IIeX EU 2015: Research Is Dead, Long Live Research

Tshirt worn by Chaordix CEO at IIeX in Philadelphia, 2013. Photo Courtesy of Nelson Davis.

Tshirt worn by Chaordix CEO at IIeX in Philadelphia, 2013. Photo Courtesy of Nelson Davis.

By JD Deitch, PhD

Regular readers of Greenbook need no introduction to the companies or new techniques that are regularly on display at the Insight Innovation eXchange (IIeX) conferences. Their stories are told on this very blog week in and week out. Nevertheless, as with any good sporting or cultural event, there is something unmistakably better about being there, live.

IIeX is something special. Next to most other industry conferences, IIeX meetups are a breath of fresh air: invigorating, provocative, and unique. Thus it was in Amsterdam about two weeks ago.

Three takeaways

There are three big things I took away from an intense 48 hours of presentations and conversations.

First: research as it is done today—limited in approach, cumbersome in execution, and detached from how companies actually operate—is taking its last breaths.

The impassioned rhetoric of disruption, a fire whose flames I myself have fanned, is now totally mainstream. IIEX was my third conference already this year, and at each I’ve heard choruses of voices singing the same tune.

Amsterdam took that one step further. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Jeff Reynolds from LRW bash a giant nail in the coffin of how we approach brand tracking, and in doing so offer a new vision of doing it better, complete with a P&L that was more attractive for both the agency and the client. (See my own similar piece in the March edition of Marketing News.)

Likewise when Eric Salama spoke about driving cultural change in the vast Kantar organization, there was unmistakable gravity in his frankness. My own employer, Ipsos, is actively engaged in the same process of renewal across the breadth of its business.

Second, the companies and techniques that are the vanguard of the “New MR” are starting to prove their worth.

2015 will be the year that measuring the impact of social media and constant connectedness comes good.

The week before Amsterdam, at CASRO Digital in Nashville, I led a discussion during which my expert panelists agreed that research needed to become source agnostic. Joel Rubinson, one of the discussants, talked about his work showing the impact of social influence on purchasing. He argued forcefully for a better connection between research and clients’ execution, particularly with programmatic advertising. (Joel will be at IIeX Atlanta in June.)

Then, in Amsterdam, I chaired a track of presentations, two of which provided proof points about social media measurement. Fran Cassidy shared results of the IPASocialWorks/MRS project, through which they collected case studies to create guidelines and practices around measuring the impact and ROI of social media. Preriit Souda, ESOMAR’s 2011 Young Researcher of the Year and clearly one of the industry’s bright young stars, shared a multi-source study that blended survey and social media data to evaluate Scotland’s independence referendum.

Another area which, to my mind at least, is on the cusp of great discovery and impact is nonconscious measurement. I was impressed by Jeremy Sack’s (also from LRW) work on Identity Overlap driving brand affinity. I was blown away by Cristina Balanzó’s (Walnut Unlimited) presentation on subconscious human insights, in particular the stunning visuals from her company’s neuroscientific approaches to ad testing. Both speakers articulated cogent frameworks reflecting an undeniable maturity of thought.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t speak to the rapidly evolving tools that make it easier to do good research. Whether it’s IIEX alum Zappistore blazing a trail for what I’ve come to call “ready to wear research”, or this year’s Insight Innovation Competition EU winner and mobile sample provider Dalia Research, or any of the myriad qualitative and text analytics solutions that just continue to get better, it’s a sure thing that we will see companies like these start to break through to bigger success in 2015.

Third, there is no better place to see the range of techniques and new ideas than IIeX. 

Our industry associations are visibly evolving to stay current amidst the sea of change, but they haven’t a patch on IIeX when it comes to providing a forum for the new. The presentation track I chaired was a microcosm of the range of techniques that, but for neuroscience, have captured the industry’s interest. In addition to Fran and Preritt, Mary Meehan (Panoramix) gave a very structured approach to studying broad cultural trends that reflected the best of what the industry aspires to when it talks about storytelling. Frank Kelly (Lightspeed GMI) spoke about the research they’ve done on using voice—both text-to-speech and speech recognition—in survey research which, one must believe (I do), will replace the keyboard in the future.

The conference has the right combination of tempo, curation, and people to create a very high signal to noise ratio in the sessions, on the exhibition floor, and especially in casual conversation.

Looking forward

IIeX is one of the only conferences that stirs my optimism in the industry. What makes it provocative and unique is that it gets beyond rhetoric to the real world. The techniques on exhibit are available now and are maturing rapidly. The demos are worth the time spent.

The rest of this year’s conferences will no doubt highlight the change underway in our industry. Talk of disruption will become the obligatory first slide of presentations in which companies who may or may not have new arrows in their quiver aim to convince listeners that they’re blazing new trails. IIeX is the real deal though. It is part-showcase, part-crucible for people trying new things explicitly designed to produce better research in front of an audience that is appreciative and imaginative.

Research is dead. Long live research.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on GreenBook Blog.

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