Eric Salama

Reports from our company leaders


Eric Salama

Report by Eric Salama
Chairman and chief executive officer


he world at large will obviously remember 2016 for Brexit and the election of President Trump. The combination of these events and the competitive pressure which our clients are facing has changed the environment in which we work, too. Clients at the highest level are questioning how best to understand the attitudes and behaviours of ordinary people and are more open to shifting budgets, experimenting and trialling new technology than ever before. Inertia is not a concept that holds much sway at the moment!

Against this backdrop, our focus has been on accelerating our efforts in getting the best of Kantar to all of our clients, delivering work that helps our clients have impact within their organisation, innovating in ways that reduce cost and that make our output more predictive and real-time, and being the kind of thought leader which our clients feel compelled to partner with.

In doing so, a characteristic of much of our best work are insights and a way of activating those insights that combine multiple data points, points of view and people from across all our brands. Recent work for clients in areas as diverse as driverless cars and Parkinson’s Disease were great examples of analysing a mix of data – survey, ethnographic, big data, social media, device-originated telemetry, wearable – and delivering insights and actionable recommendations that we would have been unable to produce only a few years ago.

Innovation that drives impact

Much of our focus has been on using technology and big data to help clients get a more complete understanding of their market, to help them optimise budgets and to do this at lower cost and faster.

Clients at the highest level are questioning how best to understand the attitudes and behaviours of ordinary people

Kantar Worldpanel has used smartphones and receipt scanning technology to launch panels that measure out-of-home-consumption in China, Thailand, Indonesia and much of Latin America as well as the world’s first ecommerce panel in France. Kantar Media has become a world leader in analysis of return-path data in a way that enables us to measure media consumption of niche channels in markets as diverse as South Africa and Malaysia and in measuring all content consumption on all devices in markets such as the Netherlands and Denmark. Kantar Added Value, Kantar Futures and Kantar TNS combined to use social media data to deliver habits and attitudes work for Unilever at half the previous cost in half the time. Numerous parts of Kantar have tapped into WPP’s wider deal with Spotify to help clients understand how music can be used as a proxy for mood and as a source of segmentation. Kantar TNS, Kantar Millward Brown and our operations teams have partnered with, for example, the likes of ZappiStore and Qualtrics to enable clients to test new concepts and advertising in less than eight hours, rather than the five weeks it used to take, and have taken data collection to mobile and to the cloud. Kantar Retail has expanded its virtual reality offering so that clients can now test new in-store layouts and packaging through proprietary software and portable VR headsets.

Kantar Health continued to strengthen its reputation as a leader in healthcare consulting and market research. The primary contributors behind another year of growth were the global expansion of real-world evidence consulting and data analytics; the launch of CancerLandscape™ – a novel solution that enables unprecedented insight into the innovations being developed in cancer; and continued commitment to the empowerment and education of consumers and patients worldwide.

But clients want more than just a better understanding. They want to understand how to optimise their spending and how to make sense of multiple insight streams.

In combining the segmentation work that Kantar TNS has done for L’Oréal with Kantar Worldpanel data, we enabled the client to understand where the biggest opportunities were and how to access them; in combining Kantar Millward Brown brand tracking with Kantar Worldpanel data in an approach called PowerPurchase we have enabled clients in many markets to understand the extent to which their trade activity was building on their brand building activity and how best to leverage it. Through our partnership with Facebook and VICE we offer clients the ability to measure the ROI of Facebook campaigns and of long-form content; and in rolling out Kantar TNS Connect and Kantar Retail XTEL we have enabled clients to optimise their media allocation by touchpoint and maximise the impact of their promotional spend.

Kantar Public was one of only two organisations to predict correctly the outcome of the Brexit vote

In carrying out this work, we have significantly expanded our client portfolio. Local clients, such as JBS out of Brazil, Pladis out of Turkey and Indofoods out of Indonesia and BBVA out of Spain, have become big clients for us in their home market and as they globalise. Clients such as Facebook, Google, Hulu, Twitter, Alibaba, eBay, Didi and Ola have shown how new technology-driven sectors such as ecommerce, search and transport have come to recognise the importance of understanding their brand and their customers and maximising their chances of success.

