Detail from Tim Macer's ASC 2010 presentation
While detractors have been denouncing PowerPoint as a vehicle for presenting research results for several years now, MR seems to be as wedded to it now as at any time in the past. It’s a topic Tim Macer, MD of meaning ltd explored at the ASC conference in London “Putting the Pizzazz into Research: renewing the rules of engagement“, in the event’s closing talk “It doesn’t have to be PowerPoint”. In the presentation, Tim observed that PowerPoint is a provided as a client deliverable on 54% of research projects, and examined some of the problems that critics have identified in the use of PowerPoint. He then offered six “antidotes to PowerPoint.
Tim introduced these by explaining: “These are my subjective pick of software products I have seen over the past year where I’ve seen providers offering something that is useful and different in this area. ” Tim’s presentation was given with the aid of one of the featured tools – Prezi – a new and quite ground-breaking presentation tool.
Technology was an aspect of this week’s Insight Show that the exhibition’s promoters were majoring on, yet on the ground the number of technology providers exhibiting at the show was thinner than ever – I found just 13. Who was there? End-to end mixed mode providers were represented by Askia, Confirmit, Merlinco, Nebu and Snap, plus online specialists Itracks and the newcomers on the block, ebox software. The niche providers were represented by E-Tabs (a niche maker in their own right for report automation), Centurion and Cint, for panel management, Intellex Dynamic Reporting for interactive analyis, OnePoint for mobile data collection, Think Eyetracking, for, well, eye tracking, Visions Live, a new qualitative research platform, plus, rather strangely, a presence from Panasonic, featuring their Toughbooks as a rugged CAPI device.
Part of the reason for the shift of the Insight Show from the back end of the year to the middle (last year’s show was barely seven months ago, in November), was to merge four of Centuar’s marketing-related shows together under one roof, where they were colour coded and branded as MarketingWeekLive! Insight was in the orange corner. But lo and behold! Over in the blue corner, was SPSS, a big fish in the diminutive Data Marketing Show. They weren’t the only MR-relevant supplier to show up in the other quadrants – there were some research and fieldwork firms that had taken up positions elsewhere too. To the visitor, it was a bit of a muddle.
The Insight Show does have the feel of being on the wane since its heyday, if you listen to the crowd. But then I hear exhibitors moan each year that traffic is very slow, and most time is spent standing around in an excruciatingly expensive way: but identifying its heyday is elusive and illusory. This year, it seems day one was busier than the day two, when I was there. Yet I can remember being told there wasn’t a busy day at all in past years. Still, the day I was there seemed to be the one when competing sales teams converged on the orange carpet between their stands to chat about who was up to what and complain about the heat.
I had assumed much of the reason for the merged format was because the Insight Show (which used to be big and standalone) was in danger of disappearing altogether, and alongside the other shows, it would find itself in the naughty corner. Not so. The Insight show was only second in size to the big and bold In-Store show. If the Point-of-Sale people can’t put on a good show, what hope is there for us research boffins? But it did make me wonder how many people, out shopping for illuminated fascias and storefront signage might find some online focus groups coming in handy, or those looking for a decent panel provider being wowed by the ‘innovative trolley and basket systems’ on display next door.
Apart from the exhibitors, what was hot in the Orange corner? 2009 seems to be the year of online qual. Not only does Visions Live have a very interesting new multilingual realtime and asynchronous (or bulletin board) product which has come out of New Zealand, and already has a significant footprint in Asia Pacific, but then the other newcomers, ebox, seem to have put as much effort into developing qual tools as they have the quant online data collection. It’s all very Research 2.0, although Itracks, who were also there, would make the point that they’ve been doing online qual from the time when people were still discovering their @ signs. And today I’ve just been given a private preview of yet another virtual qualie tool (a very nice one in the making too) that locates the group experience in a virtual worlds paradigm.
Beyond that, software providers are talking seriously about automation – as they have for a long time – but they were also showing me things that were starting to make sense in simplifying tasks and saving time. Centurion have a new web-based interface out for their panel and sampling platform, called Marsc.net, which looked very nice – and they have built in lots of heuristic models for drawing samples for trackers. Intellex Dynamic Reporting had a number of smart new reporting goodies on display to make life easier, and can now go straight out to PowerPoint for report automation. The bright people at Nebu, on the other hand, have simplified the panel set-up process so that someone using their panel solution, could create and start populating a new online panel or custom community in just an hour or so – or as long as it takes to create the branding and imagery, in fact – their ‘panel in a box’.
But as I left, I was wondering if someone in Centuar had misheard what I certainly heard last year, that ‘the show would make more sense as a biennial event’ and optimistically decided to make it a biannual event. Hardly more than six months later was really too soon for this event, and the show definitely suffered as a result from the visitor’s point of view.