A statement from Jane Frost CBE, Chief Executive

Every professional and trade association worth its salt is close to its members. So it’s not surprising that our fortunes mirror yours.

Despite a tough year, I am pleased to say that MRS corporate accreditation is growing in size and diversity, and we have met some notable milestones which have been very well received.

The profile of research and insight grows stronger as businesses acknowledge that growth is dependant on customer and organisational intelligence. Decision making requires data literacy, and it is the research and insight community who are able to extract meaning from numbers, and act upon it. The launch of our long-term Intelligence Capital™ initiative in 2019, supported by Kantar, is just one such example of where MRS is enabling businesses to embrace this growth opportunity.

Fundermental to growth is of course quality, and the MRS Policy & Standards team has worked tirelessly to help our members navigate new data protection legislation and Brexit turbulence (see Protecting Research).

We were especially proud of the four membership excellence gongs awarded to us by Memcom for our digital and editorial endeavours - work undertaken during (and in spite of) this difficult period. The MRS Certificate in Digital Interviewing Skills which we developed for the Girl Effect 'Technology Enabled Girl Ambassadors' (TEGA) programme is enabling young woman to gain qualifications in Malwai, Rwanda, Nigeria, Bangladesh, India and the US.

We also won awards for our own website mrs.org.uk and our initiative to promote the value of research to small and medium businesses via the website
researchforsmallbusinesses.com. Without a huge budget to spend on expensive design work, we focused both projects on usability and that old fashioned  notion of 'usefulness'.

MRS is incredibly fortunate to work with real journalists - experts in creating editorial content that elevates the platfroms on which they sit.

Our events go from strength-to-strength, demonstrating the key role MRS plays in connecting the sector and providing places to meet and learn from our peers.

I would like to thank all those that continue to support MRS in so many ways: our individual members and accredited companies; advertisers and sponsors; speakers at conferences and training courses; and members of the many boards and committees that provide professional support and guidance to the Society and the wider sector.

Finally, a special mention to Bill Blyth who was awarded the Society's highest honour, the MRS Gold Medal, having shown such dedication over his 45-year career to research associations, professional development, and research

If there is something you think we could or should be doing I welcome your feedback.

Jane Frost, Chief Executive, Market Research Society

Annual Review 2018-19 (Read on desktop)

Annual Review 2018-19 (Read on mobile)


MRS believes that a sector that provides insight and evidence needs to be representative of the world it serves, and the Society is committed to creating an environment where the only barriers to progress are personal choice and professional competence. In so doing we are securing the future talent of the research, insight and data analytics sector.

MRS action plan on inclusion 2018/19:

1. Launch of the first MRS Inclusion and Diversity Report for the Market Research Sector at the House of Commons, January 2018.

2.  MRS Inclusion Group led by Vanella Jackson (FMRS) develops inclusion road map for the sector.

3. Launch of the MRS ‘CEO Pledge – A Manifesto for Opportunity’. See
list of signatories.

4. Planning for a new LGBTQ+ network called #MRS Pride (subsequently launched in May 2019).

All MRS one-day conferences and annual conference feature a 50/50 gender split for keynotes and speakers.

Thought Leadership

MRS Delphi Group

The MRS Delphi Group comprises of leading experts from across the sector delivering valuable insight across a range of important business, social and political issues.

Deconstructing bias: Lessons from 70 years of research and insight
Researchers are familiar with unconscious bias. Whether it’s the problems of sampling, making decisions on how to phrase the questions we ask and interpret the answers, or questioning the assumptions that we (or our clients) make. As such, the research sector has a valuable contribution to help businesses become more effective and efficient in how they deal with bias.

Intelligence Capital™

Pioneered by MRS and supported in 2018/19 by Kantar, this initiative positions Intelligence Capital™ as a critical business investment, alongside financial and human capital.

The Responsive Business: Creating growth and value throughIntelligence Capital™
The report was based on consultation with MRS members and the MRS Senior Client Council, and recommends a framework that puts research, insight and data analytics at the heart of business strategy and makes the case for investment in the function now.

