Omair Siddiqui
Feb 13, 2013

Omair's blog: Peeling potatoes with a lightsaber!

Research has become both the starting and end point of campaigns, and people in advertising are just playing too safe, says the author

Omair's blog: Peeling potatoes with a lightsaber!

Hey guys. I’m back hoping that the last read relieved some mental constipation!

So, how many of you marketingers have fallen in love? All! And how many of you chose your wives, girlfriends, husbands, boyfriends, live-in partners or dogs after attending three FGDs, conducting 15 In-depth interviews and playing KBC on surveymonkey?

I see a lot of research happening around me. Yesterday I spotted somebody hastily taking his visiting cards to the FGD and I’m just assuming they weren’t tested for consumer response. Well, you never know these days.

Marketing Research is like a Swiss knife. Some use it to carve a spear. Everybody else carries it to file their nails. I’ve seen people chop apples with it too. And not only that, it’s multi-purpose in the literal sense. It doubles up as your balls, gives vision to your eyeballs, removes vacuum in between the two ears and saves your job every time. What more man!

I have my respect for research, but you don’t see a map without knowing where to go. These days, research has become both the starting and end point of campaigns. There’s a research to identify the problem. There’s a research to define the TG. There’s a research to mine an insight. There’s a research to test the idea. Then the concepts. Then the adcepts. Then the scripts. Then the narrimatics. Then before airing, the final film is checked for casualties, that gives you a 40 per cent break through, 60 per cent confusion and 100 per cent panic. And the one that steals the cake is when the D.A.R [Day-After-Recall] research that shows the ad got royally ignored. Buddy, what happened? Forgot to research full-stops and voice over dictions?

And then there are guys who’ve cracked the advertising code, into pieces. FMCG people, pleeease! Showing a mosquito repellent for 29.5 sec in a 30 sec commercial will not sell the damn thing. Plus, don’t you think there are cheaper and more effective ways to display pack shots. Yeah, I’ve gone through weird advertising guidelines by FMCG majors that were created after extravagant researches that dictate something similar.

People in our business are just playing too safe. Way too safe. It’s like lighting a 10 feet-long matchstick in a bomb suit. Or probably like watching porn wearing a condom. I often see good ideas dying a doggy’s death ‘cos they didn’t have top scores in research. Do a ‘quant’ study, and I believe 57.3564 per cent of the responses are filled by the same person under a tree. Do a ‘Quali’ [FGD here], and see how the 35 year-old moderator [who also hosts kitty parties] uses internet slangs like LOL and OMG while talking with kids half her age to strike a chord. Sorry ma’am you’re just scaring the kids away. Not just that, it’s the 18 year-old’s once-in-a-lifetime chance to be the coolest punk spotted in any video recording; in MY freakin’ FGD. And these things are supposed to decide your brand’s way forward.

Check this out to see what I mean. And yeah, not even a bit of this video is exaggerated!

Ok! Here’s something you don’t know – ad agencies are not research agencies and research agencies are not ad agencies. Sounds stupid? Yeah, but not more than your discussion guide. Advertising is about people not consumers, it’s about benefits and not products, and it’s about conversations and not demonstrations.

Am I saying that I don’t use the Swiss knife? Nopes, I do and here’s how…

  • I strongly believe that if you want to understand the guys who you’d like to buy your stuff; go and live with them. Eat like them, wear like them, get drunk and throw up like them. Get into their skin and live their life. That’s how you know these guys. Radical stuff you pick up in these studies can never be articulated by the same guy in an FGD. People with better salaries than mine refer to this thing as an ‘Ethnography Study’
  • Once you know this guy, and have gawked at various shops, websites, videos and articles about your category or brand; write the damn brief. Remember, that the ‘Ethno’ you just did will give you a consumer understanding to arrive at an insight. It is NOT a ready-to-eat brief
  • Your brief[s] should not be researched. It should be debated. So if any guy comes to your seat and tells you to write that concept card; ask him to go take a flying duck. If you do want to get consumer response, show people the damn ad. Concept cards can’t represent the actual campaign. They are researched ‘cos some CD somewhere refused to work on more than one creative route [the only one being his own]. Try spending a fourth of the client’s money being used on the FGD on some exotic alcohol for the CD and get the ball rolling
  • Remember, that research on the ads is only for the client to sign the campaign cheque with a supporting document. Even if it goes against the gut, don’t stop believing in it & do what that guy did to sell his campaign by attempting to jump from the client’s window. Probably, this idea and your gut will work just fine, until you’ve got digestion problems!
  • Take inspiration from Bollywood. FGDs and research are quite popular there too. So big production houses in their effort to mint money research on subjects that click with the masses and give the audience whatever they want. At the same time, there are the makers of Dev D – they knew that people would never be able to digest and tell if this is something they want and that it would fail in concept testing. So they carried on with their belief and they did carry it off well. Where they did get into researching was to check and improve on the nuances, flavours and sensitivities. That’s exactly what we should do too!
  • People with self-belief like Mr Steve Jobs never believed in research. His take was that the people can never really feel about something they haven’t been exposed to. No Apple product was consumer tested before the launch and just look at huge amounts of successful self-belief the brand certifies.

Don’t get me wrong data miners, I’m in no mood to hit your business. Just want people to start believing in themselves and start thinking on their own. I do believe that research is ‘The Force’ meant for huge unexplored discoveries, but the advertising Darth Vaders are busy using lightsabers wherever and whenever they just need a colourful tube light, to show the way!


(Omair is group manager - strategic planning, Draftfcb+Ulka Delhi. Views expressed are the author’s independent views as an ad professional and do not reflect the organisation’s viewpoint.)



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