The chatter about DIY research and listening platforms driving traditional market research to obsolescence is enough to give any Market Research professional pause for thought. Management teams can point to cost savings by empowering different departments to conduct their own “research.” While this debate is very interesting, and one that could go on for hours, the important piece that shouldn’t be lost in the debate is that the research still needs to happen. Case in point: Summer’s Eve.

In case you missed it, women (and men) everywhere have been heatedly debating a Summer’s Eve ad placed in the October 2010 issue of Women’s Day. I actually received the issue this weekend and when I stumbled across the ad, I did a double take. Even without my background in media research and gender studies, my inner alarm was ringing. Was this ad serious? Evidently I was not the only one who noticed because the blogosphere and Twitter were all a-flutter with other individuals who took notice as well. (Blogs from to to above all had coverage. One blog even had more than 900 comments.) After I got over the initial shock of the ad, I asked myself, “Did they do any ad testing?”

The ad team easily could have thrown the test copy into a BBFG or an MROC and gotten some quick feedback before deciding to move forward with the campaign. Maybe they did. I would love to know if any research was done beforehand (if someone from the team reads this please let us know!). If research was done and they found overall acceptance of the ad, it would be interesting to find out why. Was there a sampling error? Some type of uncontrolled bias? Where did the research go wrong? Or, was no research done — and if not, why not? I would love to see some stats (perhaps @Conversition would like to share?) on the types of brand conversations happening before and after the release of this ad. Because, I would think that spending a few thousand dollars to test the campaign before launch would have been much less expensive than dealing with the backlash that it now faces. In fact, it would be great to monetize that figure so that the next time budget cuts come around, we could turn to our management teams and say, “Are you sure you want to cut that study? It could end up costing you (fill in the blank dollar amount).”

Today, we have such a wide range of research methodologies available to us that it’s very easy to gain quick, valuable insights in a cost-effective manner. Regardless of which department gets the work done, it’s important to remind ourselves (and our colleagues) that market research serves an important part in many business functions. Although the cost of research (in both time and money) can sometimes seem daunting, the cost of not doing it (or not doing it right) can be even greater.