while you’ve been saying it’s the last in a while – i don’t believe you. and great presentation.. in impact! who would’ve thought! πŸ™‚

seriously, it’s posts like these that keep me coming back to this godforsaken blog. that and andy’s shit talking.

interesting point about personalisation. i’m starting to pack down my little corner of mess and it’s strange to see how unconsciously trinkets have gathered. i think the moment you start denying human their humanity, is the moment you get a bunch of repressed wankers working with you. or investment bankers.

and as if the big g isn’t going to be ace. can’t wait to hear more about it!

Comment by lauren

i knew you wanted me lauren. i can see through your tough talk πŸ™‚

and maybe you misunderstood campbells rant about office personalisation because the tosser is suggesting not allowing people to clutter up their office space with trinkets and shit means they feel less comfortable in the place so will go home earlier and have a life while repressed wankers or investment bankers or ad agency bosses like staff putting up their crap because it means they end up working longer hours for free.

so whats it mean when our office has a fucking bedroom in it? campbell you cock, giving away the secrets like that.

and if posts like these keep you coming back, then i admire your patience because it must be 18 months since the fucker wrote anything slightly interesting πŸ™‚

where are you campbell, its no fun without you fighting back

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m here so come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough! [That is not a euphamism πŸ™‚ ]

Comment by Rob

cant be fucking arsed. id only be accused of bullying by the blog pansies anyway.

travel safe, i want you here in one piece so i can get maximum pleasure from making your life shit πŸ™‚

Comment by andy@cynic

Will your posts be less ‘sweaty’ in the future?

Comment by Charles Frith

Great points well made. Wish I could have seen you give that presentation and participate in the Q&A session. Would have loved to throw in some pointed questions to the research industry.

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

Good post on market research.
I woke up some lazy beasts yesterday by talking about the power of people in social media. It felt great.
It’s now the turn of some others. The research fraternity in Dubai better watch out. A Rob inspired wake up call message is in the making. πŸ™‚
Wishing you luck in the eternal stuggle.

Comment by Floatr

Sweaty? Is this some link to my Terminal 3 post a while back Charles? I told you, it was hot πŸ™‚

Look I won’t deny I had a ball being a bit of a shit to the research community [and my questions in other people’s presos were particulary evil – but that’s what you get when you invite an opinionated bastard from a company called cynic to the ‘enemies camp’] however I think one of the things I think we need to do is get adland to acknowledge/understand that great research leads to great communication ideas … and that great communication ideas need great research so if we want to achieve success, we’re in it together and need to share the blame as well as the acclaim.

That may sound all hippy-nice, but this constant bitching at eachother isn’t really helping anyone, especially the poor bastards in ‘reality land’ who are subjected to the crap we put out each and every day.

Saying that – there were a couple of researchers [like I know there would be a hell of a lot of ad folk] who I know believed everything they said/did was genius and didn’t feel their opinion should ever be questioned – so as much as I want adland and research industries to come together – I’d of gladly kicked the living fucking shit out of them.

But they’s deserve it and that would be my defence is court πŸ™‚

Comment by Rob

We are in receipt of your audition tape. Sadly your weird nottinghamshire accent negates a voice-over career while your camera-skills leave a lot to be desired and frankly the narrative arc of this piece was non-existent. Therefore we thank you for your endeavours but urge you to reconsider your upcoming Hollywood recce mission.

Comment by William Morris

Well Mr Morris, given you can’t comment on the right post – I wouldn’t want you representing me anyway … however I think a Mr J Dodds would be the perfect client because he’s just as confused.


Comment by Rob

We apologise for this unusual failing of our traffic department but you will appreciate how difficult it is to distinguish one of your posts from all the rest.

Comment by William Morris

You think this is bad? Try … he’s been writing exactly the same post for 3 years!

Comment by Rob


Comment by lauren

Long post… but accurate it seems.
Lets hope the rest brings you back more concise!!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

“So the question is β€˜Is The Market Research Industry As Deluded As Adland?’

And the answer is β€˜Yes’”

‘Course it is – they are so worried that they have to give a definitive opinion that they hide, or bully clients into giving them a point of view which is based on a snapshot in time (their snapshot in time – natch).

The best researchers I’ve ever worked with didn’t deal in absolutes, had a point of view, and actually tried to make the work better, rather than shitting all over it. Funnily enough, they worked solely with van drivers. Legends. πŸ™‚

Comment by Will

I know I’m not around to write shitty posts at the moment – but I’m surprised people haven’t taken advantage of my departure to make this blog even more immature than usual.

What’s going on in the World when people start acting all mature. Pah!

Comment by Rob

we value this blog too much to degrade it with filthy language and base humour.

Comment by lauren

youre in the fucking minority then lauren.
now stop fucking writing shit campbell, get your sydney visit over and done with then get your arse over here, theres work to be done and itll get you out of the lazy ass mode wpp let you fucking nurture and fester in

Comment by andy@cynic

andy are you fucking mental? have you lost your ability to recognise sarcasm? if anyone is all about filthy language and base humour, it’s me.

rob, i’m still dirty that melbourne is too far south for your sojourn, but enjoy sydney. i hope it rains πŸ™‚

Comment by lauren

i dont care if its aimed at campbell and means something different to the way my sick fucking mind has interpreted it, say “im still dirty” again you naughty little minx πŸ™‚

Comment by andy@cynic

Have I missed anything? Thought not.

Though the comment opinions being expressed seem much more coherent than the stuff that used to get posted on this blog.

Comment by John

well andy if i wasn’t dirty before, i sure as hell feel it now, you sick fuck.. πŸ˜‰

Comment by lauren

you know how to make me happy lauren more than wife #2 ever fucking achieved

Comment by andy@cynic

get a room.

Comment by John

Leave a Reply