The AMSR Newsletter

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Newsletter No. 2, April 2024

Letter from the Editor

I never cease to be surprised at the range of coverage in our Archive. A friend was researching malaria prevention programmes and asked for help. Sadly, I told him I was unlikely to have any information. But, but lo and behold, there in our Archive, in the BBC World Service Collection, were papers by Graham Mytton:  a 2004 media study in the Gambia, in connection with an anti-malaria education programme run by the Centre for Innovation against Malaria and the Gates Malaria Partnership.  A further paper in February 2006 was based on ‘Qualitative research into malaria prevention in the Gambia’. And another paper by Graham in the Archive comments on ‘The power of radio: a 26-episode radio drama broadcast in the Gambia containing anti-malaria messages’. And there is also a paper by Angela Dawson, ‘Malaria and the Media: advocating health policy and practice in sub-Saharan Africa: a report of a baseline study undertaken in Nairobi, Kenya and the Gambia’ in 2005.

We always knew there were no borderlines to the subjects and issues which are covered by market and social research, but it is always gratifying to see this confirmed!

As part of AMSR’s Awareness Campaign we are talking to leaders of the industry, both about the market and social research industry in general and the role of the Archive within it. I recently caught up with James Endersby, Chief Executive of the award-winning strategic insight company Opinium, Founder of Significant Insights and incoming Chairman of The Market Research Society. Our interview is below. He has some very nice things to say about the Archive!

We are also trying to have a presence at relevant events. We are grateful to the MRS for letting us have a stand at its recent Conference. We were able to meet many delegates to demonstrate the value of the Archive to market research companies. There was tremendous buzz at the Conference and a palpable sense of excitement in the industry.  Judith Staig and I report back, focusing particularly on AI and polling.

Phyllis Macfarlane reports as usual with her fascinating look at Latest Additions to the Archive. We also have a couple of articles which delve more fully into different aspects of our Collections:  The complete story of the Market Research Development Fund Collection, and a personal appreciation from Ken Baker about Alan Hedges’ work on the development of Hampstead Heath.

We include a report from the Better Statistics Conference on Climate Change.  We are very aware of the dependence of good market research practice on good statistics. We are fortunate that our President, Denise Lievesley, plays such an important role in this area.  You are probably aware that that she  was invited to conduct a Review of the UKSA last year, and we’re very happy to report that it and the Government response was published by the Cabinet Office on March 12th:  Independent review of the UK Statistics Authority Government Response. And she appeared before PACAC on the morning of March 12th  – if you are interested you can watch it here.  We congratulate Denise on her work – and you can also see a review of a paper she did in 1993 in Latest Additions. Her good work is clearly never done!

The AMSR Interview - James Endersby

As part of AMSR’s Awareness Campaign we are talking to leaders of the industry, both about the market and social research industry in general and the role of the Archive within it.

 Phyllis Vangelder caught up with James Endersby, Chief Executive of the award-winning strategic insight company Opinium, Founder of Significant Insights and incoming Chairman of The Market Research Society.

I began by asking James what he means by his avowed wish ‘to knock the ball out of the park’. It’s evidently a sporting expression, probably American, meaning ‘to do the best you can’. In cricket terms this would mean a ‘six’. Applying the metaphor to market research, James means expanding our sector, having conversations where market research comes out in front. Giving researchers the confidence to feel their voices are heard in the boardroom. “We don’t have to be on the board, but the board should be research-literate……We don’t shout enough about what we provide. Modesty is great, but it can be harmful if you are too modest. ‘Insight’ is now part of the marketing vocabulary and it is very exciting that it drives every successful brand.  But I do think we are becoming bolder, advocating the work we do in the wider marcoms space”.

James had previously worked in the Management Consultancy space and he compared the role of the researcher with that of the Management Consultant. The work researchers do is often of more value to companies, yet the latter can get far higher fees. James would like to see this imbalance redressed. “Value must be placed on insight. Most of the successful advertising and PR Awards are based on work that is crafted and optimised using market research. We need to drive an appreciation of our products and services. When we get to a place where we are valued, we can charge what we are worth”.

James Endersby joined the then start-up Opinium, an insight agency specialising in brand and communications, product development, customer insights and thought leadership in 2002 and he has grown his agency from a staff of 2 to the current 105. Most of its work is in the UK, though there has been considerable expansion overseas, most recently with teams in New York, Amsterdam and Cape Town.  “It’s great to see your company grow”.

James beams with pleasure as he talks about the expansion of the sector. It has expanded by leaps and bounds since he first entered it and he has seen the increase of energy and excitement in the industry. “There’s a real buzz now. It was there before Covid, but now when people can go out and about, there are exciting conversations about expanding the sector and businesses: data analytics and insight are now integral components”.


We went on to talk about his forthcoming role as Chairman of The Market Research Society. What are the main issues he faces? “One of my biggest objectives is to help drive revenues”. He knows that this is one of his strengths. His own experience with Opinium means he understands how to drive the revenues of a similar size organisation.  Membership of the MRS is a problem: “Many agencies are still not members. And we need many more client members. We really ought to tell clients about the value of membership”. He pointed out how much their research and insight teams could learn from attendance at Society training courses, seminars and conferences, using Codeline, and of course the value of building relationships. ”I want our members to talk to the client-side teams to inspire them to join. It is very important for our clients to be involved with the MRS”. James praises the work of the MRS in the public arena: “One of the brilliant things the MRS does is advocating for us as a sector. If you are going to be part of this vibrant sector you should join. Learning how to use the Archive could well be part of the induction for new members!”.

We talked about the collegiate culture of the pioneering researchers who had worked so tirelessly for the MRS and the development of the industry. James feels strongly that “We ride on the shoulders of our pioneers”.


When our discussion turned to the role of AMSR in the research industry, it was a joy to hear James’ warm enthusiasm. His thoughtful Introductions to the three AMSR books showcasing the Archive, had emphasised the value of looking back. And he says “It would be crazy not to have an Archive!”.

“It’s phenomenal!  AMSR has become a brand in itself. It is a short cut to credibility. It would be such a shame and a waste if research did not have an Archive – it would be such a loss of history: what we thought, what we did, as people and consumers. The presentation of our behaviour and feelings can be preserved through the vast amount of material in the Archive.  And it is a fast track to brand awareness”.

James shares our concern about the low level of interest and involvement amongst many research and insight agencies.  The Archive is becoming increasingly important in academia and hopefully in schools, but many in the research community have not realised the contribution it can make to strategic thinking. James teems with ideas for increasing awareness and interest in this target audience. The Archive needs to work with agencies in joint projects which show the value of its resources for instance, in TGI, branding histories, New Product Development, business development, strategic insight, quantitative and qualitative surveys. AMSR could help in structuring case histories and together they could produce a series of papers on topics and product areas, a synergy which would help agency teams and clients. “The Archive must be seen as a resource for research agencies as well as academics and schools”.

James’ wonderful idea, for AMSR to sponsor a special MRS Award, appears at the moment to be, very sadly, beyond our means. But other suggestions, to spread awareness to other organisations such as BIG or The British Polling Council, by means of papers and seminars. are certainly affordable.  And he stressed the importance of disseminating the importance of the Archive to clients, perhaps using it as an induction for new recruits to the research teams. ”Clients rely on market research”.

“The Archive is priceless to our sector, but we have to get people involved”.

 Young people

James is very active in charitable work. Last year in our Newsletter, we talked to him about Significant Insights, his platform for Young Researchers. He set this up in 2020 as a global platform for the market research industry to make our sector more accessible to young people. It publishes regular profile interviews of senior researchers (see link AMSR Newsletter 1. 2023) and he has offered a regular column to AMSR. This we shall certainly take up. It is a wonderful opportunity to familiarise people about the Archive.

James’ concern about young people links with AMSR’s Schools Project. We already have Simple Guides, online and videos. We regularly send curated guides to schools on modern British History topics in the curriculum. And we plan to do the same for politics and sociology. James would like to see ‘market research’ as a destination career and he feels that providing resources for schools can only encourage this mindset. But he believes that the schools’ system is tightly controlled, and it is a case for advocacy and contacts in the right departments.

 An Insight Legend

James was recently named as one of ESOMAR’s ‘250 Insight Legends’, adding to the array of awards received by Opinium.  He puts the agency’s success down to the brilliant people he employs. “There is a culture to celebrate success”. But it must be inspired by his leadership and creative energy. The Market Research Society is fortunate in their next Chairman. And we in AMSR are lucky that he ‘gets us’.

AMSR goes to events

As part of the ‘Awareness campaign AMSR volunteers are attending appropriate events to spread the message of the value of the Archive as a source of information

MRS Conference 2024: Applied Transformation

When I talked to James Endersby about the MRS (see Interview above) he was very excited about the increasing buzz and enthusiasm in the MRS. This was palpable at the Conference.

Phyllis Vangelder, John Kelly, Jim Whaley and Joe Murat

The MRS very kindly let us have a stand at the Conference. It was manned by Paul Gebara, John Kelly and Joe Murat and had a steady stream of delegates eager to learn more about the Archive.  Judith Staig and Phyllis Vangelder were also there, talking to the researchers and taking in some of the sessions. They looked particularly at two major topics. which are so salient for the sector:  AI and polling.

 Judith Staig writes

Yet again, a keynote speech at the MRS conference highlights the need to look to the past to make sense of the present. Pippa Crerar, political editor at The Guardian, opened the conference by comparing today’s political environment in this election year with that of 1997 when Labour won a landslide victory. The research and polling data of the time showed that Labour was trusted by more than 80% of the public. She contrasted that with a recent Ipsos poll in which, “only 9% of voters said that they trusted politicians to tell the truth, which is the lowest it’s been since we started asking the question in 1983”. It’s heartening to know that the corresponding figure for pollsters is 45% which, although still a minority, is a ringing endorsement by comparison.

Trust in government is volatile in this country but Pippa Crerar highlighted one constant, which is that a change in government is always accompanied by a boost in trust, whereas a victory for the incumbent is not. She asserted that lack of trust is a problem for democracy as politicians lack the buy-in they need to make difficult decisions and the public don’t feel engaged. There is also an argument that when trust is low, politicians are less likely to feel the need to behave with integrity – this would certainly explain the number of political scandals we’ve seen in recent years.

Pippa has of course been instrumental in uncovering some of the scandals that have led to the erosion of public trust in the current government. She exposed Dominic Cummings’s daytrip to Barnard Castle and later brought Partygate to public attention using what she described as “old-school journalism” which involved knocking on doors and speaking to contacts; this sounds a lot like old-school market research too. Fortunately researchers don’t come across such blatant “obfuscation, denials and… lies” as she did when trying to verify her stories with Downing Street.

She went on to talk about the likely outcome of the forthcoming election and Labour’s chances. As an insider, she has access to the buzz at Westminster which says that although there are some in the Conservative party who feel it can be turned around, senior Tories think this is misplaced because the electorate isn’t listening. Starmer is positioning himself as trustworthy and reliable but has had to roll back on some key policy promises, such as the £28bn spend on green investment. And of course, there are more than two parties (as Phyllis Vangelder highlighted in AMSR’s latest publication Researching the Public: post-war policy, politics and polling  Link to website ). Pippa Crerar predicts an upsurge for the Lib Dems in previously safe Tory seats as well as Reform UK eating into votes on the right.

She closed with another look at the past: the election slogans and soundbites that have been shorthand for campaigns over the years from ‘Labour isn’t working’ in 1979 through ‘New Labour, new life for Britain’ in 1994, ‘Not flash, just Gordon’ in 2010 and more recently ‘Take back control’ and ‘Get Brexit done’, and predicted that perhaps we would see ‘No drama Starmer’ as Labour’s mantra for 2024.

As Bobby Duffy said, quoting Churchill, in the preface to Researching the public: post-war policy, politics and polling, “the longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward”.  Pippa Crerar’s keynote was a masterclass in the predictive value of comparison and historical context in the political arena. But even she couldn’t tell us exactly when the election will be.

Phyllis Vangelder writes

When I interviewed Ben Page, (link to Newsletter 28, Issue 3 2023) he was adamant that the survival of our sector depends on AI and we have to engage with it as a source of data.

In the keynote panel: ‘Insights revolution: navigating new horizons with generative AI’ the panellists, leading executives in research, shared experiences of using generative AI in their businesses and evaluated both the opportunities it presented as well as its limitations. They also considered the radical impact it will have on the market research sector.

Kelly Beaver, CEO Ipsos UK & Ireland, talked of the huge opportunities which were enabled by AI across product life cycles. One of the problems is that it is very good at tasks that many market researchers enjoy such as questionnaire design. There appears to be a disconnect in the way different people react to AI. Younger people and the general public appear to be anxious rather than excited about its potential impact. “There’s a real job for us to take the workforce and the general public with us on this transformation”.

Josh Muncke, Director of Retail, Consumer and Services at Faculty, believes AI can provide a clear vision of what we do. It can provide a feedback to help develop strategy and it helps us break down data to create new formulations.

Chris Lindsley, Global Insight and Analytics Director, Insights Centre of Excellence at Reckitt, talking from a client point of view, looked particularly at technology. He sees lots of boring jobs that people do not want to do, which could involve AI. A lot of that is frequent, repetitive but consistent datasets. AI has been embodied for some time in the company’s research and he is working with research agencies to discover its full potential, particularly in innovation and idea creation. “But the future is not yet here”.

Jatin Aythora, Director of Research & Development, BBC, stressed that the use of AI must be transparent. “The focus must be on the unique value it can deliver. There is a risk in using synthetic data. It is an opportunity to rethink the way business is run”.

There appeared to be a general consensus that the full potential of AI is not yet being utilised in the sector. Chris Lindsey feels it is not yet ready for ‘story-telling’.

Josh Muncke pointed out that although Generative AI could shorten and tighten the decision feedback loops between data and action, it is not yet working in more creative areas of the industry.

Whether for routine tasks or product development, it is apparent that Generative AI is transforming the sector and cannot be ignored. its potential is huge and its role within organisations must be managed effectively. Kelly Beaver believes there are important opportunities in training programmes, ““We need to be adapting to the way the research role is changing. All roles can be enhanced in some ways by AI.  It is every researcher’s job to figure out what that is and make sure they are AI-enabled for the future”.

Synthetic respondents

A panel discussion later in the day, chaired by Colin Strong, Head of Behavioural Science at Ipsos, focused on synthetic respondents and asked, ‘Do we really need humans at all?’ The panel explored what opportunities synthetic respondents might offer and what assurances were needed to provide to clients before they become partners in this approach.

Researchers have long used forms of synthetic data in their modelling and analysis. Were new opportunities to incorporate synthetic data to research just an evolution of existing practice or a step change for the sector? Patrick Alcantara, Head of Insight at Axa suggested. “It’s about filling the gaps in insight. It’s an extension of things that we do”.

Rose Tomlins, Head of Brand and Consumer Insight at Virgin Money, believes that by interrogating synthetic data early, you can decide whether to progress before you get to the planning stage.

Keeping synthetic data up to date is a challenge as it has to reflect changes in real world events and infrastructure.

Debra Harding, Managing Director of the MRS, stressed, “In order to be able to create synthetic data you still need really, really good human data”. She does not see synthetic data replacing traditional techniques. “But the mix will be different and the way the research is undertaken will be different. And the need for people to continue to protect participants will continue to be an important part of research going forward”.

Climate Change and Better Statistics

Phyllis Vangelder attended the recent Better Statistics Conference

If you were complacent or laissez-faire or perhaps even a denialist about the state of changing climate, you might well have had a change of mindset listening to the broad range of informed and experienced speakers at the Better Statistics Seminar on Combating Climate Change on February 29th 2024.

Tony Dent had brought together an impressive list of speakers from establishment organisations like the Bank of England and the Office of National Statistics and several academic institutions, as well as more off-piste groups like the Green Alliance and Extinction Rebellion.

Key Speaker Professor Piers Forster, Chairman of the UK Climate Change Committee and Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, Leeds University, set the tone of the Conference with an erudite examination of the causes of climate change and climate feedbacks in the earth system to understand temperature and rainfall changes and improve their projections.

Statistics have an important role in disseminating accurate and transparent data, often to a confused audience.  Ian Plewis, Emeritus Professor of Social Statistics, University of Manchester, is particularly interested in how statistics contribute to understanding the climate emergency, with especial reference to agriculture. He is concerned about the number of indicators which should be measured but are not, leading to several evidence gaps. Issues like uncertainty measures, changing emission factors and different response rates in different surveys lead to problems in interpreting different data.

Jill Poet, CEO, Organisation for Responsible Business, in a very clear and concise presentation, arguing for the interests of smaller businesses, pointed out that it is difficult to get statistics about what they are doing about climate change. And she stressed: “Statistics must be understood by people”.

The Conference ended with a video from Sir John Curtice in which he presented the results of a special survey conducted by Opinium Research on behalf of Better Statistics, with questions prepared by Sir John. The survey explores some of the political implications of the effects of climate change. Some key findings are:

At 32%, climate change is the third most mentioned issue of concern for respondents, behind the cost of living (75%) and immigration (39%). 50% say that climate change is mainly man-made.

Contrary to popular myth (but in line with other polling evidence) global warming is not an issue of greater concern to younger people than older people, nor are they more likely to accept that climate change is man-made.

Do go onto for more information about the Conference and the survey.

Market Research Development Fund (MRDF) Collection: The complete story

Whilst the Archive holds a collection devoted to the work of the MRDF, and its final iteration the Research Development Foundation (RDF), the items in this collection do not tell the full story and contribution these bodies made to the development of the UK research sector over a period spanning two decades: the 1980/90s. To fill this gap, Peter Mouncey has written a comprehensive new Introduction which can be found within the MRDF collection at:   (

This includes a table of references to where extensive additional material relating to MRDF/RDF activities can be found elsewhere in the Archive, including the reasons why a new body to undertake strategic research projects was considered a priority in the late 1970s, and the reasons behind a relaunch in the early 1990s as the RDF.

The members of the committees that ran these bodies represented the full spectrum of the sector: market and social research practitioners; academics; client-side researchers; research agencies; quantitative and qualitative backgrounds, varying over time depending on the focus of activities and experience required. They decided on topics for investigation and managed the resulting projects, and were all leading methodologists of the era, passionately concerned about identifying and investigating the challenges faced by the sector, devising solutions, and to sharing the knowledge that emanated from their work through seminars, conference presentations and papers published in the Journal of the Market Research Society. The new Introduction also describes how these bodies, and the projects, were funded.

In the existing MRDF Collection are items that go beyond the work of those two bodies. The reason is that they refer to how the output from MRDF/RDF work was embedded into the sector, and therefore this new Introduction also includes limited references to other work to provide a context and historical progression, especially related to the attitudes of the public to market research and participating in surveys.

Finally, the new Introduction concludes with the author’s selection of four projects that he feels made the most significant contribution to addressing strategic challenges facing the research sector over the life of the MRDF/RDF.

The Archive contains 18 items relating to the projects undertaken under the auspices of the MRDF and RDF.  In general the model was to hold a Conference or Seminar followed by published papers of the Proceedings. The Collection includes many iconic papers including Colin McDonald’s study comparing face-to-face and telephone approaches, the experimental research on data fusion and investigating attitudes towards co-operation in research by the public and the business community.

Some of the other topics covered in the ‘80s and ‘90s were:

  • Survey data and the law
  • Employee attitude surveys
  • Technical change
  • Survey reliability and validity in qualitative research
  • The role of research
  • Research: Backroom or boardroom?

Peter Mouncey’s introduction provides a masterly account of the immense contribution of the MRDF and RDF to the challenges facing the research industry and the understanding of its methodological developments. As Tim Bowles , its first Chairman, pointed out, “The aim was to harness the creativity of researchers to provide findings which increase the cost-effectiveness and relevance of the research industry”.

Hampstead Heath

Anyone who has read our piece on Alan’s Attic (link Newsletter No 26, Issue 1 2023) will know we have a wonderful collection of Alan Hedges’ research and consultancy work.  Here, Ken Baker looks at his project on the development of Hampstead Heath

The Archive has been delighted to receive from the family of Alan Hedges a formidable series of reports covering a wide range of topics with which Alan was concerned. One in particular which may interest Londoners concerns his work in helping to design a management plan for the future of Hampstead Heath.

