What You Want and What You Get: The Ask

As we wrote in our last blog introducing this series, we are publishing trends from our research this summer interviewing those who work with and directly buy research. It is an important part of how we, as a consultancy, can better learn about those we value most, you—our clients.

The first of the four areas we will explore is: Your ask of a research partner.


After 32 hours of interviews, we uncovered five trends on this topic:

1. The research you commission across practice areas is still not free from the dreaded data dump.

“The most important challenge is to translate the MR into business insights! Most cannot do this…they can give me a 160 page data deck but cannot put that data into context. They can turn a spreadsheet into a power point, but not data into insights.”
Global Brand Director

You utilize a variety of accepted methodologies and sources in your roles, with one ultimate goal: business-relevant insights.

The take away: Your best research partners have real intake conversations with you, identifying what the research needs to solve for in design and reporting.

2. There is a big difference between a research vendor and a research partner. A partner is not always looking for the sale. They are innovative, not just pitching products. They even (gasp!) do on-site visits because they have skin in the game. Your partners are not order-takers, they are high-functioning strategic thinkers. In short, vendors come and go, partners are irreplaceable.

“I call a vendor with a project; I call a partner with a problem.” –Director of Customer Insights

The take away: Your ideal research company has a deep bench of consultants whose role is thought partner and solution provider—not a salesperson.

3. A clarion call for true innovation. You are asking your research partners to riddle you this: Is this a new level of insight or just a shiny technological magic trick?

“Researchers should have some self-awareness. Are you really the only ones offering something? You may have innovative products, but do you have innovative solutions?
-Manager of Market Research

Your businesses have been in a perpetual state of innovation, pressured by market imperatives. You are holding your research partners to providing innovation that positively impacts what you need for your business.

The take away: Your research partner must talk innovative solutions, not just new products, and be able to articulate the value they actually bring.

4. It may seem like a no-brainer, except you made it clear you aren’t always getting it, and that’s excellence in project management. It’s still shocking to you when the basics are not buttoned up. With all you have to do, the last thing you want on your plate is to micro-manage the outside research team.

“What makes a great project? Consultative experience gives me the ammo I need internally, a partner. But, you’ve got to get the blocking and tackling right. If you can’t, you’re one. I’m not trouble shooting your issues.” –GM of Brand Strategy and Insights

 The take away: Projects must run smoothly for you, to avoid work stress and the creation of distrust in the partner relationship.

5. Lastly, but likely the most powerful, you want great reporting.

“Speak human, in snackable pieces; be a storyteller!” –Brand Manager

You want industry-level not just project-level expertise, coupled with strong analytics that have a reason to be there—because they bring deep thinking and real value.

The take away: A true partner provides reports with clear and concise recommendations you can share out with confidence and without the reworking.

In summary, there’s a gap between the promise and the real, a gap that any smart research partner must close to create that loyalty that makes you say, you are irreplaceable!

Stay tuned for our next blog where we share what you told us about how research is changing. In the meantime, if you can’t wait,  request a copy of the report.

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What We Did This Summer

While we definitely had our share of road trips, BBQ’s and ice cream, we also did some work. Some serious work. We were very focused on a project that was close to our hearts: talking to clients about their experience working with research providers and how it can be better. This research is an important part of how we, as a consultancy, can better learn about those who we value most, our clients. We began this journey with one goal in mind, to learn more about how we can be even better partners to you.

rawpixel-666920-unsplashWe conducted more than 32 hours of in-depth interviews with a range of business professionals who considered the use of research an important part of their work. All were communications research decision makers. Some knew us and had worked with us for years. Some were new clients. Some had yet to work with us, and others didn’t even know exactly who was doing the interview.

We drank a lot of coffee.

So, what did we hear?

This blog will begin a series that shares out findings from our Trends Report (click here to request the full report), focusing on four main themes that emerged:

  1. Your real ask of research partners and what you often get.
  2. How research is changing.
  3. What it looks like in research heaven.
  4. And, the shape of things to come…AKA the future of research.

First, we need to walk through your world, so, let’s begin with a little bit about you.

Your job titles cover a host of functions not on your business cards—and your responsibilities keep growing—making you time-compressed like never before in your careers. You care deeply about your brands, but even the mention of work/life balance is stressing you out.

On average, 30% of your time is devoted to research, with communications research included in that mix. You don’t see research as just another box that needs to be checked. It’s a critical tool that is being utilized by you to pave the way into the future.

