Friday, January 23, 2009

Back to Reality

Welcome back to 2009!

The question I am asked most often, even by clients, is: 'How's business?' If I could get a penny for each time, etc., etc...

Before I answer that question have a read of what we have been up to over Christmas and New Year...

We have expanded in two directions. Just before Christmas a good friend who runs an advertising agency in Middle East and I connected to discuss a new EverydayLives office in Dubai & Cairo to look after the Middle East and Africa.

For obvious reasons, the Middle East is a huge challenge for any observational research agency. The issue of filming women at home and without veils is just one of around a dozen big topics to resolve. See this video from Saudi Arabia...

Since we rely on naturalistic observations, this approach would not work for us. But it shows that women can be filmed in their homes.

Finding fantastic ethnographers has been more simple. There are some excellent local Arab speaking candidates with backgrounds in film and Anthropology. We are training them in our process as I write. The one concession I have had to make to equal opportunities, however, is that all those shortlisted are female. The reason being that men would simply not be allowed in-home alone with women on their own.

The interesting thing about our new region is how receptive clients are to the approach. The impression I have is that qualitative research has never really been big over there. But combine it with quantitative scope like we have, here, and clients really do sit up and listen.

Since I will be traveling there for a week each month for the foreseeable future, I will report back on our successes (and failures).

I mentioned that we have expanded in two directions. For the second direction, let me begin with a story. A few years back we were asked to pitch for a global ethnographic study for a mobile phone company who will remain anonymous apart from this clue: their name starts with M, ends with A and has the following letters in the middle, O T O R O L. After weeks of work, proposal writing, phone conferences and more work, we were informed that we had not got the job. A week later I received another call from the client to say that the supplier they had chosen couldn't explain how they would do their analysis and interpretation. They had just emerged from a very frustrating kick off meeting with them... She asked me how we would do analysis. Taking this as an opportunity to win the project back I spent a whole day writing up our techniques, theories and practicalities of taking a piece of film to a business action. A few days later I received another call to say we still had not won the project. *@%$£

Last year, during a project in Italy, I met an ex-employee of the said company who was involved in the same pitch process. She told me over lunch that we would never have won that project. The reason? We didn't have a US presence. But we work in the US! I protested. That's not the same as having an office in the US...

So we are working with a research agency (I will keep them anonymous this time) to establish an office in LA and in New York. Not just in name. Again I will be traveling there for a week every month and we are also interviewing and training film maker/anthropologists as I write. I will report back soon with a film we have made together about the recession...

And the answer to my original question? We are quieter than usual, but I have never been so busy in my life. Share/Bookmark


  1. Siamack:

    One thing struck me about the video from Saudi Arabia ... nearly everything is the same, and yet everything is completely different. Amazing.

    John Thomas
    Managing Partner
    H. I. Thomas Consulting Group, LLC

  2. Great Video!

    It's very interestting that even when we live a global world, we nead to think in the local perspective. We have to consider that when we make an interview and when we are doing business.