You can always tell a market researcher in the crowd because the crowd stands out.
–Old pollster joke
So good riddance to the MRIA (Market Research and Intelligence Association), which closed its doors this week after 14 years of extracting usurious members’ fees in exchange for, er, not much.
Apparently, the organization that represented public opinion pollsters and market researchers in Canada, simply ran out of other people’s money.
MRIA and their predecessors PMRS (Professional Market Research Society) and CAMRO (Canadian Association of Market Research Organization) have been burning through dough every year since 1983. Resentful member firms claimed their fees were going to overpaid staff, useless golf tournaments and expensive tables at Public Policy Forum dinners. As membership dwindled, so did income to support the lavish spending.
Desperate to retain members, the MRIA dropped its annual Gold Seal award for top firm, and began to admit hacks like Nick Kouvalis and Quito Maggi. The Gold Seal prize required an extensive audit, done onsite by a veteran market researcher. Alas, many member firms had trouble with it, so to maximize membership, the “audit” became a simple questionnaire filled out by the applicant. (“Check, of course we do that.”) Completely useless, as anyone could self-report their brilliance, and did.
Where MRIA revealed itself to be especially hopeless came with the investigation and admonishment of the dubious achievements of the aforementioned Kouvalis and Maggi, who took advantage of the lack of self-regulation in the industry to hang up their shingles—“Here Be Pollsters!”
A former Maggi employer (who fired the Grift for inventing voter contact data for the Ontario Liberals) tells Frank that Maggi claimed he would become a pollster because MRIA had no powers to stop him.
The Grift eventually joined MRIA, then got suspended for shit-talking his competitors/colleagues at Illumina Research Partners.
You can’t suspend us, we quit, replied Quito, dismissing the MRIA, as a voluntary industry association, an unaccountable ‘polling police’ under the effective control of board members from Ipsos (Andrew Cochrane and Amy Charles squat in several positions).
MRIA’s lobbying efforts were also laughable. Some years ago, Corrections Canada allowed inmates to earn a few dollars doing market research interviews by phone.
The MRIA whinged that this was unfair competition, since the inmates were working for cigarette money, while professional interviewers needed a decent salary and benefits. MRIA recruited four firms to survey Canadians on whether they saw this practice as unfair. Then they sent the results to Corrections Canada.
The result? Nada, until a pollster took matters into his own hands and asked select media hacks: “Would you want Paul Bernardo phoning your teenage daughter at home?”
Corrections Canada soon exited the polling biz, but left behind this final riposte: “You can tell the difference between a pollster and a market researcher by talking to them. The market researcher will be staring at his shoes. The pollster will be staring at your shoes.”