Though often not the lion share of your workload, branded communications research is near the top of your list for importance. Why? It’s where the brand connects to the customer—it has to be right! This research is a small part of your world with big consequences.

“I think quality creative is more important now than ever if you want anyone to see it.”
Director of Insights

With research carrying such importance to you and your companies, finding the right partners is crucial. All of you, without exception, preferred to discover new research partners through recommendations from current or former colleagues. You want trusted referrals, word of mouth from a known source is your favorite way to find a research partner. After that, conferences, industry news and internal vendor days help you to meet new companies, but it’s a distant second to getting a reference you trust.

In this time-starved environment, conference attendance is dropping, while webinars and podcasts you can do from your desk are ratcheting up. This lack of time is also driving some of what we will address in the next blog:

What you want from your research partners and the gap, sometimes devastating to your productivity, between that and what you get.

Stay tuned!

Amy Shea is a Brand Experience Director at Ameritest

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Advertising Trends from the 2018 “Millennial Superbowl”

In case you missed, forgot, or haven’t seen MTV since Jersey Shore first aired over 10 years ago (am I aging myself?), the VMAs were August 20th. And while you might be wondering, “What does Jennifer Lopez have to do with anything?” Sadly, not much, because what caught our attention doesn’t have to do with any of the performances, but rather the ads that aired between them.

If you watched the VMAs, it was easy to see who the big spenders were. Taco Bell, Cover Girl, Verizon, and Pepsi, among others, all fought for a chance to appeal to the VMA’s target audience, 12-34 year-olds. Nielsen reported that just over 9.8 million viewers tuned in for the VMAs this year and brands tried to make the most of their time with this group. To prepare for the “Millennial Super Bowl” (as MTV referred to it) brands came out in full swing, trying many things to appeal to viewers. Here are a few advertising trends we noticed throughout the night:

Long-form Advertising
Through the years, we’ve seen more and more brands produce longer content as a way to engage viewers. Long-form advertising can be a highly engaging and powerful tool for brands, and while this isn’t a relatively new idea, it’s great to see brands utilizing this method. During the VMAs, Olay aired a 2-minute musical inspired ad to promote their Daily Facial cloths. Love it or hate it, viewers went to twitter to voice their opinions of it. Time will tell how or if it will impact sales for Olay, but it certainly got people talking which is often considered a win in this day and age.


Targeted Messaging
One of the most prominent trends during the VMAs was highly targeted advertising. Contextually, these ads were different from things you would encounter on other networks and on other nights of the year. Ads tried to be interactive and in the moment. Taco Bell tailored ads to incorporate the night’s big winners and Amazon Alexa allowed viewers to vote during the show simply by saying “Alexa, vote for the VMAs.” The VMAs were comprised of ads and experiences geared toward 12-34 year-olds, and while broad mass market advertising has a time and a place, it definitely wasn’t in attendance at the VMAs.

Messaging wasn’t only for TV that night. Brands prepared content and experiences for viewers that ranged from brand sponsored pre-show livestreams, Twitter campaigns, and full force Snapchat plans of attack. Twitter reported that this year’s VMAs were the most-tweeted non-sports program with 2.2 million people sending 21.4 million tweets in the U.S. alone.

If there’s anything to take away from this year’s VMAs, it’s to develop creative that stays true to your brand, but have fun along the way.

Abby Asani is a Senior Research Analyst at Ameritest and may or may not be a former Jersey Shore Fanatic. 

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Couldn’t Attend the IIeX Conference? We Did. Here’s What You Should Know.

Last month was a busy month of conferences. Our team attended Greenbook’s IIeX (Insights and Innovation Exchange) in Atlanta. The event beat its personal record for attendance with almost 1,200 research representatives filling the halls.

With more than 225 speakers and 150 sessions, four of us weren’t able to dominate the five tracks of learning. But, we did put our love of caffeine and our quant skills to good use so that we could efficiently bring back the learning to our team and our clients who didn’t have the time to dedicate to the actual event.

We started by doing a quick quantitative assessment of the subject matter. We felt there were six themes that dominated: A.I Machine Learning, Behavior Science/Emotion, Case Studies/Sales, etc., Sampling, Agility and Blockchain. While these conversations aren’t wildly new, we felt they were sophisticated. The industry feels like it’s collectively smarter and we have moved from information gathering to application.