Standards and Self-Regulation

As the regulator, MRS promotes the highest professional standards throughout the sector via the MRS Code of Conduct.

The MRS Code, first adopted on 5 November 1954 is kept under regular review. Revisions were made to the current Code to reflect evolving ethical best practice and recent significant changes in the data protection framework. The changes also seek to ensure that the Code keeps pace with the accelerated speed and progress of technological development and data use. The content of the Code including the principles, definitions and rules were thoroughly reviewed and revised to reflect national and international developments in best practice in ethics and privacy including the revised data protection frameworks, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the UK Data Protection Act 2018.

We conducted a Code consultation with individual members, accredited Company Partners and other interested stakeholders on the major changes between January and April 2019. It is expected that the new Code will be published in October 2019, for application from January 2020.

Along with revisions to the Code, the MRS Policy & Standards Team continued to create specialist Guidance Notes to provide detailed interpretation and application of the data protection framework to the research, data and insight sector. Other new guidance included an incentives infographic to clarify the distinction between research and marketing, when using client supplied incentives.

Two new guides on our MRS GDPR In Brief Series were produced - a Guidance Note and Checklist on personal data breaches setting out tips to help practitioners understand the new legal requirements and efficiently deal with personal data breaches.

Guidance and training was also provided via a popular GDPR masterclass series , including advice on undertaking data protection impact assessments, as well as a series of tailored in-house standards briefings.

MRS Policy Unit

Our policy activities for the year under review reflected the start of enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25 May 2018 and the planned withdrawal of the UK from the EU on 29 March 2019.

Data protection

Research and insight is a data intensive activity; engagement with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and other pertinent regulators across a wide range of data protection issues is always pivotal to the work of the MRS Policy team.

During the period under review we:

  • Developed a new Data Protection and Research Guidance (2019), with the ICO, to ensure that we continue to reflect legal updates and best practice.
  • Highlighted the serious unforeseen consequences of the requirement for the research sector of naming a data controller This included discussions with the ICO, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner and circulation of evidence-based policy papers on this critical issue. The matter has been referred to the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) which is the grouping of European regulators, which may lead to formal consistent guidance on this issue.

Additionally, we continued to collaborate via other networks such as the Advertising Association (AA) Data Working Group, Operation Linden Working Group (grouping of regulators and interest groups working on reduction of unsolicited calls) and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Data Analytics, focusing on their technology and ethics enquiry.

Withdrawal from the EU

During the process for the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, MRS sought to highlight with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) issues of

particular impact on the research and insight sector wPhhilislt providing timely, targeted guidance for the sector on tDhee likely impact and implications.

MRS developed the MRS Brexit Hub to provide a focal point for the latest news, position statements and general advice for members on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.

 Guidance Notes published included:

  • EU-UK Data Transfers: General guidance to help compliance with the requirements of the GDPR on personal data transfers.
  • Appointment of EU Representative: Guidance on whether such appointments are required.
  • Standard Contractual Clauses Guide: Practical guidance on adoption of Standards Contractual Clauses (SCC’s), which are the most effective short-term solution
    for continued data flows.
  • Immigration update: Guidance on the key immigration policy issues for managing and supporting EU nationals.

Political Polling and Direct Marketing

We submitted formal responses to the ICO’s call for views on use of personal data in political campaigns. This ICO initiative seeks to strengthen their powers and provide clarity and focus to all sectors. MRS highlighted that in drawing the line between political campaigning and research the ICO Code must also be clear about the misuse of market research for political purposes. Political parties have an obligation to follow best practice when conducting research and must not pretend to be researchers conducting research, when in reality they are trying to campaign or build up leads for political activity. MRS will work with the ICO to look at whether there are any regulatory gaps within the existing data protection and electoral law landscape and increase transparency in campaign techniques.

We also submitted a response to the ICO Call for Views on the statutory Code of Practice for Direct Marketing highlighting the continued distinction between research and marketing activities and suggesting that poor marketing practices that impact on research such as sugging (selling under the guise of market research) should be addressed in the ICO Code.

