Jo Bowman

We talk to the CEOs of the global Big Four

GfK CEO Matthias Hartmann
Matthias Hartmann says the “waterfall of data” hitting businesses is just the beginning of the new information age, as the internet of things adds to the weight of passive consumer data already being generated. “It’s said that by 2020 there’ll be a trillion gigabytes … but big data alone is not delivering any answers. I think the winners will be those who are able to convert and combine those data streams into real insight. So it’s not about big; it’s about smart.”

Ipsos CEO Didier Truchot
Didier Truchot says the proliferation of information could be a blessing or a curse for businesses. Market researchers, he notes, are well placed to help clients navigate the increasingly complex route to market insight. “What’s really important for our clients is not only to have more information but, more importantly, not to be confused by this information. Profusion may lead to confusion. The challenge is to use the all the sets of information as substitute or complement to the existing sources … and, at the end of the day, deliver to our clients a better understanding about not only what is going on but also where they should go.”

Kantar CEO Eric Salama
Eric Salama says a shift towards analysis – rather than data collection – is already happening in the research industry. “There are a large number of projects that we carry out for clients at the moment which are exactly that. It’s not some kind of future, Star Trek-type scene in the future; that’s happening now,” he says.

The proportion of work that involves analysis but no new fieldwork is still small, but client demand for it, along with demand for mobile techniques and other new approaches, is exploding, Salama says, pushing down the proportion of total earnings generated from more traditional research.

Nielsen CEO Mitch Barns
Mitch Barns says the future lies in combining the best of traditional research with new data and new approaches to generating and applying insight. “There has never been a better time to do what we do,” he says. “The world is seeing accelerating growth in the amount and variety of useful information, thanks in large part to growth in digital, increasing mobile device penetration, hyper-connectivity and related trends. When we combine these new data sources with information from our high-quality panels and methods, we get the best of both worlds – high-quality, highly granular, highly descriptive information that, when used well, creates big new opportunities to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our clients’ marketing, sales and innovation activities.”

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