By Katia Pallini
One of the popular formats at conferences are panel discussions; and although their start is always interesting, for some reason I always get lost along the way (you possibly have similar experiences). Keeping the entertainment level high during those discussions is a true challenge.
This is why Best of ESOMAR – Belgium wanted to try out a new format during their event which took place last Thursday December 15. The concept? Well, you could label it ‘the court case for research statements’. The audience was divided into two camps functioning as the lawyers – for each statement, one side had to come up with arguments ‘pro’, while the other side represented the ‘defense’. After both sides presented their arguments, the jury took the floor (in this case represented by three people from the client side, namely Kornel Muller from Unilever, Stan Knoops from IFF and Koen Van Parijs from Esploro), where after the judge (in this case Finn Raben, ESOMAR Director General) summarized the discussion and declared who won the round.
I must admit that, when they first introduced the concept, I secretly regretted being in the room. I joined the session expecting to sit back and relax and listen to a thought-provoking discussion. So at first the thought of playing an active role in a debate scared me off a bit. But let’s zoom in on one of the arguments presented at the event: “Are robots and AI taking over the research industry?”
Ray Poynter recently mentioned in an article that “AI will replace the worst (approximately) 75% of market research”. Linked to that, a study by Oxford University states there is 61% chance that the market research analyst jobs will be taken by robots in the next 20 years. So what were the arguments of our ‘lawyers’ with regards to this statement?
The lawyers supporting the statement reassured that the time where AI plays an important role in our industry is coming, today already the computing power and capabilities of AI are outperforming our wildest dreams and therefore the question is not if but when.
Those countering the statement argued that marketing research will always need a human touch, that the human interpretation is irreplaceable. Some of the arguments put forward were that computers have no emotions and thus will not be able to understand them and that they would fail in bringing depth and creativity to the table.
The latter was countered by the defense lawyers. They argue that researchers are often misled by emotions, so AI will allow to get an objective view on things. The lack of creativity was countered with examples of robots that are creating art work. The ‘pro’ camp also emphasized the fact that the self-learning capabilities will allow robots to grow and developed their skills.
So what was the jury’s verdict? Although they felt both sides presented interesting arguments, they were convinced of the fact that computer and robots will color our industry. I quote: “it’s coming and it will keep on coming, we can’t stop it”. Furthermore, the jury emphasized the fact that the benefit we get from it all will depend on how we take this forward and grasp this change. We do however need to be careful to not jump on the bandwagon just for the sake of automation; we will always need to focus on the objective we are aiming to achieve.
The judge’s wrap-up was clear: automation will come and it will bring the industry both time and cost efficiency. It will be a business opportunity yet will not be as perfect as we might like to think. People will always need to add value to the table.
I think this perfectly wraps up a very relevant and interesting discussion. AI will bring new opportunities to the table, there will be a shift in how we spend our time and it definitely will impact our role as researchers. In my opinion, it will become increasingly important to understand what our strengths and unique points as humans are and to identify gaps where these can make a difference when collaborating with AI. Understanding and adapting our strengths alongside AI’s growing capabilities will bring research to the next level. Our jobs will change, not disappear. Whether it’s in the shape of a physical robot or not, AI will become our partner in crime to define the future of research.
Besides this statement, the next discussions were linked to the statements “will we still measure people’s opinions with the abundance of data in this world” and “will we, researchers, focus more on activating insights than on collecting them in the future”? And with regards to the format, let me say this: although I was a bit scared and hesitant at first, this format beats the panel discussion big time. I hope to enjoy more of these in upcoming conferences.
Katia Pallini is Content Impact Manager at InSites Consulting.
Finally the African Market Research community found its place on the busy agenda of conferences being organised all over the world!
16 and 17 February 2007 are the dates when the African Market Research Association (AMRA) will be officially launched at the AFRICA Forum 2017 to be held in Johannesburg (South Africa).