Here is the essence of what we heard:

Picture1A.I. & machine learning aren’t just for your smartphone. The conversation has moved from “what is it, and will it make me obsolete” to “here is what my team has done to implement some A.I., what about you?” One of the keynote speakers, Marie Wolfe, from Unilever did a wonderful job making it clear how her insights team has adopted the practice by thinking about it as Augmented Efficiency and found tremendous efficiencies because of it. They have created a platform called Answer Rocket where they can ask questions as if they’re talking to Siri, but specifically about Unilever and their own proprietary research. The platform makes it possible for insights team members to get answers in seconds that used to take days or sometimes even weeks.

Picture1Agile should be your middle name. Insight professionals aren’t ever going to stop being asked to do things fast, fast and faster. Almost every presentation included an element of “how can you stop asking for 100% of what you used to put in your filing cabinet and get the 80% that you actually need in order to immediately act?” The DIY research industry is continuing to evolve and become a more trusted tool when the need for speed is the key need for a team’s research.

Picture1Behavior sciences are becoming more important. When we started adopting Kahneman’s System 1 and System 2 language, we started a really important trend of understanding the difference between what human beings say they do and what they actually do. We also started to understand there are things you just shouldn’t ask someone to tell you, because, well, they actually can’t. This year, many organizations talked about how they have meaningfully changed up their methodology based on a more predictably irrational human being. The ability to get at better insights because of this growing body of knowledge is really piquing.

Picture1Storytellers needed in insights-driven organization. Although not one of the dominant headlines of the event, there was a common thread throughout about the industry’s need for clear, concise, articulate storytellers. The need to move our internal audiences is equally as important at the internal level as it is to move the people who pay for our products. In fact, if we don’t do our jobs first, the second doesn’t ever happen. The consensus is that teams haven’t begun to tap out on developing the skill of turning data into stories.

Picture1Um, who’s taking my survey? Sample providers led many conversations about the need to focus on policing the quality of online sampling. It will be news to many that fraudulent online survey responses are now a HUGE business, bringing in about $7B of revenue. How and why, you ask? How: Bots. Why: Personal income – especially for tech-savvy citizens of lower-income countries. Look for the ESOMAR and sample-driven organizations to begin preparing better and more transparent practices in this area of research.

Picture1They’re heeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrre. Blockchain isn’t just for other people. It’s made its way into the MR industry enough so that there were presenters focused on getting noticed for being early to the game in order to shape the conversation about how we should start to become comfortable with it as a thing. What is it and why should researchers care about it? Rather than try to summarize it, we’re stealing the words from one of the industry’s leaders in blockchain, Nina Nichols who wrote a great piece on the subject in Quirk’s publication last November:
“In the future, for example, marketing researchers could see screeners becoming obsolete. We will no longer have to take a respondent’s word that he or she qualifies for a survey because their blockchain-authenticated data will speak for them. And each time that consumer provides data, that data will be stored on the blockchain, further enriching their profile for research. Think of a respondent who three years ago indicated via a survey that they used a particular brand of insulin. Now imagine being able to rapidly re-target that same person for a follow-up survey without having to re-screen.”

If you would like to peruse the library of presentations, the IIeX team has made them available here: https://iiex-na.insightinnovation.org/page/1302912/past-presentations

Becarren Schultz is Director of Client Development and a caffeine and conference aficionado 

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“Got Milk?” Got Updated

imagesThe California Milk Processor Board recently rolled out a new ad in which three children commiserate about the challenges of adolescence over cold glasses of milk. The spot marks a strategic shift away from the instantly-recognizable and universally lauded “Got Milk?” ads, though the iconic phrase still shows up as the tagline.

A relevant and accessible narrative? Check. Generating meaning and emotion? You bet. Creating a single-minded branding moment? Most definitely. By building a believable and relatable story (what kid doesn’t think their parent’s job is boring?), touching a nostalgic nerve for the simpler problems of middle-school and leveraging the valuable brand asset of “Got Milk?,” the ad hits the trifecta for successful advertising.

Building on the strength of the creative, the ad also subtly shifts the brand’s messaging to adopt a more positive and inclusive tone. The original “Got Milk?” spots were inherently centered on a lack or a fear of missing out. Nobody wanted their answer to the titular question to be “no.” The new campaign instead places the focus on the communal and social elements of the product. It marks a natural, logical step in the overarching brand narrative. Rather than simply inducing people to purchase milk, by means FOMO or other, this ad highlights the comfort of knocking back a cold glass of milk. There is no need to directly answer that classic question anymore. Of course you have milk. Now, let’s talk.

Taylor Smith is a Research Analyst at Ameritest and has been drinking milk since 1993.

