One night in late October I attended my first AQR Young Disruptors event. The topic? The other side. Yes, that’s right, client side! The event was presented by Sky’s Emma Bennett and ITV’s Elisha Temminck, who have both made the transition from research agency to client-side in the past few years. So, what did we learn?

Qualitative research is used by media clients in different ways: from semiotics to look at imagery in advertising products and positioning new media content, to in-depth research gauging the barriers which might stop people adopting certain products such as Sky Cinema, in light of competition from Netflix and the much anticipated BritBox.

The organisation of client companies varies too, with ITV and Sky having quite different structures facilitating research and insight. For example, Sky has an in-house qual team which gives them the opportunity to try new and alternative methodologies such as neuroscience, making it more open to risk and bringing less pressure to bear to deliver.

ITV has an interactive online platform for consulting real life viewers, The ITV Village, which puts the audience at the centre of insight. You would be surprised how much this ‘audience view’ informs ITV: from the tasks, ads, socio-political themes and even water bottles in Love Island, to the suitability of a show for a certain channel. I mean, did you know, Silent Witness was sold to the BBC by ITV because they realised it wouldn’t quite fit ITV’s viewers?! And who could forget Tom’s comments questioning Maura being “all mouth.” Yes, these are products of ITV Village’s insight into contemporary trends which are then fed into production.

My takeaways from such an interesting evening were that, although client-side signals to a diverse array of possible structures, roles and duties, one’s daily grind is going to be much more predictable than the fast-paced realities of working for an agency. But where’s the fun in that, aye? I am still very new to qualitative market research and can say with confidence that the novelty of fieldwork has not worn off yet. Come back in ten years and I may have changed my mind.