Hampstead Heath covers some 800 hilly acres of mown grass, scrub and rough woodland situated a few miles north of central London. It has long been a delightful area of recreational activities for Londoners and visitors from many parts of the world. In 1989 the Corporation of London became custodians of the Heath and produced a draft management plan. This was circulated amongst 48 stakeholders including English Heritage, Ecological Design Association, Woodland Trust and Heath and Old Hampstead, as well as 849 individuals who applied for and received a copy of the draft plan. Alan’s role as a social and business researcher and consultant, was to assess the impact of this draft via a questionnaire.  In total the sample size for the results was nearly 900. The vast majority (90%) of individuals lived within five miles of the Heath. The findings were then used to modify the draft plan accordingly, and the final management plan was presented. In general, there was enormous affection for the Heath as it was, and the changes where existed tended to relate to the preservation of trees rather than their removal.

Two major themes tended to dominate the final strategy:

  • Preservation and enhancement of the natural aspects of the Heath and its ecology. Protecting the flora and fauna and encouraging natural development.
  • Preservation and enhancement of the Heath as an open space for enjoyment and prevention of encroachment and any developments which could adversely affect any part of the Heath. What follows is an ecological masterclass (written over 30 years ago) in which Alan examines different aspects of the Heath’s environment and details methods by which the desired results can be attained. For example: open canopy woodland is preferred to closed canopy, both for the ramblers and/or flora and fauna which thrive in the sunlight hence potential invasive species such as sycamore trees can be controlled by selective seeding, thinning and coppicing. Scrub, which consists of shrubs and young trees similarly needs controlling before coming invasive.

The plan is detailed in covering all environmental aspects as well as the great range of activities pursued by the visitors of which fishing, swimming, cycling and horse riding are just a few examples. Any reader would be content that if these plans were carried out, the future of that priceless area of open heath would be secure.

Latest Additions

Phyllis Macfarlane picks out some interesting new additions to the Archive

From Alan Hedges’ Attic

We continue to add more reports from Alan Hedges. Three that I particularly liked are:

‘A Motivational Study of Sweet Eating from 1968 ‘(1). An interesting quantitative and multivariate attempt to discover what motivates people to snack count-line (filled chocolate covered bar) chocolates.

Being a great eater of chocolate myself I was fascinated to find that the study produced remarkably clear theory to explain the type of personality who is particularly attracted to sweets, and especially count-lines: easy going, sensitive, moody, slightly dis-ordered, liking excitement and stimulation, rather childish and lacking in self-control. (Generally true of me, I think, though I rather object to the ’slightly dis-ordered’ aspect of the description!). However, I was somewhat horrified by the statement that ‘minor brands within the market are particularly strongly dependent on the core group of heaviest eaters’. This shows what sort of role a smaller brand plays – tending to be used for variety by a heavy eater and not developing a fringe group of loyalists with minority tastes. Oh dear! (1)

Probably only too true. Even today!

Very much worth a read though – provided you don’t take it personally, of course.

‘Back to Nursing: A Report on a Qualitative Study of DHA’s and Former Nurses’ (2). This is a study among ex-nurses and NHS management about returning to nursing after a break and the barriers to doing so – one rather thinks that things are probably not much different now!

‘Behavioural Response to Evidence Requirements: A study for the Benefits Agency’ (1999) about whether putting the responsibility on benefits claimants to provide evidence and complete forms for benefits frees up Benefits Agency staff time and therefore increases productivity – initial findings suggest not! (3)

All these reports would be terrifically valuable reading for anyone embarking on research into similar topics in 2024.

Kindly donated by Kantar

 Contributing to our call for more modern research, four reports from their TNS UK ‘Cracking the customer code’ series on Chain Restaurants, Home Media, Utilities and Fuel.

To understand more about customer experience, TNS UK conducted a multi-category quantitative study among 4,000 consumers. It was based on TNS proprietary methodologies to explore Customer experience (TNS TRI*M), Brand equity and growth potential (TNS Conversion Model), and Brand positioning. (TNS Need Scope). Fieldwork was conducted in April 2014 with small scale qualitative work in support.

The research covered 12 restaurant chains: Bella Italia, Brewers Fayre, Burger King, Café Rouge, Frankie & Benny’s, Harvester, McDonalds, Nando’s, Pizza Express, Pizza Hut, Prezzo and J D Wetherspoon. Nando’s and Prezzo are specifically covered in the report, both performing well on customer experience but Nando’s showing greater opportunity for growth. (4)

The home media brands covered were: ВТ, Plusnet, Sky, ЕЕ, TalkTalk and Virgin. BT and Plusnet are highlighted in this particular report – with Plusnet significantly out-performing BT. (5)

npower and First Utility are highlighted in the Utilities report and Shell and BP in the Fuel report. (Shell showing advantage) (6) (7)

Four other reports from Kantar are: ‘The future of payments’ (8) from 2013, which reveals now many methods of payment we each use (lots!) and whether things will simplify in the future; ‘Green shoots: how to grow your green credentials’ (9); ‘Environment and climate change’ (10): which draws on two studies undertaken in 2012 by TNS Opinion and Social for the European Commission: ‘Attitudes of European Citizens towards the Environment ‘(Special Eurobarometer 365) and ’Climate Change’ (Special Eurobarometer 372). The results are encouraging. It could be useful to compare them with current data.

And ‘Are the wheels coming off for Generation Y? ‘(11) – an interesting survey (from 2013) of Gen X and Gen Y consumers to see if Gen Y consumers really are going to be different from Gen X in their requirements of the Auto market. It seems that the industry need not worry too much – the findings are encouraging!

IJMR Landmark Papers (See also the article above about the MRDF)

We are also in the process of loading a series of reviews of IJMR ‘Landmark papers’ by Peter Mouncey, in which he selects an iconic paper from the past and gives us a thoughtful take on it – covering both its context, history and current relevance. So far we have loaded 11, and there are more to come, but I have just highlighted four here to demonstrate the variety of subjects and authors covered:

‘The effect of clustering on costs and sampling errors of random samples’; by Paul Harris: Back in 1977, RPS (Random Probability Sampling) was not simply the ‘gold standard’, it was still routinely used across the market research sector. The paper examines the role that clustering can play in RPS-based survey design, a summary of clustering theory being included to set the scene and calculates the efficiencies of different designs. (12)

‘Role of the ESRC Data Archive in the dissemination of data for secondary analysis’ by Denise Lievesley; by 1993, the ESRC Archive based at the University of Essex was already 25 years old. The Archive did not own the data, but ‘holds and distributes them under licences held by site owners’. Its aim was to ‘preserve and disseminate machine-readable data’, with a catalogue of 3500 datasets. A key challenge described in the paper, is storing data in such a way that it will remain accessible over time, protected against technological change. However, the description of 8mm video and DAT audio tapes, cartridge tape drives, floppy discs and CD ROM formats demonstrate the difficulties in keeping archives technologically neutral! The way this was achieved at that time is described. (13)

‘Repositioning research: a new MR language model?’ by Virginia Valentine. The debate on relaunching market research was not new in 2002, and even then, the possibility of ditching the term market research was a hot topic. Virginia Valentine concentrates on how we communicate what we are or want to be – focusing on the language and imagery used in these communications. Not surprisingly, she turns to semiotics as a source of understanding, but as she stresses in her Introduction, “the paper is not about semiotics as such, but about the ‘vital importance of language in repositioning research’. (14)

‘The scope for reducing refusals in household surveys: an investigation based on transcripts of tape-recorded doorstep interactions’; by Patrick Sturgis and Pamela Campanelli. This paper focusses on one important source of non-response in random probability sampling surveys – refusals, and whether strategies could be developed to reduce the then current levels. The authors describe the findings from their experiment based on 353 tape recorded doorstep interactions, from two surveys conducted by SCPR (Family Resources Survey – FRS) and NOP (Political Tracking Survey – PTS), using 32 field interviewers in total. The PTS study was based on an electoral roll sample with pre-named individuals and ‘paper and pencil’ data collection, conducted in January 1996. The FRS study was conducted in March 1996 based on a sample drawn from the Postcode Address File with all adult members of the household being asked to participate. You’ll have to read the paper to find the answers – but one wonders if anyone would go to so much trouble today, even though response rates are even lower post pandemic. (15)

More to come

We have a lot more content waiting in line to be processed and uploaded, including more than 300 Alan Hedges’ reports. We continue to be amazed and grateful at the donations we receive. The flow shows no sign of abating, and it is of value to so many of our users, though it’s never easy to predict just how material will be used. If you still have material hanging about – do send it to us.


  1. A motivational study of sweet eating: presentation document – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  2. Back to Nursing: report on a qualitative study of DHAs (District Health Authorities) and former nurses – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  3. Behavioural response to evidence requirements for IS (Income Support) and JSA (Job Seeker’s Allowance): report on a qualitative study – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  4. Cracking the customer code: chain restaurants – Company Reports & PR – The AMSR Online Archive (
  5. Cracking the customer code: home media – Company Reports & PR – The AMSR Online Archive (
  6. Cracking the customer code: utilities – Company Reports & PR – The AMSR Online Archive (
  7. Cracking the customer code: fuel – Company Reports & PR – The AMSR Online Archive (
  8. The future of payments – Company Reports & PR – The AMSR Online Archive (
  9. Green shoots: how to grow your green credentials – Company Reports & PR – The AMSR Online Archive (
  10. Environment and climate change – Company Reports & PR – The AMSR Online Archive (
  11. Are the wheels coming off for Generation Y? [research on cars] – Company Reports & PR – The AMSR Online Archive (
  12. Landmark paper: ‘The effect of clustering on costs and sampling errors of random samples’ by Paul Harris – Papers and Offprints – The AMSR Online Archive (
  13. Landmark paper: ‘Role of the ESRC Data Archive in the dissemination of data for secondary analysis’ by Denise Lievesley – Papers and Offprints – The AMSR Online Archive (
  14. Landmark paper: ‘Repositioning research: a new MR language model’ by Virginia Valentine – Papers and Offprints – The AMSR Online Archive (
  15. Landmark paper: `The scope for reducing refusals in household surveys: an investigation based on transcripts of tape recorded doorstep interactions’ by Patrick Sturgis and Pamela Campanelli – Papers and Offprints – The AMSR Online Archive (

Newsletter No. 1, 2024

Letter from the Editor

Many of you will be familiar with the distinction between people who are ‘radiators’ and those who are ‘drains’. I am Indebted to John Samuels who drew my attention to this insightful segmentation. He told me he had often used it to recruit new members of staff. ‘Drains’ are the people who wear you down: they are moany and pessimistic. ‘Radiators’ are people who radiate warmth (of course) and are enthusiastic and optimistic.

And I realised that AMSR has a band of volunteers who are ‘radiators’. They are good to be with because they are optimistic and enjoy what they are doling.

Call it ‘awareness’, ‘showcasing’ or ‘outreach’, AMSR is very aware of its mission to disseminate its value to users as widely as possible. We do this in many ways, for example, posts on social media as part of the ‘awareness campaign’ and attendance at seminars, conferences and academic fairs. We are very grateful to the MRS for letting us have stands at relevant conferences, enabling us to explain to members how we can help them with their insight and strategic marketing. We include an article describing some of the events we have attended recently, helping us not only to make people more aware of the Archive, but to explain its potential value to them as researchers in academia and business.

We have now firmed up the date for the next AMSR Event – a Summer Party on Monday 10 June 2024 at Bush House, the delightful venue we have enjoyed in previous years.

Following the announcement of Professor Claire Langhamer and Colin McDonald as new AMSR Trustees, in the last issue of the Newsletter, our interviews this month are with Claire and Colin. Judith Wardle has written a lovely article about her meeting with Claire Langhamer and I talked with Colin McDonald. They both Illustrate how researchers with different backgrounds find the Archive so fascinating.

A new volunteer, Amanda Claesens, describes her experience in discovering the Archive. Tony Dent contributes an article on the synergy between good statistics and research. Both Amanda and Tony write about fieldwork methods which were prevalent not so long ago.

And as usual Phyllis Macfarlane points to some of our recent additions. We have some fascinating new material including qualitative data from guru Mary Goodyear.

The AMSR Interviews

In this issue we talk with the recently appointed new Trustees, Professor Claire Langhamer and Colin McDonald

Judith Wardle meets Claire Langhamer

Claire LanghamerIt was dusk as I walked across a Christmassy Russell Square, past the poster inviting people in to see Shakespeare’s First Folio.  Senate House towered above me, a veritable tower of books. Apparently, during the war it was the Ministry of Information, very George Orwell, built in the ‘30s, and each drainpipe was adorned in gold with the date on which it was constructed.  I was on my way to meet Professor Claire Langhamer who is our newest Trustee and Director of the Institute of Historical Research.

Claire became a historian through her studies at school. It was the subject she most enjoyed and had an aptitude for. Her degree at Manchester covered the span of history but she was drawn more and more towards recent history and felt a mission to focus on everyday realities and in particular to document women’s lives. Her dissertation investigated spinsters in the Victorian era, from the 1850s onwards, when there was huge concern about ‘the surplus women problem’, an imbalance between the numbers of men and women in the general population. When women’s lives were lived in the domestic sphere, there were concerns about what roles these women could have. What shall we do with our old maids? It led to some reclaiming of the language. It was said, ‘never be afraid to be an old maid, better to be single and useful than married and miserable’. In the 1890s, women’s lives, previously thought to be mundane and insignificant, were emerging as a worthwhile and fascinating subject for the historian to investigate and Claire needed no encouragement to go down that particular avenue. Her PhD looked at women’s leisure in the 20th century. As a result, an interest in love and courtship was sparked, which in turn led her to become interested in the history of emotions. Looking at history through the prism of emotion has proved immensely rewarding which is where the Mass Observation Archive comes in.

We are lucky that Claire is also a Trustee of Mass Observation, in some ways a sibling to our own Archive in the sense that it covers history in the 20th century. But as Claire pointed out, the two archives are very different and because of that, complement each other. Mass Observation is largely a collection of tales written by the protagonists themselves, often diaries, and famously observers of life during the Second World War. While their archive covers 1930s to the 1950s, there is also a Mass Observation Project, gathering data since 1981. Our documentation is written with a client in view; most of what we have was commissioned by public and private sector clients, with specific issues to address and questions to answer. There is a ‘tradiness’ and a practical utility to our collection which makes it unique. By ‘tradiness’ she means we come from the world of commerce and so our collection is particularly useful because the documents are authored and compiled with that perspective.

So much of our data is collected from women, particularly housewives, who held the domestic purse-strings, not a voice that is easily found elsewhere. There is no other collection of papers like it – not least because a researcher’s gaze is very different from, say, someone who compiles official documents or indeed gathers together their own papers for preservation. And as such, triangulating with other sources means it can be a missing link or the perspective that brings meaning to existing information.

Through working with Mass Obs Project, Claire has been able to work with people in prison, writing about their life stories and remarking upon their inner lives and their hitherto hidden creativities. We commented on the overlap between the approach of a qualitative researcher and a Mass Observer.

Claire related an inspiring example of how archives throw up tales of the past that can bring meaning to lives lived now. She discovered a series of essays written by schoolgirls in an elementary school in Bolton: simple subjects like, ‘what we did at Easter’ and ‘what I want to be when I grow up’. And when we say ‘discovered’, it was while looking for something else in that archive that she and her fellow author, Hester Barron, chanced upon this collection of essays. Such a common story and such a joy.  These were girls destined for jobs in the local cotton mills, leaving school in their early teens and to many eyes their lives were of little consequence. And yet, their writing revealed keen observations and a depth of feeling that would otherwise have been lost. Claire and Hester Barron, were able to describe the lives of these girls that enriched our understanding of that era and did justice to their memory. Not only that, as authors and historians, they have been able to return to Bolton, find the essay writers’ descendants, discover what happened to them and so fill in so many valuable gaps in the history of that region, of that group of children and of the girls themselves.

So there was a meeting of minds when our Archive found Claire and she found our Archive. Phyllis Macfarlane was looking for academics to try the material out. Claire was wowed and subsequently pleased to be able to help a student looking for information about personal finances.

Claire sparkles with enthusiasm for her work. She seems to have all her antennae ready to pick up on those histories that reveal the processes and feelings around everyday life, for women especially. She is keen to build the Archive’s user base and forge new connections with others in the academic and archive world. If anything is missing (and that is an odd idea in that all archives have missing parts; they are what they are) it is perhaps the notes and proposals describing how the research was put together. Her enthusiasm reminded me once again of the value of our Archive – it is easy to get waylaid by the business of keeping the Archive going and forgetting the treasure trove that it is.

Read more about Claire on our web site at


Talking with Colin

Colin McDonald has been involved as a highly active volunteer withAMSR since its inception in 2016. He talks here with Phyllis Vangelder.

We began by looking back. We had worked closely together in co-editing the ESOMAR Handbook of Market and Opinion Research in 1998, and we agreed that one of the most satisfying elements of volunteering for AMSR, was the opportunity it gave to re-unite with friends and colleagues from years ago.

Colin has been very involved, with others, in designing the ways in which the material in the Archive is organised, classified and designed in the catalogue. I asked him how he had first become a volunteer with AMSR: “I was approached by John Downham (he, Liz Nelson and Geoffrey Roughton were the three founder members). I was immediately attracted because I knew this was something I could do. My first job (well before getting into market research) was in the Printed Books Department of the British Museum, the forerunner of the British Library. I knew how catalogues worked and was comfortable with the idea of collecting material and classifying it. It is great to have something to do; and I must say it was a godsend during Covid. I discovered I had quite a good scanner attached to my printer and I took on quite a lot of scanning during that time. I am comfortable working alone and it structured the day very well”.

We talked about the way the Archive material has been divided into collections. Did that come from his experience at the British Museum? “No that is how OCLC, the organisation which hosts our Archive, works”. Colin enlarged on the way our association with OCLC ( developed. “A Team comprising Raz Khan, Pat Molloy and others, had from the beginning looked at various possible solutions for hosting our online material. OCLC is an American-based, not-for-profit organisation which supplies worldwide library services. When we started, we thought of our objectives mostly in terms of preserving what was in danger of being lost; the idea of digitising it with free on-line access came later, although some, especially Liz Nelson, argued strongly for it from the first. OCLC appeared to be the most economical host and one of its services, ContentDM, suited our needs. It is an online access platform on which people can upload and curate their own digital material. The concept of collections comes from ContentDM: the first thing you do when uploading material is to choose which collection to put it in, or if necessary, start a new one. You can’t just have a great wodge of material without attempting to divide it up into sensible groups. We currently have 38 collections, and archive users can search within or across these, either by word searching or by using our very comprehensive Index, or of course both.

“We believe you have to train yourself to use an archive. Of course, we have to help users, particularly schoolchildren, as much as we can. But we can’t hold people’s hands all the time. Using archives and searching information sources are skills you need to learn as a researcher. And finding your way around any archive, including this one, is bound to take some time and effort.

“I decided from the beginning, that we had to classify our material according to the type of document it was and that this should be the default basis for our collections: for example, an item could be a stand-alone paper or offprint, a book of conference papers, a research report, a newsletter, and so on. It’s tempting to define collections according to subject or topic, but that simply doesn’t work for our type of material because so many of the items we get cover a range of different topics: it is far better to deal with that by indexing, where the same item can be described in different ways.

“In addition, and cutting across this default, we have a number of special collections whose contents need to be shown together because they tell a distinctive story: these include collections which have been sponsored and/or specially curated for us by particular people or organisations. Examples are the two BBC collections, Market Research Abstracts, Market Research Development Fund (MRDF later RDF) publications, Research International, or the Ehrenberg/Goodhardt papers and reports which I hope will be augmented by the research papers from the University of South Australia which runs the Ehrenberg Foundation. I don’t mind how many special collections we have so long as they make sense”.

How does Colin feel about companies sponsoring collections. perhaps in return for a donation to the Archive. “There’s nothing wrong with that. We’ve already got an RI collection. It might be an incentive for companies to donate their material and give themselves a place in the history of the industry”.

