Three senior executives explain why innovation is in our DNA
For this blog we’ve interviewed three people at MetrixLab who dedicate much of their time to innovation. First up is Jay Pluhar, our Global Head of Impact Consultancy. Jolique Weelink is our Global Brand Engagement Strategist. She is an expert in creative pre-testing, brand performance and campaign effectiveness. Keith Sutherland is a Senior Consultant, focusing on Brand Engagement. All three of these senior executives have one ultimate purpose at MetrixLab – to drive client success through action-oriented insights.
They are all also involved in some capacity in the ground-breaking program we developed with Coca-Cola, presenting at TMRE, 6 November 2019. It takes social media advertising optimization to the next level by leveraging advanced modeling to predict creative efficacy through Facebook and Twitter behavioral metrics. Here’s what they have to say on the very broad topic of innovation:
Q: Jay, we hear so much about innovation. We all know it’s vital to achieve that all-important advantage in today’s competitive marketplaces. Can you give us an idea of what’s hot now in the insights sector in terms of innovation?
“Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation continue to be the topics that are receiving the most attention today – we only need to look at the most recent Greenbook Research Industry Trends Report for evidence. At MetrixLab, we are paying close attention to these topics and are making investments as part of our innovation agenda.
One challenge associated with AI is that it really doesn’t have any clear and consistent definition. To some in the insights sector AI means using machines to find patterns in and across data sets, while others think about it for the creation of surveys and questionnaires. For those who are more pragmatic, AI is clarified with a use case like chatbots or surveybots.
At MetrixLab, we envision a future where we address business questions and deliver insights without surveys or respondents. We are currently bringing this vision to life with a copy testing system called ACT Instant that utilizes machine and deep learning algorithms to predict ad performance. This solution is in its infancy although we are excited about its potential, and more broadly about employing the technology across our solutions portfolio.
On the topic of automation, we all recognize that time-to-insight is rapidly decreasing with a few days – and in some cases overnight – delivery rapidly becoming the norm. Many DIY offerings have emerged, including those from traditional agencies, mainly in tactical areas. Automation is also putting pressure on pricing. However, as well as the benefits, automation does have its drawbacks. Notably, many clients struggle with the lack of flexibility that currently exists, as well as the inability to configure solutions to fully align with their needs. Automated solutions typically have scorecard or dashboard reporting – which is enough in many cases. However, we know that brands struggle with the lack of insight and analysis which undermines the speed and cost benefits.
At MetrixLab, finding ways to automate and streamline our way of working and our solutions is an on-going endeavor. We are currently investing in creating digital deliverables and dashboards for many of our solutions to decrease time-to-insight. We are automating more tactical solutions to strengthen our propriety survey platform. We are also keenly focused on addressing the challenges associated with striking a balance between standardization and customization and providing actionable analysis and insight beyond a regular scorecard or dashboard.
Watch our pre-testing dynamic visual library in action
Taking a step back, it will be interesting to see how all this shakes out in the insight sector. We know that technology and innovation are driving forces in the industry, but it is virtually impossible to determine who will be the winners and the losers. As in most other industries, it really depends on how the big bets on AI, machine learning and automation play out. Whatever happens, it’s a really great time to be an innovator.”
Q: Jay, we know MetrixLab places great emphasis on the importance of innovation, and that your team has conceived, tested and brought to market several approaches that are considered ‘standard’ today. Of which are you most proud?
“One solution I’m particularly proud of is Campaign Monitor which has been a tremendous success. It addresses many of our clients’ research gaps and pain points. It’s a fast, efficient and scalable campaign effectiveness solution designed for both short- and long-term learnings. It dives deep into channel and audience performance to deliver detailed and consistent effectiveness and efficiency measurements. So, our clients can make confident adjustments to their current campaign and use strategic learnings to maximize their future investments.”
Q: Jay, your technique Immerse uses AI to deliver mass qualitative research. This really is at the cutting-edge of technology in insight today, how has the tool been received by clients?
