Innovative Research for Advertising

As ad agencies continue to go through a massive transformation to digital, mobile, and social platforms, timelines have been collapsed, while the speed of research and analysis has remained the same. As an insight and innovation agency that often partners with our friends in advertising and marketing communications, we at antedote recently realized that the role of qualitative research within creative and content development has some room for innovation. To better understand what our field needs to do to help inspire great insights for advertising in the 21st century. We started by asking the folks who would know — creative directors, account planners, CSOs, CEOs, and VPs of marketing both on the agency and client side — to understand how we could be serving them better. Through these interviews, we’ve uncovered four tips to help researchers make the sort of impact that advertising agencies need.

Be as innovative as your clients

It’s tough to be inspired when you’re getting the same research insights you had access to years ago. To thrive going forward, data-gathering and analysis need to become as experimental and forward-thinking as the questions agencies are asking to solve. Leveraging cutting edge technology, like mobile ethnography tools, wearables, and social network analysis, can help pave the path to the fresh and new, as can continually infusing qual with thinking from new disciplines and fields. This pursuit of research that is multi-method and powered by tech can make it possible to get to deeper learnings that will empower ad agencies to be at their most creative, instead of looking for a new spin on an old idea.

Get to insights with speed

Insights are great and invaluable to planners and creatives — provided they get discovered fast enough to make a difference to the process. Good qualitative research often takes too long to support the need of agencies generating and adapting new work on an hourly basis. What’s needed are approaches that get to key learnings faster. This can mean conducting multi-market research in parallel, performing in-the-moment analysis, and using tech for analysis as well as input. Until researchers learn how to turn around some of their projects in a single day, they will become increasingly behind the pace agencies need them to hit.

Focus on inspiration for storytelling

The heart of every story in an insight based on a human truth tied to a broader cultural narrative. But too many insights generated by researchers come up short in suggesting the types of stories that agencies could tell to tap into these insights. This means we need to go further, offering not just insights, but story platforms that connect what we’ve learned to what to do about it. The goal of research for advertising isn’t to illuminate unknown human truths — it’s to do it in away that inspires new and resonant stories. It’s time we paid laser-like attention to that.

Practice deeper collaboration

Without deep involvement from planners, account leads, and creative, it can be difficult to ensure outputs are delivered in a way that meshes well with existing strategy and campaign needs

This could be easy, if all of us worked down the hall from one another. But, of course, we’re in an era of globally distributed teams, simultaneously local and global campaigns, and the need to constantly generate new content and show results across a wide variety of platforms. Meeting this challenge requires using methods, techniques, and technologies to create a virtual campaign room, allowing everyone involved to contribute ideas and expertise throughout the entire insight creation process.

Looking forward

It’s an inflection point for qualitative research in advertising as qualitative exploration meets big data and quantitative. But with change usually comes opportunity, and the time is ripe to reinvent research for advertising to build new methods that are both timely and relevant.

This is just the beginning of a much bigger conversation that needs to be had, and we are curious to hear more from advertising thought leaders to those on the frontlines who have to apply the learnings, and finding the points of tension that help to guide us forward. We look forward to a revolution in research over the next five years that is as profound as the ad industry has gone through in the previous five.

We don’t have all the answers yet, but we might be starting to understand the questions we as researchers need to be asking.

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