ADM Arbeitskreis Deutscher Markt- und Sozialforschungsinstitute e.V. is a business association which represents the interests of private-sector market and social research agencies in Germany. ADM members account for more than 80 percent of industry turnover. ADM is the only association of this kind in Germany.
Its principal duties include political lobbying, advising and representing members, taking action against unfair competition and promoting the self-regulation of market and social research by developing and implementing professional principles, rules of conduct and scientific quality standards.
The ADM was founded on 20 June 1955 in Würzburg as the “Arbeitskreis für betriebswirtschaftliche Markt- und Absatzforschung”, based in Bonn, and was registered as an association on 26 June 1956. However the actual history of the ADM extends back to the year 1949 when, on 29 April, the “Arbeitskreis für betriebswirtschaftliche Markt- und Absatzforschung” was set up as a study group at the Nürnberg School of Economics. The key figures in this process were Georg Bergler, Erich Schäfer, Jens H. Schmidt and Julius E. Schwenzner. In 1960, the association changed its name to “Arbeitskreis Deutscher Marktforschungsinstitute e.V.”, and since 27 April 1989 it has gone by the name “ADM Arbeitskreis Deutscher Markt- und Sozialforschungsinstitute e.V.”.
Membership in the ADM
In principle, any private-sector market and social research agency which is legally independent and based in the Federal Republic of Germany is eligible to become a full member of the ADM.
Further conditions for full membership are uninterrupted scientific operation in the field of market and social research for at least three years; performing most of the tasks associated with a research contract alone rather than performing certain subsidiary tasks within market and social research; a minimum annual turnover to be laid down by the general assembly of members; and guaranteeing compliance with the professional principles, rules of conduct and quality standards of the ADM.
Aims and Objectives
The ADM is a registered association and is of a non-profitmaking nature. It is a professional organisation and not an employers' association in the socio-political sense. The ADM represents the interests of private-sector market research agencies in Germany. The individual aims and objectives of the ADM as set out in its statutes are:
In addition, the ADM draws up professional principles and rules of conduct which are considered to constitute accepted common practice and are thus binding for anyone conducting or commissioning market or social research in Germany, irrespective of whether or not they are members of the association. Hence they are also binding for foreign agencies and clients conducting or commissioning research projects in Germany.
To date the ADM has published the following guidelines together with the other associations of market and social research ASI, BVM and DGOF:
The individual guidelines are available in both German and English.
Quality Assurance Standards
The activities of market and social research agencies are a consultancy service which is performed exclusively in accordance with accepted scientific rules and which, being a form of applied research, is able to invoke the freedom of research that is guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany. For this reason it is important that market and social research should document its adherence to recognised scientific methods and procedures through binding quality standards, in addition to defining rules of ethical conduct.
The ADM therefore agreed upon 'Standards for Quality Assurance in Market and Social Research' in 1999 and has published them in the form of a bilingual brochure (German / English) together with the associations ASI and BVM. These standards represent a comprehensive framework and reference for the entire research process and describe the quality-related requirements towards the individual steps of the research process.
In addition to these general quality assurance standards, the German market and social research associations, headed by the ADM, drew up the “Standards for Quality Assurance for Online Surveys” in 2001, which were published both as a bilingual brochure and in a condensed form as the “Check List for Clients Commissioning Online Surveys”.
As an instrument of self-regulation in market and social research, quality standards contribute decisively towards protecting clients against inadequate research projects and the public against the inadequate publication of research results. They are therefore also an important tool for maintaining and fostering the image of market and social research within the general public and the trust of the public in market and social research.
In collaboration with the German Institute for Standardisation (DIN, Deutsches Institut für Normung e.V.), the German market and social research associations have drawn up the national standard “Market and Social Research Services” (DIN 77 500) based on the existing quality standards. The requirements laid down in it were also incorporated as positions of German market and social researchers in the negotiations for drawing up the international standard DIN ISO 20252 “Market, Opinion and Social Research – Vocabulary and Service Requirements” that was published in 2006.
In 2008 the work on the contents of the international standard ISO 26362 “Access Panels in Market, Opinion and Social Research – Vocabulary and Service Requirements” was completed. This standard will be published in 2009 and augments the ISO 20252 standard by describing the requirements to be met by services provided by organisations and individuals who operate access panels for the purpose of conducting market, opinion and social research. It details the criteria that may be used to judge the operators of access panels and assess the quality of such access panels.
Also in 2008, the European services standard EN 15707 “Print Media Surveys - Vocabulary and Service Requirements” was published, having been initiated by the ADM. This standard defines the vocabulary for and the service requirements to be met by media surveys in the field of print media. According to the rules of the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), this European standard must be given the status of a national standard; either by publishing an identical document or by recognition of the European standard by May 2009.
Data Protection and Professional Standards
Market and social research are scientific endeavours whose purpose is to determine and analyse attitudes and patterns of behaviour that are typical of particular social groups, distinguished according to various criteria. For these purposes, data are also collected about individuals; however these data are exclusively processed and passed on to the client in an anonymised form. For this reason, surveys which make statements about individual cases and in which the data collected are also passed on to the client in a way that allows the respondents to be identified, do not constitute market research.
Fulfilling the promise of anonymity made to respondents therefore plays a key role both in the work of the ADM and in the activities of market research agencies. It is self-evident that interviewers, who collect data on the researcher’s behalf in accordance with methodological instructions, must also fulfil the promise of anonymity made to respondents. Furthermore they are obliged to point out to respondents at the start of the interview that their participation is voluntary.
The explicit assurance to respondents that the data collected will not be passed on to third parties in a personalised form was the necessary prerequisite for market and social research agencies being awarded a special status during the negotiations with the supreme supervisory authorities for data protection in 1980. This in turn made it possible to dispense with obtaining written consent for every single interview, as would normally be required according to §4a of the Federal Data Protection Law.
However the activities of interviewers also deserve protection. The term interviewer is protected by law and confined to this activity in the context of market and social research. Anyone falsely calling themselves an interviewer and advertising or selling products under the pretext of conducting an interview is in violation of the law and makes the work of “proper” interviewers more difficult. The general public's trust in market and social research suffers, and as a result the public's willingness to participate in surveys drops.
The activities of market and social research must not, therefore, be associated with other non-research activities, both on account of the relevant legal regulations and in view of scientific methodological considerations. Whoever conducts advertising, direct marketing or other non-research activities under the pretext of carrying out research is acting dishonestly. In the interest of protecting market and social research, the ADM takes legal action when it comes to its attention that the laws against unfair competition have been infringed.
Protection of Clients
It is not only the respondents, as the suppliers of information, and the interviewers, as the communicators, who are in need of qualified protection, but also the clients. The principal protection afforded to clients consists in the confidential treatment of the research results. If findings or trade secrets were passed on to competitors or made public, this would represent a violation of the professional standards of market research.
The ADM requires that reports on surveys must also furnish the client with information about technical details of how the survey was conducted. This makes it possible for the client to assess the quality of the results and the soundness of the resulting interpretations and recommendations.
Self-Regulation of Market and Social Research
The various associations have set up a joint complaints committee in the form of the Council of German Market and Social Research (Rat der Deutschen Markt- und Sozialforschung e.V.), which can impose sanctions for violations of the professional principles and rules of conduct as well as non-fulfilment of quality standards by issuing cautions or reprimands. The complaints committee is available to anyone who believes that their rights as a respondent, client or competitor have been infringed by the behaviour of a market and social researcher, a market and social research agency, or a corporate department or other institution operating in the field of market and social research.