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MRS Conference: Research in a Recession

March 24 2009

Not everything at 'Research 2009' was planned and finalised before this rather irritating downturn came along, it seems (see the keynote write-up). The Conference dared to utter the other R word this afternoon, with a look at possible winners and losers.

Examining the lessons learnt during past downturns, Mark Yeomans and Alex Johnston from Jigsaw Research turned to high profile industry professionals to look at how the current recession is likely to impact on our industry.

With regard to who will be the winners and losers, a common opinion among the contributors was that this recession could force more of a divide between the bigger agencies that have the financial muscle to cope, and the smaller agencies that have lower overheads. Many respondents felt that medium sized agencies are likely to be the main casualities this time round (notwithstanding the many medium-sized success stories currently reported by DRNO - three UK examples here, here and here - we could go on...).

Previous slumps accelerated the use of more cost-effective methodologies - most noticeably the use of telephone in preference to face-to-face interviewing. Yeomans and Johnston predict that the same is likely to happen with online methodologies during the current slump, where reduced budgets and the option of using either online research or no research at all is likely to drive choice.

While technology has allowed agencies to be much more efficient, this means there is 'little fat to trim' in relation to the numbers employed in the industry.

All management activity will need to be tightened, but contributors to the findings believe that making redundancies should be the last resort once other measures have been tried. The thinking here was that in a short period of time, staff would be needed again and it was important to keep knowledge and skills in the company, if possible.

Research Room 101 followed these somewhat gloomy predictions with a lighthearted look at some industry pet peeves. Gareth Roberts from Safari Research won the vote to consign 'bad professional respondents' to the Room, while Nick Southgate at Grey and Tracy Hubbard from i to i research lost the chance to bin 'the classic research de-brief' and 'traditional advertising tracking'.

The conference resumes tomorrow at The Park Plaza Hotel, opposite the Houses of Parliament in London.


MRS Conference reviews in full:

TV Scientist Kicks off MRS 'Unconference' - Sir Robert Winston's keynote interview
Lies and Statistics - social research; getting the truth from respondents
Nerd-Free Zone? - in-game advertising; consumer engagement, YouTube vs TV
This page: Research in a Recession - winners, losers and strategies
Glasses Half Full and Half Empty - social scene; threats and opportunities to the profession
Virtual Ethnography - multi-sourced consumer feedback from social media and elsewhere
On Human Behaviour - views from an anthropologist, a zoologist and an economist
MR as Storytelling; and Conference Conclusions - how was it for you?

All articles 2006-21 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas unless otherwise stated.

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