Select Committee Inquiries

Our submission to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry into the governance of official statistics in the UK, looking particularly at the role of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) drew on the expertise of the MRS Census and Geodemographic Group (CGG), an advisory body of MRS which has specialists in the full range of research, statistics and marketing activities.



EFAMRO, the European Research Federation, represents the interests of research businesses to the European Parliament, European Commission and Council of Europe. MRS has been a member since 2006, and since 2009 has undertaken all standards, policy and public affairs activities on behalf of the Federation.

During this period, MRS worked with EFAMRO and ESOMAR to develop a GDPR Research Code to specify the application of the GDPR for the wider research and insight sector. This Code will be pivotal in helping our sector to maximise the opportunities of GDPR, more effectively apply the legislation, and help with cross- border transfers outside the EU.

Other key activities included active participation in European Data Protection Board (EDPB) meetings and working groups.


During this period MRS partnered with EphMRA, the global association for health and pharmaceutical research to provide professional standards and ethics support.

This included:

  • Undertaking research to identify changes to the EphMRA Code including incorporation of the GDPR requirements within the EphMRA Code of Conduct.
  • Development and drafting of EphMRA Code of Conduct.
  • Advice on the interpretation and application of the EphMRA Code of Conduct.
  • Drafting of additional standards, ethics and support materials such as EphMRA guidelines and FAQs as required.
Global Research Business Network

The Global Research Business Network (GRBN) of which MRS is a founding partner, went from strength-to-strength during the period. Activities included:

  • Conducting research, in partnership with Boston Consulting Group and the Insights Association, on the issues of the ROI of Insights and of building the business
    impact of Insights.
  • Issuing Invest in Insights: A Guide to demonstrating the value of insights to business.
  • Conducting research on the issues of Trust and Participant Engagement.
  • Issuing ENGAGE, 101 tips to improve the research participant experience.
  • Conducting workshops on Participant Engagement and the ROI of Insights in Detroit, Johannesburg, London, Melbourne, New York, Perth, Sydney and Warsaw for both
    associations and individual companies.
  • Consulting client-side Insights leaders and their teams on measuring ROI and demonstrating the business impact of Insights.
  • Speaking at conferences across the globe.
  • Issuing joint guidelines in partnership with ESOMAR.
  • Issuing monthly the Global Insights Newsletters on matters of interest to the research sector, including thought-leadership contributions from featured guests.

Activities and highlights

Find key statistics for all of our products and services.

Speaker evenings and IJMR lectures

The regular programme of speaker evenings and IJMR lectures continued throughout the year. Topics included ‘Brexit Diaries’ and ‘Perils of Perception’.


The MRS team hit the road again during 2018 and 2019 calling at London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff and Leeds. The senior team shared updates on GDPR, MRS Code of Conduct, Inclusion and Diversity Report, Data Analytics and Brexit.

Special interest groups

The ADA Network organised two very successful symposia in June and November. Topics included ‘Advanced applications in machine learning’ and 'Developments in unstructured data’.

Around the UK

MRS Scotland celebrated 40 years with another series of successful events and the election of a new Chair, Tom Fife-Schaw. Networks in Manchester, Northern Ireland and the South West also held events. The Best of Impact conference returned to The Lowry in Salford in September, incorporating another workshop for insight professionals working in Higher Education, and a half-day conference was held in Leeds in November.

Social events

In July, seventeen teams took part in the 20th annual five-a-side football tournament at Hanwell Town FC. The Summer Party had its biggest year yet, and almost 200 people gathered on the rooftop of The Grange St Paul’s in July.

Industry Leaders’ Lunch

MRS CEO Jane Frost hosted the seventh annual lunch for agency CEOs and senior client-side professionals during Impact 2019, the MRS Annual Conference. The 48 invited guests enjoyed an after-lunch speech from Conference Patron Stan Sthanunathan.


