BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Market researchers have been talking a lot in recent years about assuming the role of consultant rather than simply number-cruncher or gatekeeper.
Joan Lewis believes researchers at Procter & Gamble Co. are already there. As global consumer and market knowledge officer, she sees serving as consultant on issues such as where the "white space" is in products and geographies as all part of the core mission of her group.
Last year, she took on the global officer title, ending her dual report to P&G's chief technology officer as consumer and market knowledge became fully part of Global Brand-Building Officer Marc Pritchard's organization. While market researchers are stationed in many parts of P&G's business, they're also overseen by Ms. Lewis, whom Mr. Pritchard calls a "smart, strategic leader."
With a $400 million outlay (up from $350 million a year ago) on market research, the company almost certainly spends more than any other.
But like her predecessor Kim Dedeker, who left P&G last year to become chair of Kantar Americas, Ms. Lewis, 44, is focused on getting better quality for that outlay, particularly in online survey research.
"There's progress," Ms. Lewis said. "It's been a little slower and more fragmented than we would like."
She also sees some other room for improvement, such as a single audience measurement. "We believe an appropriate measurement system is going to cover all touch points," she said, "and won't be limited by the history of TV."
Digital measurement hasn't "come along as far as we would like," she said. But she said P&G is also measuring digital media differently, looking at message quality, the ability to reach consumers at times when they're receptive and return on investment rather than only reach.
Social media in particular presents challenges. "When you're trying to measure something that's itself moving constantly, it's hard to have firm, clear metrics," she said. "There will never be another medium like TV again." One advantage of having market research together with PR in P&G's brand-building organization, she said, is the two working hand in hand to track and react to social media, with no quibbling about who owns social media.
Ultimately, some of the answers to today's research and measurement challenges "may not all come from our traditional suppliers or traditional industry definitions," she said.
And, indeed, Ms. Lewis doesn't exactly come from a traditional industry background, either. She was an English education major before joining P&G. She subsequently worked in P&G's paper, health and feminine-care units in Geneva, focused both on Europe and the Middle East and Africa, and ultimately helped create P&G's shopper-research program in the North American market development organization.
"We hire people who don't fit the norm for market research," she said. "This gives us a really promising way to develop people for their entire professional careers. I don't think the future will be that you'll come in and learn a bunch of methods. ... We need people who are agile and know how to learn."