GRIT Report 2018 – I can’t get no satisfaction…


Have you flicked through the latest GRIT report (GRIT 2018) yet? The sample-size is smaller (n= 1260) than previous waves, it’s dominated by voices from the USA, but still: that’s where over 40% of the global MR market is.

It’s a sobering read. Here’s my topline take-out based on the first 80 odd pages, after which the large amounts of text sadly overwhelmed me…. tl;dr

Client satisfaction levels with agencies are low.

– The top 2 drivers of client satisfaction with suppliers are “conducting the research” and “reporting the research results”. Ouch.

– Only 1 in 5 clients said they were satisfied on agency’s competences on “recommendation for business actions based on the research” The same level applied to understanding the client’s business. Double ouch.

Overall satisfaction levels were at 49% very/completely satisfied – no benchmarks provided, but it doesn’t sound high, not likely to lead to positive WOM or loyalty.

GRIT sees the role of suppliers in future as transactional.

The authors suggest “the largest opportunity for most traditional agencies is winning on “cheaper, faster, better”.

Agency efforts to be strategic partners are seen as worthy – but likely tough to realise.

There are some positives:

– Future spending predictions are on balance positive – with more anticipating either stable or increased budgets rather than a decline.

– Qualitative research remains interesting – 34% of all projects are qual according to GRIT whilst accounting for only ca. 15% of MR turnover globally (Esomar) – the survey didn’t explore the segment in detail.

Overall: a sobering, if not alarming read, especially for agencies.

Do we believe this? On a broad-brush, total-market level, yes, the picture seems right.

It chimes with what a colleague of mine heard in London at an insights conference in 2018: clients are taking MR in-house, doing the value-add activities themselves, with limited role for agencies to get close to the business and thereby deliver impact.

It also sits uncomfortably well with other evidence:

– analytics is the area of growth, not traditional research. And even there, the phrase “data is gold” doesn’t seem universally convincing: Nielsen is up for sale, WPP wants to sell up to 80% of Kantar. Interestingly, Angela Merkel very publicly closed her Facebook account recently.

– Management consultancies are definitely muscling in on the research space, squeezing the room for researchers to grow upwards in client side organizations.


These come from first-hand interactions with clients and companies that embrace not just consumer centricity, but place an importance on external perspective and expertise.

They invariably realize that company cultures can easily blind employees to alternative views of markets and brands. External partners can and do challenge, inspire, suggest new lines of thinking, helping shape communication and NPD processes.

Individual market opportunities are not identified; there are no doubt opportunities which the GRIT global perspective can’t get into due to its limited sample size.


The data shared on low satisfaction levels amongst clients is a call to action. Value perceptions and delivery need addressing – unsatisfied clients will shop elsewhere.

That having been said, there’s also a call to action for clients looking to maximise their the ability to generate value: the smartest clients surround themselves with the smartest voices and people, and don’t limit that to their own company. They look to partner with the brightest and best of the supplier industry.

That means treating RFP processes seriously, giving considered feedback to agencies looking to improve, and avoiding fostering a commoditization spiral.


My hope for 2019 was that it would be the Year of the Client, of bridge-building, partnerships – where Agencies, influencers and powerful industry bodies celebrate those directly impacting future budget allocations, higher level decision making.

I’m still of this opinion, with a caveat. Client side doors need to be open. Large corporate cultures easily create group think. Value is invariably generated across teams, with a mixture of internal and external experts. Joining the dots isn’t my favorite phrase, but it’s on the money.

Curious, as ever, as to others’ views.

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