Marketing the Media Research Industry

I was recently asked to do a 5-minute soapbox session at the annual Media Research Group conference. I used it to describe how a marketing and PR strategy for the Media Research industry might look. Here is my script.

“Media researchers. We are the masters of the media universe at making the case for the organisations we work for. 

My suggestion is that we use those same superpowers to make the case for the media research industry.  

Here’s an example of researchers making a brilliant case for an organisation.

When the latest IPA Bellwether report showed a drop in advertising budgets the IPA reacted saying,

“It’s a false economy to cut one’s ad budget when things look uncertain.  The evidence shows that far from being prudent, it can have a negative long-term effect on growth.  Companies that hold their nerve consistently, and that invest in the 60:40 ratio of longer-term brand building to shorter term sales activation, outperform the market”

They could have added, Mike Drop.

This statement succinctly summarises two huge research projects.  Well done the researchers!

Now, the same IPA Bellwether report also flagged up a sharp drop in research budgets.

It’d be wonderful if we could have had a similar statement.  For a moment, let’s borrow this one. As you’ll see, I’ve changed a few of their words for ours.

“It’s a false economy to cut one’s research budget when things look uncertain.  The evidence shows that far from being prudent, it can have a negative long-term effect on growth.  Companies that hold their nerve consistently, and that invest in the 60:40 ratio of longer-term consumer research to shorter term ad effectiveness research, outperform the market”

Feels good, right?  Don’t cut your research; or you’ll die. 

Not easy to prove for real.  Not impossible.

But important, for two reasons. 

Firstly, headlines about declining research are too easily interpreted as old market research spend moving to data science and AI. 

The message needs to land that media research works alongside and even incorporates data science and AI, but isn’t rendered useless by them. 

Secondly, when the economy is hard, research budgets are sitting ducks. 

 At the start of the financial crisis The Telegraph ran a cartoon of a man with the word ‘Recession’ on his back, aiming a gun at a duck with the words ‘Research Budget’ on it.

That cartoon was particularly prophetic for me as I held the research budget for the Telegraph then.  It proved to be internal communication by cartoon! 

However, I now know a drop in research budget isn’t always mirrored by a drop in research spend. 

The C Suite of a company cut budgets to impress owners and shareholders.

But if they later realise they need a critical piece of research, the money is found.  It does mean – in these circumstances – the decision to buy the research is instigated by the C Suite, not the budget holder.

Given that, wouldn’t it be great for more of them to be exposed to, and inspired by, your wonderful work here today?

Let’s quickly visit the 1980s.

If this were an MRG conference back then, the CEOs and CCOs of planning and buying agencies would be here. Sitting with you.

So would media owner commercial directors.

All of them would form opinions about research capabilities and new studies, and what they meant to planning.  Our world was part of their world.

We can’t expect those people to come here now.  Life’s more frenetic and fragmented.

We now have to go where they are to shape their opinion of our industry.

Not easy, not impossible.

We should have an inspiring deck with a strong narrative, encompassing all that’s new in our industry, showcasing great work.

We should take it to agency forums, like Wavemaker’s Who What Wow – or conferences like Ad Week Europe.

We should aim for an effect similar to that of the annual Mary Meeker deck.

She pulls from different sources with a narrative – and inspired the biggest agency name to get planners to pay attention. 

Everywhere that Mary went; Sir Martin Sorrell was sure to go.

If Mary can inspire Sir Martin, why can’t we, collectively, as an industry, inspire big names too?

So, I put it to you.  We should seize the day and use our superpowers to make the case for our industry.

Not easy, not impossible.”

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