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Research firms strike a rich vein in region

Consumer preferences and behaviour patterns keep changing — seemingly — overnight and marketers have to be at the top of their game to detect such details even before they happen. So, who do they call in to help? Research firms who can sift through a mountain load of divergent data feeds and arrive at conclusions that stick, that’s who.

This could explain why the research business is on a growth trajectory in the region. The WPP-owned Millward Brown, one of the leading names in the global research firmament, has just launched its media and brand research arm — Firefly — in the UAE. What Firefly does, among other things, is mine digital feedback to signpost what the next big thing in consumer trend could be.

On the physical network side, “Yes, Dubai is our first step into the Middle East [while] we have an office in Egypt (for North Africa),” said Rakesh Kumar, global chairman at Firefly. He emphasises that the company’s skill sets are not confined to sifting through data.

“We are in the business of insights and not necessarily data mining — consumer data is a means to understand behaviour and attitudes, but insights are human truths which can either be universal human truths or subsequently relevant to cultures.

“The consumer in the Middle East for long has been stereotyped and thought of being linear in thinking. In our experience, there will be enough to delve deeper into the psyche of the Middle East consumer and understand what keeps them ticking and their moments of truth.”

Meanwhile, another firm — Posterscope — has opened a regional office here with the aim of introducing ‘out-of-home’ planning and research analysis. (Out-of-home advertising relates to any platform that can be used outside of the home, inclduing public transit, billboards and street furniture.)

“We realised the OOH market in the Middle East is developing fast but without accountability and sufficient research into consumer behaviour,” said Abdallah Saab, who heads the new office. The fragmented nature of media platforms only enhances the visibility for research firms. “In the world of online and digital, it is important marketers should think of ideas adaptable to all media platforms and not just the traditional mode or print or TV commercials,” said Kumar. “Moving forward, we are not talking advertising solutions but speaking more brand messages and campaign ideas which are provocative, all-encompassing and define the brand’s communication platforms.”