Trade Event Report
Differentiating Between Researchers - ARF Conference, + + +
By Al Berrios (contact Al Berrios)

"So, do you have a Ph.D?" That's about the only thing I could think of asking the head of marketing research at IBM. I wasn't trying to be arrogant (I don't have a Ph.D, but consider myself a researcher), I was just looking for someway to strike up a conversation. "No. You don't need a Ph.D. to be a researcher," was her shocked response, over the lap of the head of media research at GM, who, I presume, didn't have a Ph.D. either, from the smirk he gave me after her reply.

If there was an award for alienating top executives, I'm sure I'd be a contender. At almost every chance I get, something politically incorrect, completely inappropriate, or just plain insulting comes out of my mouth in an effort to make small-talk. Sometimes, the only thing I can do to avoid saying anything like this is to just not say anything at all. (Which is why I'm not generally known for my light banter during introductions.)

Researchers, for all their vaunted value to the corporation, are so mild-mannered and repressed, that talking to them is about as interesting as staring at a blank monitor. No matter how hard you try and get them to reveal marketable insights, purity reigns supreme. Unfortunately, purity "don't pay the bills".

Nothing's more frustrating for a poor small-talker like me than an even worse small-talker like the research executives I encountered during lunch at the Advertising Research Foundation's re:think conference on April 30 at the Marriott Marquis. They can make winning the lotto sound dull. This dull-ness permeates throughout the industry to the point where competitors are virtually indistinguishable from each other. After all, you either do quantitative or qualitative research using the same methods - focus groups, interviews, and observations. Even the way the information is processed is pretty much the same industry-wide. (If al berrios & co. research had a booth, we'd be the only exception to the rule.)

So, how does a company that needs to do some research evaluate the firms that do research when they can basically do the same things? According to the GM media research exec, it's the relationship, stupid. I thought, wow(!), an industry with little-to-no people skills that survives on their ability to make friends. And that's pretty much why researching hasn't evolved much in decades. Enough said.

The Next Big Marketing Thing

A real treat for me was being able to hear David Bell's comments on the state and future of advertising. (Mr. Bell is Chairman/CEO of the Interpublic Group of Companies). As you may have recently heard, IPG has made the industry-leading decision to stop announcing account wins because it no longer accurately reflects the success of their business. So his thoughts on how their firm and industry in general has suffered from poor acquisitions, inability to meet the more sophisticated marketing needs of their clients, and dearth of sure-fire ideas as big as their Mastercard "priceless" idea (which he claims has generated over $5 billion in consumer spending from just $1 billion in marketing investment).

Mr. Bell believes that branding, in all its many incarnations - event marketing, experiential branding, internet branding, p.o.s. and packaging, public relations, and CRM - will be the key revenue growth areas for the industry in the next year and anyone not positioned to meet it… blah blah blah.

After these interesting predictions, he goes into the typical ad agency exec presentation where he jokes around with his buddies in the audience as he goes into a commercial for the agency by showing us its reel of work.

Overall, this year's conference merits 3 pluses (+ + +). Although I didn't really learn anything new, the networking was good and the having your own business validated is nice, too.


Disclaimer: The recommendations, commentary and opinions published herein are based on public information sometimes referenced via hyperlinks. Any similarities or likeness to any ideas or commentary from any other sources not referenced is purely coincidental. al berrios & co. cannot control any results occurring from advice obtained from this publication nor any opinion(s) conveyed by any reader of this publication.

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