”I don’t see Modern Collections as a separate category. I am not happy with the terminology of ‘Modern Collections’ sitting alongside our ‘Heritage Collections’. ‘Modern’ is not definable (as we see in the art world). What is Modern? Where do you draw the line? ‘Modern’ has for example been defined as history covering the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s. But these already form by far the greatest part of our collections, so if that’s what the term means, what’s the point? Alternatively, ‘modern’ may mean whatever is of current interest. But the Archive is not static; it’s organic, and changes the balance of its content as it grows. We may decide something is modern now. But in 20 or 50 years’ time it won’t be. More importantly, once you categorise any particular subject matter as ‘modern’ you immediately imply (whether you mean to or not) that it is different from the rest, which is therefore ‘othered’. ‘mere’ history, `old hat’, dated. But our whole Archive is a historical record. We don’t want to suggest that the past is a different place. As Ben Page I believe has said, most things don’t change all that much. To understand the present, one can never ignore the past. In fact, we have a lot of post-millennium material that is coming in regularly and growing all the time. And, after all, almost every item in the Archive is dated, and those dates are key variables, and it is as simple as it can be for users to order the material by date and pick the date ranges or specific years which interest them”.

Colin sees our Archive as a gateway to information about market and social research. “If we don’t have it we should be able to point people to relevant sources which are also freely accessible – therefore we have a hub, being developed all the time, which takes people to websites where people can access journals and other sources which AMSR, for various reasons, cannot directly cover”.

We went on to talk about our target users. Colin agrees that academics are vital users, but lays great stress on the commercial sector, including insights, research agencies, advertising and media. “We have a great deal of data for instance on how advertising works, we have TGI, numerous papers on new product development, case histories and an increasing number of qualitative studies. There is a myriad of data which can help ad agencies, for example, in their current and future work”. How do we disseminate this material? “We can perhaps get volunteers to develop subject areas and write short papers. I know Phyllis Macfarlane is working on this”.

We talked about succession. Although we love working with the Archive, we can’t go on for ever. How do you attract younger people with the same enthusiasm? Colin thinks the approach we have just been discussing, getting people to develop the areas in which they are interested, is the way forward.

“We were so excited at building something new. I hope that the people coming in as AMSR volunteers now will experience the same enthusiasm and sense of excitement we were lucky enough to have”.

Read more about Colin on our web site at


AMSR goes to events

Senate House Library/Institute of Historical Research 

History Day

In November, Judith Wardle, Joe Murat and Phyllis Vangelder attended History Day at Senate House Library, University of London.


Phyllis Vangelder writes:

This was a worthwhile day from so many aspects.

We were one of about 60 stands, mostly archives of all types; some we knew well, some we had heard of, some were hitherto unknown to us, but there was a sense of a ‘family of archives’ and we learned a lot talking to people from the various organisations.

Among the familiar ones was Mass Observation and we confirmed our interest in holding another joint Webinar. They are asking for people who have used both Archives to get in touch.

We revived our relationship with the Churchill Archives Centre, which holds the Mark Abrams Archive.  We have every hope of a joint project whereby we digitise the material. If we work together, we could perhaps get a grant or sponsors.

Other familiar Archives were The Institute of Historical Research, The National Archives; the Royal Historical Society, LSE Library; British Records Association; Digital Humanities Hub; Archives Hub and Library Hub. We also spoke, inter al, to people on the stands from university libraries in London. And we had a lot of graduate students coming to our stand.

Joe Murat, Judith Wardle and I were there from 11.30 to 16.00 and there was non-stop interaction with stallholders, researchers and others with an interest in historical research.

Senate House issued this press release about History Day and it was good to be quoted!

“On 23 November, Senate House Library and the Institute of Historical Research hosted History Day 2023. It is a free annual event bringing together students, researchers and anyone with an interest in history with collections professionals from galleries, libraries, archives, museums and research organisations.

This year 64 organisations joined us to celebrate and explore library, museum, archive and history collections from across the UK and beyond. After being held online-only for the past few years, the event was held in-person on the ground and first floors of Senate House for the first time since 2019.

The event opened with a session on ‘Discovering Historical collections’, chaired by Neil Stewart, Head of IHR Library and Digital, and featuring panellists from The National Archives, Archives Portal Europe, Community Archives and Heritage Group and the IHR’s own Bibliography of British and Irish History.

After the session, attendees were invited to browse the History Day fair, where they were given the opportunity to connect and discuss their research ideas with information professionals showcasing their collections. Judging by the feedback, the event was a great success:

“Everyone on our team enjoyed themselves and we had some great chats with researchers” – Florence Dall (Archives Officer, Queen Mary University of London).

“We made a lot of contacts both with people from the Archives world and history researchers” – Phyllis Vangelder (Trustee of the Archive of Market and Social Research and Editor of its quarterly Newsletter).

Although this year’s History Day is now over, you can still explore history collections across the country at the Discover Collections gallery, or by visiting the History Day 2023 playlist.

Next year History Day celebrates its 10th anniversary. Join the History Day mailing list to hear about future events”.

 MRS Conferences and Seminars

We are grateful to the MRS for letting us have stands at relevant conferences, to demonstrate the Archive and explain the value of its contents to researchers of all kinds.

Generation Z

In October, Judith Staig, Joe Murat and Phyllis Vangelder attended the Gen Z Summit.

What makes this Generation tick? In addition to specifics such as its focus on inclusivity and authenticity, it has experienced the challenges of growing up amid the pandemic and cost-living crises. But not everything is generational. Some attitudes are simply down to life stage and experience (or lack of it). There are other factors in defining people in this cohort that could be more important than age group such as equality, geography and intersectionality. The concerns of this generation are not so different as those of other generations.

We were intrigued that a case history for Sneak Energy Drink was presented. The marketing of Lucozade as an energy drink is one of the most interesting case histories we have developed from material in the Archive!

Owners and Leaders Conference

Paul Gebara attended this Conference on 23 November.

He writes:

“An amazing, thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile first conference of industry owners and leaders, with everyone sharing their experiences and being open and transparent with the information they gave.

The Conference, co-chaired by James Endersby (Opinium), and Sinead Jefferies (Zappi), was a very involved and lively day, with a mixture of presentations, panels, storytelling experiences-successes, pitfalls to be aware of/avoid, to the workforce growth, Gen-Z, how to address them, to round table discussions.

The Conference started with a great presentation and panel discussion about how to raise your company’s appeal for a prospective sell – the positives, successes, and the pitfalls to avoid.  One investor uses ‘Glassdoor’ ratings, an on-line evaluation of company reputations, as part of its decision process on the acquisition.

Steve Phillips (Founder & CEO Zappi) presented his company’s story as he had raised significant funds (3 times) by selling a percentage share of the company, and in the process, growing the number of employees exponentially and too fast, and how to avoid such pitfalls.

The afternoon started with a fantastic discussion on ‘workstyle’ (autonomous working) by Lizzie Penny & Alex Hurst (Cofounders & Joint owners of Hoxby) followed by looking at culture, talent, leadership, and understanding the issues by Pam Armstrong (Partner of Daughters of Sailors), to the Gen-Z era roundtable by Jane Rudling (MD – Walnut Unlimited).

I felt the conference really helped bring together industry owners and leaders, opening up opportunities to offer free support/guidance. It was a great opportunity to meet colleagues that I have worked with/met online only and to meet new people, and introduce them to AMSR”.


2024 will be another busy year for AMSR

 HAP  24

‘History and Archives in Practice’ is where historians and archivists come together to consider shared interests in archive collections, their interpretation and use. HAP is a partnership of The National Archives, Royal Historical Society, and the Institute of Historical Research and our attention was drawn to this by our new Trustee Claire Langhamer. Next year’s Conference is at Cardiff University on 6 March 2024. We shall certainly have a presence at this Conference, we shall have a stand and the opportunity to meet historians and delegates from other archives.


MRS Conference  12 March 2024

The theme of the Conference is: ‘Applied transformation: thriving in the new now’. We hope to have a stand at the Conference and talk to attendees about AMSR. The theme has many resonances with the material in the Archive, which examines the past to illuminate current and future trends.

Discovering the archive

Amanda Claesens writes

I stumbled across AMSR during the MRS Annual Conference when it moved online during Covid. The joy of being able to catch up on all the discussions at my leisure meant that one afternoon I found myself watching a presentation from AMSR. As a market researcher of 25+ years, the thought of being able to access a website full of data from years gone by appealed immensely. I made a mental note to get in touch ‘at some point’ to offer myself as a volunteer.

Fast forward to the summer of 2023 and I finally got in touch, and then a small jump to now and I’m actually putting pen to paper to talk about what I’ve found.

As Phyllis Macfarlane commented when she wrote in the AMSR Newsletter about ‘Latest Additions’ in Jan 2023 – I can’t believe that in 1928 they conducted and analysed over 20,000 interviews: face-to-face, with pen and paper. and without any survey analysis software. Can you imagine the project management involved?

I’ve worked with clients in the publishing world my whole career. 20 years ago the Royal Mail would deliver 5 postage sacks full of survey replies on a daily basis, giving us insights into the habits of magazine readers from Today’s Golfer to MOJO to Grazia, so I’ve an absolute soft spot for readership data.

Both 1928 and 1934 reports have figures for some of the brands we still recognise today – VogueGood HousekeepingHomes & GardensWomanWoman & Home and Red (as an aside there was also a Violet magazine and a Blue magazine – each read by fewer than 1% of the sample in 1928).

I’d love to have been around to read Merry or Sunny or Happy and I wonder how we’d feel today about the content of Modern Woman. And don’t get me started on Wife & Home.

The 1934 report has moved away from the 1928 categorisations of “middle, lower-middle and working class” and instead uses Class A, Class B and Class C.

It explains “In dividing the families inhabiting the four areas investigated into Classes A, B and C, as a guide to their purchasing power, the governing factor has been the number of rooms occupied by each. Families occupying houses of 8 or more rooms have been placed in Class A, those occupying houses of 6 or 7 rooms in Class B, and those occupying houses of 5 rooms or fewer in Class C”.

It then goes on to say “In classifying the families upon which they called, investigators were instructed to take into consideration not only the size of the house occupied, but the family’s apparent social standing and purchasing power. This instruction was given more especially in order to prevent the wrong classification of families with A Class incomes which occupy houses with fewer than 8 rooms”.

The beginnings of ABC1 classifications no doubt. Although Wikipedia states that they were developed in the late 1950s. I feel another rabbit hole approaching …

To anyone thinking “ooh I fancy a look” I thoroughly recommend it, but be warned, you’ll likely lose days discovering all kinds of long-lost stats.

Urgent! Volunteers required

Christine Eborall writes

The Archive needs more volunteers to help with cataloguing and/or indexing incoming material. These are important tasks because they are key to future users being able to make sense of the Archive and find what they want.

Cataloguing involves recording the publication details of each document, while indexing is similar to coding and involves classifying the contents of each document in terms of the research methodology used, the topics under discussion, the business context of the research and the geographical area it covers.

Cataloguers work from home and record the above information in an excel spreadsheet. Another cataloguer checks their work and then it’s all uploaded to the online Archive.

Volunteers use their own computer and need reliable internet access for uploading and downloading documents. Full training will be provided, plus Adobe Pro software if necessary.

This would suit volunteers who are organised, like looking at detail and looking back over old research reports, many of which are fascinating. You need to be able to set aside a chunk of time to work on it rather than odd moments, as it’s easy to lose track of where you were.

Please e-mail us referencing ‘Volunteering for Cataloguing and Indexing’ in the title if you would like to know more.

MRS Newsletters

Colin McDonald writes

Anyone interested in contemporary views of social history will find it well worthwhile to browse through the MRS Newsletters covering their period. These started being produced in mid-1966 and expanded during the ‘70s and ‘80s to include conference reports and articles discussing issues of the day. For example, around the time of the general election of February 1974 (which produced a hung parliament) you can find extensive discussions of opinion polling and its relevance to elections by the likes of Roger Jowell (Nov 1973), John Barter (June 1974) and Norman Webb (July 1974).

In October 1972, John Bound wrote about the report of the Younger Committee on Privacy; in December 1973, Michael Dowdall on Unilever’s view on international marketing; in July 1974, Bob Worcester on ‘Changing values and social trends’.

You can also find key findings from recently published surveys, information which will mostly be lost to us now. The Newsletter started publishing these in 1969 and it later became the ‘current awareness service’. Examples are: housing conditions in Greater London (Feb 1972; a summary of a GLC report); in January 1973, What people eat (BMRB’s National menu Survey); Children’s awareness of television (Independent Broadcasting Authority survey); Graduates’ dissatisfaction with their jobs (British Institute of Management survey); and whether people think women get a fair deal in pay (an ORC survey); in April 1973, attitudes to abortion (a survey by Gallup for SPUC), and whether people approve of the country going metric (a survey by NOP in 1972 – most people approved); in June 1973; research into hypothermia and its causes and effects (by ORC, reported in the British Medical Journal).

In November 1973, you could even read from a German survey about the popularity of garden gnomes in Germany.

Sadly, we are still missing some issues of the Newsletter. Can anyone help?

  • 1 and 2           Before June 1966
  • 13                   April 1967
  • 15-17             June-August 1967
  • 19-34             Oct 1967 – January 1969
  • 38-40             May-July 1969
  • 42                   Sept 1969
  • 44-45             Nov-Dec 1969
  • 47                   Feb 1970
  • 49                   April 1970
  • 52                   July 1970
  • 54                   Sept 1970
  • 58                   Jan 1971
  • 60-67             March-Oct 1971
  • 69, 70            Dec 71, Jan 72
  • 73, 74            Apr-May 72
  • 76-78            July-Sept 72
  • 86-91            May-Oct 73
  • 96-99            March-June 1974
  • 104                Nov 1974
  • 159                July 1979

Adding to the Archive – does better statistics have a role?

Tony Dent, Director of Better Statistics CIC,  writes

The Editor of this excellent Newsletter had asked if I might contribute a short piece and, ever anxious for the publicity, I enthusiastically agreed.  Then I thought – what is the Archive about and what is the possible interest of the users of the Archive in Better Statistics?

Well, the value of the Archive is evident for all to see.  It provides an interesting historical record, that can assist future historians to understand facts about our past, as well as, occasionally, offering up amusing anecdotes for those of us of a certain age, who can recall the events described.  I would therefore declare that its real value lies in the veracity of the contents and the fact that, in the main, the picture of our society recorded by the research done in the past can be accepted as a truthful record.

Originally, of course, all the serious consumer research relied upon genuine random selection procedures for contacting households and something equivalent to the Kisch grid would be used to select an eligible person within the household.  The interviews were always conducted face-to-face using trained interviewers especially briefed for each survey. With generous time allowed for the field workers to call on households, response rates were high and the results could be claimed to be fully representative of the population.

Then researchers started to use the telephone as the medium for data collection.  Of course, this was originally through landline only and did not cover the total population, but researchers knew that and, generally, did not assume that the results were fully representative of the population of the UK unless boosted by some personal interviewing.  Then, gradually, quota sampling replaced random sampling and the assumption grew that someone within a 3 or 4 band profile (sex, age, region and maybe ‘social class’) could be considered as a representative of that ‘group’ and that, provided you had at least 40 such ‘representatives’, you could assume the total for the group was accurate to represent the ‘universe’.

This methodology of relying on quota controls and weighting the results to the total population, with adjustments for past behaviour, took a serious knock in the 1992 election, when the opinion polls failed to reflect the actual result.  Despite that difficulty, the underlying processes remain with us to this day and I believe that researchers have consistently failed to take full note of the influence that fieldwork time has on the results.  Proper random sampling had given way to quota sampling because of the requirement for quick results and the desire to save money, so the surveys were not representative of those persons who spent significant periods out of their home.  The quotas were being filled by the stay-at-homes, particularly the elderly stay-at-homes; a factor that continues to influence telephone surveys today despite the increased use of mobile telephone samples.

But at least with telephone interviewing we still had trained interviewers to ensure a consistency of understanding the questions being asked of people.  With the increased use of ‘online’ research we are not only getting the most ‘available’ respondents completing the surveys, we are also getting them interpreting the questions as they see them!  Moreover, our society is now much more diverse than 30 or so years ago, so we need more careful research, not simplistic methods, if we are to produce data that truly reflects today’s society for tomorrow’s archivists.

So, to make a long story short, Better Statistics is about putting better standards into our research and our National Statistics, to make them more trustworthy in reflecting the whole of today’s society.  Hopefully, that will ensure that the Archive of today’s research will provide an accurate guide for tomorrow’s historians.

Please note that Better Statistics is a Community Interest Company and we believe that we are of interest to the community that supports the Archive.   Full details about Better Statistics are available on the website and I suggest a review of our recent meeting on the Future of UKSA  (link) (United Kingdom Statistics Authority) to get a flavour of our events.

Latest additions to the Archive

Phyllis Macfarlane writes

We are busy catching up with all our content donations. A selection of recently uploaded content includes:

From Mary Goodyear

Coca-Cola Qualitative reports done by Market Behaviour Limited in Eastern Europe during the 1990s. These studies were done in Romania and the Czech Republic, in the years shortly after the demise of the Soviet Union. Although the client was Coca-Cola, these projects cover much more than eating and drinking habits: they investigate, in depth, peoples’ attitudes to all sorts of social issues, problems of living in the `new’ society, attitudes to the West etc. Coca-Cola Carpathian Region: overview Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (

Advertising in West Africa: a similar study from MBL in West Africa, done for British Caledonian Airways in the 1980s. Ad Africa: West African reactions to advertising: a research project [on airline brands and services] – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (

On the Move and on the Make:  an amusing thought-piece from Mary that you will enjoy: On the move and on the make (a criticism of attitudes of young people applying for jobs in research) – Papers and Offprints – The AMSR Online Archive ( 1988

From Alan Hedges

Environmental Survey [road traffic] – A very comprehensive piece of 1972 qualitative work on the problems caused by road traffic, based on groups conducted mainly by Alan Hedges in various built-up parts of England.  A salutary reminder of the problems that are largely still to be addressed. Environmental Survey (road traffic) – Motoring history – The AMSR Online Archive (

Several 1960s Conference papers about food, focusing on the introduction and marketing of synthetic food substitutes. An interesting comparison with where we are now. Here’s the links to some – but there are more:

Researching for profitable snack products [potato crisps] – Papers and Offprints – The AMSR Online Archive (

Own label: where now? – Papers and Offprints – The AMSR Online Archive (

Innovation in food marketing and research – Papers and Offprints – The AMSR Online Archive (

Synthetics, substitutes and food marketing – Papers and Offprints – The AMSR Online Archive (

Juvenile Theft: the causal factors: A critical review by AH of a 1977 book by William Belson.

Book review of ‘Juvenile theft: the causal factors’ by William A. Belson, Harper & Row Ltd. – Papers and Offprints – The AMSR Online Archive (

Donated by Lynn Scrivener

A study into the potential impact of the Millennium Experience on UK tourism in the year 2000. This study, undertaken by the Research Department of the British Tourist Authority & English Tourist Board, was carried out in March 1998. The study was designed to provide an informed judgement on the likely impact of the Dome and was not an econometric forecast. With the benefit of hindsight, it makes fascinating reading!

Impact of the Millennium Experience (study of the possible impact of the Millennium Dome on visitor numbers and other tourist attractions) – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (

 More CRAM reports from the early ‘80s.

For those of you interested in Alcohol research I picked out three crackers, and another report on food:

Babycham Advertising Development: This is a classic of its time (1984). The background and objectives states that: 40% of all women drink Babycham and the regular ‘core’ users account for the bulk of the brand, hence it is of great importance that this sector is not alienated by advertising and other developments. That ‘40%’ is hard to believe nowadays isn’t it? Babycham Advertising Development (sparkling perry) – The CRAM Peter Cooper Collection – The AMSR Online Archive (

Guinness in America: From 1984 – It’s hard to believe that this is a CRAM report – so different is it in style – because it is done in the US way. Certainly in the ’80s I remember that Americans wanted to ‘quantify’ everything in a group discussion, they were always sending notes in to the moderator. Many a time you had to hold them back – generally by their red braces – from bursting in and interrupting the group. Guinness in America [beer]: Analysis of Data from American Group Discussions and Extension Groups – The CRAM Peter Cooper Collection – The AMSR Online Archive (

Guinness Ireland: A fascinating exposition of old vs new Guinness, old vs new Ireland, the image of drinkers – you can learn more about Ireland in 1984 from this report than from any history textbook. Guinness Ireland [beer] – The CRAM Peter Cooper Collection – The AMSR Online Archive (

French Agricultural Produce in Great BritainThe findings as a whole provide for the time (1984): first, a rich picture of British life, covering cooking and eating habits, shopping and key products like cheese, wine etc. Secondly, an insight into social class which was still one of the major variables affecting behaviour in the UK. And thirdly, indications on social changes taking place away from traditional British habits towards more relaxed attitudes towards foreign foods. Here’s a quote from the summary: ‘British attitudes to France, the French and French products are a complex mixture of resentment and admiration’. Plus ça change! French Agricultural Produce in Great Britain: a typological study of consumers [of French foods and wines] – The CRAM Peter Cooper Collection – The AMSR Online Archive (

Motoring History

And last, but definitely not least, a new curated collection developed by Peter Mouncey.

