Should Researchers Be More Like “Advertising Planners”?
By Edward Appleton
I was impressed – by the mix of content offered, but notably by the quality of thinking and writing. The actual focus of this issue was Branded Entertainment, but no more than about a third of the issue was dedicated to it.
The rest was a mixed bag of highly topical articles, including an excellent piece from J. Walker Smith from The Futures Company on trends for global brands, a great “myth busting” piece on Social Media marketing from Les Binet and Sarah Carter of DDB, and an interesting article on Semiotics from Dr. Kishore Budha of the University of Leeds. There was more.
An exciting mix – and one I think MR can learn from. Here’s my take:
1. Admap describes itself as “Ideas and evidence for marketing people”. The articles I read all had one thing in common: relevance to Marketing Strategy. Research needs to do that too – building on evidence, not just focusing on it, linking to impact.
2. Planners in Advertising Agencies (quite a few of the contributors to this Admap issue are planners) have the task of linking insights to the creative product. Whether or not this particular breed is in good shape, the thought is correct – Research needs to link Insights to “something”. Whether it’s innovation, product design, social media strategy…..tools that are directly linked to sales impact.
Increasingly, insights are going to be so readily available (Google’s very recent foray into MR indicates a real sea-change could be underway) that the focus on tangible value-add needs to increase.
3. Our main publication vehicles and industry bodies need to energize themselves, in my opinion, with perspectives from the “creative fringes” of research: trend forecasting, innovation agencies, design agencies, media planning for example.
Cross-fertilization is invariably a powerful tool. Energy often arises at the intersection of related disciplines.
4. Good writing is a skill that can transform the apparently bland into something more startling. Take the opening paragraph of Molly Flatt’s article (p. 13, Admap Feb. 2012): “If you prefer imparting information to opening a conversation, you must be a monologue-obsessed PR machine”. Her actual topic: Social Media.
Great writing enthuses. How often do we manage that in Research? If we don’t have the skills ourselves – similar to infographics, in my view – we should either train/ practice, or maybe reach out and hire talent. Ms. Flatt is just an example, there are plenty of gifted journalists working freelance.
5. Visual presentation has a large perceptual impact. Admap is pretty cerebral, lots of word-heavy articles – but check out the front cover, and you see that whilst certainly not exceptional in design terms, it’s conceptual. Just one example – http://bit.ly/H5eWpG
Contrast this to the cover of the March 2012 issue of Research Live – we see R.I.P. writ large. Depressing – and not conceptual at all.
6. Thought leaders, academics, business authors from the increasingly merging worlds of psychology, philosophy, economics, trends, semiotics are powerful forces, that have the ability to capture the imagination and attention at the highest level of Business.
Research needs to define itself more broadly, embrace the most exciting thinkers into our fold. We need to infuse our thinking with that of related fields.
Behavioral Economics isn’t the only “hot topic” out there.
Summa summarum: conceptual intelligence, the ability to think laterally, link different aspects together – these are some of the hallmarks of great thinking. Can research offer this? Great planners (in all likelihood working in Communication Agencies in English speaking contexts) would pride themselves on these kind of abilities.
It’s something I think we Researchers could learn from. We don’t all have to work in Advertising, but we should all aspire to great thinking, surely. And if that means balancing the lateral with the literal, then so be it.
Curious, as ever, as to others views.
Originally published on Research & Reflect