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IQ News: Insider: Live To Learn

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When it comes to Rex Briggs, one could make the case that his career is in learning, not online marketing research. At 27, Briggs is vice president of Internet services at advertising research company Millward Brown Interactive, San Francisco--part of the WPP Group--but his quest for knowledge began long ago. When he was 14, he started taking college-level courses near his hometown of Running Springs, Calif. By his high school graduation, he had completed all of his college-level liberal arts requirements.
"I was mainly doing it because I really loved to learn," he recalls.
Briggs attended Georgetown University in a special program for foreign policy before deciding there was "too much bureaucracy" in the field. He transferred to California Polytechnic State University, where he earned a business degree with a concentration in marketing and research.
Briggs combined his interest in politics with his marketing concentration by coordinating surveys there about what it takes to get students to vote. "That's when I really started getting a lot more into market research, to understand and hear the voices of people through this quantitative approach," he says.
He worked for three years studying Generation X, minority markets and technology trends for Yankelovich Partners, before moving to HotWired in 1995, where he created the research department. He joined Millward Brown Interactive in 1997.
The research company has done more than 60 studies focusing on Internet advertising and marketing for clients including the Internet Advertising Bureau, IBM, DoubleClick and Netscape. Millward Brown's studies have yielded timely results as advertisers ponder the value of various ad models, including banners, sponsorships and this year's darling, "rich media"--multimedia interactive ads that have TV-like production values.
"Rich media offers some really great potential," Briggs notes, "but if the ad doesn't create a brand message effectively, it doesn't matter what kind of technology you put around the ad."
Given his background, it's obvious that he believes companies should look at their Internet experimentation as "a continuous learning cycle." He explains, "Most organizations haven't figured out that it's OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and are able to change strategy based on what you've learned. They see it as a failure rather than learning."
Briggs underscores the point by citing one of his research blunders: predicting that click-through rates would be the best measure of an ad's effectiveness. Instead, he says, it means a user has an immediate need for the product and believes the need can be fulfilled online.
Live and learn.