This new collection is a set of reports and papers on the behaviour, attitudes and expenditure on motoring by British motorists (excluding Northern Ireland) primarily  based on research  undertaken for, or by, the Automobile Association (AA), covering the 1970s/80s. Whilst much of this archive is based on data collected through the monthly Omnicar Survey of Motorists (run by Sample Surveys Ltd), there are also a number of other ad hoc studies, which cover the broader role of the car as a transport mode within society. This unique collection illustrates the period during which car ownership became the norm for most British families, causing massive changes in our way of life. Motoring history – The AMSR Online Archive (

Newsletter No. 3, 2023

Letter from the Editor

Do you remember the dinner party syndrome, when you told people you were in ‘market research’ and very few outside the industry really understood what it was  about? When you used expressions like ‘consumer dissonance’, ‘trade-off’ and ‘top-of-mind’, in your every-day conversations, without realising you were using a well-understood industry shorthand?

A similar situation is arising with AMSR. We, who are so immersed in its vision and history, and understand its eclectic nature, have to explain the way in which it can support and inspire people in market research and academia.

To this end we are embarking on an Awareness Campaign, targeted primarily at the research and insight industry, to help in providing a context and perspective to their research.

Confession alert: although I am on LinkedIn, I am not by age or inclination involved in social media. But I know and appreciate that it is invaluable in telling the world what we are about. So this is a plea, to those who are involved in social media, to share, comment, re-tweet and generally tell everybody about the richness of the data in the Archive.

We have agreed a strapline to the campaign – ‘Making History’ – which we feel encompasses the message we are disseminating. Paul Edwards has written some lovely thoughts about what this means in terms of our vision. “An archive exists to preserve assets, not to keep them secret.  The Archive of Market and Social Research is a gold mine of content and examples of how great market and social  research have changed the world.  It is online and free to use.  More than just asking questions we are Making History”.

As part of the Campaign, I am running a regular column – The AMSR Newsletter Interview, talking to Research Leaders about the role of the Archive. I am delighted that Ben Page, Chief Executive of Ipsos, is spearheading the series, and our interview is below.

We are delighted that Claire Langhamer and Colin McDonald have joined the AMSR Board of Trustees. We hope to run interviews with them in our next issue.

We also have Phyllis Macfarlane’s informative report about how we are progressing with our efforts to increase usage of the Archive in schools.

Organisations like the Better Statistics Campaign and NatCen are of particular interest to the market and social research industry, so we are pleased to include reports of their Events. The recent BSC Conference ‘What is the future for the UKSA?’  aimed to contribute to the review of the United Kingdom Statistics Authority currently in progress under the leadership of AMSR President Professor Denise Lievesley, who was appointed by the Cabinet Office for this task. NatCen’s launch of the 40th edition of British Social Attitudes showed the analogous nature of longitudinal survey series with the Archive. Like the BSA we take the long view.

AMSR Trustee Board

Claire Langhamer

Professor Claire Langhamer and Colin McDonald have joined the AMSR Board of Trustees.

Claire Langhamer is an enthusiastic user of the Archive and has spoken at AMSR Events and the recent joint Mass Observation Webinar about its importance as a source of information for cultural and historical research.

She is Director of the Institute of Historical Research and Professor of Modern History at the University of London, and a Trustee of the Mass Observation Archive. A social and cultural historian of modern Britain, she has particular research interests in feeling, experience and everyday life.

Colin McDonald has been a member of the Contents Committee and a very active AMSR volunteer since its inception. He has been closely involved from the beginning, with others, in designing the ways in which AMSR material is organised, classified and described in our catalogue and on the OCLC website (its ‘metadata’). With subject matter varying enormously both in form and content, this is an essential task for making the experience of archive users as simple and rewarding as possible.

He spent 40 years working in the research industry, starting initially with Reckitt & Sons. He later worked at BMRB and then as Chairman of Communication Research. He is a Fellow of The Market Research Society.

AMSR Chairman Professor Patrick Barwise says, “We are excited to welcome two such distinguished and experienced Trustees, and I look forward to working with them to steer the charity as we broaden our user base and continue to collect materials that preserve the heritage of our industry”.

Claire Langhamer says, “The Archive is an absolute treasure trove for researchers interested in the practices of everyday life and I am particularly keen to promote its use among historians of modern Britain”.

Colin McDonald says, “Like others, I deeply believe in the importance of preserving this unique material from being lost and of making it freely available to all: academics, practitioners, new researchers, everyone”.

We shall be publishing interviews with Claire and Colin in the next issue of the Newsletter.

The AMSR Interview

Ben Page, Chief Executive Officer of Ipsos, talks to Phyllis Vangelder

Ben Page is Chief Executive Officer of Ipsos, a remit covering 90 countries. So I was delighted that he could find time in his busy schedule to talk to me about the role of the Archive.

Ipsos, like many other research companies, has been extremely helpful to AMSR. In expressing our appreciation of this support, I asked Ben what attracts him to the Archive. “I’m an historian by training and I believe in the adage ‘Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them’. But in any case I think the Archive is of fundamental value to the research industry. It provides an understanding of people’s behaviour and how they felt at a particular point in time. It enables you to take the long view about attitudes and opinions – how they have changed and how in fact they have often remained the same. Values don’t change so much”.

For example on nostalgia, around half of the population believe that their parent’s childhood was so much better than their own. But the Archive can retrieve people’s voices at the time and allows you to understand their experiences in context and within the culture of their time. Was it really ‘better’? Longitudinal studies and the Archive can tell us so much. How did people react to the first motorways? How are they reacting now to the change to electric cars?

While there are agencies which have the same values as Ipsos, there are many modern ones which do not. They are interested mainly in the present and the future and do not see the point of looking back. Ben ascribed this primarily to the fact that many of these companies are not run by researchers. Their owners do not start with a research mindset. However now everything is digital agencies should find it easy to pass their data to the Archive. Of course there is always the problem of commercial confidentiality and intellectual property. Clients do worry about brand and client confidentiality, though in many cases this can be negotiated so that only older data (20+ years) is available, and a constraint can be put on accessibility. Much of the value of so many reports is not in their brand positioning itself so much as in the generic product profile, and the context of how consumers understood a product or service at a point in time.

AMSR has embarked on an Awareness Campaign, directed particularly at the market and social research industry. Ben Page’s advice is to tell agencies that they should not let their work go to waste. Let the Archive reinforce its value by curating and preserving it. The Archive will enable them to ‘Make History’ (as the AMSR’s awareness campaign puts it).

AMSR’s primary target audience has been identified as Modern and Contemporary History Academics. Ben agreed that they were particularly interested in the past and how this impacted on the present and the future. And the fact that the Archive is free to access and digital is a tremendous attraction. He believes that while we have done excellent work with schools, our approach is too scattergun. However, Examination Boards are another potential target. If the Archive can become part of the curriculum, to be used in course work, this would inevitably increase usage.

We talked about our hope of getting grants to ensure the sustainability of the Archive. Ben stressed the need to find senior academic people, probably in Modern or Contemporary History to work in cooperation with the Archive. We have to have good professional applications (many charities in fact appoint professional people in this capacity). Working with universities is also a route to accreditation. Grants are probably more accessible for social research by government and charities.

Ben Page believes that Artificial Intelligence will have a tremendous impact on our industry. We have to engage with a new source of data. “I have 20,000 focus groups that have been recorded. If we load every focus group, we can build models to embrace all sorts of areas. We know language has changed in so many areas; who would now talk about ‘housewives at home’?  The language in the way people talk to children has also changed. AI can bring this information together. It can also summarise category level information. It is this aspect, rather than brand information, which will allow it to be accessed across the industry. This is a generative model that could be available to the Archive. It will improve search information and help people to get data. I believe our survival depends on AI”.

School Report

Phyllis Macfarlane reports progress on our schools programme

A-Level Schools Project

We now have 28 schools signed up to use the Archive for their A-Level Modern British History coursework and dissertations and hope to gain a few more from an emailing this term. We have sent these schools our new Guide to the Archive, and more recently a copy of our latest Book – which contains a lot of useful material for A-Level Students. But teachers are very busy people! We have to keep communicating to them. So we shall send them a video about the Archive, which they can use for teaching, together with a video demonstration of how to search the Archive – using a couple of typical examples. (It is like the ones you see on YouTube – which show you everything from how to do tables in Powerpoint to how to change a plug).

We keep emphasising how valuable a skill it is to be able to search Archives and that, as we are digital, free and easy to use , we’re a good place to start!

The first video was very kindly made for us by Amanda Hammond of Opinium, representing &More – the MRS youth group. Since &More have a mission to promote careers in MR in Schools we managed to ‘kill two birds with one stone’, as it were.  Amanda starts by telling the A-Level students how she got into MR and what she does. She is a natural when it comes to videos and, of course, she’s rather closer in age to the audience, which is also good. Ipsos Mori kindly made the videos for us, for which we are very grateful.

Book 3 – Researching The Public: Post-War Policy, Politics and Polling

The Editors, Judith Staig and Phyllis Vangelder, write

AMSR book 3 cover squareWe hope you have now looked at the latest book in the AMSR series on ‘Showcasing the Archive’.

Paul Edwards has written a wonderful review of the book, which is on our website.

Here is an extract to give you its flavour.

What struck me when reading through these essays is that research actually matters.  Peter Bartram describes how research was used to understand winter mortality statistics which led directly to the winter fuel allowance.  Colin Strong shows how the difficulties of self-reporting were overcome to understand seat belt usage which led to new legislation and advertising which dramatically reduced deaths in road traffic accidents.  Bob Erens and Kaye Wellings relate how reliable data on changing sexual behaviours and changing public opinion eased the way for changes in legislation.  Graham Mytton tells us how the BBC World Service used audience data to build an increased budget for audience research which in turn justified greater investment from the foreign office.

I could go on.  We are confronted by example after example of research being instrumental in government policy.  And because it really matters it is important that research is of high quality and sound execution  –  representative samples, well thought out and unbiased questions, sensitive and thorough analysis followed by clear and honest communication.  The basics of our trade are still important and no matter how much data collection techniques change we should not be allowed to forget them.  Bad research will lead to bad legislation.  Democracy depends on being able to listen to the public and rely on what we hear.

 ‘Researching the public’ is only 70 pages long.  No essay goes on for too long.  In fact you are usually left wanting even more – which is no problem because each essay comes with a set of references into the Archive.  These books are all about showcasing the content of the Archive and making people want to dive in and find out more. 

 For the individual this book is a fascinating read; several times I found myself thinking ‘I never knew that’.  On a wider level the AMSR is emerging as a vital resource for the study of history, sociology and politics.  This is important for education but has a much wider value too; even if we don’t believe that history can tell us the future these essays demonstrate that we would be very foolish to ignore it.  As Bobby Duffy says in his preface: “it’s clear that the insights from these studies shaped their times, and can still inform us today”.

 The role of the AMSR in all of this is to protect the past (and the present) for the future.  These papers demonstrate how we can access the Archive and use it to illustrate the UK’s recent past. 

 ……..these essays show just what can be done with research”.

Do look at the full review, linked here.

We sent the Book to a friendly ‘lay’ reader, a retired solicitor, who is not very knowledgeable about research, but finds it increasingly fascinating:

He had this to say: “ I have read the book from cover to cover and it deals with so many fundamental issues . Some are crucial ones that we lay people don’t even think about  – research evidence guiding Government policy in dealing with the Covid problem, the whole question of Referenda, looking at the influence of opinion polls. Then historical insights into seal belts and the BBC World Service.  So many worthwhile contributions brought together by the Editors”.

Of course, we are very pleased with the responses to the Book and we are in the process of posting regular links from it on LinkedIn.

You may have seen the post in the AMSR LinkedIn feed about ‘Ducks and Danger’. This is just one example of how we are bringing wider awareness of the richness of the Archive to different audiences in order to enlarge its usage.

Book 3 is available, like Book 1 and 2, to download free from the website. Or you can obtain it either as a separate volume, or as a bundle of three, in return for a donation to the Archive. Details are on our website.

Better Statistics

Good statistics are a bedrock of good research, particularly for accurate, pinpointed sampling, trend data and insights into behaviour and attitudes.

Tony Dent, with his fellow Directors of Better Statistics CIC, Phyllis Macfarlane and Iain MacKay, have worked indefatigably for the cause of Better Statistics in the UK. The Conference on 19 September 2023, ‘What is the future for UKSA?’ is the fifth Conference that Tony has set up to focus on improving statistics and their dissemination.

The recent one-day Conference aimed to contribute to the review of the United Kingdom Statistics Authority (UKSA) currently in progress under the leadership of Professor Denise Lievesley, CBE, who was appointed by the Cabinet Office for this task. (She has had very many distinguished appointments including Principal of Green Templeton College Oxford and Director of the ESRC Data Archive – now known as the UK Data Archive, and is of course President of the Archive of Market and Social Research).

UKSA is a non-ministerial department established by the Statistics and Registration Services Act of 2007 and the terms of reference for the Review are to establish how the organisation is performing in delivering necessary services as efficiently as possible. The Review is also considering whether the Authority has clear governance and lines of accountability.

The speakers at the Conference, eminent writers and leaders in the industry, spoke within the context of the four areas representing the focus for the review: efficacy, governance, accountability, and efficiency.

The first session looked at measurements for a changing world, concentrating on the measurement of inflation and the problems of CPIH and Household Cost Indices (HCIs).  The former, it was suggested, is a tool of policy, in accordance with the EU Harmonised Indices of Consumer Prices, the latter reflects the behaviour of ordinary people. Morgan Wild, Head of Policy at Citizens Advice, which works to understand the underlying causes of deprivation, believes there is a lack of understanding about public confidence in the Inflation measures. Throughout the Conference there was strong emphasis, both on the lay consumer (who had received daily public statistical data during the Covid epidemic) and the non-statistical end user of official statistics. Jill Leyland who represents the RSS on the National Statistician’s ‘Advisory panel on Consumer Prices – Stakeholder’ stressed the importance of public credibility and the need to separate macro-economics from the direct experience of people.

Dr Emma Gordon. Director of Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK) at the ESRC, described its work at opening up secure access to government administrative data to support research and inform policy decisions. She stressed the need to work collaboratively, linking administrative data with data from the myriad of other sources including survey data.

The importance of the subject to market research, was evidenced in the session on ‘The importance of Inclusion’ which was chaired by Dr Emma White, Director of Information Governance and the DPO at City University and Chairman of the MRS Census & Demographics Group. The importance of social inclusion and of equality, diversity and inclusion in market research, as well as open data with a public interface, were all stressed in this session.  Rebecca Cole, Managing Director of Cobalt Sky, asked ‘how representative are samples and research design practices?’ Definitions of ethnicity and gender identification both in public and private surveys were discussed and there appeared to be a strong sense that the current definition of ethnicity should be extended. This subject was again addressed in the session on ‘Positive influencers’ when Michael Biggs, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Oxford, looked at the issue of Gender Identity in the Census. In the afternoon, Alice Sullivan, Professor of Sociology and Head of Research at the UCL Social Research Institute, pointed out that social statisticians argued against the self-identification guidance on sexual questions. Binary classification was certainly changing.

Looking for improvement

The afternoon focused on ‘Looking for improvement’.

Under the heading of ‘Regulation and the Code of Practice’, the tenets of good practice were scrutinised in some detail. The principles are universal: trustworthiness, quality and value. Steve Penneck, Past-President of the International Statistical Institute, sees value in terms of its contribution to the public good and he made a case for the development of Statistical Leaders.

Phyllis Macfarlane, a Director of Better Statistics CIC and Head of AMSR Collections, who chaired this session, commented that we need public awareness and understanding of public statistics. The public needs to know who is responsible for determining what statistics should be collected, and how statistics contribute to policy.  Ultimately the public helps to create statistics through participating in surveys and completing administrative forms; they need education in the real value of their contribution.


Adam Phillips, AMSR Chief Executive, contributed to the session on Governance, using his previous experience in the Financial Services Sector, to recommend a model using a Consumer Panel of Experts to advise Regulators. These are well-connected experts in their own field, who can often bring in views of different stakeholders.  They would have clear terms of reference and statuary status and could review the performance of Regulators.

Dr Walter Radermacher, Federation of European National Statistical Societies, talked of the Sociology of Quantification. He suggested that the statistical logic of the past is being replaced by data logic.

He stressed the need to have new users and future users on board.

The components of measurement means balancing user needs versus methodology. The public want time series, but many of the new types of data sources do not in fact produce them.

Sir Robert Chote, Chairman of UKSA, pointed out that the majority of statistics do not in fact come from the ONS. The statistical system must be for society as a whole,  not just for politicians and policy-makers. There was an emphasis throughout the Conference on the need to understand the needs of different users.

Tony talks passionately about making statistics ‘strictly human’ – making them matter to people. The object of this Conference was how we charge the UKSA with that objective.

This is no more than an overview. It is impossible to give the full flavour of the informed presentations and discussions, as well as the sense of involvement and commitment of the audience at this Conference. Do go to the Better Statistics website for slides and videos of the event.

British Social Attitudes

The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), formerly Social and Community Planning Research (SCPR) headed by the late guru Sir Roger Jowell, has been tracking social and political attitudes in Britain since 1983. British Social Attitudes has been conducted every year since then. Its longevity, breadth of content and high quality research design make BSA  a ’gold standard’ of longitudinal survey series.

Its affinity with the Archive of Market and Social Research is manifest.  Book 3 in the AMSR series of ‘Showcasing the Archive’, on ‘Researching the Public’ focuses on many of the issues covered by BSA i.e. attitudes towards sexual and moral issues, inflation and unequal Britain and political attitudes. Book 2  ‘How we’ve changed: social trends from post-war to present day and beyond’  similarly explored gender roles and work and generational differences.

A launch reception to mark the fortieth issue of BSA was held at Portcullis House on 21 September 2023. Sir John Curtice, Senior Research Fellow at NatCen, gave the opening paper, presenting public attitudes and expectations towards the role and responsibilities of government. In the AMSR Book 3, he authored the chapter on ’Referendums: how do voters decide?’.  Sir John’s work highlights the importance of looking at long-term changes in the climate of public opinion. He traced changing  trends over the past four decades to establish whether they were secular or cyclical i.e have they moved in the same direction or ended up where they started.  He  found  that younger people tend to be more liberal than older people. There were certainly age differences in attitudes towards tax and spending and changing expectations of Government’s responsibilities. He also identified ‘thermostatic’ reactions i.e. people respond to what’s happening and what they see or hear in the media. Sir John also pointed out that liberalisation is often driven by generational replacement and we might expect a further liberalisation of attitudes because of this phenomenon.

Elizabeth Clery, an Independent Social Research Consultant, looked at attitudes towards sexual and moral issues over the last 40 years. As pointed out by Sir John and shown in the Chapter in Book 3 by Erens and Wellings, ‘Sexual behaviour: how permissive attitudes led to liberal policies’, the British public has become increasing more liberal in its outlook on sexual relationships, non-traditional families and abortion. However, though many of our attitudes have moved in a liberal direction the trend is not universal. Our attitudes towards transgender issues are less tolerant.

Oliver Heath, Professor of Politics, Royal Holloway, University of London, discussed his chapter in the BSA on ‘Unequal Britain: the reawakening of class divisions’. Has class identity really waned? Do the public believe that Britian has become a class-less society? The survey showed little evidence of a decline in class identity.  It appears to be shaped by lived experience: education, type of job and region are strong influences.

A distinguished group of panellists, representing the Fawcett Society, Onward, The Resolution Foundation and the House of Commons Library, reflected on the survey. Their informed opinions and the involvement of the audience made for a fascinating overview of the many societal issues highlighted in BSA.

For full information about British Social Attitudes visit

Recent Additions To The Archive

Phyllis Macfarlane writes

New donations keep coming in: prompted by the Summer Party, or the MRS Conference, or articles in Newsletters – or just mentioning the Archive to colleagues in conversation. People are pleased to donate the work that they are proud of – or simply to have a place to send their own ‘collections’ of interesting projects.

