Focus Research wins big at Research Effectiveness Awards as two industry bodies play in the same sandpit for the first time

For most of the year, research agencies are the unsung heroes of the industry, with their insights outshone by the creativity that usually takes centre stage. However, last Friday, the limelight shifted and drew attention to examples of the most effective research conducted over the course of the last year.

Hosted at Auckland’s Hilton hotel and attended by a full house of well-dressed researchers, this year’s edition of the biennial Research Effectiveness Awards was hosted by comedian and sausage ambassador Leigh Hart.

The bald funny man kicked off the show by telling the audience that his wife had just given birth to a baby boy, an announcement that was instantly met by a round of applause. Then, once the clapping died down, Hart quipped, “jeez, what kind of father would that make me?” confirming that he had just told a blatant lie.

This set the tone for the evening, and Hart maintained it by punctuating the presentation of each award with off-the-cuff comments and observations as the evening progressed.

This was the first time that the event was hosted by the newly formed Research Association New Zealand, which was created through a merger between the Market Research Society of New Zealand (MRSNZ) and the Association of Market Research Organisations (AMRO).

At the time of the merger, Spencer Willis, then president of the Market Research Society, said that this move was made to streamline the research industry.  

“New Zealand is really too small for two research industry organisations and we are pleased with the outcome of our extensive feasibility and consultation process,” he said in the release, which carried the announcement. “We feel that we can function more effectively as an industry organisation if we are able to bring together the companies both large and small as well as the various bodies that have a stake in the industry’s future success.”

And the decision to bring together the two organisations seems to have paid off for all those involved with this year’s edition of the Research Effectiveness Awards night.    

“This year’s event is one of the biggest and best we’ve had thanks to all our sponsors and also thanks to a fantastic number of entries showing excellent work coming out of the research industry in NZ,” said Rob Clark, the chairman of the Research Association.

As the evening progressed, the wine flowed freely and cheers for each winner became progressively louder, eventually culminating in a rapturous cheer from all tables for Focus Research (pictured above), which picked up the Supreme Award for its collaboration with Ziera Shoes on a piece of research called ‘Embracing the Cinderella moment’.

This research was commended for helping to reposition the business in the market and for lowering the average age of customers by more than a decade.

But Focus Research wasn’t the only research agency to have established a successful partnership with a client. Colmar Brunton won the other major plaudit on the night, the Effective Partnership Award, for its collaboration with Chorus on a research paper titled ‘Two soldiers in a war fighting for change’.

Upon taking to the stage, spokespeople from both organisations heaped praise on their counterparts for their ongoing contributions to the business partnership.

And while there were some great—and sometimes humorous—winners’ speeches delivered throughout the course of the night, none were quite as polished and well prepared as that delivered by Rookie of the Year Laura Dowdall-Masters.

Speaking with confidence that was incongruent with her title as a ‘rookie’, she conceded that she did not at first expect for a career in research to hold her attention or keep her interested, but then applauded her mentors at Ipsos for challenging her and allowing her to learn more about the qualitative (rather than quantitative) aspects of research.

One of the common criticisms levelled at research specialists is that their insights or findings are sometimes esoteric or inaccessible to ordinary people. So, in an effort to commend the agencies that work against this stereotype, the Research Effectiveness Awards acknowledges “the most innovative and effective data visualisation examples within the insights space” with the Infotools Auckland Council Data Insight Visualisation Award (DIVA).

This year, this award was handed to Colleen Ryan, Danica Atkins, Alister Hitchcock and Leigha Selby of The Research Agency (TRA) for ‘The Listening Project’, which combined insights across the lives of New Zealanders.

‘We see this value-add category as a small way to help the industry build capability in how we tell stories with the data and insights that is collected, so clients can get that much closer to their customers,’ said judge Kenneth Aiolupotea, head of market research and engagement at the Auckland Council, in a release.

In addition to these major gongs, there were also seven gold and five platinum awards over the course of the night. One of the judges, Richard Brookes, a professor at Auckland University, took to the stage and described the differences between these two awards in academic terms, saying that the gold award was akin to achieving 80 percent in a paper, while the platinum award was more comparable to 85 percent.

Once the final award was handed out, the party continued until the early hours of the morning, thereby debunking the often held misconception that researchers don’t know how to have a good time. 

List of Platinum Award winners:

  • SSI Effectiveness In Consumer Products Research Platinum Award – Focus Research and Ziera (Embracing the Cinderella moment)
  • Brancott Estate – Consumer Services Platinum Award – Ipsos and Bank of New Zealand (All Those Who Wander Are Not Lost)
  • Auckland Council Business To Business Platinum Award – Colmar Brunton and Chorus (Chorus Insights Team and Colmar Brunton; Two Soldiers in a War Fighting for Change)
  • Nielsen Media And Advertising Platinum Award – TNS New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand (Image testing for campaign development)
  • Social And Community Platinum Award – Auckland Transport and Work Communications (Driver Distractions)

List of Gold Award winners:

  • SSI Effectiveness In Consumer Products Research Gold Award – Colmar Brunton and Griffin’s (Putting the love back into crackers)
  • First Brancott Estate Consumer Services Gold Award – Ipsos and IAG (My Home, My Castle)
  • Second Brancott Estate Consumer Services Gold Award – TRA and IAG (Rising from the Rubble: Understanding IAG customer needs in post-earthquake Christchurch)
  • First Auckland Council Business To Business Gold Award – Nielsen and Z Energy (Z Customer Dissatisfaction)
  • Second Auckland Council Business To Business Gold Award – Perceptive Research and Wesfarmers Insurance (Australian Insurance Company wins back $27m of at risk customers in just 12 months using Customer Monitor from Perceptive Research)
  • Nielsen Media And Advertising Gold Award – TRA and ASB (Turning likes into Love: Building a converged media strategy for ASB)
  • Social and Community Gold Award – Ipsos and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (How chocolate bears changed Kiwi’s attitudes to energy efficient light bulbs)

Other awards:

  • Research Now Supreme Award – Focus Research and Ziera (Embracing the Cinderella moment)
  • University of Auckland Business School Effective Partnerships Award – Colmar Brunton and Chorus (Chorus Insights Team and Colmar Brunton; Two Soldiers in a War Fighting for Change)
  • Futurescape Rookie of the Year Award – Laura Dowdall-Masters, Ipsos
  • Infotools Auckland Council Data Insight Visualization Award (DIVAs) – TRA (The Listening Project)

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