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Get To Know Dianne Kamin & Harry Ponsonby, APAC Vice Presidents Of The National Research Group

An essential resource for creators, marketers and innovators to connect their content, product and brand stories with consumers everywhere on every screen.

Welcome to Marketing in Asia, Dianne and Harry. The name, National Research Group (NRG) is synonymous with Hollywood; you are best known for your behind the scene role in pre-release testing of movies. I remember reading about NRG all those years ago as a young person living in Singapore. So, when I was approached to speak with you, obviously I am thrilled. Can you please give our readers a background story on what NRG is all about?

We’re delighted to speak with Marketing In Asia too.

Over the last four decades, NRG has become an essential resource for creators, marketers and innovators to connect their content, product and brand stories with consumers everywhere on every screen.

All brands today need to think like entertainment companies—uncovering the whys that make people tune in and care.

Our clients come to us for fresh thinking too big challenges: from understanding how viewers discover content today, to how to program a new platform or monetize a service. We’re a strategic resource for Hollywood studios, streaming platforms, AAA gaming studios, technology leaders and next-generation media brands, working across the entire content, product and services lifecycle.

And while NRG might be synonymous with Hollywood and storytelling, our heritage is highly international too, with a robust team of emerging market experts speaking with consumers in more than 30 countries and fielding over two million surveys annually. We’re contributing decades of expertise in Japan, South Korea and China, in addition to more recent experience in India, Thailand and the Philippines. “Global” is one of our unique advantages.

Storytelling is the buzzword these days and NRG is known to have deep heritage in storytelling for four decades. Tell us how this (storytelling) has indeed been one of the factors to sustain NRG for as long as it has.

We like to think of ourselves as the original data geeks and storytellers before it was cool.

One of the things we’re finding that is seemingly counterintuitive… while our clients have no shortage of data to leverage to create a more personalized, relevant consumer experiences, those with the most data actually are the fastest-growing clients. These new companies, innovators and disruptors have a growth mindset; they see research and insights as a way to challenge convention and to take more risks to enhance storytelling.

With more content than ever before and competition for consumer attention, NRG is not only a resource for how to make a story resonate with audiences, but also for how to sustain its cultural relevance over time and build the franchises of the future.

The latest news is that you are expanding into Asia; it is definitely an exciting phase for NRG. Walk us through how this is going to affect the entertainment industry in this region, Dianne & Harry.

A confluence of factors contributes to the rapid growth potential of the APAC market—the fastest growing over-the-top (OTT) market in the world—such as the rise of local content, the availability of reliable superfast broadband, and the rising middle class in a range of emerging markets.

Industry leaders are going wider to service billions of consumers, and need to go deeper when it comes to insight. Engaging and monetizing this emerging demographic is about local relevance.

We see our expansion as a key opportunity to partner more deeply and be their eyes and ears on the ground, understanding the most compelling content verticals and cultural IP, the right blend of content experience and delivery, awareness and appetite for iconic global content in the face of local competition, pricing expectations and other critical nuances that can make or break a release.

We are also enthusiastic about the opportunity to serve local storytellers in a new way, bringing highly effective research methods to the content creators and distributors in the region.

Singapore is going to be the epicentre for National Research Group Asia. Why Singapore?

We see Singapore as a gateway to the region. We can work with several clients who have their headquarters based in the country while continuing to address both established markets such as China and Japan and emerging markets such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

What are some of the challenges entertainment providers currently face in the Asian region?

Firstly, with the surge of content available, it becomes vital for creators to find a sticking point to help their content stand out. With so many options, content still remains key and audiences are looking for shows that are relatable yet surprising at the same time. It is up to the content creators to break through and get audience attention.

Secondly, Asia’s media landscape is changing and the economics of content creation and acquisition are increasingly challenging. The dynamics of digital have impacted the traditional models. While this has led to mergers of several dominant media companies, digital entertainment is still fragmented with many companies competing for audience attention and support. Finding the optimal business model requires nuance and flexibility.

NRG will be partnering with clients to tackle major strategic challenges to capture audience attention. How do you plan to do this?

We offer a wide range of highly effective, and thoroughly road-tested, research methods to allow content creators and distributors to get closer to, and build an understanding of target consumers across the region. As individuals, we bring complementary skill-sets, with Dianne’s experience in robust quantitative studies, and Harry more versed in face-to-face in-market methodologies.

Where NRG stands out is that we work at every stage of the product life cycle, from very early script-based studies, through content testing, marketing positioning and ad testing, and beyond to include post-release studies. Aside from title-specific work, we are also experienced at market deep-dives and landscaping studies, and regularly publish thought-leadership pieces which demonstrate NRG’s deep understanding of the entertainment sector as a whole.

Tell us about NRG’s quantitative and qualitative entertainment research which I understand you are doing in a big way to offer the most robust experience for your clients.

We are working with leading entertainment brands to speak with consumers in more than 30 countries, fielding over two million surveys annually. By using a mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis, we help our clients tell relevant and engaging stories. As we turn data into actionable insights, we present these findings to clients via visual reports, videography, infographics and even interactive dashboards.

With four decades of work in the industry, we’re able to offer the most robust experience in the content space with meaningful benchmarks and a proven track record of success across all forms of entertainment.

When it comes to Marketing, what have National Research Group’s strategies been?

Insight and innovation are our brand DNA. So when it comes to marketing, we create new thought leadership providing deep insight into trends and changing consumer tastes, that we share for public consumption to help advance industry knowledge.

Harry, your background revolves around film and TV production and spans over 14 years. Dianne, you are a seasoned-executive and have been focusing on strategic entertainment research for more than a decade. I cannot imagine a better combination of forces to spearhead this project in APAC. I know our readers would love to know you a bit more on a personal level – tell us how you started, how your journey has been.

Harry: I’ve always been drawn to storytelling and graduated with a degree in drama and theatre arts. I began my career working freelance in film and TV production but eventually found qualitative market research. Since then, I have spent the past 14 years consulting with producers, distributors and exhibitors to understand audience appetites, helping them to optimize their content, and guide marketing strategy at every stage from script to post-release strategies. I have a passion for understanding global trends in entertainment, as well as those specific cultural nuances that help our clients to fully engage with their audience.

Dianne: Like Harry, I was always passionate about the entertainment industry and the amazing impact it can bring to people’s lives. I moved to Los Angeles to be closer to the industry and started my career at the talent agency, CAA. Once I learned that I could do market research for entertainment, I’ve never looked back. I love finding actionable insights through data and advising our clients how to best reach and inspire audiences through stories.

For those who wish to know more about NRG’s presence in Asia, how can they do so?

Our website also shares an overview of our methods and thinking, and it is also regularly updated with thought leadership articles based on the latest trends and insights! We can also be reached dianne.kamin@nrgmr.com and harryponsonby@nrgmr.com.

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Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen

Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen is the Marketing In Asia's Editor for Singapore. She is also a certified Image Branding & Lifestyle Consultant. Born in Singapore and blessed to have lived in a couple of other amazing cities in the world, Anjalika is currently expatriating in Kuala Lumpur. Follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram. You may also reach her by email at anjalika@marketinginasia.com.

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