A Matter of Interpretation

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Throw in some keen analysis and insight, and you have the most compelling evidence that the Internet is beginning to mirror society at large.

At American Demographics, we have enough market research studies crossing our desks every month to wallpaper a small mansion. And no wonder: Spending on such research totaled $5.4 billion in 1999, a 55 percent increase from 1995, according to Inside Research, a monthly newsletter based in Barrington, Illinois. But while market research is killing off more trees than ever before, it isn't necessarily becoming more useful. That's because many of the folks who create it — as well as those who use it — do not take enough time to effectively analyze and interpret the mountains of data they produce.

That's not the case with the companies profiled in this month's special report, “Top Guns.� In this section, we present the nine semifinalists for the 2001 ARF David Ogilvy Research Awards. These honors are conferred by the Advertising Research Foundation for excellence in integrating market research into sound business strategy. The nine companies profiled cut across industries — from macaroni to motor oil — but they have one element in common: All parlayed consumer research into advertising and marketing campaigns with bottom line results.

The Ogilvy semifinalists did more than just commission studies; they made sense of the research and used it to effectively target a group of consumers. The same can be said for Contributing Editor Michael J. Weiss. Few topics currently inspire as much research as the Internet, and for this month's cover story, “Online America,� Weiss waded through an ocean of reports and studies. Throw in dozens of interviews, as well as some keen analysis and insight, and you have the most comprehensive portrait to date of the online consumer. Weiss provides us with compelling evidence that the Internet is beginning to mirror society at large. The cyber world is shedding its geeky and elitist trappings and beginning to look less white, less male, less affluent, and less well-educated than the early days of the Web. One day soon we hope to celebrate the final closing of the digital divide.

These changes create a world of opportunities — and risks — for different marketers, making a clear understanding of the shifting online landscape more important than ever. And while good research isn't the magic potion for success in the e-marketplace, it's a good place to start — as any of the nine Ogilvy semifinalists could tell you.

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