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Online has become both medium and message, workshop and showroom across the research industry.

To some it means Internet; to others, attitude.

Of the 113 companies carried in this year's Advertising Age 100 Leading Research Companies report, half reported URL or WWW addresses; 15 listed significant online activity.

Online is medium to Greenfield Group, another research method "that allows us to conduct research more quickly and at reduced cost," says Lisa Parente, marketing director.

Online means message to Cheskin Research, a company studying the Internet and its impact on its clients but does not conduct online surveys.


Cheskin says its doesn't do online surveys because anybody can do them, and that its clients don't do online research because they want one-on-one contact. Cheskin has created the Purple Moon website that displays games and other things of interest for girls ages 6 to 12.

Wal-Mart Online, offering 300,000 items for sale, has engaged Information Resources Inc. to supply IRI's digital images of Wal-Mart products for display on Wal-Mart's Internet Shopping sites.

IRI is preparing ReviewNet to distribute to clients syndicated scanner data on more than 5,000 brands.

Millward Brown International launched Mbinteractive for conducting Internet research last year. And Nielsen Media Research plans this year to expand its Internet measurement service to develop a panel of 5,000 households in the U.S. and Canada to supply info on Internet and PC use.

"Web surveys are like telephone surveys of, say, 1970, namely faddish and fun," says Arlander Card, president, Information Innovation.

To build an Internet survey database, Mr. Card avoids what he terms "Web people," looking, instead for "consumers," identifying them by asking where they shop, where they buy a car, who their long-distance phone carrier is, and what they buy at the supermarket.

Edward Keller, Roper Starch Worldwide's president-chief operating officer, says "there's a good likelihood that online will grow as a data-collection technique. We have made arrangements with AOL and others to create a website. We and our clients are learning, but are cautious about online.*.*.only one quarter of the population have PCs."


Greenfield Group has 500,000 households in its proprietary database for online research and allows research to be conducted more quickly and at reduced costs (50% to 70% less than off-line), says Lisa Parente.

"Data are far richer -- better than the check-offs of multiple choice or the truncated answers to open-ended questions that you can get on the phone," she says.

Online is stronger in some areas than others. IRI CEO Gian Fulgoni says: "As online shopping grows we will look to use information for our clients -- to provide service to the Internet."

"But the Internet for buying perishables -- no. The Internet grocery marketers are still trying to increase efficiency to make money. So far, the more they sell, the more they lose," he says.

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