Liz Nelson speaking

A reception was held by AMSR on 7 November, 2017, at the prestigious IPA offices in Belgrave Square.  The event was attended by 62 people.

The aim of the reception was primarily to thank volunteers and sponsors, to bring people up-to-date with the latest developments, and our plans for the future and to give a live demonstration of the on-line program already available.

Liz Nelson, Chairman of the Trustees Board, welcomed the attendees, thanking all those who supported the archive. “You are our support system, supporting with your time, your money, your skills and your patience, and what appears to most of us giving the thanks tonight, we thrive on your enthusiasm for the archive …it’s great working with researchers: qual, quant, social, commercial, academic.

Adam Phillips, Chairman of the Executive Committee, said:

“Thank you Liz. Our last meeting with supporters was in February and a lot has happened since then.

The original genesis of AMSR was the idea was that the market and social research sector was unusual in not having an obvious place for people to go who want to find out more about the industry itself; about its development and about the information it has collected. We agreed that we should create an archive that would fill this gap for five target groups for such an archive –– historians and social scientists, marketing and MR academics and students, the research community, the media and the informed public. As you will gather this evening this purpose remains our key objective and we are still aiming at these target groups, but we have refined our ideas somewhat over the past six months.

AMSR became charity on 1 April last year and we had collected enough money and pledges by the end of last year to cover three years forecasted running cost. We need to have this level of cover because both the two archives we considered using to store material required us to commit to pay two years’ fees on a rolling basis, with a third year giving us some additional financial security. In December last year we signed a contract with the History of Advertising Trust, which I will now call HAT, to store our material from 1 January 2017 and sent our first batch to them that month.

Thanks to a very generous offer of office space by Ginny Monk we established an operational base at Network Research last Autumn and began to collect and sort material. Geoffrey Roughton persuaded the Estate of Alan Hendrickson to buy us a flatbed scanner to scan much of the material we were assembling, although it took some time to get it working and find volunteers to run it. That was where we were when we held our last meeting in February this year.

At that time, we were becoming concerned that accessing material at HAT, which is based not far from Lowestoft and a long train journey from London, might be a problem for everyone other than serious academic researchers with long time lines to produce theses and books.

It rapidly became apparent that an online archive was going to be more useful to most of our target users and also helpful in meeting our charitable objective, which is to educate. The Board took a decision in May that we would scan as much material as possible. We will continue to store all the paper material at HAT but, unlike most other archives, most of our material will be available online. This has hugely increased the potential number of users and also the geographic reach of the archive, which is now effectively global.

Taking this decision meant that we required a much larger space in which to work. This was very kindly provided by Ipsos MORI which has provided part of a floor in its Harrow offices, where we can hold meetings, scan and store material while it is catalogued, before sending it to HAT.

Some of you will already have seen the demonstration of the online archive this evening which is powered by OCLC software. Those of you who have not, will have the chance to play with it later this evening. The Online Computer Library Center is an American, not for profit, organisation whose largest user in the UK is Warwick University. OCLC’s major attraction for us is that it is easy to use, has a lot of useful functionality and is one tenth the cost of any similar software currently available.

Alongside the technical development of the online archive, we have also been thinking about prioritising the types of material we should be collecting. Published papers on research techniques may be widely available elsewhere, but conference papers, reports and especially long term tracking surveys such as the TGI and Worldpanel measuring consumption are not. Market research data are obviously of interest to social and business historians. And individuals’ collections that cover specific interests often contain unique material.

We believe that there are certain types of material that will be particularly attractive, such as time series and case studies, and the social history material contained in some long running tracking surveys that organisations like the Henley Centre produced.

We have refreshed our current website to make it more attractive, more user-focused and to provide access to the archive. Looking forward to Q1 next year, we hope to considerably expand the range of material in the online archive. We intend that the website will also be able to present AMSR as a hub, with not only its own material, but links to other archives that also store market and social research material and data.

As you are about to hear, we have been carrying out some research, primarily among the academic and commercial research community to understand how AMSR could be most useful to them.

Over the next two years, we are intending to raise a larger share of our income from corporate sources, using the research we have done and the content of the online archive to emphasise the reputational benefits of supporting our work. We also intend to promote our work with schools and universities to raise the attractiveness of the sector among graduates.

That has been a very brief journey through what we have done in the last eighteen months since AMSR became a charity, and what we are planning to do next year. I would like to repeat what Liz has already said, that none of what we have done so far could have been achieved without the generosity and active help of many of those here today. Thank you very much.

