Over the last few years, as a Mediatel Newsline columnist I have contributed to an annual year end article making predictions for the coming year. This year they changed the format slightly, presumably as with Brexit and many other uncertainties around, making predictions is a mugs game. Instead I was asked what the strategic priorities for 2019 should be, specifically for the media research industry. You can read the whole article, spread in two parts here and here. There are some great contributors, but just so you don’t miss them, here are my thoughts:
Richard Marks, MD, Research the Media
The world’s two leading media-focused research agencies are ‘in play’. Like Brexit, this uncertainty will persist well into 2019. Even when ownership is resolved, corporate restructuring will inevitably occur. Through this period of research industry uncertainty and choppy economic seas it will be vital for all research agencies, in play or not, to keep their strategic focus on clients, developing new products and retaining staff.
The large agencies should remember that clients are nowhere near as interested in your corporate structures as you are. The danger is that agencies emerge from months of inward-focused corporate politics with shiny new client-focused structures, only to find that whilst they were distracted clients have buggered off somewhere else in the meantime.
Developing exciting new research and data products is certainly vital but, even in this new world of big data and algorithms, I would strongly argue that media research remains essentially a people- and relationships-based industry. Clients will go with the experts they trust, that they can look in the eye and know will deliver. Talent retention and continuity are key. The agencies that will best weather the storm will be those that promote and retain the best talent, not those with the shiniest logos and most dotted lines on their organisation charts.
Meanwhile, early 2019 may see either a General Election or Referendum in the UK and consequently further humiliation for the pollsters. It will be important for media researchers to understand, articulate and have strategies to differentiate the challenges that political polling faces. The new fault lines in politics cut across party lines and shred conventional polling approaches. Those challenges unique to polling need to be clearly ring-fenced, less they undermine faith in media research and the industry currencies. They face equally challenging, but very different issues.