Category: Research

The use and abuse of research: Some principles to create by

SalmonVsLampposts

As a former researcher turned agency planner I’ve worked both in research and with it. So as a gamekeeper turned poacher, I’ve always held rather strong views on research. I got a chance to air some of those this week, having been invited by Ipsos ASI to their seminar ‘Research as fertiliser, not weed killer’ in London this week.

It’s fair to say that what this presentation does not cover far exceeds what it does cover. The subject of research and effective creativity after all is vast.  So working on the basis that the essence of strategy is sacrifice, it felt helpful to restate some simple principles to work by. More specifically to share Wieden+Kennedy‘s beliefs about the best use of research.

Of course for some these will seem breathtakingly obvious. After all, the likes of Stephen King, Stanley Pollitt, and Alan Hedges were saying the same things forty years ago. The necessity of restating them might justifiably depress us, but perhaps it should not mystify us entirely. For as Voltaire once had cause to lament, “the trouble with common sense is that it is not very common.”

Good research can and does happen. And it can and does contribute to the development of great, effective ideas. In both the APG Awards and the IPA Effectiveness Awards we have plenty of evidence for that.

But too much research is still done for the wrong reasons, in the wrong way, and arguably by the wrong people.

Too much research has wholly outdated assumptions about the human mind, let alone how advertising works.

And too much research defines itself by its methods, rather than by the relevance and usefulness of its outputs.

My gripe then, is not with research per se (who would not want an understanding of the context for their efforts?) but with bad research. Of which there is still, far too much.

Enough with the preamble. First, here is the work I began with  – a selection of work from Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam and Portland:

And here is a slightly expanded version of the presentation that followed:

My very sincere thanks go to IPSOS for inviting me to join conversation, and for having the fortitude and broadmindedness to allow me to share some unedited (and occasionally inconvenient) points of view.

And a very special thanks goes to a wonderful gent and a fearsome talent – Ignasi Tudela Calafell here at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, who designed the awesome Salmon vs Lamposts poster.