By Ray Poynter
Some locations make conferences better, and Nice (in the south of France, just a few miles from Monaco and Italy) is one such location. The ESOMAR Congress had the advantages of good weather, the friendliness of the people in Nice, great restaurants in the town, a good agenda, a great exhibition, and over 1000 delegates from over 70 countries.
The key takeaway, for me, from ESOMAR Congress was optimism and a lack of angst. This year there was none of the woes and worries that have been common in recent years. There were no widespread wails on the topics of DIY, management consultants, Big Data, lack of relevance, sampling problems, and economic decline.
The main thrust of the papers and presentations was “look at what we can do”:
- Using new stuff to deliver research results – particularly behavioural economics and new qualitative approaches.
- Collaborating in new/better ways, with customers, with other suppliers, and with clients.
- Drawing on new sources of inspiration, in particular the arts.
- Showing how research can deliver actionable results.
One of the key features of Congress was the emphasis placed on new talent, including the expanded role of the students, the young researchers, the talent competition, and the soap box sessions. One of the stand out sessions was a keynote from 14 year old Jordan Casey who is the CEO of two start-ups, in the tech space.
For me the best moments included:
- Didier Truchot, the founder of Ipsos, sharing his thoughts on the future of research, intertwined with the story of how he built Ipsos from a startup to one of the five largest agencies in the world, blending insight, honesty, and humour.
- Christina Nathanson from MasterCard, showing how a variety of research approaches had helped keep their ‘Priceless’ campaign fresh and successful.
- Jon Puleston and Hubertus Hofkirchner using an interactive section to bring predictive markets and the challenges of predicting to life for the audience.
- Annelies Verhaeghe and Natalie Malevsky showing how to make research more inspirational, making it more widely shared in the organisation, and therefore more impactful and useful.
- Vivek Banerji gave a great illustration of how to turn pharma research into insight.
- Coca-Cola’s Vanessa Oshima and Tobias Wacker from BrainJuicer gave perhaps the bravest presentation, showing how they had completely messed up a project in Japan, using Digividuals. The story was unusual in its honesty, but it did have a happy ending as on this occasion the agency were given a second chance, and it went much better the second time.
From a personal point of view, one of the highlights was the launch of our new book “The Handbook of Mobile Market Research”; followed by two sessions of book signing.
Of course, not everything was perfect, there were rumblings about the food (or lack thereof) at the dinner on the Tuesday night, the air conditioning for the AGM seemed to break down, making the attendees emerge looking like they had been in a sauna, and the soap box was perhaps in the wrong place. But when you put on a show as big as Congress, running from Sunday to Wednesday, with that many moving parts, there are going to be some challenges.
Next year ESOMAR Congress is going to be in Dublin. Dublin is a great location for Congress because a) people love going there, and b) it is small enough to create a real buzz (two advantages it shares with Nice). If you have a big story to tell, a project that has delivered value, or a great example of learning from failure, then Dublin will be a great place to tell that story.
Didier Truchot addresses a packed meeting room at ESOMAR Congress