Editor’s Note: The 2015 ESOMAR Annual Congress begins this Sunday, September 27th in Dublin, Ireland. JD Deitch, (twitter:@JDDeitch) frequent contributor to GreenBook and COO of Ask Your Target Market sets up the event with this article and will be providing daily updates.
By JD Deitch
The Annual ESOMAR Congress is always an event to look forward to on the conference circuit. The event is well-attended, content and networking are of high quality, and the locations are always terrific. Here’s what I’m looking forward to at the 2015 installment.
1: The Networking
ESOMAR brings together a broad swath of the industry in terms of size and geographic reach. Big research suppliers—global by nature and naturally well represented in Europe (which is what the E in ESOMAR stands for)—are always there in force. While it’s not “the” event to see clients, big clients are always represented. This year’s attendees list includes recognizable CPG, beverage, media, and fashion brands, among others from all over the globe. Finally, while it can sometimes be a budgetary stretch, many medium-sized companies (clients and suppliers) come as well.
What this means is that the opportunity for expanding one’s horizons is greater than many other conferences. Personally, I have found ESOMAR to be a great conferences for serendipitous connections.
2: The Exhibition Floor
I love to stroll through the exhibition floor at a Conference as it says a lot about the firmographics of the event. It also helps me stay up-to-date on what my suppliers and competitors are doing. By virtue of its broad reach, the ESOMAR Congress delivers on this front as well with a great global mix of big and not-so-big providers. I find it particularly interesting to talk to the smaller companies who are spending a meaningful part of their marketing budget for a dedicated 3 square meters of space. There’s a reason they’re there, and it’s interesting to hear their stories.
3: Good Content
ESOMAR’s content is always a broad and balanced mix. Specialists beware: this isn’t the show to go to if you are trying to get real lay of the land of what’s new in the industry. IIEX holds that distinction for me. Nor is it the place to go for a more detailed look at methodology, as ARF and CASRO do this better. But there is something of interest for everyone, which is a credit to the organizers especially. This year’s event blends both new and traditional approaches from methodology to application.
Here are some sessions that look promising to me:
Sunday (Workshop day)
- Survey Design for Mobile Devices (3pm) – presented for free by SSI. This is a must for anyone who writes surveys or designs survey research who has been living in isolation for the past two years or otherwise has ignored the bell that’s tolling for long, punishing, non-smartphone friendly questionnaires. SSI doesn’t have any particular insight into this topic that distinguishes it from other panel and research companies. They do, however, have motive. Regardless of their interest, the hands-on opportunity to get free advice from a smart researcher (Pete Cape) is worth it.
Monday (Day 1)
- The Chance of a Lifetime (2:40pm Room 1) – presented by Namita Mediratta from Unilever UK’s market intelligence group. A client side researcher puts her career on the line with one piece of research? I hope the presentation is as good as its abstract. If it is, then this is a must for all research suppliers. You can’t possibly hope to deliver anything meaningful without empathizing with what your client is really going through.
- Reliability and Predictive Validity in Consumer Neuroscience (3:50pm Room 1) – presented by Michael Smith from Nielsen’s Consumer Neuro group. Neuroscience is one of the most fascinating new branches of marketing science out there. Its detractors, however, point out that typical sample sizes raise issues of generalizability, reproducibility, and explanatory power. This is the first work I’ve seen that addresses these issues head-on. If Michael has, as his abstract states, found that neuro results are reliable and predictive, then it would be a huge affirmation of this technique.
- Leveraging Passively Monitored Communities for Ongoing Insight (4:10pm Room 2) – presented by Chad Maxwell and Dave Choate from Starcom Mediavest. I like the look of this for two reasons. First, it’s great to see an advertising agency take on research as they’re going to be laser-focused on results without the fluff. Second, they’re blending data sources (survey and social), which I believe is going to define the industry in years to come.
Tuesday (Day 2)
- Wow, You Do Research WHERE? (10am Room 1) – a panel moderated by Jon Puleston from Lightspeed GMI. I’ll confess that I’m jealous of Jon’s spot on this panel. Anyone who tends to focus on the highly-developed world should attend this just on general principle. I’ve had the opportunity to work in both big and small markets and it has made me indisputably better as a researcher and a business partner. The origins of the participants on the panel should make this a can’t-miss conversation.
- Hooked on Shopping (11:45am Room 1) – presented by AOL UK, USA, and Canada. The folks at AOL observe that people are, in effect, constantly shopping. Their work aims to uncover these motivations from which advertisers can develop creative and editorial content. It doesn’t sound terribly new, but I am curious about the underlying motivations, and the list of presenters suggests a multinational focus. But there’s a time conflict with the presentation below.
- You Call it a Snack? (11:55am Room 2) – presented by Brett Ao, Labbrand, a candidate for Young Researcher of the Year. A European entrant in the Chinese food market tries to understand the country’s rich diversity while maintaining brand authenticity? This sounds like a “boil the ocean” type of project, but I suspect it’s on the Young Researcher of the Year shortlist because Brett has been able to find clarity for the client. There’s a time conflict here with the AOL shopping session above though. Right now I’m leaning toward Brett’s session.
- Brand Tracking Revelations (2pm) – roundtable moderated by Infotools. If there is one body of work that is in desperate need of overhaul, it’s brand tracking studies. The traditional industry is hopelessly stuck in a vicious circle of economic self-interest that prevents meaningful change short of disaster. I’m really hopeful this is a provocative discussion and not warmed-up platitudes about disruption and change.
- Insight to Action: Using Survey Data to Target Customers and Increase ROI Through Digital Media (5:05pm) – presented by TNS. TNS has gotten a lot of mileage out of the Jan Hofmeyr’s Conversion Model, but here they claim to have connected it to actual programmatic marketing operations. In case anyone has any doubt, this is what it means for research to create real value: it needs to be tied to execution. Firms competing for advertising business that can’t do this don’t have a chance.
4: Catching Up with Former Colleagues & Friends
I genuinely like the research industry and the people who work in it, and there is no better time to reconnect with colleagues and friends than the nightly cocktail hours and festivities. After a long day of presentations and meetings, it’s really pleasant to catch up with people you haven’t seen in a while, trade stories, and just relax. We’re a group that knows how to have a good time and is honest enough to admit it, though I think it’s fair to say we’re all glad these shows don’t last more than a few days.
Long may ESOMAR reign for its selection of great destinations! The Congress always ends up on my short list for this alone. This is not an airport-hotel-in-a-nondescript-city show. Dublin adds its name to the list of fantastic ESOMAR destinations—Berlin, Istanbul, and Nice, the previous three—that any traveler would be happy to visit.
Resist the urge to go the cliché tourist route. The Guinness and Jameson’s factory tours are nice, but not where you should spend your limited time. Give Temple Bar, Dublin’s version of Bourbon Street, the swerve as well.
It’s a twenty minute walk to Trinity College and the eastern end of a huge concentration of great restaurants and pubs, Dublin Castle, its glorious cathedrals, and St Stephens Green. Dublin has a great food scene. As you might expect, you’ll be able to find top-notch Irish cooking, traditional and modern dishes, at all price points. If you’re seeking something more cosmopolitan, there are sushi bars, wine bars, a very good Mexican restaurant, and dozens of others. I typically triangulate through TripAdvisor. Email or tweet me if you’re looking for ideas or a companion!
Stay tuned to the GreenBook blog for daily updates. See you there!