Getting people to tell you what they think isn't as simple as it used to be, say the leaders of B.C.'s market research industry. But that's where the agreement ends and the questions begin. Online surveys are shaking up the polling world, and Angus Reid, CEO of Vision Critical, is riding the revolution.
Angus Reid manages to stay in his chair for the first 30 minutes. But then, as the excitement over one of his company’s innovations overtakes him, he can’t help propelling himself from his buttery leather chair toward his desk. While crowds throng through the streets beneath his airport-sized office window in the Pivotal Building in Yaletown, he taps at his keyboard for a few seconds. And then, on the flat-screen TV attached to the office wall, an image that looks like a video game pops up. But it’s a video game that’s all about . . . shopping at the local supermarket.
Instead of progressing through levels where you have to destroy flaming fireballs or vicious trolls, you, the viewer, walk through the simulated aisles looking at the simulated boxes and cans and plastic-wrapped packages. And this is where, theoretically, you – the all-powerful, all-mysterious, all-knowing shopper – can provide a clue as to which box or can, which shelf position, which colour, which label attracts you the most. Businesses will pay thousands of dollars to know this, to discover the little trigger in your heart.
“This is the future,” says the 62-year-old Reid, CEO of Vision Critical, his missionary zeal unimpaired by the cold he’s fighting. “Eighty per cent of Canadians are online. The telephone polling industry will be largely dead and gone in five years. The telephone guys have got to realize that.”
Reid’s take-no-prisoners pronouncements about the future of polling and market research are making people in his industry edgy these days. “There is anger going around the industry between him and the others,” says one mildly exasperated local market researcher, Barb Justason, who is also the western representative for the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, Canada’s industry group. “I think Angus’s work is great, but if there’s one thing that bugs me, it’s Angus going around saying the telephone is dead.”
Says another local researcher: “A lot of people are irked by him because he’s putting a lot of fear in our clients.”