Can Market Researchers and Agency Creatives Ever Get Along?

market researchers and agency creatives working together

Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner. Jerry Seinfeld and Newman. Apple and Microsoft. What do all these pairs have in common? No matter what, they seem to constantly be at odds with one another. And among these infamous age-old rivalries lies that of market researchers and agency creatives. Even though we share a common goal of keeping our clients connected to their consumers and satisfied with great work, we still can’t seem to get along. Let’s take a look at why that might be, and what we can do to mitigate these not-so-underlying tensions.

  • Contradicting perceptions: Agency creatives often believe that research firms are being brought in to “grade” or undermine the innovative, groundbreaking work they’re doing. They see us as glorified safety nets for brand managers. Market researchers, on the other hand, believe their role is to provide consumer insights into the creative process, helping improve and elevate the end-result.

Solution: Establish clear and open lines of communication to make sure everyone’s intention and purpose is understood as it relates to the greater goal.

  • Left brain vs. right brain: Market research is defined by a more analytical (or convergent) mindset, while agency creatives employ more, well, creative (or divergent) thinking. These two perspectives result in very different approaches and use opposing skillsets, so it’s natural for them to conflict with one another. We researchers take on the role of risk-reducers while creatives become the risk-makers. 

Solution: Recognize that the best ideas are uncovered when analytical and creative thinking work together. Reputable geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein are credited with being “whole-mind thinkers,” using both sides of the brain to solve a problem.

  • Storytelling styles: Market researchers love to tell stories through charts, graphs, and consumer verbatims. Agency creatives prefer to tell more detailed narratives that stem from their own life experiences and incorporate more abstract concepts like brand identity and bonding.

Solution: Merge the two styles to craft a presentation that both informs and excites, is grounded and expressive. Balance data visualization with a narrative arc that ties together the impact of market research with the innovation of agency creatives.

  • Pride: Agency creatives tend to have a lot of pride in the creative work they do, and rightfully so. Countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears go into developing these—for lack of a better, more comprehensive word—ideas. So much pride, in fact, that sometimes they think they know better than the consumers themselves, causing them to place little to no weight on the research.

Solution: Find a constructive way to discuss research findings (e.g., why they’re important and how to use them) that works with, rather than against, the creative. Emphasize the advantages of creating an ad they know will resonate, and prepare them to make hard decisions when your qualitative research contradicts agency hypotheses.

As market researchers, it is our responsibility to ensure our research is conducted in a way that pushes consumers to reveal self truths they didn’t even know themselves, and to present findings with foresight and vision. Creatives have a responsibility to recognize the merit of research and see it as a means for inspiration within the creative process, not a replacement for it.

In the end, it comes down to recognizing we share a common goal, and working together to break down the wall that separates researchers and creatives. After all, the best ideas are rooted in insight! And to learn more about how to get the most out of your creative research buy presenting effective stimuli, check out the eGuide below.

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