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This time last week I was at the ESOMAR Congress in Amsterdam, along with four colleagues from Vision Critical, attending sessions, presenting my Pecha Kucha, and showing off our new and very stylish booth. The general buzz was very positive, people liked being in Amsterdam (despite the rain), the numbers were good (over 1,000), the setting was interesting and stimulating, and the official reports all spoke about recovering finances.

However, if we scrape under the surface a bit we can see that the picture was mixed, there was some good news and some less good (which is UK English for quite bad).

The main themes of the presentations were:

  • Behavioural economics
  • Gamification
  • Mobile research

But in all three cases there is still a clear gap between the issues and opportunities explored and the bulk of research practice on the ground. Clients should be changing the way they do business to make surveys: short, engaging, ethical, social, and mobile - but mostly they are sticking to their 30 minute, grid-heavy, online survey.

There was surprisingly little about communities, both at the qual/MROC level and at the bigger community panel level, despite the continued business growth in both areas. My feeling is that this area will continue to grow with more ethnography, more 'big data' integration, and much more longitudinal analysis of participants - linking opinions, social media, transactional data, and third-party metrics.

Other topics which were pretty lightly covered were neuroscience (has it been rumbled I ask myself), deeper analysis of conversations (beyond counting/sentiment), advanced analytics, anything with a real "WOW" factor - at least nothing from researchers, the best offering coming from a hockey coach.

In the exhibition there were two interesting themes, under the surface. The first theme was that the good economic news (that had been widely reported) was based on 2010 data and many people feared that 2011 was not going to so good. The second was the interesting list of who was not exhibiting, one interesting group were Vovici, GlobalPark, Communispace, and SPSS - all in exciting areas of market research, and all recently purchased. The main presence in the exhibition came from the sample providers, the data capture platforms, and a very strong showing of mobile offers.

The next Congress is going to be in Atlanta in the US. Will it be bigger and better? Or, will we see numbers and spirits dashed by a difficult economy, a failure to deal with privacy, new non-MR competitors, and a destination that does not have the draw of a New York, London, Paris, or Amsterdam? Post your thoughts on next year's Congress on Twitter using the #ESOMAR tag.

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