ESOMAR Big Data World - My Observations, My Views

By Preriit Souda

ESOMAR hosted big data conference for the second time, this year in NYC between 27-29th November and was attended by around 100+ delegates from different parts of the world. The conference showcased innovating uses of bigger and newer datasets while some speakers showed innovative ways of how they were transforming the traditional research world. While I cannot talk about every presentation, I have picked out a few highlights; while it may not do justice to all, blame for it should lie totally on the editor who restricted my number of words for this blog; in short, don’t get angry at me if I missed something you liked!!!

The event started with an inspiring talk by Niels Schillewaert where he stressed the need for market researchers to believe in themselves and talked about the need for increasing use of new data sources for a better understanding of consumers. Kyle Findlay from Kantar followed Niels talk by stressing that it was no longer feasible for organizations to dance around the issue of technology adoption as it is core to the facilitation of all modern generation.

Mauricio Moura followed the initial talks with a very impactful presentation showing how big data enabled surveillance system called PEZ was used to monitor in near real-time local environmental factors favourable for the production of aedes mosquitoes (primary transmission vector of zika virus). I have often found that social cause projects challenge us in extraordinary ways but the joys of accomplishing results for greater good are much more satisfying than the pain and Mauricio’s presentation was a perfect example. Maurico’s presentation also had an important take away for practitioners – big data often begins with your own data. Furthermore, Carlos Bort and Carlos Ochoa Gomez from Netquest presented a very nice paper on their approach of overcoming user identification problems in passive online data collection; a must-read paper. Alex Ruiz from Viacom gave a 101 lecture on his experience in using LSTM (long short term neural networks- a type of recurrent neural net) in predicting TV viewership. Jonatan Hedin and Stephen Kirk from Universal Avenue (a B2B commerce platform) talked about their use of machine learning in the identification of relevant leads in B2B space- another insightful paper.

With the rollout of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) lined up in summer of 2018, privacy was another topic of concern. Finn Raben from ESOMAR briefed the delegates on how ESOMAR can help in the process of GDPR implementation while David Almy from Insights Association and guest speaker Jude Olinger talked about their experiences and perspectives on data privacy. Add to this, a team from Bain presented a paper on linking surveys with internal data while maintaining privacy. While the paper was a good workaround for simpler (comparatively) well-curated databases, I hope that in the coming months, several different organizations start developing techniques around data fusion for bigger complex data sources. I feel that all firms based in the EU will have to rethink a lot of data fusion techniques in the new privacy restrictive world that awaits in 2018/19 and ESOMAR’s effort of bringing this conversation to the forefront was a welcome move.

Morning of 29th started with Factworks and Facebook showcasing how local businesses and consumers interact with each other and how local shopping has evolved. Being the blogger, I can shamelessly write that I was also a speaker who spoke about some of the problems faced in analysis of large complex varied social + digital data sources and showed some of the solutions and tactics which helped us solve such problems in a quicker manner. Dmitry Gaiduk from CoolTool stressed the need to automate and pushed for acceptance of new techniques. Like every Thanksgiving lunch has a dessert (or atleast I think so), our dessert came in the form of a presentation from Edward Malthouse and Judy Franks in which they talked about understanding psychographics from TV viewing and using it for analyzing political voting behaviors; another interesting paper to read before you tread back to office in 2018.

While there are a lot of things that insight industry needs to do to catch up in the area of big data and AI (Artificial Intelligence), the commitment of ESOMAR in driving this change is very welcome. I also hope that in future events, organizers will try to include more startups because a lot of interesting mind-boggling innovations are taking place in that space. I also felt that just like at the ESOMAR Congress in September, it will be a nice idea to get young professionals to showcase their ideas and experiments in new data usage. Lastly, based on my experience, I feel that some technical organizations like IEEE, ACM etc can also be invited to such events to present their views on data generation, new technologies and others; which can inspire delegates and open new frontiers for both sides.

And that’s it. I think I have used up lot more ink than I intended to and so will have to stop now. Hasta la vista.

Preriit Souda, Data Science Director, KANTAR Analytics, UK