R-Net Interview


This interview first appeared on MRS.org.uk in August 2016

Ian Gibbs is Head of Commercial Insight at Guardian News & Media, where he has taken numerous award-winning research and data initiatives to market. He joined the organisation as a Commercial Planner in 2007 after graduating from the University of Exeter with a BSc in Business Economics and several years as a Research Analyst/Manager at IDC and Dynamic Logic, Millward Brown’s Digital Practice. Ian will be joining the debate panel at the MRS Technology and Data Summit on 13 October.

I wish someone had told me at the beginning of my career that if you’re not enjoying your job you should just get out of there. You have the freedom to chop and change things a lot more at the start of your career.

I most admire anyone positive and enthusiastic who doesn’t just default to the negative mindset, which you can see so often in the workplace. Those sorts of people get places.

The best research project I have worked on during my career is “Audiences Not Platforms”. It has been the big one for me over the past few years. It’s a cross platform media planning and research tool that we developed and which had transformed how we (and many of our competitors!) sell ads.

The worst research project I have worked on during my career was probably the one at the start of my career where, with little experience, I had to produce a press release on the European tech market. Someone took a quote from my release that was in direct contradiction to something Bill Gates has said and tried to make out I was some sort of tech contrarian. As if a twenty-two year old me would ever have disagreed with Bill!

The most amazing or memorable experience when I was doing research is, coincidentally, also Bill Gates related – though at the other end of my career and in a completely different role. We’ve done some work assessing media impact for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was fun and rewarding going out to Seattle to meet lots of other organisation from around the world doing the same thing.

The one story I always wanted to tell but never had a chance? Everyone always has the chance. Self-publishing an ebook these days is easy!

A research project I wish I had done is Channel 4’s “In VOD we trust” from last year. People are still talking about that.

If I wasn’t doing this, I would be helping my other half set up her massage therapy business in Ibiza.

The biggest challenge for our field in the next 10 years is watching the ad tech world encroach on the audience insight space. There’s a lot to be said of the reputation of more established research suppliers, however. We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to big data.

My advice for young researchers at the start of their career is be curious and be enthusiastic. Don’t be overly cynical. This is what will get you noticed.

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