Given that we were nearing October, The Research Alliance members arriving in Madrid for our annual conference were pleasantly surprised by the 29 degree heat which hit them as they disembarked their planes. Aside from the exceptional heat, members had even more reason for eagerly anticipating this particular conference.
The Research Alliance was formed in 1993 (with Marketing Sciences as one of its original founders), so we had come to Spain to celebrate our 20th anniversary at the invitation of Cies, another founder agency. This year’s attendance was a record high as members from Europe, LatAm, the US and Asia congregated at the conference hotel in the city centre.
Our two-day get-together was characterised by working hard and playing almost as hard, particularly when you take into account the late night lifestyle of ‘los Madrileños’! In our opening sessions it was interesting to hear how members’ businesses across the world had fared over the past 12 months. Whilst there were mixed views, the general feeling was that business was definitely picking up and there is optimism for 2014. Over the next 48 hours, we had some interesting presentations from individual members covering new research approaches, development ideas and specific offers which are available across The Research Alliance network. Our newest member, Opinion (Germany), outlined their main specialisations which include a personally recruited online panel where responses rates of over 70% are regularly achieved! We heard a fascinating talk from ART (Italy) on Biometrics for advertising research involving a partnership with Rome University; together they are using neuro, GSR, HR and eye tracking techniques (and even combining these with a qualitative approach called Systemic Constellations) to gain a holistic view of consumer response. At another session, Trendbox from the Netherlands shared with us an interesting technique to aid concept and product development. They had run a number of 24 hour brainstorming sessions with clients by inviting them to board a train across Europe in a private coach (far from distractions of the office and electronic devices!). Our Russian colleagues explained how they had employed Structural Equation Modelling to better understand the relationships between factors in The Research Alliance’s Global Health & Wellness Survey published late last year, concluding that eating well has a more powerful impact on people’s self-perception of healthiness than dieting.
We certainly took this last lesson to heart when it came to our social activities each evening. Our hosts did a great job at showing us the sights of Madrid including one evening where we had to rate 3 different tapas bars, which was certainly appealing to a global group of researchers!
With some fascinating presentations (and some fantastic tapas!) I feel it’s safe to say that our expectations for this landmark conference had been exceeded, so let us say ‘Salud!’ to the next 20 years of international research together!