Sunday 30 September 2012
Confessions of a Focus Group Guru 3: The Top Model & the Amazing Concept Board!
“Are you really sure you can have these boards and sound-tracks ready by Thursday?” I asked.
“Absolutely, no worries!” replied the account director. “You can count on us!”
We say our farewells and I leave the agency, passing not one but two glamorous dolls in reception…examining their nails.
Several days later I am sitting in a suburban sitting room, SW of Birmingham. It is mid-afternoon and we have fitted our group in just before the school pick-ups at 4pm. The group is made up of housewives –as groups of women were called in 1977 – and we are amiably chatting, waiting for the promised concept boards and sound-tracks…
Twenty minutes later we are still waiting and I am running out of questions, warm-ups, jokes and chit-chat. My eyes stray continually to the net curtains, through which I can see the road outside. We are now forty minutes into the 90 allocated.
I am on the verge of winding up the group when with a screech of brakes a taxi pulls up outside. We all move towards the window. After a moment or two the taxi disgorges someone straight from the catwalks of Paris or Milan. Six feet tall, bobbed hair beautifully cut and, most impressive of all, thigh boots reaching almost to…well you know where.
She has an art bag which somehow she has persuaded the taxi driver to carry, tagging along behind her as she strides up to the front door. There is a breath of Yves St Laurent’s Opium and she is among us.
“Hi everyone, yar, sorry I’m late, my name is Zara and I’m from Dingle, Berry, Blinkers and Rudd. I have the Creative here.”
Zara, now there’s a name to compare with June, Sharon, Jackie, Tracey and Lil who sit back down in their stretchy ski pants and bobbly cardigans. I am suddenly more uneasy than re-assured. Two worlds colliding as Michael Hutchence was to say some years on. Silk meets synthetics.
I have never seen this ‘Creative’ before and ask Zara if she’s familiar enough to take us through it:
“Oh yar, absolutely, no prob,” she replies. “The Creatives wanted me to talk you laydeeze through it because the production values are so important to the execution.”
I have spent an hour not patronising these women – and under Zara’s elegant hand all that is coming undone. Nonetheless we press on, and with a great flourish Zara reaches into the artbag and pulls out an A1 board with words and pictures on it.
“We open on a shot of a really cool loft apartment,” she begins, “the kind of place you’d find in New York.”
“There’s a woman lying stretched out on a sofa, listening to Coltrane. You get the scene? Here’s the music.”
She presses the button on a tape recorder and we hear some cool jazz. I look around the group which is suddenly consumed with mirth, four or five women with their hands over their mouths trying to control their laughter. Zara, oblivious, presses on.
“then we have a POV behind a guy’s shoulder. We don’t know it but he’s the woman’s date.”
Suddenly, one woman, an Asian lady gets up and leaves the room in a hurry.
Alarmed, I look for the source of all this uproar. Unknown to Zara, the concept board she is holding up, looks like this:
It appears some wag at Dingle, Berry etc. has fixed a Post It to the concept board with some off-piste script on it, rather like the graffiti you see on the tube. The instant Zara becomes aware of the extra-curricular words she rips the Post It note off the concept board, crumples it and stuffs it down the tops of her thigh boots.
This leads to the mirth accelerating to guffaws of laughter. The women are on the edge of hysterics. The group has dissolved into merriment of the highest order. What is to be done? Only thing to do is join in the laughter and try to rescue us all by keeping it light.
I knew I should have cancelled the group at 40 minutes in, but I’m glad I didn’t. Unforgettable.
Posted by roy at 11:13 am. No comments
Qualitative work was founded on the idea of making contact with people in greater depth. This website contains ideas, tips and techniques on how to do that well. It also contains things that I feel passionately about which affect our daily lives!
Read more about
Homepage Slider (22)