Monday, 12 March 2007

IPA Strategy Debate: Who owns Consumer Insight?

Who’d have thought that the latest heavyweight bout in the Times Media sponsored IPA Strategy Group debates would end in such violent agreement?

The dispute was over ‘Who owns consumer insight, creative or media?’. In the creative corner was Orlando Hooper-Greenhill, Planning Director at BBH. For media we had Simon Jenkins, MD at OMD Europe. And our referee was Bridget Angear, Planning Director at AMV, but claiming no bias for the creative challenger.

Orlando was first up and most of the fights he picked were with the premise of the debate itself. He argued terms like ‘own’ are used too freely these days, insight is ‘earned’ not ‘owned’. He questioned the creative / media distinction too, insisting creativity is neither the preserve of the traditional creative ‘department’, nor even of the creative agency and that we should all be striving for more creative insight, wherever we work. Finally he emphasised that the best insights aren’t always born of consumers; business, brand, product, design, cultural and channel insight is often more important.

With Simon, the gloves came off. He pointed to three reasons why media agencies are more insightful. Resource: their investment in research dwarves that of their creative peers, as does the breadth and depth of their client lists. Impartiality: where a creative agency will ignore the insight that gets in the way of a good creative idea or TV solution, the media agency sticks to the best consumer answer. And talent: why would the brilliant insight hound settle for being lower down the pecking order at a creative agency when they can be top dog at a media one?

Questions from the floor included where the media owner fits in – surely they have the most informed insight about their respective medium, yet why can they get an audience with a media agency but not with a creative one? And are media agencies really as objective as they claim, or will they sometimes allow a good media idea or proven media tool to obscure a deeper insight?

In the end we agreed to agree: insight is down to individual talent, talent which lives in both creative and media agencies and beyond. And the most powerful insights are often collaboratively arrived at and developed – it’s no accident that creatives and planners of every agency and stripe want to kiss and make-up and that the full-service agency is increasingly back in vogue.

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