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

The Enemy Within …
July 4, 2012, 6:00 am
Filed under: Comment

As I’ve said many times, I’m a big fan of research.

Good research.

Research that helps you understand people’s feelings, choices and decisions … research that helps explains ‘why’, not just ‘what’ … research that liberates opportunities rather than keeping things firmly where they’ve always been or – alternatively – stopping brands from embarking on an ego trip and keeping things real for their audience.

Now obviously there are a bunch of good researchers and companies out there, but in my opinion, we’re seeing the credibility of the whole research industry being undermined by people who either talk complete bollocks or state the fucking obvious.

What is even scarier is that the very people who should be putting a stop to this – the clients and the research industry – are seemingly going along with it all because they either [1] like their ego being pampered or [2] don’t want to draw any unwanted attention to themselves.

Of course, the real reason for this is that the industry – like too much of adland – has become focused on the money rather than doing stuff that earns money as a byproduct of its value, meaning and effectiveness.

The reason for this rant is because when I was in Singapore last week, I came across this …

I don’t know Gerard Tan.

I don’t know if he’s been misquoted or it’s been taken out of context … but saying iTunes would probably be welcomed by the people of Singapore is one of the most bland, state-the-fucking obvious things I think I’ve ever read.

What next?

People would probably like to win millions of dollars on the lottery?

Men would probably like to be very attractive to the opposite sex?

Families would probably like to never be ill?

No. Fucking. Shit.

I even hate how he has said “probably”, even though that is exactly what should be said because owners of music and dvd stores will definitely not be happy about iTunes coming to Singapore.

As I said, I don’t know this guy, I don’t know if he’s been misquoted or taken out of context … but anyone who thinks this is some massive insight needs to be sent back to school or taken out and shot and that includes the paper [Straits Times] who saw this newsworthy enough to print.

The right research in the right hands is a powerful weapon.

The wrong research in the wrong hands is a dangerous weapon.

In both cases, it tends to all come from the same source, hence the ‘enemy within’.

A while back, some people wrongly claimed Google was making us all stupid.

They weren’t wrong purely because they need to take some responsibility for their own ‘short-cut/convenient answer’ attitude to life, but because it appears if anyone is, it’s the research, advertising and/or media industries that are doing the lions share of the job.

41 Comments so far
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Just fancied being the first to write a comment on a post for once. Might as well use my ridiculously early awake time wisely eh?!

Comment by Rob

Quick Rob, put it on your timesheet.

Comment by DH

so youre life hasnt been totally fucking worthless then campbell.

Comment by andy@cynic

and why the fuck are you up so early? dont you know the world wants to see less of you not fucking more of you.

Comment by andy@cynic

It was an accident. It won’t happen again for all our sakes.

Comment by Rob

thank fuck for that.

Comment by andy@cynic

gerard tan is a fucking cock. fact.

Comment by andy@cynic

You’re right, extensive focus group research (me & a mirror) proves it.

Comment by DH

Marketing research doesn’t prove anything. At best it confirms or highlights there may be an issue.

Comment by Pete

Which clients take as either a sign to move ahead or start again because clients use research to do their job, not guide their decision.

Comment by Pete


Comment by DH

Dave might find that boring but these are 2 very good points Pete – especially the way clients view research.

Not all clients, but way too many.

Comment by Rob

Yawwwwwn again.

Comment by DH

when is someone going to research the research industry and find 89.67% of them talk utter fucking shit. by the way, that % is an upswinging fucking trend.

Comment by andy@cynic

and what the fuck would be on singaporean itunes anyway? massive fucking compendium of government fucking rule videos and podcasts?

Comment by andy@cynic

In other news, Gerard Tan’s comment will probably make him sound stupid.

Comment by DH

Great post Rob. Like advertising, great research is often down to particular individuals rather than an entire company, though based on his comment, I’m guessing Gerard isn’t one of them.

Comment by Pete

the big question is pete, would you fucking lamp him if you were in a room alone with him? is florence fucking nightingale going to admit to having a bastard side to him?

thought fucking not.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Pete

its not fucking wrong when they deserve it.

Comment by andy@cynic

this post from Northern was one of the best bits of plannery goodness i ever needed to know when thinking about / conducting / assessing research…

written in 2007, fucking throw back to the classics! good old days…

i honestly still use it today. so simple. just keep asking “why?”

itunes will be popular = is information
why will itunes be popular? = can lead to insight

Northern… legend. But you all know that already.

oh, and hello everyone 🙂

Comment by Age

where the fuck have you been?

how the fuck have you managed to get out of here and i havent? and waltzing back in without a care in the world to drop some groper planning bollocks is fucking fighting talk. though you do call a 2007 post a “classic” which makes you look a sad fuck while slagging off all of campbells bollocks for the past 6 fucking years so youre let off.

with a fucking warning.