Compelling thought leadership

In this environment, thought leadership isn’t just a nice to have. Clients want partners that they feel can guide them through uncertain times.

Some of our thought leadership has involved a continuation of programs started several years back. BrandZ™, which tracks the value of global brands and is now the world’s largest brand database, is into its 20th year and saw events held globally and in markets as diverse as China, Indonesia, India, Brazil, Mexico and Peru. Now in its fourth year, Kantar Worldpanel’s Brand Footprint measures the extent to which brands are purchased around the world and has both analysed and predicted the growth of local brands and the way in which penetration is the key driver of future market share in categories as diverse as skincare and mobile phones. Kantar Retail’s PoweRanking studies and its China Digital Power have become, over time, the industry benchmarks for understanding the relative strength of individual retailers and manufacturers in their relationship. And Kantar Vermeer followed up its involvement in the Marketing 2020 program with Insights 2020, the largest global marketing and insights leadership initiative, and it saw its work leveraging the findings for Unilever appear as the cover story of the Harvard Business Review.

But some of our thought leadership has been new and even more visible. Kantar Public was one of only two organisations to predict correctly the outcome of the Brexit vote having consistently done so for a month before the actual vote. Kantar Public in Australia carried out a seminal study regarding domestic violence against women which was debated in Parliament and led to new legislation. Kantar Futures’ Defying Gravity work has mapped out ways in which clients can grow in a slow-growth low-inflation environment. Kantar Health’s Edge of Insight series helped clients understand the importance of secondary influencers in healthcare decisions and of the way in which technology is shaping the mobile health consumer. Across the US, we have rolled out our FragmentNation approach to help understand the way that the nation has fragmented and to understand some of the current dialogue and polarization.

Getting the best of Kantar to clients and to the market

In previous years we have talked about the need to scale some of the great work we do to more clients and markets and to make sure that we get the best of Kantar to all our clients.

We have had success in doing so but we recognised the need to go faster. So, at the beginning of 2016, we changed our approach. We eliminated our internal P&Ls, rebranded everything with a Kantar prefix, made our proprietary data available to everyone internally, appointed Kantar Country Leaders, reorganised the way we approach HR, finance, operations, marketing, launched Kantar Public and Kantar Consulting, and appointed a unitary management team for our insights brands.

We eliminated our internal P&Ls, rebranded everything with a Kantar prefix

The aim of all this was to eliminate any siloed way of thinking and to ensure that our clients get the best of Kantar and that our people get the full benefits of working for Kantar. It has been a big change – not as big as Brexit, perhaps – but which has been warmly welcomed by clients and our people alike.

Most importantly, it is a change that clients and staff are actually experiencing – we are determined to make sure that it reaches every interaction and is deeply embedded in the way we behave.

Recognition for our brands and people

Finally, a point about recognition. Other than internal and client awards, a number of our brands and people have been recognised publicly. Kantar TNS and Lightspeed swept the board at the UK’s MRS awards, Kantar IMRB swept the board at the Indian Research Industry awards and Kantar TNS won the Australian B&T Research Agency of the Year award. Numerous units, including Kantar Worldpanel in the UK, France, Thailand, Taiwan, and Latin America as well as the Kantar Delivery Centre in India and Kantar Health in the UK, won awards as a top place to work.

Individuals such as Mike Kelly, David Hanlon, Jon Puleston and BL Chen were recognised for their individual contribution to their industry.

But every month each of our 30,000 Kantar people around the world know of examples of how they have impacted their clients and made a difference to our company. They work for corporate clients, for the public sector and on charitable causes such as Unicef and the Special Olympics. They don’t get recognised for it publicly and we, as management teams, should say thank you more than we do. To all of our people for all of those occasions, a public thank you here for all you do to make our company special and an indispensable partner to so many of our clients.