Recently uploaded to the Archive we have: ‘Does your holiday make you sick?’ a report on holiday-related stresses and sicknesses conducted for BUPA in 1991 – donated by Peter Bartram. It’s really very insightful – I think we can all relate to it. (1)

Also ‘Representation and portrayal of audiences on BBC television’ a Kantar Media report from 2018 – donated by Kathryn Hall. This will be very useful to students of diversity in the future. Note that it is not particularly complimentary. Much progress has been made in the last few years – presumably prompted by this report! (2)

Also ‘Consultation on inclusive data’ (2021) and ‘Public dialogue on genome editing in farmed animals’(2022) – donated by Basis Social. The Consultation on Inclusive data was conducted for the ONS (3), the Consultation on Genome Editing for The Nuffield Council on Bioethics and The Biological Sciences Research Council (4).

All three of these reports contribute significantly to our concept of building a ‘modern’ collection of value to the students of the future.

We also continue to scan and upload the Alan Hedges donation – which is a real treasure trove of hundreds of reports.

Recent additions include some very relevant and interesting reports on Air Pollution and Climate change. For example ‘Air pollution health messages: perceptions among vulnerable groups: report on qualitative research’ from 1999 (5) and Attitudes to energy conservation in the home: a qualitative study from 1991 (6) (NB: book). These will be of interest to those researching the issues of how climate change was thought of and addressed in the 1990s. Which is bound to be a huge area of study in the future.

It’s the sheer range of research in the Alan Hedges Collection that is also interesting. These reports caught my eye:  ‘Unbanked cash-paid wage-earners: report on research among unbanked, weekly-paid wage-earners’ conducted in 1980 for NatWest (7) and ‘Report on a qualitative study of temporary accommodation for the homeless’ (8) conducted in 1987 for The Centre for Urban and Regional Studies and the Department of the Environment, also ‘Rear seat belts: report on a qualitative study of two advertising treatments’ (9) done in 1992 for the COI.

The Collection also covers commercial work – including many great projects for Guinness – and, rather excitingly for me – as we’ve done a lot of work on Lucozade’s transformation from a health drink to an energy drink in the early 1980s – a project on a potential competitor: ‘Topaz [energy drink]: report on exploratory qualitative research’ (1980) for Sterling Health (10). Topaz seems to have been a rather ill-thought through product – too much like Lucozade – but the project is an interesting insight into product development thinking at the time. The CRAM (Peter Cooper) Lucozade reports only take us so far into how the Lucozade transformation was conceived and executed – the advertising agencies like to claim all the credit – but then they would, wouldn’t they? This project for Sterling Health represents an interesting insight into competitor innovation, another piece of the jigsaw, but what we are really missing is the strategic thinking from the client (Beecham) research and marketing side. If anyone knows it – I would be very grateful to understand.

I’m thinking that there must be mileage into how the concept of physical ‘energy’ and aging has evolved in the post-war consumer world.  Anyone remember the ‘Phyllosan fortifies the over-forties’ ads of the 50s and 60s? There’s a CRAM report on the Phyllosan advertising from 1974 (11), where the slogan had progressed to ‘Phyllosan really does fortify the over-forties’! And wasn’t Aspirin advertised at one time as being just the thing for when you feel ‘one degree under’?  We don’t think of people in their 40s as ‘aging’ now – but it seems there’s always been an issue around ‘feeling tired’ and needing a ‘pick-me-up’, and products have been developed to meet the need.

This is the sort of background research in the Archive that could lead to true innovation – based on real understanding of long-term and underlying consumer needs and trends. It’s the sixty- and seventy-year-olds who need these products now! But that doesn’t mean that insights from earlier generations are not relevant – they are a real part of the human puzzle.

Overall, it’s fascinating to see how the research industry is always at the heart of contemporary thinking at every point in time. We have such a legacy in the Archive of ‘frozen history’ which is invaluable to understand how opinion and attitudes have evolved and developed, and the products to meet those basic needs have been brought to market.

As Ben Page points out in his interview, you can learn a great deal about context from the research in the Archive. Judith Staig’s recent article ‘Sweet Treats’ in Research Live uses the Archive to demonstrate that the relationship between children, sweets and mothers has not changed in 50 years.


  1. Does your holiday make you sick? A survey of the impact of holiday-related stresses and illnesses on the British people. – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  2. Representation and portrayal of audiences on BBC television – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  3. Consultation on inclusive data – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  4. Public dialogue on genome editing in farmed animals – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  5. Air pollution health messages: perceptions among vulnerable groups: report on qualitative research – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  6. Attitudes to energy conservation in the home: a qualitative study – Books – The AMSR Online Archive (
  7. Unbanked cash-paid wage-earners: report on research among unbanked, weekly-paid wage-earners – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  8. Report on a qualitative study of temporary accommodation for the homeless – main stage – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  9. Rear seat belts: report on a qualitative study of two advertising treatments – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  10. Topaz [energy drink]: report on exploratory qualitative research – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  11. Qualitative Research on Phyllosan press advertising – The CRAM Peter Cooper Collection – The AMSR Online Archive (


Newsletter No. 2, 2023

Letter from the Editor

This issue focuses on AMSR’s activities during the past few months. It has been a particularly busy time for our volunteer teams, culminating in the superb Summer Party in June. Early in May we held a joint Webinar with Mass Observation, showcasing the synergies between the Archives, with presentations from academics who have used them both. And then the next day we had a stand at the Oxford Bodleian History Thesis Fair. In March we also had a stand at the MRS Conference and on 15 June we had a stand at the MRS Storytelling Conference.

None of these activities are inward-looking. We are reaching out to all our stakeholders – supporters, volunteers and users from academia, research agencies and schools. As Judith Staig’s sensitive report of The Market Research Society Conference and Judith Wardle’s delightful account of the Oxford Fair show, we value the opportunity to showcase our work through Conferences and Academic Fairs, encouraging researchers of every kind to use the Archive. Detailed reports of these activities are below.

Historian David Olusoga was a key speaker at the MRS Conference. The text of his replies to an interview, which Judith Staig includes in her report, is very apposite to AMSR. He was asked ‘How have you used digital artefacts in your work and what is the value of these, compared with the original documents?’ David’s description of his engagement with digital documents, and the way he uses and values them, is required reading.

The Summer Party saw the launch of Book 3 in our Series ‘Showcasing the Archive’- Researching the Public: post-war politics, politic and polling. This book focuses on the role of research in the public arena and highlights the vast amount of material in the Archive which illustrates the impact of the research and insights sector on issues of societal concern.

We have come a long way since we started in 2016!

After the Party I was delighted to talk to Jim Whaley and Joe Jordan  from our Sponsor OvationMR. We are so proud that a company like Ovation wishes to support our work in preserving the thinking of the past to inspire insight for the present and the future. The full interview is below.

AMSR Summer Party

AMSR Summer Party panel discussionThis is a quite formal record of the highly successful AMSR Summer Party held on 13 June in a delightful setting on the 8th floor of Bush House. There are several more informal impressions of the Event. Do look at Ray Poynter’s blog on his NewMR website where he states “My mind was blown away by what I saw at an AMSR Event”. There is also a video of the proceedings on the AMSR Vimeo website,  and Paul Edwards has written a review of the event.

In his opening introduction, Professor Patrick Barwise thanked OvationMR for kindly sponsoring the Event and the Policy Institute at King’s for hosting the wonderful venue.

Following the outline of the evening’s programme, he drew attention to AMSR’s third edited book, Researching the public: post-war policy, politics and polling which is about a range of public policy insights from the Archive. (link).  You can find the book review by Paul Edwards on our website.

He stressed the importance of academic historians  – especially those interested in modern British social and cultural history – as potential users.

He was delighted that Professor Jane Hamlett from Royal Holloway College would be describing her research on pets in the home and how and why she’s used AMSR as one of her sources.

There was also a video recording of a presentation by Sir John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University and leading expert on political polling, who unfortunately was not able to be present at the Event. John’s presentation illustrated the Archive’s potential as an academic resource beyond history.

As well as politics, other potential areas we’ve identified include sociology, economics, human geography, and – of course -marketing and market research, for teaching as well as research.

Patrick Barwise pointed out, with the best will in the world, nothing happens quickly in academia. So, a second front opened last year, with a small-scale pilot project with A-level history students at Notting Hill and Ealing High School. This went really well and AMSR is now building on it,, aiming to reach more schools this year and – it is hoped – many more over the next 2-3 years.

Patrick Barwise invited Jim Whaley, CEO of OvationMR, who sponsored this event, to say a few words. Jim came to our event here last year and has become an enthusiastic supporter of our work.  Jim stressed that Ovation shared the vision of AMSR.  He was joined by Michel Jones and Joe Jordan who underlined his support for AMSR.  Phyllis Vangelder spoke to Jim and Joe in more detail following the Event and he enlarged on this vision. (The interview follows this report).

Joe Jordan presented the ‘fun’ part of Ovation’s contribution, drawing a raffle with prizes of Michelin-rated meals. He was delighted that Sheila Robinson, a volunteer scanner and Professor Jane Hamlett, a guest speaker, were winners of the raffle.

AMSR and Pet Histories

Professor Barwise introduced Professor Jane Hamlett, Royal Holloway College, University of London. Jane is the author, with Julie-Marie Strange, of the recently published book, Pet Revolution – Animals and the Making of Modern British Life., based on a large-scale archival survey for the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), which explored the changing role of pets in family life 1837-1939 (See AMSR Newsletters for full details of the Book and Project: Issue 4, 2022 ‘Cats in the Archive’Issue 1, 2023 ‘The Pet Revolution’).

Jane has explored how pet-keeping practice has changed over a century. During the 19th Century more people began to keep pets. This became acceptable and was particularly important in Victorian family life. In fact, Jane suggested, keeping wild animals and birds was in keeping with the Victorian mentality, whereas later people became more aware of keeping animals in their natural habitat. Jane illustrated the appearance of animals in family photos and commented on the fact that keeping animals was an economic phenomenon – pet shops, veterinary businesses and pet food became aspects of the British economy.

Survey sources for the project included three strands: cultural representation of pets in visual and print culture, the consumption of pets, pet health and pet-related goods and pets in everyday life through personal documentation. Jane illustrated some personal views about pet ownership. (See the AMSR Newsletter article ‘Cats in the Archive, cited above, for an account of a monograph on Siamese cats.)

Jane has used the Archive in her research. A report from Products and people: a digest of the marketing survey of the European Common market and Britain 1963, reported that 54% of households in Great Britain had at least one pet in 1963, 25% had at least one dog and 20% had at least one cat.

A more graphic picture was from AMSR’s CRAM Collection of Qualitative Research from groups on Soft Moist Cat Food and Packaging, conducted in 1973, in which a segmentation analysis unpacked three groups in relation to their cat ownership. The personal involvement with the cat was the major criterion of difference between these groups, enabling three separate types of cat owner groups to be identified: cosseters, acceptors and resenters.

Jane felt that the Archive had been really helpful in her research. She pointed out that pet keeping was only the tip of the iceberg in the Archive. There is a huge range of topics to be explored by researchers in social and cultural history.

 Taking the longer view

Sir John Curtice, Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde, apologised that he was unable to be present at the Event, but he recorded his paper on the value of polling archives – using data from them to understand the present.

He contended that looking at archives and taking a historical view is important in understanding the present as well as giving us an idea of what the past was like.

Those of us who work in polls and surveys are very much caught up in world of the present: we want to understand the latest trends and developments. If we want to understand where we are now, we also have to know where we have come from, and how we have changed, not just in the short run, but in the long run.

His presentation focused on long-term trends in public attitudes to the Royal Family (‘Is the Monarchy still popular?’) and also his chapter on two referendums on Brexit in our Book 3 in our Series ‘Showcasing the Archive’ (‘Why did Britain vote against leaving the EU in 1975, but in favour in 2016?’).

Looking first at the Monarchy, several questions have been posed over the years examining the popularity of the Monarchy:  A Republic versus a Monarchy; Would we be better off or worse off if the Monarchy was abolished? Is the Monarchy important? Is having a Monarchy good or bad for Britain?  These questions were asked over a long period and John traced the differences in the periods, noting the effect of different events on people’s views. Support for the Monarchy was high after the film depicting the ‘model family’ in 1969 when 88% thought the Monarchy was good for Britain.  It declined in the ‘annus horribilis’’ in 1992 when the Queen herself talked about the failed marriages in her family and the fire at Windsor. A certain decline in support has also occurred more recently in the face of broken marriages, family rifts and bad press about Prince Andrew and the Sussexes.

Going on to look at changes in attitudes about the Referendums, John examined the history of polling during referendum campaigns, to explore the differences in the results in the two Referendums, 1975 and 2016. Before 1975 there was a largely stable outlook between Remain and Leave, though a bit up towards leaving.  In 1975, people were asked about their attitudes if the agreement was re-negotiated, but it didn’t make much difference. Polls had it very close.

Then, in 2016, David Cameron emerged with a re-negotiated agreement with the EU and recommended that Britain Remain. But in fact a majority voted to Leave, foreshadowing the earlier polls which said renegotiation would not make a difference.

You can only understand the importance of issues by taking a long view. In the run-up to the 2016 Referendum the polls highlighted that the central issue was the importance of net immigration figures whereas, in 1975, immigration was not an issue: the issues then were economic. People were worried that prices were going up.

John stressed that you can only get a true perspective on our current position by taking a long view. This is crucial for all of us who want to research the public. He concluded by pointing the audience to AMSR’s newly published book (add link): Researching the Public: post-war policy, politics and polling in which he has contributed a Chapter on ‘Referendums: how do voters decide?’

Developing usage

Patrick Barwise introduced Phyllis Macfarlane, who chairs the Contents Team and is very involved in marketing to schools. She described recent AMSR activities in the sphere of developing usage. “There is no point in having an excellent Archive if it isn’t used! So, we’ve been focusing on growing the number of users, targeting universities, schools and market research/insight professionals”.

However, she explained that the largest potential was schools and gave the reasons for this. Education is AMSR’s legal object as a charity.  AMSR  had some considerable success with a  two-year pilot with Notting Hill and Ealing High School A level history students. There were four users in the first year and eight this year. Schools introduce new users to the same topics every year and some will go on to use the Archive at University. Several subjects are possible. So, 30 schools at 10/15 students per year equals 300-450 users a year.

The Archive has several advantages for schools: it is free; digital and totally accessible; easy to use; it has an interesting and unique coverage; it is not too deep and importantly, it gives students experience of using archives.

Phyllis showed the Guide to the AMSR Archive for Modern British History A-level students, which has been sent out. This gives a simple step-by-step explanation on how to access the Archive. Phyllis pointed out that if students start to use the Archive and find interesting content quickly, they soon learn how to search for themselves. They can also get sample exercises on different A-level subjects. e.g. ‘Assess the reasons for Margaret Thatcher’s downfall in the 1990s.’ Phyllis commented “If they can get results easily and quickly, they are hooked!”

To date a total of 18 schools have been recruited. AMSR expects to recruit a further 15 schools this year from follow-up mailings. But we must now create strong relationships with those we have. “We need a ‘Schools Ambassador’. We need to support teachers and pupils and extend to other subjects. We need publicity and support and we need to connect with those who set the curriculum. Contacts and volunteers would be very helpful”.

Developing universities

Phyllis described a Presentation she has recently given to Kings College Master Students of Contemporary History and Politics. She found that their interests covered politics and political altitudes; immigration; political parties; the Internet and politics, the EU and UK’s relations with China. She estimated that out of 35 students about 80% will find useful data in the Archive. We need to recruit about three universities a year.

Phyllis identified interesting differences between schools and universities:

  • A-levels are broader, less deep and earlier (‘60s and ‘70s)
  • Masters are deeper and narrower, and more modern (late ‘80s-2000s) – more Tony Blair than Mrs Thatcher.

She noted that we have a ‘Dark Age’ in the Archive. 1995-2010 reports were digital, but not well-archived. They are consequently difficult to locate. We need to campaign to find these reports before they are lost forever.

She concluded by looking at researchers and insight professionals as target users. Many reports can be enhanced by introducing context. Asking the same questions historically can demonstrate change. AMSR is also developing training materials for younger researchers to help develop skills. Its key objective is to help people to use the Archive.

What we have done and where we are going

AMSR CEO Adam Phillips rounded up the formal presentations by describing what we have achieved in the last year and our plans for the future.

He pointed out that what the audience had heard was only a small sample of what the Archive offers, but word was spreading.

Adam presented a slide showing how our usership is growing. It illustrated the growth in the number of unique users over the last three years. He used three-month rolling averages presented monthly, to smooth out the random variation in the data, because this is the longest period that Google data can reliably deliver.  The number of users has tripled over the last three years and we now have more than 600 users a quarter and over 200 a month. We are aiming to more than double this number over the next two years.

The portal website is the initial gateway to the Archive for most new users. It is attracting over 450 visits a month and a fairly steady 1,400 visits every three months.

Adam commented that we had tried at this Event to show what the Archive of Market and Social Research is for and what its future holds. To get there we continue to need support.

He appealed for more volunteers at all levels; the 45 volunteers we have are very stretched.

“We need more content for the Archive before it is deleted or lost. If you think you have something we might like, please let us know “.

“Finally, we need money. We are an extremely efficient organisation. Our annual budget is around £35,000 p.a. and we are almost entirely staffed by volunteers. If we are to continue to grow, we need to increase our income by 50% over the next two years”.

Adam appealed for donations.  He also spoke of the value of legacies. These provide funds that allow us to invest in areas where it is difficult to attract grants or get sponsorship. They can also contribute to an endowment to sustain AMSR in the long term. Judie Lannon’s generous legacy enabled us to carry out some important basic research on how research data and reports are preserved. It also allowed us to invest in the early stage of the schools project.

Adam went on to speak of the need, this year, to upgrade our website because of changes in the underlying software. And we also need to improve our user analytics system. Both of these will be expensive. We can apply for grants, but this is very slow. Donations and sponsorship enable us to move in months rather than years.

Q & A Session 

At the close of the formal presentations, Patrick Barwise chaired a Q & A discussion session, Jane Hamlett, Phyllis Macfarlane and Adam Phillips comprising the panel.

Kelly Beaver, IPSOS CEO, commented that sometimes the joy of searching archives get lost. Jane Hamlett’s paper was a delightful reminder of the pleasure of search.

She recognised the added value that AMSR’s Volunteer Team can provide by finding relevant contexts for research organisations. She saw members of such a Team as ‘Ambassadors’ in the organisations they helped. She asked if AMSR Volunteers could provide that level of support for research projects.

Phyllis Macfarlane was certain that members of her team would be able to provide contextual support for eg marketing studies and specific product surveys. Adam Phillips suggested such a service would be particularly appropriate for middle-range researchers – people who had been in research organisations for four or five years.

Graham Mytton paid tribute to the work of Colin McDonald and the many other volunteers who had been collecting and organising the tremendous collection now in the Archive at the touch of a key. He acknowledged the ‘black hole’ identified by Phylllis Macfarlane, and made a plea to everybody in the room to search for data on their laptops and disks to provide early digital data.

Colin McDonald regretted that because of publishers’ commercial interests the Archive could not put up material online after 2000. This affected MRS conference material and full contents of the JMRS and IJMRS. (We can still put up selected papers).

Adam Philips recognised the difficulties of persuading academic publishers of information sources to release their content. We are free but for them their content can be a source of revenue.

In a discussion of curriculum in schools, Phyllis Macfarlane saw one of the AMSR’s roles as a champion for young researchers. Her dream is for a Maths A-level in market research!

The social side

The Editor with Joe Jordan and Jim Whaley from our sponsors Ovation MR

It was a lovely warm evening and there was a buzz in the air as people met friends and colleagues and took their drinks and food through to the wide, open-air terrace overlooking the Aldwych. A great evening reflecting a great year.


Talking to Jim and Joe of OvationMR

After the Summer Party Phyllis Vangelder talked to Jim Whaley, CEO and Joe Jordan, COO of our Sponsor OvationMR.

PV We are so pleased to have you as Sponsor of the Summer Party. What is it about AMSR that attracts you?

Jim Whaley

JW As an AMSR company partner, we fully believe and support your mission of protecting and archiving history over the decades the research industry has existed.

Our mission statement as a company has always been “To expand opportunities for researchers to do the work they believe in and can stand behind, for their company, their community, and their cause”. Our purpose is to democratise information. We want to drive and allow access to information, enabling people to do more than they believed they could do. We’ve always had a vision to help empower researchers in a way that ‘their reach should exceed their grasp’.

