Feature

Opinion: Perspective - Cranmer and market research will be potentmix

Some things just make sense. Like Mark Cranmer and WPP. The deal is not yet done, but it's one of those signings that just feels right.

WPP leads the pack in terms of market research and Cranmer leads the pack in terms of media business nous. Bringing the two together would be a powerful combination.

Sir Martin Sorrell's market research kingdom, spanning Millward Brown, BMRB, Research International and many others, is impressive. It accounts for an estimated 20 per cent of WPP's business, a share Sorrell is said to want to double.

And that ambition seems attainable. There's a recognition among client companies that more and more of the global economy is being driven by intangible things such as brands. Market research has the ability to explain some of this growth.

In addition, more than ever, marketers and their bosses are insecure about the effectiveness of their communications. Everyone knows the ways of talking to consumers are changing, but nobody is quite sure what they are changing to.

Market research has a crucial role to play in addressing that insecurity by identifying which are the effective new media channels.

Cranmer, meanwhile, can guide the market researchers through this evolving media landscape. The combination of media and market research is a potent one. If clients want to investigate emerging media channels, media-savvy market researchers can hold their hands through the process.

The likes of Cranmer can also help to shunt market research into the real world of communications; plugging the theoretical into actual delivery.

Cranmer wouldn't be the first example of the coming together of these two fields, but he's still one of the first. Brian Jacobs, for example, joined Millward Brown two years ago, having run Universal McCann, and the customer data company Dunnhumby announced last week that it was creating the new role of UK media director. And, in a parallel move, Accenture hired the former Initiative chief Jeffrey Merrihue - who was instrumental in the consultancy's acquisition of Media Audits at the end of last year.

Nevertheless, the trend of media faces moving into market research is unlikely to snowball. Media agency life differs wildly from that in a research environment; the two cultures appeal to different personalities.

While life in a media agency moves at an exciting, frantic pace, defined by an almost constant succession of highly pressured pitches, life in market research is more considered and, well, quiet.

Just don't tell Cranmer.

One of the emerging communications channels that the market researchers are no doubt getting to grips with is the extended commercial. OK, so they're not new: Fiat's "handbuilt by robots" from Collett Dickenson Pearce ran in 1979 and was three minutes long. But they do seem to be appearing with increasing frequency, as Mark Roalfe points out in Private View on page 34. The Honda/Wieden & Kennedy team is one of the prominent users, but Sony and Fallon also teamed up for the two-and-a-half minute "balls" at the end of last year.

There's good reason behind these mini-epics, something of which the market researchers will no doubt have numeric evidence, and that is that they cut through the clutter. Their length, combined with creative excellence, enables them to engage emotionally with viewers and their entertainment value is known to stop personal video recorder users in their fast-forwarding tracks. Honda "cog" was probably the best example of this: the creative treatment meant it was worth watching again and again.

There's a huge commitment to the TV medium from any client that agrees to air a minute-plus commercial, and it's not just financial. It's a very public sign of conviction in the power of TV advertising as well as belief in the product advertised.

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