Three Key Debates From ESOMAR’s UK Meet-up

By Jack Miles

A Brit and an Irishman representing a Dutch organisation introduced the ESOMAR UK event that consisted of two Belgians and a Greek with backgrounds in law, marketing and aeronautical engineering.

Q: Why is this relevant about an evening that was focussed on technology and research?

A: Because the diversity in the room is reflective of the diverse role technology has in research. Let me explain…..

The Goal Posts in the Game of Research Are Moving

Times are changing. What was once said with a word is now said with a picture. What we once had 8 months for, we now have 8 weeks for. Technology is one of the biggest drivers of these changes. This means that the tools we have always relied on simply can’t always meet the demands of the shifting goal posts. That means we need to look at what is changing these goalposts as a solution to the changes thrown at us – often, in this instance, technology.

An Old Game With Many New Players: Technology Has Many Sources

As the background of our speakers suggested, research technology is not driven by researchers. IT, neuroscience and engineering can enable insight focussed technologies. This doesn’t mean that every research agency needs hordes of these people in their team. However, it does mean that as an industry we need to open our eyes as to what more progressive industries can offer.

Many Players = Many Benefits: Each Technology Provides Unique Value

Automation enables questions to be asked fast.

Virtual reality adds context slowly.

Image analytics doesn’t ask questions at all.

Technology doesn’t have a sole function in the world of research. It can add to the value chain in numerous ways. The skill for the modern day researcher is to use the relevant technology to gain the relevant value needed in a given situation.


….to paraphrase P&G’s CMO Marc Pritchard, we must not become obsessed with ‘shiny, new objects’ when it comes to technology. Technology has many purposes, but let’s not try and retrofit it for something it cannot do.

New Benefits Results in New Benchmarks: Technology is Raising Expectations

The benefits afforded to our industry by technology, now means more is expected of all of us. Automated and AI offerings are raising expectations around speed. Image processing and neuroscience approaches are increasing the level of context clients demand. Not to mention the expectations around speed, news and storytelling Facebook, Google et al are generating. This effects how we all operate. Even if ‘technology isn’t your thing’ you’re being measured against it. The solution? Make ‘technology your thing’.

Diversify or Be Doomed: Research Must Embrace Technology Faster

Although not discussed explicitly, subtle messages suggest research needs to invest more time in technology to align with the curve. A need for speed, falling budgets, increasing mobile dependency, more diverse methods of communication and dare I say it – a simply more difficult consumer world to understand – are serious challenges for researchers.

A better relationship with technology can help overcome these challenges. But what is ‘better?’

  • Better is looking outside of our field for answers
  • Better is taking risks with technology
  • Better is banning the use of phrases like ‘that’s just how we do it’
  • Better is daring to diversify how we do things

By Jack Miles