Ten new Fellows were presented at the seventh Excellence Awards lunch at Paternoster Chop House in June; a rare MRS Gold Medal, only the eleventh awarded since its inception as the highest MRS honour in 1982, was presented to William (Bill) Blyth for his career dedication to the institutions which protect and promote research; the Oppies took place at Beach Blanket Babylon in September, recognising the operational teams and businesses that keep the sector running. In December, 860 guests celebrated at the black-tie MRS Awards dinner, which was held at Old Billingsgate, London.


A competition to create an &more Leadership Team saw four young researchers appointed. Carolina Starkhammar, Maddison Andrews, Mark McGeoghegan and Polina Vorms created a proposal for the network, which was presented to MRS Main Board in February. In June, &more held an event at Google, with over 100 members attending a session on ‘How to make it BIG in insight’. Upcoming plans include an &more Summer Party and an &more Conference in October, to be held at Unilever.

MRS & AQR University Roadshow

The University Roadshow continued to expand this year, with over 1,200 students attending 23 sessions at universities across the country, our greatest number yet. Our volunteer speaker teams visited new venues, including the University of East London, Canterbury Christchurch and De Montfort. A recruitment campaign saw the practitioners volunteer speaker list increase to 110 senior volunteers and 72 newer practitioners.


In 2018/19:

2174 individuals received some form of training from MRS, including 1197 in face-to-face training in our fully equipped training suite.

116 training courses were delivered in MRS’s face-to-face training programme, covering research skills and complementary business and leadership skills across all levels of complexity, and catering to delegates with different levels of experience.

These courses covered the principal methodologies along with new and emerging techniques to keep the programme up-to-date. New courses were introduced on subjects such as innovation delivery, game-based research methods, facilitating action from insight, understanding consumer behaviour and negotiation strategy.

582 individuals took part in MRS’s flexible online training courses, covering both research and business/ leadership skills.

137 candidates achieved the introductory level MRS Certificate via the online exam.

41 days of bespoke in-company training were delivered to blue chip clients, academia, central government, government agencies and research businesses.

MRS delivered a series of 11 webinars (a mix of live and pre-recorded) in late spring and again in the autumn that drew in 70 attendees across the two series of webinar.


MRS Advanced Certificate in Market & Social Research Practice

In 2018/19:

259 candidates participated in assessment for the Advanced Certificate qualification.

165 candidates were awarded the qualification – a 64% pass rate.

A syllabus review and update was completed – it will be effective from the June 2020 assessment round.

MRS Certificate in Digital Interviewing Skills for Market & Social Research
104 Girl Effect TEGAS across 3 Networks – India, Bangladesh & USA, were awarded the ‘MRS Certificate in Digital Interviewing Skills for Market &
Social Research’ using TEGA methodology. The qualification recognises the range of attitudes, knowledge and skills required to conduct effective
interviews via hand-held technology with participants.

Bespoke Training Accreditation

MRS Accreditation was awarded to Girl Effect for both their TEGA Selfie and TEGA Field Officer programmes.

Bespoke Syllabus development was undertaken for the MRS qualification Certificate in Qualitative Interviewing Skills to enable pilot delivery in South Sudan for BBC Media Action.


With commitment from 15 employers (suppliers, clients and public sector) a trailblazer group has been formed to develop an apprenticeship for the research and insight sector.

MRS is undertaking the role of facilitator to the trailblazer group. It is anticipated that the apprenticeship will be available from Summer 2020.


The scheme continues to go from strength to strength with phases 4 and 5 commencing in the financial year. 65 new partnerships were in progress. 183 individual members have now benefitted from the scheme as mentees and 110
Certified Members and Fellows have been trained as mentors.


The MRS CPD programme continues to attract registrations, providing members with a framework to demonstrate their achievements, gain  recognition for their professionalism and take control planning their careers. The programme has enabled 50 membership upgrades to Certified Membership.

Nearly 50 new companies became accredited Company Partners in 2018-19, with a steady growth in data analytics companies and client-side insight teams. This year, MRS launched ADA - a support package to build the connections and broader skills needed to shape the insight experts of the future. ADA includes a wide range of specialist training courses, a data analytics conference, online training courses in R and Python, a specialist network and its own MRS award category.

