MRS Customer Summit 2017: A great day out, even better than being in an audience for ITV’s Loose Women

7th November 2017 17:45

MRS Customer Summit 2017: A great day out ... even better than being in an audience for ITV’s Loose Women!

A blog by Gill Redfern, Research Director, Lead for Retail and Consumer brands:MRS Customer Summit 2017: A great day out, even better than being in an audience for ITV's Loose Women


As I walked from Waterloo station to the (rather glamorous) Mondrian Hotel at Sea Containers for this year’s MRS Customer Summit, I passed a long queue of rather excitable people, mostly women, heading into the ITV studios. As I walked along pondering the topics to be shared at the conference, my mind wandered to the possible destination for the queue of people … extras for the Christmas special of Victoria? Fans hoping to see X Factor rehearsals? Or more likely audience members for today’s instalment of Loose Women?!

Tempting as it was to ditch the conference and join the queue, I am pleased to say I definitely made the right choice sticking with the MRS Customer Summit! If I tell you the conference was full of discussions about sex, prolific use of the F word and insights including the 37 classifications that Tinder use to classify gender, you’d be forgiven for thinking I was in the audience of Loose Women! This was actually the MRS at its best; bringing together researchers from agencies, client-side and media to discuss what’s hot right now in the world of customers... and hot it was!


After opening comments from the Chair (Marc Brenner, Former Editor of Research magazine), Adam Conley, (Global Consumer & Market Insights Senior Manager, Reckitt Benckiser) began the day by telling us he wanted to talk about sex! Specifically, to share insight from the Global Sex Survey conducted by that Durex every five years … and what a fascinating presentation it was!

Despite being the number one sexual well-being brand globally, their brand monitor data revealed an alarming decline in awareness, relevance and likelihood to buy amongst 18 – 24 year olds, who see the brand as being for straight, middle aged couples. 

Adam then shared with the audience some really fascinating insight into gender identity and sexual identity amongst this younger profile of consumer. Only 55% of 18 – 24 year olds in the Durex Global Sex Survey identify as completely heterosexual and 14% completely homosexual, leaving almost a third (31%) stating they are in a ‘grey area’ (all references to shades of grey quite deliberate I’m sure!).

MRS Customer Summit 2017: A great day out, even better than being in an audience for ITV's Loose Women

Swipers (new word of the day for me!) on Tinder can now classify themselves as one of no less than 37 gender classifications! Somehow our usual survey options of ‘Male’, ‘Female’ and ‘I’d prefer not to say’, seems wholly inadequate! Even the dating rulebook has been completely rewritten by this generation who now tread through the dating minefield, starting with ‘Talking (via apps)’, ‘Hanging Out’, ‘Hooking up’, ‘Facebook relationship status update’, before finally declaring they are ‘Committed’.

Adam shared with the audience a new campaign that Durex is running in some of its key markets to target this younger demographic. This perfectly reflects Durex’s new understanding of how gender identity is non-binary and how sexual identity can be fluid; that relationships and the way people think about them is changing. Thought provoking stuff … and I must confess thoughts that made me rather glad to be a married fortysomething!

MRS Customer Summit 2017: A great day out, even better than being in an audience for ITV's Loose Women


Ben Skelton from Quadrangle had the tough job of following with the second slot of the day, but in fact his presentation about the post-digital consumer was every bit as fascinating as he coined the then much used phrase for the rest of the day, ‘Don’t f*** with customers’!

Ben described a more extreme group of consumers in the post-digital revolution age for whom digital is their new normal and integral to their routines – anyone else check their mobile before doing anything else every morning?!

Some fascinating stats emerged about this group:

  • 72% use loyalty schemes
  • 63% want a more personalised service online and offline ‘you’re taking my data, so give me the benefits’
  • 58% switch brands just to get something different
  • 45% use Twitter/Facebook to complain directly to brands
  • 35% see little point in high street stores

Customers, Ben told us, are becoming less tolerant, more promiscuous and more demanding! Rather than being ‘bothered’ every day by brands emailing them with irrelevant offers or marketing messages, they want to be listened to on their terms and for any marcomms to be relevant to their lives. Ben’s presentation felt like a warning cry to brands – you need to shape up and be more honest and transparent with your customers - they are now the ones in control!


MRS Customer Summit 2017: A great day out, even better than being in an audience for ITV's Loose Women

Afterwards, the 7 Stars & Newsworks took to the stage and shared their joint research piece on the ‘Filter Bubble effect’. This is the state of isolation that a user can find themselves in, due to the invisible use of ‘oh so clever’ algorithms to selectively guess what web content a user would like to see based on their past click-behaviour.

This can then result in users being excluded from information which appears to disagree with their viewpoints and effectively isolating them from a wider perspective.

Despite only 18% of those surveyed having heard of the term ‘filter bubble’, its effects are undoubtedly experienced by consumers. 68% of those surveyed said they get frustrated by ads that follow them around online and 57% were scared to click on an ad link in case the ad does follow them.

The dissatisfaction with the ‘filter bubble effect’, Helen and Rupert explained, is because relevance needs to be redefined – our interest is peaked by what we are interested in/our hobbies and not necessarily just the last thing we click on. Online ad planners need to be more consumer focused and…

  • Show a little respect
  • Re-define the role for online advertising
  • Re-evaluate relevance
  • Keep the consumer curious


Andrew Tenzer of Trinity Mirror Group was up next to reprimand brands once again, as the recent research he had commissioned showed that brands are often regarded as part of the ‘establishment’ and not to be trusted by consumers.

In a post-Brexit, Trump presidency world, where Jeremy Corbyn gets the largest crowd at Glastonbury, perhaps we should be getting used to the unexpected by now?! Anti-establishment feelings are running high Andrew told us, as 42% of those surveyed by the Trinity Mirror stated they do not trust brands and 61% are more loyal to brands they do trust.

As ad agencies appear to support big businesses to make vast profits, consumers are turning inwards to things they feel they can trust. What’s more, the picture gets worse when you leave the M25, as according to Andrew’s research, 46 out of 56 brands tested received a negative relevance score outside of London.

MRS Customer Summit 2017: A great day out, even better than being in an audience for ITV's Loose Women

Ian Ping from the Transport for London (TfL) then talked about how customers use their travel time and how they felt about these journeys.

Surprisingly out of those that travel for 7-10 minutes, 74% said their travelling was worthwhile, 69% thought the time was productive, and a further 70% said it was even enjoyable! Admittedly Ian acknowledged this probably didn't apply if those 7-10 minutes were spent rammed like sardines on the tube with some rather fragrant commuters!


The final afternoon slots saw: Peter Evans from Deloitte UK discussing the growing desire for robo-advice for financial products; Sonia Whitehead from BBC Media Action who spoke about the work they are doing within developing markets to support communities (where technology expansion has grown rapidly in the last few years); and finally, Kathy Ellis from Clarion Housing Group sharing how their low-income families are budgeting differently, but often more effectively than those on higher incomes.


A common thread running through the day was how customers are getting savvier and are increasingly becoming less tolerant of brands who (at least appear to) take advantage.There does seem to be some contradiction in the consumer mind set though. On one hand, they want brands to use their customer data to target marcomms more effectively, so they are less ‘bothered’ by volumes of irrelevant communications, but at the same time they don’t like it when personalisation feels intrusive and ads follow them around online. It’s certainly an interesting time to be in the business of unpicking consumer insight!



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