Most market research agencies, when commissioned to undertake market research assignments, are not obliged to reveal who their clients are - even when asked. Professional codes of conduct in market research primarily focus on protecting the confidentiality of personal information given by respondents - as well as the identity of research sponsors.
Many commercial companies that commission market research do so in order to achieve competitive advantage. Therefore, it’s common practice for clients to gather information from “the market” that could be used to discredit or undermine a competitor’s offering.
However, market research firms are typically not involved in communicating research findings on behalf of client companies. They employ researchers, not journalists. They tend not to apply spin.
However, YouGov bucks this trend. As evidenced in this Politico article.
In the article, a “lead data journalist” at YouGov is quoted:
“After concerns about its protection and potency were raised by leaders across Europe, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has undoubtedly suffered damage to its reputation for safety on the Continent," Matt Smith, lead data journalist at YouGov, said in a statement. "Not only have we seen considerable rises in those who consider it unsafe in the last two weeks in Europe, the AstraZeneca vaccine continues to be seen as substantially less safe than its Pfizer and Moderna counterparts."
This article ran on Politico on March 22, 2021. At that time, Nadhim Zahawi was the UK Government Minister responsible for vaccine roll-out. Meanwhile, the market research agency that he founded was spinning against a UK vaccine manufacturer - arguing that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were seen to be more safe.
Zahawi, of course, is now to be investigated for not declaring the full extent of his capital gains from the sale of shares in YouGov - when, indeed, he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.
But other questions need to be asked. Why was YouGov media-briefing against Astra Zeneca - to the benefit of both Pfizer and Moderna - at a time when Zahawi was the government minister responsible for vaccine roll-out? And who was YouGov’s client for this research and media assignment?
Be aware that I'm not defending AZ here - at all. I'm merely asking why the Vaccine Minister's company was briefing against one C19 vaccine manufacturer - and asking who the client was and whether the Minister was aware.
Apologies, there was a slight typo in the original version of this article (that gave the wrong date for the Politico article). But, just to clarify, YouGov was clearly briefing media that Astra Zeneca was seen to be less safe than Pfizer - based on a survey. The briefing was clearly happening when Nadhim Zahawi was Vaccines Minister.