In 2008, the Research Services group was utilized by 89 percent of 4A’s membership. In a world of rapid change, a wide range of agency staff—from account coordinators to CEOs—called upon the association for customized assistance on projects ranging from information to help evaluate marketing strategies and executions to preparing for new business to supporting a recommendation to a client.
Not surprisingly, the most commonly requested research topic was the impact of the economy on advertising and the agency business. Agencies desired proof that it pays to advertise during recessionary periods; recession-proof industries; how various industries do in a poor economy (e.g., travel, luxury product, private label, discount retailers, restaurants); and the outlook for consumer spending on all sorts of products and services, and the Research Division provided numerous case studies, best practice examples, and facts to support those requests.
The need for current content about economic conditions led to a partnership with BIGresearch, which supplies the proprietary monthly 4A’s Business Barometer, a means to track consumer confidence and purchase intentions for particular products. The barometer is a popular feature on the 4A’s Web site.
Other commonly requested research requests included questions on: environmental issues (e.g., green marketing, sustainability, utility conservation, green packaging); digital marketing (e.g., search engine optimization, social media, blogs, Twitter, Flickr, the future shape of agencies); cause marketing; nontraditional media; new business and client categories (e.g., health care, financial, travel, real estate, retail, automotive and CPG products); new products (e.g., case histories, ad spending, launch strategies, line extensions), and the use of nontraditional marketing and media.
The 4A’s also developed a partnership with MediaMark Research Inc. (MRI) to significantly enhance its research capabilities. As part of this dialogue, MRI has agreed to offer a 50% discount on its Internet Reporter product to new subscribers meeting certain size requirements.
The “Observations” series of Research Matters publications saw three new editions in 2008, each covering highlights of a national 4A’s conference, including the Leadership Conference, Account Planning Conference, and Account Management Conference. Continuing interest in new products (e.g., case histories, ad spending, launch strategies, line extensions, and use of nontraditional marketing and media) led to a new edition of Research Matters focused on new products.
In 2008, the division continued to put content directly into members’ hands by loading data, proprietary documents, and appropriate links into the Research Essentials section of the 4A’s Web site. Items are categorized for easy subject access on topics ranging from ad spending, consumer trends, and client agency relations, to new business and new products. The site also includes studies and research summaries about the agency business, consumers, media, and digital issues from a variety of recognized experts such as: IPSOS Mendelsohn, Winterberry, Faith Popcorn, Reardon Smith Whittaker, Future Foundation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Focalyst and the CMO Council.
In late September, the 4A’s introduced a completely revamped BUDDY (BUsiness Demographics and Data for You!). Developed in conjunction with Easy Analytic Software, Inc. (EASI), BUDDY is a sophisticated yet easy-to-use Web-based tool designed to create detailed profiles of geographic areas. A well-received BUDDY training Webinar was recorded and is available for viewing on the 4A’s Web site. In 2009, BUDDY will add demographic profiles of household spending for products and services.
The Research Department continues to work towards a research fulfillment that has less of an environmental and monetary impact. More and more customized research is being transmitted electronically and there will be further expansion of this in 2009.