This first Africa Forum is organized by AMRA and event partners AMISE in Morocco, MSRA in Kenya, NiMRA in Nigeria, SAMRA in Southern Africa, and ESOMAR World Research: it will set the African Agenda for market research (including social research and opinion polling).
It will be a moment of celebration! The programme which has been developed by a group of experts representing the event partners will demonstrate excellence and inspiration throughout the two days of activities.
Four undeniable reasons for joining the Africa Forum
- Be part of History: the Africa Forum will mark the official launch of the African Market Research Association (AMRA). Being there will be of significant importance for marking this historical moment!
- Shape the Future: the launch of AMRA means that you can help shape the agenda for the African Market Research community: a key resource for the industry in Africa and for those who look at Africa as the place to grow their business. The Africa Forum will be the catalyst for the future of the Market Research industry in the continent!
- Build your Africa Network: research agencies, clients, advertisers, service companies coming from across Africa and the world will be there and will be eager to network, make new contacts, meet colleagues and share experiences – This is indeed a unique opportunity to have the very best of the Market Research industry representing the African continent all in one place. How can you resist the temptation of being there!
- Share and Learn: …and finally…the Africa Forum programme will ignite sharing of innovations and contribute to the body of knowledge in Africa.
To celebrate the journey ahead, an impressive line-up of African and international speakers awaits delegates at this once-in-a-lifetime two-day event
Opening speaker Berenike Ullmann is Vice-President, Consumer and Market Knowledge, for Procter and Gamble IMEA (India, Middle East and Africa). She is a champion of consumers and expert in research and African life. She has spent more than 30 years doing consumer understanding work in China, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe. Berenike will be sharing her thoughts about the transformation of consumers and markets and hence of research needs, using examples from Africa, China, the Philippines and other emerging markets, for inspiration.
Swaady Martin is the founder and CEO of the SWAADY GROUP, a woman-owned social enterprise; transforming African agricultural commodities locally to contribute to the reversal of the African commodity trap. The group’s pioneer brands, YSWARA and AKRAFO, are perceived amongst Africa’s leading luxury and premium brands and are present at recognised luxury retailers in 15 countries in Africa, USA, Europe, Middle-East and Asia. Swaady has received recognition and numerous distinctions and awards from big names such as Forbes, Oprah Winfrey and Aljazeera. She is also the author/creator of the “Luxe Ubuntu” concept, an inclusive luxury business model providing economic value and meaningful income to all the members of the supply chain, who participate in the production of luxury products.
Storytelling is one of the most important techniques for presenting research, and storytelling is a strong African tradition that cuts across African cultures, and Africa should be leading the way globally, when it comes to storytelling. Gcina Mhlophe has been writing and performing on stage and screen for over 20 years. She is South Africa’s favourite storyteller, and maintains that storytelling is the information technology of yesteryear. “For as long as there have been people in the world, there have been stories – long before all the great respectable sciences were known to us”. Gcina feels that the well-known traditional tales of Africa have worldwide appeal, as they recur in different versions in many other parts of the world. Gcina’s writings have been translated into German, French, Italian, Swahili and Japanese. She has received awards from BBC Africa, the Edinburgh Festival, Sony, London Open University and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, amongst others.
More than 30 carefully selected presentations will cover topics such as
- African client perspectives
- Digital research
- Technology and research in Africa
- Neuro marketing research
- The future of the insights function
- Research and corporate decision making
- Professional standards
- Opinion polling in Africa
- Socio-economic classification systems
- The challenge of sampling and weighted data in Africa
- Motivating research participation
- The marketing of market research
- Young Africans and the future of Africa
- Intercultural consumer understanding
- Using social networks for research
ESOMAR is proud to be an AFRICA Forum 2017 partner. We look forward to supporting AMRA and ensuring that the Africa Forum will become an established appointment in the calendar of market research professionals in Africa and beyond.
This is your chance to be part of history: visit www.africanmra.org for programme details and to book – space is limited!