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Consumers increasingly expect companies to listen to what they’re saying about brands. An Ad Week workshop on Sept. 22 offers smart solutions on how to do it.
Few in the industry deliberately ignore what customers say about their brands, whether it is on blogs, Twitter or online forums. But as technology evolves, many companies still haven’t found the most efficient ways to hear what consumers are saying – or to conduct two-way conversations with them.
To address this need, the ARF has gathered executives from companies that have developed state-of-the-art listening techniques. They will speak at “People are talking. Are you listening?” an Ad Week event from 9 a.m. to noon at the Time Warner Building in New York City on Sept. 22.
The All Star lineup for the panel will include Artie Bulgrin, senior vice president of research and sales development for ESPN; Jeff Flemings, senior vice president, renaissance planning for VivaKi; Belle Frank, executive vice president and director of strategy & applied research at Y&R; Donna Goldfarb, regional director at Unilever and Stephen Kim, global marketing director at MSN.
Joel Rubinson, the ARF’s chief research officer, and Jeff will make introductory remarks. TNS will present a case study on a success story in listening.
We spoke with event chair Jonathan Carson, president, international for Nielsen Online, for a preview.
ARF: Why is listening so relevant now?
Carson: As consumers’ media consumption moves into a digital world, there’s vastly more data available to analyze. It is much easier for them to provide feedback to marketers. What that means is the job of researchers and marketers shifts very much from chasing down insights to processing the data.
ARF: What are some of the obstacles to listening right now?
Carson: Good advertising people have always had some elements of listening built into their DNA. But the advertising industry was not built to listen. It was built around the broadcast medium to talk and to shape opinions and behavior. It was based on one-way delivery of messages, not conversation.
The second big obstacle is that we don’t have the context, tools and history to know how to turn the data we have into insights. We have to go through the process as an industry to understand the context, build those tools and build up that history so we know how to turn all of this information into insights we can make decisions on. The ARF realizes that now is the moment for the research and marketing industries to step up and refashion themselves around this culture of listening.
Culturally, that’s a very big change. It may require different skills and different types of professionals. It certainly requires organizations to make changes in how they process information and make decisions. The idea with this program is to start that journey.
ARF: How will better listening change the industry?
Carson: The idea of crafting brand messages is going to change. Rather than coming up with the best ways to craft statements from the brand, advertising agencies and brand managers are going to spend their time thinking about how the brand can engage in conversation with its customers.
There’s going to be a whole process for brands in rethinking what customer support and customer service mean. Customer service was historically seen as a cost center that should be always dealt with in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. Customer service and support will seen more as a marketing and listening function in the future. That’s a very big cultural shift. If we look at marketing and advertising as much more complex, then calculating ROI could become a much more complicated – but also richer – analysis.