I am going to hand over now to Professor Patrick Barwise, an AMSR supporter, who will be chairing the next session where we will be discussing the research we have done and having a Q&A panel.

Paddy started at London Business School in 1976 becoming Professor of Management and Marketing.  But before he joined LBS he worked on the client side, in sales and marketing at IBM and he has been an advisor to two research start-ups.  Paddy is an expert in brands and media, particularly broadcasting, and an ex-chairman of Which”.

Professor Barwise began by noting that although he is an Ehrenberg trained empiricist (‘In God we trust. All others must bring data’ – attributed to Ed Deming), most of what he was about to present was evidence-free opinion.

The market for the archive was complex and heterogeneous, covering the UK and the rest of the world, but his hunch was that the main relevant group would be social historians, including PhD students. He is married to a social historian (Catherine Horwood) who used Mass Observation data for her PhD thesis (‘Keeping up Appearances’) on English middle class dress codes and related anxieties in the inter-war years. In principle, businesses will be able to use the archive to avoid re-inventing the wheel.  In practice, they are more likely to use it to provide historical context to new data.

Scanning (almost) everything and making AMSR primarily an online recourse is clearly the right strategy to make the archive easily accessible globally. The aim should be a website with great navigation that not only helps people to find relevant material within the AMSR archive, but also acts as the number one global hub for anyone looking for historical and social research via links to other sites. To get this right we must practise what we preach, testing, learning and improving through continuous user research, especially during the beta stage.

Marketing will be the key, starting with the UK before doing much internationally. Fortunately social historians (the main target in Professor Barwise’s view) are relatively easy to identify and reach.

Professor Barwise then introduced Robin Birn, currently Head of Marketing Training, at Imparta Ltd, the specialist sales, marketing and service training company.  Over the last ten years he has trained many global company marketers and the Rising Leaders in the WPP and Kantar Group, in Business Strategy, Marketing Strategy and Customer Insight and other marketing competencies.

Robin Birn presented interesting results from the qualitative survey which he and Judith Wardle have conducted among academics to explore the needs of this very important target. Under the heading of ‘Sharing conversations’, he presented the top-line findings:

  • The concept of AMSR was extremely well received, and it was thought that it would raise the status of the market research sector as well as being an academic subject.
  • Research practitioners acknowledge that it could useful, as archive material could contribute to marketing and communications planning, demonstrating a better understanding of trends in a market or brand’s market share.
  • Academics are the most enthusiastic and talked about it as their ‘raw material’, which currently cannot be accessed via libraries.
  • The archive is seen to be more than just a library, but a place where material can be analysed to provide a ‘pictorial landscape’ of a sector, market, or product launch
  • Reaction to the quality of content the archive will house, such as TGI and Social Trends, is that it will help to maintain research standards.
  • Academics expect the archive to be helpful for suggesting themes for PhD Theses, Project work and even to develop new programmes as demand increases for business courses, apart from inspiring them for their own books and papers

And in their own words…..

  • ‘So many industries which are more peripheral to British life have been studied by researchers ……why hasn’t it been done before’
  • ‘It is a story which runs alongside marketing’
  • ‘I can take almost any data set and turn it into an idea’
  • ‘There would be no need for anyone to be available to interpret data; as raw as possible’
  • ‘I can think of a colleague at Cardiff who is never happier than with consumption data. Food consumption. Obesity issues… you could look at eating patterns over time’
  • ‘It’s all about stories I can tell’
  • ‘I’m very excited about this …very, very excited. I think it’s the idea of the social history of Britain sitting in one place, not just of opinions themselves but also the art and craft of understanding opinion, particularly in the light of the current focus on opinion polls’
  • ‘As I mentioned I think that it the idea of an archive is a good one, given that that a meaningful record of the industry is almost completely absent from the business archives. Also, as the industry has been such a touchpoint for so many key aspects of social and commercial life in the UK I would imagine that there are some interesting stories to tell.

Following Robin Birn’s presentation, Professor Barwise encouraged AMSR to be strategically ambitious, while executing step-by-step, e.g. not publicising the site until it has plenty of good material and is working very well.

Professor Barwise went on to introduce a Q & A session, with a panel comprising Adam Phillips, Peter Bartram and Raz Khan.

He opened the panel session and began by asking if, as an academic, he wishes to search and navigate a particular topic, can he do so, at this stage of play.