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Ameritest Announces Appointment of Abigail Hollister to President

AUntitledmeritest, a global leader in advertising and brand communication research, is delighted to announce that Abigail Hollister has been appointed president.

Abigail is a fourteen-year veteran of Ameritest, consulting with brands to understand and solve their communication challenges. In her role as President, she will lead strategic planning discussions and continue to drive research innovation in the advertising and communications space to fuel powerful brand strategies.

Prior to joining Ameritest, she worked in Client Service at Millward Brown in Naperville, IL and in custom research for Catalina Marketing Research Solutions in Schaumburg, IL.

“Abby brings creative insights and an energetic service perspective to her new leadership role,” says Ameritest Founder, Chuck Young. “With her deep understanding of the intellectual underpinnings of our business, Abby has a clear-eyed vision of how our advertising and brand research consultancy will continue to grow and adapt to the rapidly evolving world of communications and the changing needs of our clients.”

In response to her appointment, Hollister says, “I am very excited to have the opportunity to lead Ameritest into the next chapter of our story. With the tremendous strength of the team I have at my side, we are ready and able to develop the opportunities ahead and continue to build on the great partnerships we are fortunate enough to have with our clients.”

To contact Abigail, please follow the link https://www.linkedin.com/in/abigail-hollister-727b3016/ or Visit ameritest.com for more information

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We Attend So You Don’t Have To: ARF AudienceXScience Conference Recap

This past June the ARF hosted their 13th Audience Measurement Conference, AudienceXScience, where media, research, and advertising professionals gathered to explore the challenges of audience measurement in our ever-evolving media environment. The two days were packed with innovations and conversations around the complexities of measuring the reach and impact of advertising.

Scott McDonald, Ph.D, President & CEO, ARF kicked off the conference with a mix of commendation and tough-love. He actively combatted the misconception that measurement is broken and cautioned against falling into the trap of despair and focusing only on the gaps.  He gave the group marching orders to actively participate in the next two days as optimistic and pragmatic problem solvers. Here are some key themes that emerged as we rolled-up our sleeves and got to work.

TV’s premium content gives advertisers more value, and more ways to make emotional connections with consumers.

Rather than relying on reach to assert its dominance in the media landscape, TV focused on the premium content it provides across a variety of platforms. TV’s storytelling excellence and ability to connect emotionally cannot be matched by non-premium digital video. As a result, the ad views tied to premium content have more value than those supposed “efficient” CPMs available on digital.

What does it mean to advertisers? Given that the strength of content will become a key component in effectively delivering advertising, the impact programming context has on advertising will become a more critical measure in evaluating the most effective advertising platforms.

As research companies work through cross-platform measurement challenges, self-report surveys continue to play a critical role in measuring ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend).

Included in the challenges cross-platform measurement faces is consistency or single currency: research providers have different ways to count views, to de-dupe viewers, and some focus on households rather than views. Self-report surveys emerged as an important component in understanding ROAS, given that they can be designed to provide consistent measures across platforms.

Researchers are sharing information in pursuit of the overarching goal to transparently provide advertisers with accurate information so that they can ultimately improve the impact of their marketing. This transparent cooperation is in stark contrast to the “walled garden” of digital platforms such as Google and Facebook, who measure their own service and as a result have been plagued with validity, fraud, and privacy issues.  

What does it mean to advertisers? Innovative internal cross-platform measures may need to be developed as stop-gap solutions while the industry evolves. As self-report continues to be used in evaluating ROAS, it is critical that researchers are vigilant in their continuing combat against fraud and invalidity.

Research about new and evolving advertising formats and platforms helps advertisers optimize their use.

6 Second Ads appear on TV at approximately the same rate as 60 second ads. While six seconds is enough time to get attention and communicate a brand, it is not long enough to tell a story. As a result, context plays a key role in the impactfulness of short-format spots, as does a recognizable brand presence.

Instagram Stories create more relevant brand connections than posts in the Instagram Feed, giving consumers what they perceive as an insider’s view of the brand. Bookending stories with brand presence, incorporating the brand within the story, and designing the story with communication objectives in mind all contribute to strong performance.

Online Influencers can generate the same level of attention and intensity as TV commercials, albeit on a longer timeframe. Trustworthy, authentic influencers can pass along value to a brand, provided the influencer, content, and platform align with brand strategy.

What does it mean to advertisers? A clear brand communications strategy that can be implemented across touchpoints is critical in effectively leveraging new platforms and formats, as well as legacy platforms.

Eldaa Daily, Research Director

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