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The CEO Series: Interview with Andrew Leary of IpsosSMX

Continuing the unofficial series of chatting with industry leaders that are driving transformation in the research industry today we have a discussion with Andrew Leary of IpsosSMX.

Not familiar with IpsosSMX? Here is a little bit from the press release announcing the launch in July:

Ipsos is making a significant commitment to leading online innovation with the launch of their latest research innovation, IpsosSMX, the company’s Social Media eXchange. Incubated from the Ipsos Global Innovation Center, IpsosSMX has established platforms and clients in all major sectors and territories in which Ipsos operates, and has become one of Ipsos’ core offerings.

The creation and development of IpsosSMX shows the company’s commitment to social media innovation moving forward. This combined with Ipsos’ brand and category expertise puts Ipsos in a unique position to curate, engage with and analyze information across the social media landscape with an educated eye on clients’ business needs.

“Communities and social media research continue to be the fastest growing techniques in market research. By complementing our existing research portfolio and global footprint, the social expertise of IpsosSMX will put us in a clear leadership position,” explains Didier Truchot, Co-President and founder of Ipsos. “Ipsos believes that finding new ways to interact and engage with consumers is critical to the evolution of market research, and IpsosSMX is the perfect example of how we intend to do that.”

I became aware of the new offering when they participated as part of the Insight Innovation Challenge during IIeX in Philadelphia in June. Here is their presentation from the conference:



I believe I wasn’t alone in being very pleasantly surprised to see one of the largest MR firms in the world dedicating significant resources to not just developing a new business arm, but actively embracing change and beginning the process of repositioning the company for success in light of a rapidly changing marketplace. It sends a very strong signal to the industry that the shift we’ve been focusing on here at GreenBook is, in fact, a reality and that the long term success of the insights space will have much more to do with engaging with consumers in more holistic ways combined with synthesizing data from multiple sources than the traditional models of research.

After IIeX I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with Andrew Leary and his team to get a peek “under the hood” of the business model and supporting technology of IpsosSMX and I became even more impressed. Andrew was the CEO of Passenger and has been ahead of the curve in building businesses around communities, mobile, and social media. His joining Ipsos to help drive their innovation efforts reinforces how seriously the company is committed to change, and quite frankly it is much needed.

As more and more of my consulting practice (and related businesses) has focused on helping client-side organizations leverage innovative new partners to deliver impact, a common refrain I’ve heard has been the lack of leadership from the “Big Guys” (Nielsen, Kantar, Ipsos, GfK, etc..) on innovation (which is why client orgs are turning to strategy consultants like me to begin with). Perhaps unfairly, there is a mix of a significant expectation for leadership and frustration with what is being seen as a lack thereof that is fueling the growth of many new entrants into the marketplace and a decline is revenue for traditional players. This situation is unfortunate since obviously Ipsos for one has been working on new models, although arguably this hasn’t been communicated well to the market.

In all fairness, transformation is hard, particularly on the supplier side. Changing business models, infrastructure, human capital assets, marketing strategies, etc.. are challenges almost as large as the failure to do anything.   The risk of short term side effects like revenue cannibalization, declining shareholder value, organizational misalignment, quality assurance and myriad other issues make for a difficult balancing act. Ipsos might be a little late out of the gate in communicating their strategy, but now that they are on the track I am confident they can play catch-up.

Andrew and I cover all of these topics and more in the interview. We dive deeper into the offerings of the company, the strategic vision for the future and how that translates to Ipsos as a whole and in general what the future may hold for the marketplace. Although my relationship with him is new, I have thoroughly enjoyed each of our conversations and I hope we have many more. He is one smart guy with a deep well of experience to draw from and a great combination of pragmatism and vision that bodes well for the success of IpsosSMX in the future.

Andrew and I conducted this via Skype, so be prepared for the occasional VoIP  distortion due to my notoriously inferior so-called “broadband” connection.

Here is the interview; I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I did conducting it.


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