Top 10 Takeaways from ARF's Annual Convention

  • by , Featured Contributor, March 25, 2010
I spent several days this week at the Advertising Research Foundation's 56th Annual Convention, Re:think 2010. I'm a big fan of media and marketing industry conferences; I attend a lot of them. I particularly enjoy big-picture sessions, along with the chance to get a pulse on what's happening in the industry, and how different companies, sectors and people see market developments and plan to address them. As conferences go, ARF's this year was a good one, with some really insightful contributions from many of the speakers. Here are my top 10 takeaways from the sessions I attended:

1.    Multicultural Americans have $2.5 trillion in buying power. This from Guy Garcia, author of "The New Mainstream: How the Multicultural Consumer Is Transforming American Business."

2.    Powerful, emerging "creative class." U.S. culture is now being driven by an emerging, 60 million strong, "creative class." This group of folks, according to Garcia, is very creative, externally focused, open, younger and more risk-taking -- and  the majority are multicultural.



3.    Multiculturals driving leading edge of media & entertainment programming. In an interview with Garcia, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes commented that the emerging multicultural and creative classes have long been a critical core of HBO's subscriber base, which has enabled the premium cable network to launch critically acclaimed programming like "The Wire" well before more mainstream audiences were ready for it.

4.    80% of research time and money is wasted. Stan Sthanunathan, Coca-Cola's vice president of marketing strategy & insights, took researchers to task for wasting 80% of their money on backwards-looking, "rearview mirror" projects -- and 80% of their time arguing over data quality and score cards,  rather than looking toward the future and directly supporting the missions of the businesses they should be serving.

5.    Researchers need to provide inspiration and provocation, not insights. Sthanunathan was straightforward about the need for marketing research to transform itself. "We have way too many insights," said Sthanunathan. "Insights are only a means, not the end." Researchers need to focus on delivering ROI for the business, not insights.

6.    Most CEOs are clueless about running customer-centric companies. According to McKinsey's John Forsyth, most CEOs of U.S. companies are clueless about what it takes to run a truly customer-centric business. He tasked researchers to try to take a stronger lead in changing their companies, since they're much better equipped then their bosses to understand what that future holds.

7.    "Tomorrow" is a powerful word. We learned from Dr. Duane Varan of the Disney Media and Advertising Lab that using the word "tomorrow" in on-air program promotions, instead of mentioning a specific day of the week, was much more effective in driving viewership of the spot.

8.    TV advertising significantly undervalued. TRA Global's Bill Harvey and CBS's David Poltrack showed us single-source ad-effectiveness studies that demonstrate that not only is the TV ad industry's focus on "sex/age tonnage" obsolete -- but it significantly undervalues TV and its ability to drive measurable sales and brand lift, by targeting advertisers' heavy swing purchasers instead.

9.    Set-top-box data can transform TV research. Not only did TRA's Harvey demonstrate the new power that set-top-box viewing data can bring to TV advertising, but Google TV showed how the company measures audience drop-offs during the airing of ads on a set-top by set-top basis. Though, ironically, since Google is the world's highest-profile technology company, it didn't seem any more advanced than the "tune-away" research that Kantar Media has been showing us for years.

10.  Simultaneous, multiplatform TV viewing has big future. NBCU's Alan Wurtzel reported dozens of finding from the company's "billion-dollar" Olympics media research project. Among them: 32% of Web and TV viewers used those platforms simultaneously, and represented the heaviest TV viewers of the Olympics.

Of course, this is a small list, and the convention had hundreds of other great takeaways. For readers that also attended, please use the comments section below to give us some of your takeaways -- and/or respond on Twitter @davemorgannyc.
5 comments about "Top 10 Takeaways from ARF's Annual Convention".
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  1. Johanna Skilling from NYU-SCPS, March 25, 2010 at 3:59 p.m.

    Dave, Thanks for sharing some of the insights from the conference! Made me less disappointed about not being able to attend this one in person :)

  2. Joel Rubinson from Rubinson Partners, Inc., March 25, 2010 at 4:20 p.m.

    Here is a link to the video I showed Tuesday morning at the ARF, "Inspiring Better Brands" which is what research transformation is really about

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 25, 2010 at 7:42 p.m.

    Thank you.

  4. Mary Dean, March 25, 2010 at 8:35 p.m.

    Stan Sthanunathan brilliantly points to a major short-falling when he says that, "Insights are only a means, not the end."

    I would add one observation to his:
    Insights are only as good as what you do with them. And, in my opinion, too many creative departments fail to translate wonderful, poignant, high-potential insights into equally compelling messages.

    This is where most great research falls apart -- in the creative department.

  5. Kent Kirschner from MobileBits, April 8, 2010 at 12:04 p.m.

    Dave, I like this one so much that I posted an excerpt and link on our company blog. Hope you don't mind.

    Then I saw your post today, about Mexicaness, I became an even bigger fan. What a wonderful and chaotic moment we're all in!

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