Comment by andy@cynic

Very kind (and misguided of you)

Comment by northern

Insightful. Understanding. Pragmatic. Gerard is none of these things.

Good post Robert. It’s worth remembering that for all the bad advertising out there, a huge amount is because of the influence of bad research by bad researchers and fear driven clients. Great points by Pete.

Comment by Bazza

i fucking like this comment. what the fuck is wrong with me? give me research that tells me something i can use not some bland, state the fucking obvious bollocks or meaningless fucking %s.

Comment by andy@cynic

Oh good, another post about research.

Comment by John

Well said Robert, Peter & Baz.

Comment by Lee Hill

Hi Rob,
Having worked in market research for 5 years in Singapore, I feel that its more the fault of the media: maybe splitting 75% media and 25% research.
The media – newspapers, TVs, etc – are looking for fillers and often send out interns or juniors to interview you. You can talk to them for 10 minutes, while they just look for that one sentence to sum it all. (And since these journalists string two unrelated bits of news or take comments totally out of context, I often had to spend more time negotiating one sentence than I had to spend for the whole interview.)
Blame it on the consumeristic nature of the press here, which often does not know how to ask meaningful, critical questions.
Typical quid pro quo scenario: I, media, give you airtime to promote your company; you, market researcher, provide me with one, two lines for my article. Since the media talk to the expert, market research dude, they can do no wrong, and it validates the story. “Hey, a market researcher said that, it must be true.” You are in adland, it works a bit like the toothpaste commercials that for whatever reason need to present a fucker in a white coat telling me that this product is better than the other, when they really are all the same thing.
For the market research company, probably the marketing department at GfK are there congratulating Mr Tan for getting the company visibility in the media, perhaps not considering that his insight-less comments are more likely to hurt the company rather than help win more clients.


Comment by eltractor67

Hi Claudio, great to hear from you.

I know what you’re saying but I’m not sure if I totally agree with all of it.

For a start, Gerard is in no way unique in making that sort of bland, un-insightful, state-the-obvious comment. I’ve sat in countless meetings over the years where a researcher has said similar things – and it’s both upsetting and frightening.

Fortunately there are many good researchers who add real insight and value – so while the media might be to blame for ‘amplifying’ the awareness of stupid comments like Gerard, they are only reporting what he said so it’s not really fair to say it’s entirely their fault.

If I ran the research industry body, i’d take a stand against comments like Gerard. I’d do my best to defend the honour of the industry and not let this sort of bland bollocks reach the mainstream audiences ears. I might not succeed, but I’d try but sadly it appears the typical strategy is ignore it and hope it goes away.

Anyway, thanks for the comment – appreciate it.

Comment by Rob

Ha – Not advertising-related, but I just saw this:

Comment by Tim Burley (@timburley)

Do you think this could be Gerard Tan’s brother?

Comment by Rob

I bet Gerard Tan is friends with Byron
It’s also interesting how agency types piss all over someone else’s research but then present equally flawed research to prove their own agenda
Research is bloody useful, it’s the twats that commision or do it that are at fault.
It really is so easy, go out, observe and actually talk the people IN the environment you want to investigate, don’t ask direct questions
If you ask my if she could have done better in front of fellow coven members, she’ll agree with wicked enthusiasm. Ask her in front of my Mum and she’ll tell you not to be so stupid.

Comment by northern

If only I’d married a woman so sensitive to my ego.

Good point about the ‘pot kettle black’ attitude of adland in terms of research criteria. Of course I have never presented anything flawed in my life. Oh no. Never.

Comment by Rob

Research is too often about ass covering and too rarely used to find genuine learning from people. The best researchers I’ve used are those that have agency experience and know how to find useful insightful comments and pass them across in a way that the agency and brand can actually use.

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

The best researchers I’ve met tend to be ex academic, with no idea of agency OR client agenda, just good at getting under why people do and say what they do, not just WHAT

Comment by northern

To this day I don’t know why there is still debate about the importance of knowing “WHY” people think/do stuff rather than what. I literally want to kill when people ignore that. Especially researchers.

Comment by Rob

I recently had a debrief where I wanted to say “but why???” the whole way through. So frustrating.

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

Say it. What’s the worse that will happen, they started it by being idiots.

Comment by Rob

If it hadn’t been so bad as to have absolutely no functional bearing on anything we did going forward I would have said it more!

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

Darn you Tan!!! Always stealing my thunder.

Comment by Sid

Research leads you to or away from what you think already. If someone says that they don’t have an opinion then they are liars! Tan’s comment is something that everyone knows or believes. Getting that from research is not enough he needed to go deeper to find out why itunes would be poplular.

Comment by Christina Cruz

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