Joe Jordan

When we expanded our involvement in the UK market, we didn’t want to do it just in a commercial way. Of course, we wanted to be successful, but we were also looking to be a part of the community and partner with associations and organisations that were doing something for the community and society.

We are proud to collaborate with the AMSR and support this event and its noble cause of defining the history of market research embedded within the history of the UK through market research. We support the cause of leveraging these past datasets to inform and align future social and commercial progress. We share similar core values in expanding knowledge, collaboration, and data integrity.

The Archive documents and enlightens the societal changes within British life since the ‘50s, touching on all aspects of our social, political, personal, and commercial lives. The Archive tracks the evolution of change, providing consumer insight and societal viewpoints on what has happened over generations.

How did you first become associated with AMSR?

Adam asked if we would like to sponsor the 2022 Event, and we were delighted to become an Exclusive Sponsor. Our overarching mission is to be viewed as contributing to the industry. We want to be an equal partner in enriching the community. It was great to be welcomed so warmly.

I am a second-generation market researcher: My mother, Marilynn Whaley, was a researcher and I remember product samples for testing being delivered into our garage as a young person and pulling telephone samples from a local phone directory and writing them onto call sheets. So I was indoctrinated into the business from an early age. Joe and I have a close affinity with Adam and Phyllis, sharing their passion and concern for good quality research. We recognise that the Archive is a repository of the best thinking about research, with peer reviewing of all the contents that are accepted.

There was great fellowship and collaboration within the close-knit research community of the’ 70s and ’80s. In fact, this ethos underpins the dedication of the volunteers. Was it the same ethos in the US?

Yes, we recognise this in the US, and also globally.

Whom do you see as users in the US? How do you compare the target market for users? Do you think they differ in the two countries?

High School students are a little young. However, OvationMR often get college students coming to them asking for data, not just in the US but in other parts of the world. College students could certainly be a target, especially business and marketing majors.

There is a culture in the US for research companies to do their own research and archiving. They have their own tools They might be interested in using our Archive data, but still be reluctant to offer data to the Archive. This is a challenge to give them a different brand vision, which is possible through leadership by example.

Do you have any advice on the way we disseminate our work to potential users?

Perhaps there is an opportunity for AMSR to be more pro-active in disseminating its work to the British press. However, this year there were certainly more posts and re-posts about the Event than last year.

There are opportunities to promote to other markets. I would like to see more global coverage: the broader the market scope the more successful AMSR will become.

I think that AMSR in the UK should undertake a PR campaign with industry leaders and attempt to get client support. Surely companies like P & G and others could release historical data from the ‘50s.

What do you see as the differences between UK and US research?

People like hard data in the US. But qual is having a come-back as people are seeing the value of qual for a back story and a more rounded and in-depth view of the consumer. There is nowadays a much more hybrid approach. Ovation’s use of AI to probe open-ended interviews is an opportunity. It is reminiscent of the early days of computer-aided telephone interviewing when you could probe the open-end question for key attributes and mentions. Users of the Archive in future decades will be able to trace how technical developments impacted on research methodology.

What are your hopes in our relationship?

We are looking forward to deepening our relationship with AMSR. We want to use the Archive to enrich our own research, and we hope to position ourselves as users at Global Conferences, on our website, and hopefully publishing joint papers in industry journals.

I should like to write a paper about the differences as shown in the Archive. I would hope to get it into journals like Quirk Marketing Review or the Journal of Marketing.

The Archive could also liaise with MRI (The Market Research Institute) which runs training courses and be part of their material on sources. I should like to think we are partners in disseminating the values and passions of AMSR.

Ovation would like to be seen not just as a sponsor and commercial associate but as a high-quality trusted partner, having relationships with friends and colleagues here, and working collaboratively for the good of the industry. We see the idea of the Archive as a way of empowering research to move to a broader scope: encouraging continuity and historical context. We value that a lot. It’s a ‘Great Day for Discovering Why’.

Joint Mass Observation / AMSR Webinar

Exploring the Archives: Researching the Narrative of Happiness and the History of Feeling

Phyllis Vangelder reports

A highly successful joint Mass-Observation/AMSR Webinar, the first of its kind, was held on 3 May, demonstrating the synergy which both organisations, through their archives, can bring to information sourcing.

Chairing the session, Suzanne Rose, Mass Observation Engagement Officer, explained the purpose of the Webinar, showcasing the work of the two organisations.

She introduced the speakers, beginning with Jessica Scantlebury, MO Archivist, and Kirsty Pattrick, its Research Manager, representing Mass Observation and Phyllis Macfarlane, Head of Contents, representing AMSR, who described the work of their respective organisations. They were followed by two academic social and cultural researchers, who have used both Archives in their research: Professor Claire Langhamer, Director of the University of London’s Institute of Historical Research, who specialises in the history of everyday lives, especially the experiences of women and Dr David Tross, Associate Lecturer at Birkbeck University. He is the academic lead on the National Lottery Funded Community course for Newham Residents and has contributed to two books in the recent AMSR series on ‘Showcasing the Archive’.

MO Archive

The first part of the Webinar focused on the Mass-Observation Archive.  

Jessica Scantlebury, MO Archivist, set out the context to the Mass Observation Archive – its history, mission and what it does today.

Mass Observation was a social research organisation that was set up in 1937. Its early phase of activity was from 1937 until the 1960s, but it is most famous for its work capturing life on the home front during the Second World War.

Mass Observation was keen to develop a method and anthropology to document everyday life in Britain. It announced its formation and mission in the pages of the New Statesman in January 1937 under the heading ‘Anthropology of the home’.

It was jointly written by three eclectically talented young men: Tom Harrisson (an anthropologist and ornithologist), Humphrey Jennings (a painter and filmmaker) and Charles Madge (a poet and Daily Mirror journalist). It called on volunteers to cooperate in a research project, that would create a mass ‘science of ourselves’.  Its list of suggested topics for investigation read like a surrealist poem on the hidden strangeness of mundane life: “shouts and gestures of motorists … behaviour of people at war memorials … anthropology of football pools … bathroom behaviour … female taboos about eating”.

To capture ‘Life in Britain;’ MO had a two-pronged approach which involved a volunteer panel of writers who responded to open-ended question and wrote diaries and a panel of investigators (sometimes paid) who conducted detailed studies into a range of topics.

The original MO movement collected 2,500 archival sized boxes of material during its first phase of activity. This material is publicly accessible and can be viewed in the reading rooms at The Keep, an archive centre for Sussex University based just outside of Brighton. The material can also be accessed online. This isn’t open access, but institutional access normally through a university subscription, or it can be accessed online in person at the British Library. This resource is called Mass Observation Online and is published by a company called Adam Matthew digital.

The material varies in format.  A panel of volunteer writers from across the UK were recruited to write diaries and respond to open-ended questionnaires. These documents vary in length and in style and can be handwritten or typed. Studies and quantitative surveys were conducted by investigators, and again these documents can vary in style. At times they may be recordings of overheard conversations, or recording in detail the activity in a dancehall, including how dance partners held each other!  Official documents and ephemera ​ were among the material collected, so the archive is rich in this resource.

Mass Observation published around 25 books during the late 1930s and 1940s. Most were commercially available and widely circulated.

Jessica went on to talk about the Mass Observation Project database. Users approach Mass Observation in a variety of ways.  The length of time Mass Observers have been writing for, the breadth of topics and how these are repeated makes for a multiplicity of uses.

To help researchers navigate the collections MO has a database which allows you to search across the Directives from 1981 and undertake searches by key meta-data such as gender, region or age. From this you can download who has responded, which helps to make in-roads to the material.

This database enables you to find out biographical information about the Mass Observation writers – their age, gender, regional location and information about occupation.  It would be possible to use this database to follow a Mass Observation writer longitudinally – or compare the response with a number of Directives to develop a sample of Mass Observation writing cohort.  Several writers and academics have used the Mass Observation Project in these ways.

The current Wellcome bid, about which Kirsty Pattrick talks about below, is enhancing this database to include the Covid 19 Collection.

Mass Observation Project

Kirsty Patrick described the Project, which was re-established in 1981, showing how today Mass Observation continues to generate narrative material through its national panel of volunteer writers.

The volunteers are self-selecting and remain anonymous, beyond key biographical data. The panel has continued to be nurtured for over 40 years, with a handful of volunteers contributing since the start. Some write for a few years, others for decades. Over these years a relationship of trust has grown.

Anonymity is given with each writer having a reference number​. This is crucial as feedback has shown that many would either not contribute or not write so openly if it wasn’t anonymous. There are many factors which motivate Mass Observers to contribute: the joy of writing, to leave a legacy or to write for history – certainly a big drive for those who joined during Covid-19. For others it’s being part of social research​; volunteers have commented on the value of being part of something bigger, the power of being a voice amongst many.

​Three times a year, in Spring, Summer, and Autumn, MO mails out a Directive to the panel. ​There is a commission fee for collaborating on a Directive as the researcher is buying into a relationship that Mass Observation has nurtured. ​The Directive research team collaborate with MO to co-construct the questions and ensure that anyone, whatever their age or life experience, can contribute.

The latest Spring Directive contained three themes. Part 1 was on the ’Cost of living and intergenerational relationships’. Part 2 was on ‘Magic and rituals’ and Part 3 was the Coronation. ​

The broad themes within which MO Directive themes fall parallel to AMSR’s focus of interest.

As with the original MO movement, everyday life is captured within these themes from an individual perspective through people’s thoughts, opinions and observations. The topics seek to generate responses which situate the Observers in the present but also ask them to reflect back. and look forward. Themes are repeated both within the contemporary project but also comparatively with the earlier phase of Mass Observation.


MO is currently working on a Wellcome-funded project to make available its Observations relating to Covid-19 collection. Throughout the pandemic it generated 10,000 documents which include diaries and artwork in response to Directives and open calls to the public.


Phyllis Macfarlane, AMSR Head of Contents, outlined the history of the Archive and summarised what it contains i.e. conference papers, newsletters, historic developments in  the industry, documents relating to methods and training, MORI and NOP Opinion Polls; media/audience research as well as special collections such as the CRAM Collection of Qualitative Research and the Ehrenberg and Goodhardt Collection.

She discussed the ways in which the AMSR collections are complementary to the MO Archive. MassObs is very much about individuals’ lives and experiences; AMSR is more of a summary of how things were for typical people or different groups of people.

Examples of topics include:  The effect of inflation on housewives; What cat-owners think about their cats; The general public’s opinions of Mrs Thatcher over time; How attitudes to the Royal Family have changed; Trends in eating habits; Attitudes to convenience foods in the 1970s and Teenagers – how they have changed.

Phyllis pointed to AMSR’s Contents Committee’s remit to collect and curate content which will be of value to future generations of social historians.  AMSR ‘s plans for the future are to identify and collect as much heritage material as possible; to grow ‘contemporary’ collections by stimulating the flow of more modern research into the Archive and to develop greater usage of the Archive by marketers, historians, other academics and schoolchildren.

She outlined some of the subject areas in the Archive which could be of help to users:

Historic data/information on products and brands; Research methods and approaches; Case stories – especially qualitative;  Academic papers on advertising, brand, segmentation and Media collections (e.g. BBC Audience Research).

Data on topics such as food trends; photography; pets; women travellers and royalty are only some of the areas that can be found in the Archive.

AMSR has been helping Modern British History A-Level students, who have to write a 5,000 word dissertation in their coursework to address questions such as:

  • How far did Britain become a ‘permissive society’ in the 1960s?
  • How effectively did British governments deal with issues of race relations and immigration in the 1960s?
  • Assess the reasons for Britain’s attempts to join the EEC in the years 1961 to 1973
  • assess the reasons for Margaret Thatcher’s downfall in 1990.

Phyllis stressed that the Archive has lots of material for them. From an initial pilot among schools known to volunteers, at the time of the Webinar, AMSR already had four schools actively using the Archive and there are plans to recruit many more.

She concluded by presenting specific examples of qualitative and quantitative data from the Archive:

  • The quantitative data related to Attitudes to the Royal family. Data covered 1991-2000 showing responses to the question ‘On balance do you think Prince Charles will make a good king or a bad king when he comes to the throne in the future?’

The responses to a question posed in 1969 to the question: ‘When Prince Charles marries do you think he would choose a British girl or a foreign princess or does it matter which?’ were broken down by age.

  • The qualitative example from the Great Inflation period of the ‘70s focused on women and inflation, particularly on treats and doing without as prices spiraled. Quotes like the following provide rich data about feelings: “The rising costs make me irritable to know I can’t get what I’ve been used to getting. Little things like going to the hairdressers – I used to go every week”.

Researching happiness and the history of feeling

A major focus of Professor Claire Langhamer’s research is the history of everyday life and of feelings, especially the experiences of women, so her presentation on the use of the Archives for her research on happiness and feeling, the core of this Webinar, was particularly insightful.

She enthused about the Archives, for MO for its large collection of subjective responses, and for AMSR, whose digitised history of modern Britain she described as ‘superb’.

She traced the founding ethos of Mass Observation in 1937, which was to do something new and different, looking at ordinary people’s everyday lives, at a time when their views were not always considered. MO’s self-conscious methodology was quite different from orthodox social and market research of this period, which was based on rigorous, academic techniques. Indeed, in 1951 the market research guru Mark Abrams, made a stinging attack of the MO methodology. MO’s methodological departure from traditional research was viewed with suspicion by politicians as well as researchers. But the founders were very clear about what they were doing. Their intention was to work with new subjective methods, making use not only of the trained scientific observer, but the untrained observer, the ‘man in the street’.  The observers were subjective ‘cameras’.  Ideally, it was the observation of everybody, by everybody, including themselves. The avowed message was to get different types of people to respond.

Claire Langhamer went on to describe the specific research on which her paper was based.  She used a MO project from 1937-40 which focused on the town of Bolton, exploring every aspect of its residents’ life, particularly what constituted happiness for them. In 1938 MO held an essay competition in which they asked people to describe what happiness meant to them.  Claire discussed competitions as a methodology. They often had cash prizes, so this attracted more working- class people. 226 letters about happiness were received in the competition (some including poems) and they provided rich autobiographical material about people’s emotional lives and a chorus about their life experiences. Follow-up questionnaires attempted to rank the factors making for happiness, with security having the highest scores and politics the lowest.

MO used a huge range of methodologies, including listening to people, and engaging people in conversations. Claire Langhamer commented on the rich graphical detail that emerged from this ‘sideways’ approach to data gathering (she acknowledged that some of the methodological ethics might seem questionable today).

She cited further work done by MO in 1942 which she has used in her research on emotion. People were asked to comment on their emotional feelings about world events, providing deep reflective material on collective and personal feelings. For a historian of emotions ‘this was a gift’.

She closed by talking about the similarities between the Archives of MO and AMSR. They were both interesting, eclectic and reflective. She had found two particular issues of the 1950s on which both Archives held data (there are surely very many others): the relationship of Princess Margaret and Captain Peter Townsend; and capital punishment. Both give rich insight into people’s attitudes at the time of data collection. They are both invaluable assets for longitudinal research.

Happiness research

David Tross’ paper, ‘The recent history of happiness research: insight from two social archives’ described his use of MO and AMSR Archives in his research on happiness. His doctoral research ‘How people across the UK experience and perceive happiness’ used 200 responses to MO’s Observation Project (MOP) in 2013 ‘What is happiness?’.

During Lockdown, for research on identifying ‘attitudes, activities and circumstances’ that acted as mediators of subjective wellbeing during lockdown, he used 24 responses to MO’s ‘Summer 2020 Directive: ‘Covid 19 and Time’.

The AMSR Archive provided a digital literature review of happiness-related research and commentary.

David Tross also wrote chapters, based on his research, for two AMSR publications  Showcasing the Archive (‘Happiness: can money buy it?’ In How we’ve changed: social trends from post-war to present day and beyond, 2021 and ‘Measuring happiness: how should wellbeing influence policy’ in Researching the public: post-war policy, politics and polling, 2023).

He cited some of the data he had found in the AMSR Archives including some insightful quotations:

“There is a paradox at the heart of our lives: we are richer but no happier….although living standards have doubled, ..the evidence is that for most types of people in the west, happiness has not increased” (Layard 2011).

“We need intrinsic goals that satisfy us personally, not solely extrinsic goals that fulfil the expectations of society or other people” (Keegan 2006).

David’s data sources included the output of respected market and social research practitioners over many decades from the AMSR Archive including mid-‘80s to mid- ‘90s newsletters and reports from Social Indicators Network (SINET), British Public Opinion survey and The Market Research Society. Findings include:  positive correlations between relationships and good health: Denmark is the happiest country in the EU; and the (un)happiness effects of recession in the early 1980s; the countries which suffered the most were those with the least social security. He commented on the U-shape of UK Happiness and age. “What makes you happy changes as you go through life”. (People tend to be happy when they are young, become miserable in middle age, and become happier when they are older).

The MO Archive holds details of the 2013 Happiness Directive ‘What does happiness mean to you?’. Responses cited the complexity of the question: “It’s a difficult question to answer, some things make me happy, but can I describe what happiness is?”.

Several themes emerged:

Holistic (“If life were all up, we should not appreciate it”; “the largely mythical abstractions of people being constantly happy or suffused with happiness over a long period, when the reality is that true happiness is often quite a fleeting emotion”).

Interdependence (“what makes you happy? Other people. What makes you unhappy? Other people”}.

Meaning and purpose  (“I suppose happiness doesn’t always have to mean hedonistic happiness”).

Moderation (“moments of happiness are never one continuous chunk”). Observers in the MO surveys commented on ‘critical distance’ in assessing happiness.

One of the questions posed in the MO Bolton Survey was linked to David’s research on money, happiness and anti-materialism. It asked ‘Is happiness directly linked to material possessions and wealth?’ and David linked this to a quotation from Keegan in the AMSR Archive identifying a “rumbling discontent with the values…which underpin materialism” (2006).

Reflecting on the content and method of both Archives and his experience of using them, David concluded with these comments:

  • AMSR Archive content: the UK is the leading country in the development and use of survey research to measure people’s behaviour. Such research has become part of everyday life.
  • Quality is a bit like happiness. Everyone knows what it is, but none can really define it.
  • MO Content: It weaves between registers of personal intimacy and social reportage. It reveals mundane ordinary life in miniature. The non-coercive aspect of the methodology encourages the expression of thoughts and feelings.
  • Individual questions are framed in relation to wider contexts.
  • AMSR method: “The Archive is a digital resource for everyone and anyone can access it”.
  • MO method: “an admittedly …unwieldy resource but one which offers unparalleled access to ways in which social and cultural contexts are played out within and across individual lives”.


A Q & A and general discussion session followed the more formal presentations.

Questions included gender differences in feelings about happiness and whether there should be a UK Minister of Happiness. Claire and David both stressed that happiness was not only linked to a good society but to feelings. A government can’t create happiness, but can provide conditions for happiness by minimising suffering. Several Collections of Happiness Data exist, but not data on tangible outcomes.

There was some discussion on the kind of data researchers would like to see in the Archives. David also pointed to research where people were given money to see if this increased their happiness. People were still interested in how much money their peers had – happiness was often linked to variables such as social comparisons, dignity and rewards and punishment mechanisms.

Discussion also covered happiness in the workplace – this was not always a result of financial reward.

In the discussion on methodology, the relative merits of qualitative and quantitative research were considered.  The World Happiness Report is quantitative, asking people to rank happiness on a 10-point scale. Both Claire and David felt this is too positivist. Happiness is about feelings, and not usually permanent. There are also well-documented cultural and gender differences in responding to scales. People in the Middle East are often too scared to say they are unhappy and people in some countries are known to find it difficult to give a true response: they want to create a good impression.  David asked, ”How could you have a Minister of Happiness in this context?”

Claire Langhamer stressed the positive way in which data from different archives can be used, looking at both the materials and methodologies. Both researchers appreciated the material in the AMSR Archive where writers comment on research, because it throws light on the concerns of researchers at the time and what it may mean for the data collected then. What contemporary researchers write and say adds credibility to their work.

The Webinar provided a fascinating insight into what the Archives contain and the synergy in the way they can be used by researchers.

video of the Webinar, showing the full presentations (though not the discussion session) is freely available on Mass Observation’s YouTube Channel.

