Is it time to get rid of the two-way mirror?
Our world of advertising is quickly changing. Our industry will experience more change in the next 5 years than we have in the past 50. It will impact every aspect of agency life, from the way we generate leads and new business acquisitions to billing and services we offer. To grow new business agencies will need to evolve quickly as the old ways of doing our work evolves with new communication technologies.
Edward Boches, CCO at Mullen, in a recent article raises this question, “are focus groups really necessary at all?” With all of the alternatives that are available through social media, focus groups seem to be a costly practice that now looks absurd.
He describes a typical focus group event:
“Think about it. A bunch of folks from a marketing firm and its client fly to some distant city (usually Cincinnati or Minneapolis), drive to an innocuous suburban park and hunker down in a dark room behind a two-way mirror to observe prospective customer subjects who’ve been recruited for this exercise by a third party company.
On the other side of the glass, in the “laboratory”, a professional moderator probes the recruited subjects for their opinions using a series of exercises that include creating collages or writing imaginary obituaries for the brand in question. In the dark, so to speak, the marketing team eats M&Ms, makes jokes, and hopes desperately to be illuminated.
A typical three-day trip, comprised of perhaps six groups and 18 hours of requisite video, at a cost approaching $30,000, gets consolidated into four minutes of tape and an executive report for presentation to the ultimate decision makers, who are usually too busy to actually attend the groups. Like a Safari tourist thrilled to see wild animals up close in their natural habitat, the decision makers lean in, watch the video intently, and believe they’re actually seeing their customers.”
I would encourage you to read his entire article, “Do we still need the two-way mirror when we have tools like Twitter?
Internet-based research is becoming increasingly popular as companies regularly conduct on-line studies more quickly and more cost effectively than with traditional methods.
My experience with focus groups and social media leads me to believe that social is a much better alternative. Social media becomes such a great brand and positioning tool because of the kinds of online engagements we can have with our target audience. Through social you can also easily test things like marketing messages and and even concepts plus you can affordably receive feedback from a much larger group.
Jeff Rosenblum is director of Internet research, and Chris Grecco is director of quantitative research, at King Brown & Partners, a San Francisco research firm, fielded a study to compare traditional research methods such as phone research and mail surveys to online methods. While online is not the ideal solution in all cases, it has many advantages over non-Web-based methods. Some of the benefits include:
- Cost and time savings: Compared to traditional research methodologies, on-line studies are conducted with an average savings of more than 40 percent in cost, with commensurate reductions in cycle time.
- Increased accuracy: While some audiences are more difficult to contact on-line, other targets are significantly easier to reach and more receptive to completing surveys via the Internet
- Increased concept testing capabilities: By enhancing the questionnaire instrument with graphics or multimedia elements in surveys, Internet-based research is a more compelling stimulus environment than traditional methods. Respondents who see or hear a new product or advertising concept provide more valid and richer responses than those who simply hear the concept read to them over the telephone.
- Greater survey control: On-line surveys have greater control with regards to interview bias, sampling, skip patterns, awareness testing and stimulus materials.
What is your opinion?
Another article that may be of interest: Big Advertisers Agree to Test Online Research (New York Times)