Highlights from the 2015 ESOMAR Congress Day 1

Day 1 of the ESOMAR Congress is in the books. The conference is off to a great start. Here are my highlights from the past twenty-four hours.


Survey Design for Mobile Devices: SSI’s Pete Cape and Jackie Lorch covered this important topic well, although it was poorly attended (only about 30 people). The added benefit was Pete’s thorough review on how to think about scale questions.

Initial networking and cocktail hour: The cocktail hour is the unofficial conference kickoff. It was great to socialize and catch up with colleagues and friends on the exhibition floor.


Magician Andy James

Magician Andy James, Ireland’s Entertainer of the Year in 2015, levitates a table!

Warm-up act! Magician Andy James, Irish entertainer of the year, set money on fire and levitated a table. What a great way to warm up an audience!

Welcome to Ireland: Ireland put its best foot forward. Finn Raben, ESOMAR’s Director General, and Richard Colwell, ESOMAR’s representative for Ireland, showed videos about their country’s proud history. Anyone who has ever visited Ireland can speak to the warmth of the Irish people and the beauty of the land. All conference planners should take a leaf out of ESOMAR’s book and spend time introducing us to the places where we’ll be spending the next 2-3 days.

Two great keynotes, two strong women: Kudos to the Committee for selecting not one but two accomplished women as our lead speakers. Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister (Tánaiste), Joan Barton, spoke about the importance of our industry influencing the political and social landscape. This was a wonderful and impassioned speech that evoked the need for ethical research and referenced Europe’s current migration crisis. The second was Susan HayesCulleton, the Positive Economist, who talked about the micro and macroeconomic impact of market research and showed how unequivocally powerful our industry is.

Fireside Chat with Unilever: Stan Sthanunathan, Unilever’s head of Consumer and Market Insights and his colleague BV Pradeep spoke about Unilever’s changing approach to insights. He believes it’s possible to do things better, faster, and cheaper. I agree.

Business impact / stories from the front lines: These were great presentations about insights being used in the real world where emotion was an equal partner of reason. The presentation I had circled before the conference about a research team’s decision to go “all in” devoting their marketing budget and putting their careers on the line using a single piece of research was good. Namita Mediratta from Unilever spoke of their work to change perceptions of an ice cream brand. They were indeed success and turned the brand around using an appeal that was based on evolving cultural norms in different countries.

The best of this bunch, though, was from beverage brand giant Diageo. They believe that consumers don’t relate to brands. Rather what’s really important is for brands to be authentic champions of things consumers actually care about. Using cultural insights and semiotics they gave numerous examples of how they have evolved across their portfolio. Most impressive was their discussion about the Snapp brand, an alcoholic apple-flavored drink targeted to women in Africa, which was the most successful launch in Diageo’s history. Their creative was really excellent.

Reliabilty and Predictive Validity in Neuroscience: Neuro is one of the most fascinating areas in insights today. From eye tracking to galvanic skin response to brainwaves, researchers are studying people’s biological response to advertising. Michael Smith from Nielsen’s presentation went right to the point: the science works. Tests show highly reproducible results and are stable even with small sample sizes. Best of all, he showed conclusively that ads that engage the brain are correlated with increased sales. The cherry on top was the finding that segments of television that are neurologically powerful are more highly shared on social media.

Stay tuned for day 2!

Dublin's Samuel Beckett Bridge

Dublin’s Samuel Beckett Bridge