MRS also teamed up with new Company Partners Google to run a joint training programme called ‘Think Like a Scientist’, a three-part series which took a deep dive into the essentials of experimental advertising. Due to the success of this initial programme, MRS and Google will be running a similar one-day intensive training course next year.

This year also saw the launch of Access, a range of personal benefits for Company Partner employees. With a focus on developing skills and competencies, and keeping insight teams up-to-date with the latest best practice, Access allows individuals employed within Company Partner organisations to receive free professional development tools, industry intelligence and regulatory advice and information. Also included are thought leadership events, online resources and sector news, as well as the ability to utilise the highly-valued MRS CPD programme, where learning can be tracked and reflected upon in one place.

MRS and AQR have been developing a Recruiter Accreditation Scheme (RAS) to raise the profile and status of recruiters, by devising a training and accreditation scheme that recognises the knowledge, skills and competence of professional recruiters. AQR and MRS have been busy throughout 2018/19 developing online training materials, to complement the guidance and compliance framework already developed, with the aim of launching the Scheme in 2019/20.

To support small businesses MRS also launched the Research for Small Businesses website (see Publishing) with the support of sponsors Whycatcher? and Zappistore. The site was ‘highly commended’ at the Memcom 2019 awards.

In the year following GDPR, MRS has kept Company Partners updated with the latest news and guidance, seeing a 22% rise in Fair Data companies during this period. MRS has also been providing much support and guidance via the Brexit hub section of the website.

MRS Annual Conference – Impact 2019

The MRS Annual Conference returned to the Grange Tower Hill Hotel in London for the final time. Taking place on 12 and 13 March, the conference provided a multistreamed event welcoming over 120 speakers and session chairs. Keynote speakers included Bruce Daisley, VP EMEA Twitter, Reverend Richard Coles, Cleric, Broadcaster, Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP and Victoria Coren Mitchell, Columnist and host of Only Connect.

The conference welcomed over 650 participants from a diverse spread of practitioners across the spectrum of clients, suppliers, specialist, consultants, academics and the wider media.

One Day Conferences

MRS ran 13 one-day conferences which attracted more than 1,000 attendees over the year. These included annual sector-based conferences covering Financial Services, Kids and Youth, B2B Research, Media Research and Utilities. A new sector conference, FMCG was successfully added to the portfolio for
2018/19. As part of MRS’ strategy to engage the data analytics sector the Data Analytics and Insight Summit, was run for a second year in February 2019. Attracting more delegates and sponsors than 17/18, it was once again the most successful conference in the one-day portfolio.

Highlights of the MRS media campaign 2018/19 included:

  • Proactive media relations around key issues and themes including the ethical use of data and the importance of high standards and good practice; the significance of upcoming changes to the Census format and how it shapes policy and determines public funding and the role that market research plays in successful organisations to underpin decision making and shape strategy.
  • Launching Intelligence Capital™ to research and marketing press including arranging journalist attendance at the launch event and ongoing work to brief journalists on the concept and raise its profile with a broad range of outlets as part of a long-term media campaign to establish Intelligence Capital™.
  • Effectively managing an increased level of public awareness and scrutiny of political polling . Communicating MRS’ role in advising the House of Lords Select Committee on Political Polling and Digital Media and consulting with the Financial Conduct Authority regarding the use of private polling for market abuse.
  • Launching MRS’ website for SMEs – research_for small business – with news pieces in the research and small business trade press as well as comment pieces from Jane Frost CBE about the importance of research to business success.
  • Applying pressure on Government to prioritise an agreement for the future trade of services in Brexit negotiations as services make up 80% of the UK economy, within which market research is worth £4.8 billion.
  • Announcing the launch of the Market Research Benevolent Association's (MRBA) bursary programme to support researchers taking the MRS Advanced Certificate qualification.
  • Launching MRS’ collaboration with Centaur Media on the Festival of Marketing and communicating the value of research within the marketing process.
  • Announcing MRS’ partnership with EphMRA to enhance its Code of Conduct and develop professional standards services for its members.
  • Contributing to Research Live’s Review of 2018 and Preview of 2019 series, including identifying campaign highlights and the biggest challenges and opportunities in the year ahead.
  • Arranging for journalist attendance and profiling MRS’ programme of one day conferences and Impact 2019 with a wide range of research, marketing and national media. mrs.org.uk/press