Raz Khan replied at all documents which have been scanned are fully text searchable and completely indexed. One can perform a chain search. Documents can be in PDF or text files. Everything we scan is portable. The project is still undergoing beta testing and we would encourage users to play with the program and let us have feedback.

Q. Professor Barwise asked ‘What are the key next steps?’

A. Peter Bartram replied that we are at the launch pad and are still learning as we go. We will learn about efficient routing. We are hoping to have linkage arrangements with e.g. MORI, TGI, NRS, BARB, RAJAR, FRS, the BBC. All sorts of people and organisations have already donated material, but there is still a long list of material we want. We are delighted to have British Public Opinion so kindly donated by Sir Robert Worcester. Gradually this industry has improved its techniques and we want data which demonstrates this. We also need committed subscriptions to give us security over three years.

Adam Phillips commented on the varied way in which companies keep their data. Many companies keep them for only five years. Responses vary, but the norm seems to be: 10 years is do-able; 20 years: the data is somewhere; 30-40 years: they have no idea!There is an important need to collect long time series data. We are in consultation with TGI which has data from 1969-1980.We have to develop a marketing programme for the archive in the next six months. Fortunately, the academic market is a well-structured one.We do encourage people to ‘play’ with the data that is already in the system. “Get your hands dirty and shout about it to other people”.

Q. Martin Callingham commented that most of the material seemed to be quantitative. What is the approach to qualitative research, which will be widely sought and used? What about copyright?

A. Adam Phillips replied that we have a dedicated team looking at qualitative material, headed by Simon Patterson and Judith Wardle. We are still exploring the wording which will have to be used in regard to copyright.  And what do we scan? There is a huge collection of Peter Cooper’s material which we have been promised, but do we scan all his stuff? At the moment we are taking everything, but in six months’ time we might have to be more selective. Qualitative data is often unstructured. However, rest assured that we are very aware that qualitative research is an essential component of the archive and we have experienced advisers in this sector.

Q. Professor Barwise asked “How do we get the right amount of material?”

A. Adam Phillips replied that it is a matter of judgement. The Content Committee has a review team comprising experienced reviewers who make any decisions regarding retaining, cataloguing and scanning material. At least two members of the Review Team scrutinise each item before a decision is made.

Q. Jane Bain asked if we are collecting electronic as well as paper data, particularly important for qualitative data.

A. Raz Khan replied that we can take electronic data, but we must be certain about ownership. If people have their own electronic data, there is no problem.

Peter Bartram re-iterated that we are sorting out the confidentiality and copyright issues. We are following the precedent set by HAT in firming up our approach.

Richard Powell, CEO of HAT, who was in the audience, reported that there were archives in the HAT collection that were closed to the general public. After 20-30 years there is a standard wording for issues relating to commercial confidentiality and privacy.

Adam Phillips pointed out that there is a statement on the website relating to these issues. We are also talking to The National Archives about the boundaries of acceptability. We believe that client reports that were commissioned by the client 20-30 years ago are no longer commercially sensitive. However, we are planning to collect opinions from major clients.

Q. Tony Cowling asked whether, as market researchers, we have a facility for asking the respondent ‘how was it for them?’

A. Not as yet, but we will certainly look into this.

Q. Can we raise money from users of the archive?

A. Adam Phillips replied that of course, you have to have a good product. We are also constrained by our position as a charity. However, there is, and will be, undoubtedly good commercial data within the archive and we will be talking to providers of the data about ways to generate income. There might be interest from commercial organisations to advertise on our website.

At the end of the discussion, and based on the panellists’ comments, Professor Barwise suggested that what AMSR needs now from its friends are:

  • Money
  • Help (e.g. scanning)
  • Stuff (even if it has rat poo on it!)
  • Usage and feedback (please play with it during the beta test and feed back comments and suggestions)
  • Word-of-mouth: please tell others, including potential users.

Liz Nelson, in closing the session, expressed her pleasure at the high calibre attendance of researchers from every sector of the industry. She was delighted at the enthusiasm and interest shown by the audience. She hoped that as many people as possible would look at the online demo of the system and subsequently ‘play’ with it and feedback their experience.

Torin Douglas, well-known media journalist and former media correspondent of the BBC, said he had attended the previous event in February and had not then been completely confident about the future of the archive.  He was very pleased to see how much had been achieved in the past eight months – a great deal of important material is already available online and AMSR’s plans for the future are firm and structured. He feels the archive “is in very good nick”.

The evening closed with socialising over a glass of wine amid general enthusiasm and optimism about the future of the archive and the contribution it will make to the market and social research industry.



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