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Spicoli and the Sun

13 October 2009 4 Comments

I never understood the idea of making research groups to test ads.

Ok, it’s part of our jobs and I respect that. But isn’t it strange?

I was wondering how this idea came out.

Maybe somebody just raised his hand in a meeting room and said:

“I know how to choose the next campaign. First, we put some strangers in a room with a window mirror, just like in the police interrogatories. Then, we show them some poor animated cartoons with the ideas. Next, we make this people talk about something they don’t understand: advertising. So, we pick their opinions and invest millions of dollars on that.”

But, as this is a normal practice in our market, I’ve been to a lot of researches. And I witnessed some pretty curious episodes.

One time, we were researching for a whisky campaign. The client wanted to know what was the perception of the brand before the screening of the animated storyboards (animatics).

The researcher showed some cards with brands’ names to the group.

- Let’s imagine that all these brands are in a Universe. Which brand would be the Sun, the most important star? And which one would be the Earth, who’s close to us? And finally, which one would be the Moon, the one that we admire but is too far.”

Total silence.

- Guys? The sun would be…

Nothing. Nada.

- Come on. Who’s the sun, the most powerful? Johnny Walker? Jack Daniels…?

A man stood up.

- Right, I’ll be the Sun! But you better decide who’s the Moon. I don’t wanna be the Moon!

SpicoliAnother time, I was at the other side of the mirror when a friend of mine entered the research room. Do you know Sean Penn? So, that’s my friend, if Sean Penn is playing Jeff Spicoli in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”.

He sat next to a beautiful, sexy girl and he couldn’t take his eyes off her.

After the animatics screening, the researcher talked to the group.

- Now, please write down what do you think.

And there was my friend.

- Sorry, miss…I didn’t understand.

- It´s simple. Write: what are you thinking? How do you feel? What’d you like to say?

- Oh, I got it.

Everybody wrote their notes and the researcher started to pick them up.

- Now, let’s take a look at everybody’s opinions and then you tell me if you agree…

My friend’s eyes popped out.

-  …First one: “I am thinking: the girl next to me is so hot. I feel: that she’s interested in me too. I’d like to say: Hi, do you want to do something after this?”

The girl raised her hand.

- Miss! I don’t agree! I DON’T AGREE!

- Fabio Seidl


  • Craig Crawford said:


    And yet these groups of random people have more sway than someone who has done this for the entire adult life.

    I don’t get it either.

    Oh, and, I also don’t want to be the moon.


  • Glen Day said:

    Hey Fabio,

    Enjoyed the post and as Shawn noted on mine, it’s pure coincidence that mine with a rather different POV appeared immediately after. Of course, if you have any interest in parlaying that into a Fred Durst- Eminem-style confrontation, it could be good for viewership.

    By the way, I do have a good story about a couple of hookers who crashed a Pizza Hut focus group I was watching one rainy night in Atlanta. But I’ll save that for another time.


  • Mario Barreto said:

    Hi Fabio,

    I don’t know any creative guy who likes that kind of research… And the reason is clear to me. The companys usualy don’t use that valuable information and insights to maybe improve the ideas, or simple to find out some extra information. This is our main job, process information. But, the people who is in charge of the publicity investment look for this tool as a kind of insurance for their jobs. Any, any information can be useful, if used with inteligence and strategy. So, just to end my first comment here, I think the researchs are not bad by themselves. The bad use of the researchs is the real problem.

  • Fabio said:

    Hi, Glen! I am happy to see that our plan worked out: we posted two articles about the same subject but with totally different points of view, just to get more viewers for this site.

    Actually, I agree with you in some points.

    We need to be more in touch with the audience.

    And there is nothing like consumers’ feedback.

    But I guess the problem with focus groups is that different environments produce different behaviors.

    Strange people in a strange room, answering to strange questions, may lead to strange opinions.

    And, as Mario said, the problem can be the (bad) use of the researches’ information.

    Some clients may let their kids to paint their rooms, sometimes.
    And, finally, I agree with Craig when he says that researches don’t lead clients to be more courageous.

    It’s hard for something really new to survive in a focus group. I read that Pulp Fiction was Miramax focus group’s worst fiasco. I was wondering how funny would be an animatic of a Monty Phyton’s sketch.

    So, I agreed with a few things from everyone, threw out some more obvious points and ruined the whole confrontation.

    Thanks again. And, Glen, the next time you go to a focus group with pizza and hookers, please give me a call!

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