I was sitting through a few focus groups last week, getting feedback on some proposed campaigns. The groups went well. They liked what we wanted them to. They responded right on cue.
The day after the groups, I was discussing the results with some fellow creatives and they began telling me how unfortunate it was that my clients subject my work to such unprofessional, uninformed scrutiny. I’ve heard this plenty of times before. I probably even espoused the same point of view at one point in my career. But I have to admit that I find it a bit shortsighted now.
The argument I’ve heard is that we, as highly skilled advertising professionals, know better… That we understand the art of communication in ways that our audience doesn’t… That all we get from qualitative testing is group think from losers who have nothing to do with a week night but sit in a room full of strangers and boost their ego by spouting off opinions as though it were they who had the shelf full of advertising awards.
Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take the proclamations of group members with a grain of salt. I get that group think is real and that there is danger in taking the responses too literally, but as I sat there behind the big two way mirror, I got something I couldn’t get from any colleague or client. I got to see my target audience in person, not just a line on a creative brief denoting women between 35 and 50 with a median household income over $75,000. I saw Barbara who has three kids and a husband who doesn’t trust anything he hears in a TV spot. I saw Joan, who clearly prefers when advertisers provide her with clear insights and has a hard time interpreting metaphors.
Frankly, I’d rather get positive feedback from this group sequestered around a table with a moderator than from a group of so-called advertising experts sequestered in a hotel conference room to judge a creative competition. I’d rather get insights from my a group in my target telling me what will work on them than affirmations from a totally different group telling me that the work is worthy of an award. All told, I’d like to have both, but if forced to choose, I for one would rather focus on creating an ad that works than an ad that wins.
- Glen Day