“Immerse is off to a great start. We are seeing growth accelerate with uptake outside of Europe. The solution is seen as innovative, intuitive, fast and sexy – and importantly clients understand the value in the marriage of qual and quant approaches. It is also a very flexible solution that can be leveraged for many different use cases.
More specifically, Immerse has given clients much more breadth than they would have achieved from basic qual groups, as well as a cleaner “gut reaction” from their key audiences. They also see Immerse as a cutting-edge solution to promote within their corporate research communities.”
Q: Jolique, we know that analyzing social media comments and advising clients on what actions to take as a result has been one of MetrixLab’s innovation successes. Explain how innovation has allowed you to combine the best from technology with human expertise to help clients make sense of their social media spend, tactics, and strategy.
“We start with the three rules of data quality – as this is identical for survey and social. This is a joint effort combining tools, AI and humans. So, we complete projects with human expertise where scraping tools cannot locate all the relevant domains whenever consumers are talking about your brand. We clean and enrich the data. This way we can be sure to get context, slang, and interpretation right – all crucial if you want valid insights.
Having so much data is a great start but making sense of it is all about storytelling. To do that, we fully leverage our tools and our insight specialists. This way we not only understand the latest and greatest on social media, but we can maximize our experts on marketing insights, brand engagement and product innovation. By creating a narrative from the conversations about brands, we fuel marketing strategies, effectiveness and ROI.”
Q: Keith, we notice from your co-presented session at TMRE this year that MetrixLab and Coca-Cola collaborated to be able to predict the impact of the creative used for Facebook and Twitter campaigns. Can you tell us about how that creative process worked with yourselves and the brand?
“Coca-Cola wanted to develop a learning initiative to explore and understand the creative factors influencing and driving performance of Facebook advertising. They wanted to identify which specific Facebook metrics are predictive of strong creative performance and can serve as inputs into their DMP. We evaluated 60 Facebook assets from Coca-Cola utilizing MetrixLab’s Copy Testing Solution.
Importantly we delivered Facebook Creative Guidelines to drive impactful advertising for Coca-Cola on this platform. We identified key Facebook metrics to monitor and implement into their DMP as they were key indicators of strong creative in-market.”
Q: Keith, do you have anything to add about maximizing the collaborative working process to create these amazing new approaches?
“At MetrixLab we relish the opportunity to co-create innovative approaches with clients so our collaboration with Coca-Cola was a match made in heaven. The key to making the process work was an openness on both sides to test and learn, and to continually look for new ways to pressure test the process and results. It was by no means a straightforward and linear process, but the buy-in from both parties from the outset to push the thinking and not to fear failure was key to success. In fact, the failure during our journey led us to the final solution, one that we believe is unique in the marketplace.”
Q: Jay, how much budget do you think brands should be allocating to trialing innovation research tools and techniques?
“Innovation budgets vary by industry as well as by the type of innovation investment. Rather than sharing an absolute figure, I recommend brands align their innovation investment with their business strategy and revenue targets. It is also important to accommodate for the rate and magnitude of change that you see on the horizon.
Investment allocation should be divided into incremental, transformative and disruptive innovation. We’re seeing that innovation leaders allocate less of their budget to incremental innovation and more of their budget to transformative and disruptive innovation. As a best practice, I recommend brands allocate 5% to 15% of their budget to trialing innovative research tools and techniques.”
Q: Keith, how does Coca-Cola decide when to risk a completely new and untried technique such as the social media optimization in your TMRE presentation?
“Good question. I think this comes largely from the fact that today brand marketeers are inundated with data that sometimes looks good at face level but upon further inspection presents more questions than answers. They need a partner they can trust who is willing to help them solve many of these unanswered questions. This means that new and innovative approaches are needed. At MetrixLab, we pride ourselves in tackling these hard questions with our clients.”
Join our presentation with Coca-Cola on 6 November at the TMRE, Las Vegas, US to hear more. If you won’t be there, let’s schedule a 15-minute call about it.