Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Interviewing the Interviewers: Katie McQuater

In NDA’s Interviewing the Interviewers series, we caught up with some of the best interviewers in our industry, from journalists to independent content creators, turning the tables to find out what makes them tick.

Katie McQuater is Deputy Editor at Market Research Society. She was previously Magazine Editor at The Drum.

What is your biggest hope and your biggest fear for the marketing industry in 2019?

Honestly, my biggest hope is that the industry finally better understands and connects with consumers — also known as ‘people’ — and loses the bullshit (especially around brand purpose).

There is a whole world out there beyond Soho. I don’t see it happening.

My worry is, for all the well-intentioned and necessary focus on inclusion — and now unconscious bias, which is having a moment — that we will keep talking about it until we’re blue in the face and still won’t see any concrete change.

Unfortunately it seems that many in the industry are only capable of tackling one issue at a time when it comes to diversity, and then expect a pat on the back for it. It’s like the tech industry’s approach to data privacy.

Therefore I’d like to see less talk from companies, and more specific, solid evidence and proper data to assess whether things are shifting in the right direction or not.

What was your biggest personal industry highlight of 2018?

Covering Brexit from the insight industry’s perspective and hearing about things people have said in focus groups that made my toes curl, but which I needed to hear.

Who was the most inspirational person you interviewed in 2018 and why?

Catherine Hunt, who heads up insight for the Cabinet Office. Her ability to be so pragmatic and realistic in the face of Brexit meltdown was inspiring — she was under no illusions over what the role of the government researcher should be in 2018.

What one technology are you most excited about this year and why?

At the risk of sounding like a Luddite, what I think we need is more nuanced conversation about the role we WANT technology to play in our future lives and societies rather than just going along with the whims of the tech companies.

I admit this is a pretty modish thing to say, but I just don’t believe there’s enough questioning over tech and what purpose it should serve.

That said, on the industry side of things there are companies in the insight space doing some really interesting things with algorithms that allow people’s behaviour and preferences to be captured — while not necessarily new, I think over the next year we will start to see these technologies impacting the way brands inform their decision-making.

What was your favourite ad or digital experience of 2018?

I don’t pay as much attention to ads as I used to now that I’m writing about market research and insight and because I’m deeply cynical, but the HSBC ‘We are not an island’ one with Richard Ayoade seemed to hit the nail on the head.

I still think there’s an opportunity for brands to create ads that contribute to the national conversation, if done in the right way.

What is the buzzword or phrase you’d like to ban forever?

Only one? But there are so many. I’d say ‘authenticity’.

Who’s the one industry figure you’d most like to interview you yet haven’t?

Brené Brown, a researcher who focuses on vulnerability and shame.

How could someone persuade you to interview them and what would put you off completely?

I’d rather not be persuaded — I’m often most interested in people who are quietly good at what they do and not used to blowing their own trumpets. Arrogance and hubris are never good qualities. Also, like every other journalist, I don’t like being chased down by PRs.