MRS Conference: 'Insight Alchemy'

Insight Alchemy detail -square imageJudith Staig provides an AMSR perspective on the MRS Conference, ‘Insight Alchemy’. She concludes her article with some of the responses given in an interview with Key Speaker Historian David Olusoga which include some fascinating insights into his use of archives.

I felt very proud to represent the Archive at this year’s MRS Conference, ‘Insight Alchemy’. Not only because AMSR has a lot to say to MRS members, but also because some of the key themes of the conference spoke directly to the work of the AMSR in educating people about our industry, preserving our history and heritage and, most importantly, providing the context of history to help make sense of our world today.

Our marketing and marcomms teams have identified that face-to-face industry conferences are one of the best ways for us to raise our profile and attract new donors, volunteers, contributors of material and other supporters. The AMSR stand, kindly donated by the MRS, was a lively hub during coffee and networking breaks, and we had our two highly-regarded books in the Showcasing the Archive series available for sale – as well as offering a special rate for pre-orders of the upcoming third book, which was published on June 13th. We walked away with book sales, new signups to our mailing list, and a better understanding of just how much the AMSR has to offer to people in our sector.

Whilst most of this activity took place outside the conference rooms there was also a lot going on inside that had relevance to AMSR and our goals. One of the key takeouts from the conference sessions as a whole was the need for researchers to be more confident in being strategic partners to our clients, helping them to make difficult decisions and not just providing data. Those of us with an interest in history would likely argue that is not possible to have a truly informed perspective without a grounding in the context of the past; many of the speakers at Insight Alchemy reinforced this view.

In the excellent opening keynote, Claer Barrett, Consumer Editor at the FT, talked about the generational cognitive blindness experienced by finance people who have only ever known low interest rates. Data from the Archive, such as MORI BPO reports from the bad old days of the late ‘80s, when the base rate ran at 13%+, would do much to help understand how people are likely to feel, think and behave today, as mortgage costs soar.

Our own Phyllis Macfarlane talked about the value of case studies in teaching strategic thinking to young researchers. This is critically important for people entering the industry – as it is for all young people, we could argue. The industry is facing a talent shortage, so we must get good at exciting a new generation of young people about what it would be like to be a researcher. Young researchers are important to AMSR, not only as we are looking to recruit new volunteers, but also because they will be the research leaders of the future and – hopefully – future donors, supporters and contributors to our work.

Andrew Jerina, Head of Research at Flume, spoke, in a panel discussion, about the cyclic nature of the ‘next new thing’ in research. Currently, there is a lot of hype around how AI will revolutionise the industry. But the context of history tells us that we have been here before; we have been told that behavioural science, neuroscience, big data and social listening will all do away with how we work, but the reality is likely to be that, as always, we will separate out what is useful about the new method and incorporate it in what we do. Perhaps in future years we will have another version of our first book, looking at how our methods have changed in the digital era.(link)

Finally, there was the keynote with the excellent David Olusoga. He talked about the historical documents that show the long roots of the false idea that Black people feel less pain – which still has an impact on how people are treated by healthcare professionals today. He said that there is no more important job for historians to do than to show how such pervasive ideas have been constructed, as this is what will help us to dismantle them. We were lucky enough to be able to pose some questions to David, with the support of Katie McQuater of Impact magazine (who published her full interview here).

David said that all historians understand the value of archives and the power of documents from the past, but that television producers used to think that they were dry and dull. But more recently, this myth has been dispelled, largely through programmes such as Who do you think you are, and the trend towards people exploring their own ancestry online, making it possible to use archives and documents in his television work. He also said that the accessibility of digital archives, such as the AMSR, makes them invaluable and while something is lost in the materiality of the document, something is gained in the ease of searching.

I left the conference feeling inspired by what I had heard and proud of the work of the Archive and all our volunteers and supporters. To close, here is the full text of David Olusoga’s answers.

Talking to David Olusoga

AMSR: The AMSR is a resource that allows historians to connect with the views and behaviours of people from the recent past as told to market researchers. How have you used archives in your work and what value have you derived from archives?

DO: I think I’m able to use archives in my work because of something that’s happened in the world of television that was unexpected and I think enormously beneficial, which was that audiences were shown to be not frightened of data and not frightened of archives. When I was a young TV producer in the late ‘90s and noughties whenever you used documents or proposed to use documents in television programmes more senior and more experienced people would tell you the documents were boring or dull or dry. There was always a pejorative attached to documents and attached to archives. Our job was to move away from the written sources, to move away from raw data – not to tell stories but to have a spectacle. If it had been about telling stories, I would have gone with it, but it was about spectacle. The job that you do when you’re a documentary maker lays far more stress on the directing side than on the producing side, far more on the visual flair and the ability to tell stories. Many people in television have absolutely no understanding of how stories work, but lots of understanding of how pictures work. What happened in television, was demonstrated, largely through one programme, Who do you think you are, that audiences were not scared of documents.

So most of what I do is being able to ride the wave of that sort of breach in the wall that was created by that programme. And what it allows me to do is to experiment with what all historians know, which is that documents are some of the most fascinating, most emotional artefacts that we have, and the archives contain billions of human stories and that the common experience for an historian is not simply of dry analysis, but it is an emotional connection with people from the past. That has become something which is not just the preserve of historians but is something which people experience through television programmes. It’s really recent. It was not something that took place in television programmes very much at all until about 10 years ago. A lot of my work and a lot of my passion for history on television is because we’re not frightened of archives anymore. So that gulf between what historians do and what TV historians – TV producers more accurately – have done for many years has begun to shrink. It’s partly Who do you think you are, but it’s partly also something else which is that we are going through the biggest public participatory experience of history and archives that there ever has ever been, which is the genealogy revolution. Yeah, it’s very difficult as a TV executive who believes that documents are boring, dry and dull to say that when millions of people, literally millions, are going online to Find my past or Ancestry or any of the other sites or they’re going down to their local archives and engaging emotionally and personally, with documents. So, we were always wrong. The audience was always more sophisticated than TV claimed but also the genealogy revolution demonstrated that it has that capacity.

AMSR: The AMSR is a digital archive, so it’s accessible to everyone online. And it’s the result of volunteers scanning and logging paper documents online. How have you used digital artefacts in your work and what is the value of those compared with the original documents?

DO: Whenever I possibly can I use digital versions of documents. I subscribe to all of the various sites and I value them absolutely enormously. I value them because they allow you to deconstruct documents in ways that is much more difficult and time-consuming using paper documents. Now, I think there is probably something lost in not having the materiality of the document, but I think it’s outweighed by what by is gained, obviously being able to word search.  But it’s more than that. It’s about being able to see, in one screen or a few screens, being able to see various ways in which within a single text an issue is addressed, to see the hypocrisy or the duality of some writers, to see the struggles within an individual text around one issue. It is much harder to see that with 200 pages of text in between.

So I think there’s some good research into how people engage with digital documents. But I think that the work that I’ve done both as a writer and as a television historian has been enormously helped by the digitisation of those resources.


Oxford Bodleian History Thesis Fair

Three go to Oxford – Joe Murat, Phyllis Vangelder and Judith Wardle at the Oxford History Thesis Fair

Judith Wardle describes our day at the Fair

While Joe valiantly struggled to carry our exhibition banners across town, Phyllis and I met in the sunshine outside the church of St Mary the Virgin, opposite the impossibly beautiful Radcliffe Camera. The draconian traffic restrictions in Oxford meant that it was impossible to bring our material in by car, Joe had to park the car outside town. The centre of Oxford was virtually traffic free and eerily quiet as a result.

The Oxford History Undergraduate Fair was a rag taggle of stalls lining the walls of one of the examination rooms close by and our Archive had a prime position. We were next to the Bodleian map and chart library, over the way from an archive of legal history, and just down the way from Biography.  We could see all the geographical archives over the other side of the room. It offered students a chance to explore around their chosen subjects and to see if the information existed to do the research needed. They would need to change or amend their titles in the light of the data resources available. It’s chicken and egg when it comes to setting thesis questions.

Students began drifting in and we did our best to catch their eyes and ask them the key question, ‘what era are you interested in?’, a question which immediately identified our potential users. Students interested in ‘contemporary’ era (ie post 1945) were genuinely bowled over by the Archive’s content which slotted so well with their subjects. There are few such comprehensive archives as ours that relate to contemporary times. We quickly learnt not to use the word ’modern’ because this covers earlier times, beginning around 1500.  The enthusiasm in the room was infectious and we found ourselves caught up with their excitement. ‘Wow’, said one visitor to our stall when we showed him the breadth of our collections. Marketing, as we know, is all about understanding decision-making and catching people as they make those decisions. This was a room full of people who were dwelling on their subject questions, searching and sifting for the best angle to take, and here we were, engaging with them at the optimum time.

As we have found before, there was a huge amount of interest in gender. This time not just about women and their changing roles in public and domestic life, but about men, too. The first person I spoke to was interested in Masculinity and Glam Rock. When I said my husband had played in a glam rock band, her eyes widened. It wasn’t the only time we three felt we were history, having lived through times we shall soon find described in theses and history books. There were so many subjects we discussed with the students: many were interested in the politics of the Seventies, Mary Quant and fashion in the Sixties, the Iranian revolution in 1979 amongst other subjects. Yes, we were there, too !

Recent Additions To The Archive

Phyllis Macfarlane writes

Lots of material keeps on coming in – either digitally, or on paper, to our scanning office, which is very kindly loaned to us by IPSOS in Harrow.

Guinness Advertising from Alan Hedges

We’ve mentioned previously that we’ve retrieved a lot of material from Alan Hedges’ attic, and we are working our way through the scanning.  We’ve recently uploaded a collection of JWT annual proposals for Guinness advertising during the 1970s. It’s interesting in that the earliest ones don’t recognise women drinking beer independently and refer to ‘housewives and husbands’. But by the end of the ‘70s they had data which showed that women were drinking and buying in their own right and developed the advertising accordingly, and husbands and housewives are no longer mentioned. Some things have changed over time! Is the advertising world the most attuned to social change, perhaps? Some reports containing solely copies of advertisements (together with the dates which they were run) we have donated to HAT, which has a fine collection of Guinness ads and it seems best to keep them all together.

Kantar Insights Reports

Some things may have changed, but then many haven’t. We have a recent donation of reports from Kantar Insights. Three from their ‘Winning over Women series’ – on the financial services industry. I found  ‘Winning over Wealth – Women’s attitudes to finance and investment’ (1) particularly interesting as it highlights how great the financial gap still is between men and women – even young women don’t have the same financial confidence as men. It really is time these sorts of attitudes changed.

Other reports from Kantar now in the Archive include: ‘Redefining the Menopause’ (2); ‘Doing the right thing authentically – a report on how brands could go right or wrong’, activating around the Pride festival’ (3); ‘COVID 19 Barometer State of the Nation series’ comprising eight presentations from webinars hosted throughout the spring and summer of 2020. It’s fascinating to see again the progression of feelings and opinions about the Pandemic over time – look at the first one and relive March 2020.(4)

GWI Reports

We also have a series of modern reports from GWI ‘Commerce: GWI’s flagship 2021 report’ on the latest trends in commerce (5) – Buy Now Pay Later services reaching a new level of maturity. ’Also: ’The gaming playbook: everything you want to know about the gaming audience (2021)’(6) – largest growth in Gamers 2018-2020 is in 55-64 year olds: +32%. Who knew!; The global media landscape: analysing how the pandemic has changed global media habits’ (7);  GWI’s flagship report on the latest trends in social media (2022) (8); and ‘United Kingdom: key digital behaviours and trends over time and across demographics’ (9) – we watch a lot more linear TV than the global average, and some interesting attitudes to COVID Vaccines from October 2021, by age.

Peter Bartram and Cricket

We were planning to do a story on Cricket in honour of the forthcoming Ashes series – we’d found some nice material in the Archive including a project on a potential Cricket part-work in the CRAM Collection – but as we were discussing it, Peter Bartram suddenly remembered that he’d done a study for the MCC in 1966 – and he then found it at the back of a cupboard. It’s one of those wonderful studies that shows that nothing ever really changes, Enjoy the nostalgia.(10).

The Dark Ages of Market Research? Do you have any material?

Presenting to the Master’s Students at Kings College, London, recently, I became aware that their interests really are quite ‘contemporary’ – definitely more Tony Blair than Mrs. Thatcher.  And it made me remember something that we have been aware of for quite some time – which is that we have an increasingly obvious ‘dark’ spot in the Archive as we approach the late ‘90s and early 2000s – the time when we were reporting digitally – but hadn’t yet sorted out how we archived our files. We do find companies who admit that they have trouble retrieving reports from that time – before we all got it sorted out.

So, I’d like to make a special plea to anyone reading this far – if you know you have material on strange, outmoded storage devices or are about to delete material from that time – please do consider donating it to the Archive – what academics and students want is becoming ever more recent. It will probably be used sooner than you think.  And any interesting material that you still have at the back of a cupboard or in an attic – please do root it out for us and send it in.

Links to reports mentioned:

  1. Winning over wealth (women’s attitudes to finance and investment) – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  2. Redefining the menopause – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  3. Doing the right thing with authenticity: how to be a socially relevant brand in uncertain times [how brands should meet consumer demands such as diversity and inclusion] – Company Reports & PR – The AMSR Online Archive (
  4. Kantar Covid-19 Barometer webinar, Wave 1 (fieldwork March 13-18 2020) – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  5. Commerce: GWI’s flagship report on the latest trends in commerce – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  6. The gaming playbook: everything you want to know about the gaming audience – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  7. The global media landscape: analysing how the pandemic has changed global media habits – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  8. Social: GWI’s flagship report on the latest trends in social media – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  9. United Kingdom: key digital behaviours and trends over time and across demographics – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive (
  10. NOP National Cricket Survey – NOP Reports – The AMSR Online Archive (


Newsletter No. 1, 2023

Letter from the Editor

I have been listening to broadcasts from the BBC Archive – Our Archive Century, a series marking one hundred years of the BBC through the riches to be found in the Corporation’s broadcasts.  The material it contains is tucked away and preserved in a temperature-controlled room, but it is safe and available at the touch of a key.

The commentators suggest that this Archive provides the texture of the everyday world. And, of course, we see analogies with our own Archive: We too have a wealth of material on British Elections and public affairs, particularly in the Collections such as MORI British Public Opinion, NOP Reports and other Opinion Poll reports.

Like the BBC Archive our survey and reports cover people’s attitudes and behaviour in real time and in contemporary language.  This is particularly true of the qualitative material that so often includes ‘verbatims’.  In addition to the valuable CRAM collection from Peter Cooper we are building up collection of very impressive qualitative work. Wendy Sykes and I are sorting Alan Hedges’ life-spanning collection of research (see ‘Alan’s Attic in this issue) and among the vast number of reports, are many chronicling insightful qualitative studies. Please, if you have any such material, donate it to the Archive (of if you prefer, it can be loaned to us, while it is being scanned and catalogued and added to the Archive collections, and then returned to you).

We have embarked on an important outreach project, targeted at schools, to increase the use of the Archive by A-level students.  Phyllis Macfarlane outlines our exciting initial programme.

Anyone who listens to Tim Harford’s ‘More or less’ which explains, and sometimes debunks, the numbers and statistics used in political debate, the news and everyday life, knows how tricky the interpretation of statistics can be. Tony Dent’s initiative for Better Statistics is an important project for our industry. He and Phyllis Macfarlane report on the recent Conference, ’Measuring Success for Business, Society and the Environment’ and examine its wide-ranging agenda, including the digital revolution, sustainability, well-being and the role of economics in the political debate.

Don’t forget to look at the ‘Latest Additions’ piece. This is now a regular feature on our website and in the Newsletter. Please keep your contributions to the Archive collections coming.

Mass Observation/AMSR Joint Webinar

Unfortunately, this exciting joint event ‘Exploring the Archives: Researching the narrative of happiness and the history of feeling’, which was due to be held 15 February, had to be postponed, due to industrial action by university personnel.

We are delighted to announce that the Webinar has been re-scheduled for 3 May – at a new time of 2-4 pm.

The Event will be chaired by Suzanne Rose, MO’s Engagement Manager. The introductory speakers include Kirsty Pattrick, MO Research Manager and Jessica Scantlebury MO Archivist, and Phyllis Macfarlane, Head of AMSR Collections, followed by two academics who have both used the archives in their research: Professor Claire Langhamer, Director of the Institute of Historical Research and Dr David Tross, Associate Lecturer. Birkbeck University of London. The Webinar will be an opportunity for conversation, discovery and revelation.

We have already seen a great deal of interest in the Webinar. If you have already registered for the Event, you will, of course, be informed of the new date. Full details are on the AMSR website.

AMSR Schools A-Level Project

Phyllis Macfarlane presents an update of our outreach programme for schools

We have three more schools on board since our last Newsletter – getting through to the right person is tricky – but once we do they are very positive. After all they are very keen to get pupils to use different sources – and we are easy-to-use, digital and free – so there’s a lot to like! Some schools even have librarians to help pupils identify sources.

In addition to Modern British History, we have now written ‘crib sheets’ for students of A-Levels in Sociology (gender studies, crime and religion), Politics (development of political parties and do opinion polls work(!)) and Psychology (research methods). And we have also tackled the EPQ (Extended Project Qualification). This latter was the most difficult as we had no idea of typical topics – but the internet (where else?) had lots of suggestions and we chose one that seemed appropriate for us: Has the British Public lost interest In the Royal Family since World War 2?

You have no idea how much we have on attitudes to the monarchy and the royal family in the Archive – and not only in the MORI and NOP collections, as you would expect –  but in the CRAM collection we have some qualitative research projects about the  possibility of launching a part-work type magazine on the Royal Family: here’s one of the reports: Dog Tag: a qualitative evaluation/magazine on the Royal Family – it tells you an awful lot about public attitudes in 1983.

We are also looking into the possibility of running an email campaign to all secondary schools. If we can get 30-50 schools on board it will greatly boost our user numbers. Some of the pupils will go on to University and use the Archive in their degrees, and then the next school year will take it up…as they have at Notting Hill and Ealing High School… Once we are used in a school we can introduce other topics: survey research methods and data analysis, for example.

Watch this space!

Latest additions to the Archive

Phyllis Macfarlane writes

We’ve had many fascinating additions to the Archive in the last few months.

From Qa Research a study done for the Prince’s Trust in 2006 on ‘Breaking the Cycle of Offending. A real consultation with the real people involved – young criminals. Asking them what they need to happen to stop them re-offending, with simple, straight-forward recommendations to prevent them going straight back into crime on leaving prison. All social research should be like this. Breaking the cycle of offending: making the views of young people count: good ideas wanted – Papers and Offprints – The AMSR Online Archive.

And also from Qa Research a 2011 survey of Group Travel Organisers on the current market and the future of Group Travel – for those of you interested in tourism in general. National Group Travel Report 2011 – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive ( Group Travel Organiser Research 2011 (charts) – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive.

Emotions & The Impact on Advertising Effectiveness is a paper from Dianne Newman of Research and Analysis of Media (RAM) 2022. It considers two important questions: ‘How can emotions drive advertising effectiveness?’ and ‘Which emotions have the most impact in terms of engaging the audience, and prompting them to take action?’  There are interesting conclusions! Emotions & the Impact on Advertising Effectiveness – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive.

More from the Gordon Heald Collection:

Survey of US Teenagers, a 1985 study for BBC Television covers the attitudes of US Teenagers to Nuclear Warfare, their opinion of the chances of the US surviving a nuclear attack (65% said ‘Poor’) – and their own personal chance of surviving a nuclear attack (66% thought their chance ‘Poor’). It’s easy to forget now, knowing what we do, how serious we believed the Cold War was, in the 1980s. Survey of US Teenagers – Reports of projects – The AMSR Online Archive.

If you’ve ever seriously wondered about the outcome of the 1997 Election – not so much why Tony Blair won – history tends to be written by the victors after all, and there were many who claimed to be architects of New Labour – but why the conservatives lost, then this report: ‘The HSBA Panel of 1000 Conservative voters 1994-97 – Why the Tories failed at the 1997 Election will enlighten you from a Tory voter’s point of view. Some interesting results on the debate around the single currency, problems with the NHS(!), sleaze(!!) and a comparison of attitudes to Major and Blair. What very different times they were, and yet so similar!  I’d even forgotten that it was Major who lost! HSBC panel of 1000 Conservative voters 1994-1997: why the Tories failed in the 1997 election (presentation) – Opinion Poll Reports – The AMSR Online Archive.

