Is today’s rogue independence poll a stunning example of a megacorps media company using a cheap trick to sell is wares through other megacorps newspaper companies, or just a crap piece of work by a rubbish branch office?
There’s a poll out today by a company called Kantar (here, I prefer Kant). In spite of (actually, it turns out, because of) Kant not being a well-known polling brand its poll has got a lot of publicity.
According to the report, only 40% of Scots support independence. If true, this would indeed represent a significant slump in support for independence, since the figures for independence support have been steady in the mid-to-high 40s for quite a long time.
The ‘Kant’ report confirms that, as has been the case for some time, most Scots want an independence referendum. But by segmenting that question and introducing options on timetables, Kant has enabled anti-independence outlets to follow on with pieces which imply that most people are actually against a referendum.
As ‘Kant’ knows, though, it’s the headline figure of 40% which gets their poll, and therefore their brand, properly into the papers.
In general, newspapers and telly companies don’t have enough money to spend on polls to make political polling worthwhile for private sector polling companies. Certainly not in Scotland. The reason political polling’s done at all is because it gets market-research companies ‘free’ publicity, especially at election time. Market research is almost entirely business-to-business; these companies need to keep their brand well-known by the public, though, or they find it hard to impress possible clients. Putting out a contentious poll at election time, as Kant has done here, is therefore the cheapest trick in the shameless-self-publicity book.
So who or what is Kant(ar), that it’s able to get its poll – and therefore its own name – right onto the front pages?
Kant is in fact the new name for the formerly well-known TNS-BMRB polls. Kant’s an organising unit inside media behemoth WPP. Last September, WPP/Kantar has kindly let me know, TNS-BMRB was rebranded ‘Kantar’.
WPP, a world media empire in every way, is pretty much the sole creation of Sir Martin Sorrell. It’s an astonishing commercial success and Sorrell squeezes every penny out of every unit. Here he is talking about Scotland. Who knows what the reason for the re-branding is, but whatever it is it’s everyone’s job to make sure we all get to know about it.
Kant has a wee office in Edinburgh. Tom Costley, quoted in Schofield’s piece, is the Deputy Managing Director of something or other based there and hasn’t updated the branding on his own Linkedin profile yet. Bless. It’s unlikely the unit he’s responsible for has 500+ workers his profile suggests. More likely that this refers to Kant or even WPP across the world. More to the point, if you go to the UK part of the Kant website you’ll see that Scotland’s just a wee outpost with no real executive or policy presence at all; mentions that Scotland even exists are hard to find.
It feels like what’s happened here is US/London-based WPP planners have wanted to consolidate public awareness of the new polling brand ‘Kantar’ and, amongst other things, they’ve asked the wee office in Scotland to do what it can to get the Kant brand in the news.
Scottish independence, and of course the UK election, are big enough stories to impact upon the most corporate-minded of London/US based planners. And if you want to make a splash with your new brand, another boring old poll which confirmed what we all know would hardly do the trick.
Tom Costley and his wee band (who look like very nice folk) seem to have decided to produce an outlier poll. There are professional guidelines, of course, but within those there’s plenty of room to generate a bit of spin through questionnaire design and so forth. They won’t be criticised in the industry because it’s a common trick. Two important things for such companies, though, is not to do it too often and to balance the result out over time with more credible polls.
So there it is. Today’s Kant poll is a cheap trick where perfectly regular folk bullshit the public for money. Watch ‘Kant’ change its tune in future Scottish polls over time. And in the meantime, consider if ‘Kant’ (Scotland) hasn’t just been a bit too rubbishly blatant for the high standards of the likes of WPP and Sorrell.