Throughout the period 62 positive pieces of media coverage were achieved in the following publications:

  • National / Business
  • Financial Times
  • The Guardian
  • Reuters
  • Small Business
  • Natwest Business
  • Business Insider Marketing and research press
  • Marketing Week
  • WARC
  • MR Web
  • Research Live
  • Field Marketing
  • MarTechSeries
  • Global Research Business Network
  • RFL

MRS produces a range of content across numerous print titles and digital channels. This includes peer reviewed academic papers, daily breaking news, and in-depth special reports and digital interviews with research leaders.

MRS Delphi Group

he group is the think tank to the sector and includes experts from brands and agencies.As well as consulting on the Intelligence Capital™ initiative, the group produced a report and a round table discussion on the topic of unconscious bias. Published in November 2018, Deconstructing Bias: lessons from 70 years of research and insight includes case studies and expert views from practitioners with sections on cultural bias, management bias and data bias, along with recommendations for decision-makers. All reports, as well as a new series of Delphi podcasts, are available at mrs.org.uk/delphi

Intelligence CapitalTM 

MRS spearheaded the Intelligence Capital™ initiative that aims to demonstrate the direct effect that insight can have on the growth of any business. Working with the sponsor Kantar, a report was launched and presented at the London Stock Exchange in March 2019. The next phase of Intelligence Capital™ will include the creation of practical tools and resources to help organisations unlock the value of their insight.


A year on from its relaunch in January 2018, the digital home of MRS has won awards for its focus on customer service and usability (see Introduction). The site provides members with secure access to all their MRS services and content, as well as providing the broader MRS customer base with sector information and access to training and events.


Live With a dedicated editorial team, the website continues to be the first port of call for research, insight and data news and opinion, with a large international audience. High points include the publication in December 2018 of the annual Research Live Industry Report, live coverage of MRS annual conference, and regular interviews with industry leaders. Head of Editorial Jane Bainbridge was highly commended at the Memcom Awards 2019 for her work both here and on Impact magazine.

Impact magazine

The quarterly members magazine received a new look in October 2018 with a fresh focus on data analytics and the addition of new columnists. Impact magazine is also sent to several thousand non-member clients and commissioners of research and insight, and content is available free-on-registration at research-live.com.

This year saw interviews with Jayne-Anne Gadhia, Will Butler-Adams, and Levi Roots, and case studies including Shell, Iceland and the Cabinet Office.

The Research Buyers            

Guide The guide continues to be the core reference tool for anyone buying research with over 1,500 print copies sent to client side research and insight buyers. The accompanying website is upgraded every year to better showcase company listings and ensure they are optimised for Google search. Among other improvements, users can now save their favourite suppliers list and export it for their procurement and commissioning activities.

IJMR and SAGE       

Publications Members have also free access to SAGE Publications’ Research Methods suite as part of their enhanced membership benefits. Sage Publications publish the bi-monthly MRS peer-reviewed journal, the IJMR, which is part of the membership package for MRS Fellows and Certified members. The IJMR website offers an archive of papers dating back more than 20 years as well as the latest issue and digital first papers.

Kogan Page

Members received a new benefit last year when MRS partnered with Kogan Page to provide access to 40 of the latest business, brand and personal development e-books. This in addition to existing services from Kogan Page.

Research for small businesses

With tips and webinars on how to choose the right type of research for a variety of small business challenges, the site also provides direct access to our supplier directory, the Research Buyer’s Guide. Visit www.researchforsmallbusinesses.com

The following summary of key financial information is extracted from the audited accounts for the year 2018–19.

A copy of the Statutory Report and Accounts which will be submitted to Companies House is available to MRS members on request.

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