And thirdly The Soul of Britain at the Millennium, a WAPOR paper by Gordon Heald will surprise you with the facts as to how many Britons believed in Heaven, Hell and the Devil (52%, 28% and 32% in case you don’t want to read the whole report). The Soul of Britain at the Millennium – Papers and Offprints – The AMSR Online Archive.

And last but definitely not least – we are very lucky to have reports from the very first days of Readership Research.

Through a chance encounter at a conference where someone said to me – oh, a very good friend of mine’s Father and Uncle were famous market researchers – I’ll put you in touch with him – we have been fortunate enough to be given copies of what are probably the first newspaper readership studies in the UK:  from 1928: Press Circulation Analysed and from 1934: An Analysis of Press Circulations.

In the introduction to the 1928 study, Harry Lyall, founder of the London Research and Information Bureau (in 1921), tells us all about its inception:

In the course of six years’ work on market research, that is, six years devoted to studying the buying habits of the public, the problem of investigating the reading habits of the public has been constantly in our minds. What do the middle-classes, ­the well-to-do, the comfortably-off read? What do the less-well-to-do, those who have not a middle-class income, but have many buying habits in common with the well-to-do, viz:  the lower-middle-classes – read? What do the steadier working­ classes read? These are questions we have often asked ourselves and have often heard asked by others. Our research work among consumers into the distribution of products by class of buyer and by area gave us confidence that the same method could be applied to the distribution of newspapers and periodicals.

The introduction later defines class:

By class we mean buying capacity-plus social outlook. By middle-class we mean the well-to-do and the comfortably-off. By lower middle-class we mean people whose buying capacity is much more limited than the middle-class, but whose social outlook and buying habits are somewhat similar to those of people in that class. By working-class we mean the steadier types of workers. Slum areas and very poor neighbourhoods were not touched by this investigation.

The market for the data was Advertisers: to provide Practitioners in Advertising with material which will enable them to plan advertising campaigns with a more exact knowledge of the degree of coverage of different social classes and areas which can be obtained by the use of various newspapers and periodicals.

The outcome was a study of 20,140 interviews – with trained interviewers – who interviewed housewives about the reading habits of their families.

The sheer scale and detail of the project is astonishing – mostly because, you have to ask yourself – how on earth, in 1928, did they manage all that data and analysis? Answer – they used a firm of Chartered Accountants! It took several months. They went to a lot of trouble.

The 1934 report is similar – they clearly had done the survey annually in-between. I personally found the 1934 report more interesting because Bolton is one of the sampled areas. If, like me, you tend to gravitate to data on your own birthplace – I went straight to the top newspapers read in Bolton…

I found that in 1934 the Bolton Evening News was read by 73.7% of Bolton households. The Empire News (a Weekly) by 44.8%, The People by 23.9%, The Daily Herald by 16.7 % and the Radio Times by 16.1%.

At a national level the top four in 1934 were:  the News of the World (40.72%), The People (34.5%), The Daily Herald (25.4%) and the Radio Times (22.04%).

The data were analysed by duplication (cross-readership) and social class and come with very detailed explanations as to how the numbers should be read.

The 1928 report doesn’t include Bolton, unfortunately, and the top papers are quite different:  the News of the World was no 1 with readership of 20.75 %, The Daily Mail no 2  with 23.17%, The Sunday Pictorial third with 16.1%, and John Bull 10.7%.  The People had only 8.68%. The Radio Times wasn’t mentioned (it had been launched in 1923).

Being a cynic, I, of course, wondered about the accuracy – but then I remembered that a lot happened in the world between 1928 and 1934 – especially in the world of publishing and newspapers.

These two reports are a gift to anyone wanting to write a history of readership research or of their local press.

I’ll be contacting the Bolton Evening News shortly….


Alan's Attic

Wendy Sykes and Phyllis Vangelder on clearing Alan Hedges’ attic

The photos below show us in the late Alan Hedges’ attic in his beautiful house in Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire. Although it was a lovely drive up through the English countryside, we have seen nothing of the village. These photos were taken on our second full day: there is at least one more day’s sorting to do, possibly two. Alan’s lifework covers the whole space of the attic and we are endeavouring to sort, list and review it for the Archive. We feel immensely privileged to play a part in preserving not just the books and reports that he wrote, but in reviewing his work, becoming acutely aware of the high quality of his research and the thinking behind every project he undertook. And it is also prescient: there are reports about air pollution, green issues, waste reduction etc. long before they were of mass media interest.

We are attempting to segment the research into three areas: the vast amount of investigative and assessment work he undertook for local and central government and NGOs, commercial and market research, and a specific sector, the drinks industry, particularly for Guinness.

Alan maintained detailed records of all the projects he worked on; carefully packed into boxes and the earliest of these include paperwork which would now be kept in digital folders. Although confidential material has been removed, it is still possible in some of these earlier archives to trace the arc of a project; from initial enquiry and development of the brief through every subsequent stage of execution and delivery.

We should like to thank Alan’s children, Karen and Steve, for donating Alan’s material to the Archive. This will ensure it is not lost. It is available for researchers and scholars to read, to learn from, and appreciate and respect the kind of analytical thinking and insight that underlies all good research.

Urgent! Volunteers required

Insight Alchemy detail -square imageIsn’t it wonderful to have a have an in-person Conference once again? To meet face-to-face and have live contact with colleagues and friends?

This years’ MRS Conference will be a live one-day event on 14 March at the Hilton Bankside Hotel, 2-8 Gt Suffolk Street, SE1.

The theme of ‘Insight Alchemy’ will enable countless stories of excellence in research to be presented, showing how base data can be turned into golden nuggets of insight that can transform business, public institutions and society.

Phyllis Macfarlane is taking part in a panel discussion about strategy. She will talk about understanding ‘context’- the background and history of the product or service – to the development of strategic thinking, a context that can so often be found in the rich collections of the Archive.

The Growth Event: Is 2.5% growth compatible with modern values?

Phyllis Macfarlane and Tony Dent report from A Better Statistics CIC Event held at the Royal Statistical Society on 30 November 2022

COVID-19 and Brexit have already changed the way we live and work, with more change expected as we react to their lingering effects and seek a zero carbon, sustainable future. Even by November 2022 it was clear that a 2.5% growth agenda was not realistic, or indeed desirable. The purpose of the Better Statistics CIC event held on 30 November 2022 was therefore planned to look closely at the data and explore alternatives.

With contributions from industry, academia and the Office for National Statistics – including keynotes from Ian Cass of the Forum for Private Business and Geoff Tily from the Trades Union Council – the one-day Conference held at The Royal Statistical Society provided a wide-ranging review of progress on measuring these effects and their implications for policy and for business.

The agenda covered such issues as:

  • AI and the Digital Revolution, what will be the effects?
  • Sustainability and the influence of Global Warming
  • Measuring well-being and welfare, with a view to redefining GDP
  • Updating the National Business Statistics, to meet modern requirements.

The final session providing a duologue of Sir John Curtice and Sir Vince Cable to discuss the role of economics in the political debate – or is it the role of politics in the economic debate?

Setting the scene, Keynote speaker Ian Cass, MD of the Forum of Private Businesses, made a strong case for Microbusinesses (1-9 employees) to be consulted and listened to more by Government. The challenges small businesses face are enormous – they can help design policy – but not if the government ignores them, and only hears the voice of big business. A lot of money could have been saved on the Covid bounce-back loans if only the government had listened to the advice of small businesses.  Change creates gaps and workload. It’s difficult for small businesses without resources to adapt and keep up. He argued for Government to make it easier to do business, and a level playing field.

Geoff Tilly, Senior Economist, Trades Union Council, presented a thought-provoking paper on ‘Real Pay and the (lack of) Growth’. He demonstrated that we are in the worst pay crisis since the Napoleonic wars! The supply view is that weak pay is a consequence of weak productivity. On the other hand, the demand side view is that weak productivity is a consequence of weak pay.

The first session,‘ Business and Labour Market Transformation Plans’,  saw David Freeman (ONS, Head of Labour Market and Households), and Craig Taylor (ONS, Lead for Business Statistics Transformation) talk us through the enormous task that ONS is currently undertaking to reform and update all the national business statistics,  driven by quality concerns across the R&D statistics, increasing disparity between ONS and HMRC statistics, the availability of new data sources, the levelling up agenda and end-user pressure. The Labour Force Survey is being developed with the aims of reducing bias, reducing attrition and increasing response. Improving the respondent experience and better user engagement are also critical.

The second session looked at ‘Productivity’, a contentious issue in the UK.  Professor Jonathan Portes (Kings College) asked ‘Where are the workers?’ Josh Martin (Bank of England) described what we can expect from digital developments, Nicola Archer (Savanta) asked if public opinion was a barrier to AI (Automated Intelligence).  And David Stroll (Opagio Ltd) and Mathew Nagel (Neatsmith Ltd) presented an excellent case study: ‘Solving the UK Growth and Productivity Problem: one firm at a time’. They actually ask their employees how they can pay them more. They have increased their drivers pay by 50% by incorporating them more into the manufacturing and installation process.

The afternoon of the Conference went on to wider economic issues and measurement, starting with a Keynote address by Professor Martin Weale (Kings Business School) looking at ‘Income Distribution and GDP’, in which he pointed out that in the past the National Accounts had been more concerned with net national income than GDP and had presented data on the distribution of income.  His observation that GDP is a measure of economic activity rather than an indicator of economic progress provided the ideal introduction to the topic of the open forum ‘What is the future of GDP?’ chaired by Professor Paul Allin (Imperial College).  Contributions to the debate as to whether GDP should be replaced or extended were provided by Ehsan Masood, (Author of ‘GDP the World’s most powerful formula and why it must change’), Richard Heys (ONS) and Jennifer Wallace (Carnegie Trust) with observations from the floor contributing to a lively session.  Finally, Paul Allin called for a vote on a three-way option: a) to keep GDP as it is, changing only what is required to measure a changing economy; b) extending the measure in some way to include measures of well-being or satisfaction/happiness; or c) scrapping it and replacing it with something new.  The voting was strongly in favour of choice b): that GDP should be extended.  There were only two votes for a completely new measure, possibly out of sympathy for all those whose livelihoods are bound up with the measurement of GDP!

Session 4 Where to for the National Accounts?’ examined some of the issues in more detail firstly considering the effects of climate change: ‘From people to plants – what should we value?’ by Sanjiv Mahajan (ONS). Sanjiv took us through what we know (in data terms) and showed that much of the progress we appear to be making with decarbonisation is not real – we are simply moving it around.  Affluent society in the developed countries has to change and move away from growth. Technological advances alone will never achieve net-zero. And he challenged us with the questions: How do we get the right policies in place to make individuals change their behaviour to prevent catastrophe? What do we need to do to have the right data to support those policies?

Secondly the session looked at that key question: ‘How should we value the unproductive’: a very well-researched and presented paper by Vicky Pryce (CEBR). Vicky went through all the research on how difficult it is to measure public sector productivity and unpaid work. (My favourite fact: what is a housewife worth?  £159,137 p.a. according to a Daily Telegraph calculation in 2014) and closed with a statement as to why measuring matters: because according to the ONS “Important qualitative and quantitative issues would otherwise be missed from any analysis of prosperity”. Measuring unpaid production and consumption helps assess better the activities that affect people’s well-being. Different impacts on well-being depending on whether time is spent on activities that people choose to do or have to do. It can help with issues in relation to stress levels across the population.

And the ONS argues “Measuring unpaid production also allows users to analyse the reciprocating relationship between unpaid work and the economic choices people make; the substitution between unpaid and paid activities is important for considering labour market and social policies together”. In other words: properly valuing so-called ‘unproductive’ work and perceived ‘less-productive’ work is essential for fairness and wider prosperity.

Finally, in the closing session, Sir John Curtice and Sir Vince Cable, jousted over the question ‘What is the role of Politics in Economics?’ Sir John defined politics as the art of communication between the rulers and the ruled, and cast himself as spokesperson for the ruled, and Sir Vince as representative ex-ruler. Sir John then very ably showed the trends in public feelings on current major issues facing our society and Sir Vince, after speculating that Sir John’s sub-theme was clearly: ‘Why are politicians so irrational? parried, also very ably, showing for each issue why politicians couldn’t, or weren’t able, to do anything about it at the time!

An example will give you the flavour: answers to the question ‘Government should redistribute income from the better-off to the less well-off’ (Source: British Social Attitudes) show good public support for redistribution – the level of support actually increasing in recent years. Also, recently (since 2019) there is less agreement to the question: ‘If welfare benefits weren’t so generous, people would learn to stand on their own two feet’ (source BSA). So why isn’t the government acting on this change in public attitudes? Sir Vince responded that, of course, people are very ambivalent about redistribution. And they think very differently about redistribution of income compared with wealth. Inheritance tax – which is arguably the most effective method of redistribution – is the most unpopular tax. Re-distribution via benefits is actually very controversial. Probably the thing should be being done is the reform of Council tax – but the losers in any reform plan tend to be more vocal than the winners. And so it continues.  In other words, for politicians, it’s always more complicated than is indicated by simple charts.

Another example:  concern about Climate Change has risen since 2015 (Source: Ipsos) – why isn’t this translating into political action? Sir Vince responded that, indeed, the recent increase in public concern was very striking, but so far it hadn’t transformed into itself into political preferences. Individuals have very different utility preferences and the inclusive carbon tax we are willing to pay is considerably less than what is needed to obtain significant reduction in carbon emissions. Take the current discussion on wind-farms – it seems astonishing that preserving the view should matter more than the potential savings – but so far it seems that the ‘banners’ of onshore wind-farms are winning.

They also covered taxes and spending, Brexit and Immigration:  it was a very entertaining and educational exposition!

The Event closed with everyone more knowledgeable about issues with National Statistics , redefining GDP,  measuring productivity, and how difficult life is for politicians. Several consoling glasses of wine or pints of beer were required to allow us further discussion to consolidate our new-found knowledge, and vow to carry on campaigning for better (more accurate and more appropriate) statistical measures to guide policy in the future.

All slides are available at The Growth Event – Better Statistics CIC (

The Pet revolution

Pet Revolution book cover squareFollowing the article in last month’ issue, Cats in the Archive, Jane Hamlett and Julie-Marie Strange’s book The Pet Revolution: Animals and the Making of Modern British Life has now been published.

It draws on the work undertaken by Professors Hamlett and Strange for the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) Pets and Family Project. It used The Archive of Market and Social Research as one of its research sources.

The book tracks the British love affair with pets over the last two centuries, showing how the kinds of pets people keep, as well as how they relate to and care for them, has changed radically. The authors describe the growth of pet foods and medicines, the rise of pet shops, and the development of veterinary care, creating the pet economy. Most importantly, pets have played a powerful emotional role in families across all social classes, creating new kinds of relationships and home lives. The capacity of pets to forge strong emotional attachments with their guardians was a major theme of the Pets and Family Life Project.  While species popularity, pet keeping practices and cultural framing changed over time, there was significant long-term continuity in emotional investment in animals and the book shows that historical research strongly supports the contention that pets can make a significant contribution to individual well-being.

For the first time, through a history of companion animals and the humans who lived with them, this book puts the story of the ‘pet revolution’ alongside other revolutions – industrial, agricultural, political – to highlight how animals contributed to modern British life.

The book, engagingly illustrated and a delight not only for pet lovers but all those interested in social developments in this country, is published by Reaktion Books and is available from Amazon and all good book shops .

Welcome Marion

We welcome new volunteer Marion Chamberlain, who has joined the Contents Team as Operations Manager. The amount of material we are now receiving, particularly modern data in digitised form, means that the task of processing our collections is becoming increasingly complex. Marion, working closely with Christine Eborall, is developing a spreadsheet whereby contributions of material will be tracked from promises, through receipt, to scanning, cataloguing, and loading.  We already have excellent procedures for hardcopy material; scanning of paper copy will continue as usual at Harrow, and we have plenty to do as we weren’t able to do very much during the pandemic. But because reports and papers are increasingly received in digital format, we must have a digitally appropriate process to enhance efficiency and avoid duplication, both of effort and material.

Digital material means no scanning, and cataloguing can be done at home. We are building up a team of in-home cataloguers and these will be overseen by Marion.

Marion Chamberlain has just retired from her position as Ipsos Interactive Services Global Programme Director (the Digital Research Arm of Ipsos). She was with Ipsos for six and a half years and prior to that, spent nearly 25 years with TNS and Kantar.

Her work with Ipsos was about introducing best practice in Programme Management and leading process change, ensuring that new systems met with the strategy of the company and were well implemented – a very good fit for the AMSR Contents Team!

Significant Insights

James Endersby, CEO of Insight Agency Opinium, talked to us about his Charity

What is Significant Insights and why did you start it?

Thanks for asking! Obviously, my real job is CEO of the insight agency Opinium, but I’ve always believed that we also need to use our businesses and our professional positions for good. In February 2020, in my spare time, I launched Significant Insights, which is a global content platform for the market research industry, and on a mission to make our sector more accessible by bringing our incredible people, their journeys, lessons, tips and inspiring stories to life.

Significant Insights wants to help younger researchers develop their careers and open up the industry to all backgrounds, and to those that might not consider it. In short, the platform simply exists to profile and give a voice to senior researchers, and younger researchers on their way up, and to provide a channel for them to impart their wisdom, so that new researchers, and those outside our industry can learn, grow, develop and find their ways to the top.

Youre doing this great job supporting our sector, but how can anyone reading this help Significant Insights?

What a great question! Well first they could head straight to, enjoy the inspiring content, and please also follow us on LinkedIn!

There are so many incredible and experienced people in our industry with great advice and wisdom pretty much locked away. No one asks them! I try to ask as many of them as possible, but I’m only scratching the surface. If anyone reading this would like to share their career journey, or would like to recommend someone they admire, I’d happily conduct a profile interview and showcase them.

As you know my day job is managing Opinium and we’re pretty fast-growing, so the plan is to bring on sponsors and supporters who would like to align their businesses with Significant Insights, support the cause, be that through advertising on the home page, inside the various sections, or sponsoring our annual ‘Significant Insights Global 30 Under 30 Awards’ to recognise and support junior talent. The revenues will go towards hiring an editor who can help lead the site and help bring out more and more precious content so we can help an increasing number of talented people to thrive and inspire many more to join our sector!

Whos given the most inspiring interview so far?

I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite, but Bob Qureshi has an inspiring career journey and has fantastic advice for junior researchers. Priscilla McKinney tells the story of how her business burnt down and she built it all back up and is still a terrific success, a force of supportive positivity, and inspires others to follow suite. Jan Gooding’s and Vanessa Oshima’s interviews are also ones to read!  There must be so many wonderful stories out there. Do get in touch!

Memories of Jeremy

Jeremy Bullmore portraitJeremy Bullmore 1929-2023

Paul Edwards writes

The fact that so much has been written about Jeremy since his death is testament to the enormous impact he has had in the world of marketing and advertising.

His career details are deceptively simple: Creative Director and Chairman at J Walter Thompson and following his ‘retirement’ (which was only last year) he became a sage in the WPP group.  Shareholders will know him from his articles in the WPP annual report, Guardian readers will know him from his regular column and Campaign readers will recall his ‘agony uncle’ column.  He also found time to be president of the MRS and was a welcome supporter of the AMSR.

He always spoke and wrote with wit and wisdom.  His articles were gathered into readable and enlightening books.  He was also a kind and generous colleague.  Jeremy always took time with the recruitment and mentoring of the WPP graduates – many of them have taken to social media to share their memories and gratitude.  Somehow, he made time for everyone.

His partnership with Stephen King at JWT made the agency a powerhouse of thinking and invention.  Between them they managed to understand and communicate the way that advertising and brands work.

Everyone who knew him has a store of Jeremy anecdotes mostly showing how perceptive and funny he was.  I remember sitting next to him at one of those black- tie dinners with an eminent after-dinner speaker.  Afterwards I expressed to Jeremy my disappointment with the talk which should have been so interesting.  Quick as a flash he just said “Of course, no metaphor.”  As always, he was spot on.

Jeremy will be fondly remembered on a personal basis by everyone he met; his influential thinking will live on forever.

If you would like to read more by Jeremy, WPP have made a collection of his work available:

I highly recommend it.


If you’re looking for older articles, we will be migrating our pre-2023 newsletters to the updated AMSR website during the course of the coming months. It may be that you can’t find what you’re looking for at the moment, but please check back regularly.