The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Excellence

Winners Experiences

It's been around since 2003, and sometimes we take it for granted, but this particular award is not taken lightly by those who've won it.

Winning the award can bring business benefits, but even more it brings recognition for the work of the individuals and the teams involved. Each of the previous winners said they would encourage others to enter unreservedly.

Recognition for the individuals and the team

Crawford Hollingworth who picked up the trophy in 2018 said "To win a Prosper is simply to win an Oscar and it now stands head high on our trophy wall priming us all to think a little harder, to be a little braver, to make a difference. Prosper himself made market research an exciting dynamic inspirational place for me as a young BMP planner in the 80's to encounter and in many ways inspired my own journey."

Luigi Toiati, the very first winner of the award back in 2003, remembers how he got the news. "It was the most beautiful moment of my whole career," he says, "a sign of cultural prestige corresponding to the Oscars", adding it boosted his credibility overall as a professional, creating what he calls the aura of "guru".

Oliver Sweet, who won in 2017, said "As qualitative researchers, we pride ourselves on going further and making insight truly work for our clients. Winning the Qualitative Excellence Award was the ultimate recognition of this, and made the whole team immensely proud of the work we had done. And the Prosper sits on our cabinet, with pride."

Business impact

Fiona Jack, who won in 2009, feels a personal tie to the award, having known and respected Prosper greatly, and having initiated it in his memory. She noticed an immediate effect in terms of approaches and business from new clients. One door it opened was in Russia. "We did a project for quite a scary chap, two down from a well-known oligarch, about a new leisure resort outside Moscow," she says. "By demonstrating that we had made a strategic difference we were able to convince him to work with us. We actually used the quotes that the judging panel had said about us, and that won him over very convincingly."

Personal re-appraisal

Bob Cook, who won in 2005, it marked a step change in how he saw himself as a researcher. "The work that we did for the project felt new and ground breaking to me, but having it recognised in this way brought confidence in developing new ways to look at client problems and up the game of the industry as a whole" he says. "The calibre of the judging panel was a key part of this: it's great to have impressed impressive people. I have heard mutters from agencies who claim their work is not stand out enough to compete, but this is rarely the case... more a matter of quallies being so busy that it's difficult to stand back from a project and assess it with any degree of objectivity."

Sarah Jenkins, the winner in 2013, recommends entering without hesitation. "There are only good things that can come from it," she says. "It not only provides personal recognition for the work you did during that particular project, but also that of your current wider work. And importantly, it raises your profile within the industry, which shouldn't be underestimated, and shines a spotlight on your agency."

Amanda Anderton, the winner in 2014. explained that for a small start-up, winning can be the leg-up needed to brand build and make an impact. "We have had so many clients approach us with speculative briefs since we won," says "It definitely coincided with the exposure we have had as a result. We have been able to publicise ourselves winning, and AQR has publicised it, too. We've also been inundated with people wanting to work with us, and for us, our success rate in converting briefs into projects has gone up, which I don't think is coincidental. The standard of the candidates that have come forward looking for jobs with us has increased too, so it's been pretty phenomenal. It really has had a marked impact on the success of our business. This might be because we are so small that you can see those incremental changes much more visibly than a bigger agency would, but is also a real testament to the power of having won."

Promotional tool

Julie Davey, the winner in 2011, explains that the award undoubtedly gets your name out there to a broader audience. "The year after winning, I was invited to talk and present at an MRS members' night, and also at an AURA workshop day on qual best practice, and had the good fortune to be further recognised with an award for best speaker by AURA on the back of this."

Caroline Hayter said that entering and winning is not just beneficial to the agency, but can enhance relationships with clients. Her agency, Acacia Avenue, not satisfied with having won it in 2006, also won it the following year. Caroline reflects that entering, or thinking of entering, means that you make the most of every contact with them. "You use that time, whether in a lift or on the way up to a meeting, to find out what they might not otherwise talk to you about," she says. It is also a joy, she feels to be able to do something jointly with an insight manager, at a big multinational or wherever, that raises their profile. "We all want to look good," she says, "so why shouldn't they?"

Awards as therapy

Becky Rowe, who won in 2012 would encourage others to enter unreservedly. "First, it's an exciting process. Just writing the entries on their own is a useful exercise in thinking about what you've done well, what you're proud of. We all do good work, so entering is really like therapy or counselling, and having to return to the project, work out why it was so good, unpick and sell it to someone who wasn't involved is a challenge."

Julie Davey found winning in 2011 meant such a lot to her. "I had been at a stage in my career where I was experiencing a slight crisis in confidence as to whether I was keeping pace with the rate of change in the industry, whether I was still relevant, or becoming a research dinosaur", she says. Submitting proved a cathartic exercise, both for her and her team, while winning "was a highlight moment, being able to share the job of success with a long-standing and valued client, and a huge lift to my own self-esteem of delivering high quality innovative research."