Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ethnography & the arts

I must admit to having no idea what we would uncover when I proposed a small study to try to understand how the arts (galleries, concerts, theatre, etc.) fitted into people's lives.

We selected two subjects for a pilot. A female and male. We followed each for a day and then revealed to them at the end that we were interested in the arts (they had no idea during the time we shadowed them). For the last couple of hours of the day with them we played back footage and asked them narrate what was going on - in their minds and their actions. We recorded the interviews and dubbed them over the films. Have a look. The three clips can be viewed here, here and here.

Let me know what you think.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A rather useful give away

We thought you might like this. It's a document created a few years back to train new ethnographers, and even some clients, in our way of doing things. It's very practical with only a little theory and focuses exclusively on conducting ethnographic research.

A new one is in the works... and you have 2 weeks to download it before the link expires.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Show stopping TV ads

We filmed this as part of a larger study to understand how people watched TV across the day. We recorded continuously for one month. Can you even begin to comprehend how much data we ended up with? And this is before the days of digital editing (for non-professionals anyway) and before the days of DVD recording. Everything was captured using a video player, a multiplexer and a video camera. This allowed us to capture picture-in-picture recordings (see bottom left of screen) to see exactly what was being watched, when and by who.

Frustratingly, in some of the 10 households, we saw little but hours and hours of the family dog sitting up and watching TV. In others, however, we captured amazing footage. This clip falls under the 'amazing' footage category which we stacked under a theme we called 'Show Stoppers'. It begins with the start of an ad break during Saturday morning WWF wrestling. What they were watching sort of explains the behaviour of the youngest... Between 00:37 and 01:07 a Volvo ad comes on. Keep your eyes on dad. We saw many examples/variations of this kind of behaviour. And context was key - in this case the row taking place.

Can anyone tell me what Dad is doing? Best reply wins an excellent book, 'The Little Book of Twitter' And if you are not into Twitter then you can give it to someone who is.

Inside the consumers' shoe

We made the above film a long time ago to test out some new equipment we were experimenting with.

The camera was hidden inside a kid's frames - he was short sighted anyway - and we asked him to record all day long. We ended up with around 4 tapes (6 hours) which included the journey by bus to and from school, shopping in the suprmarket with mum, TV viewing and all meal times.

A few methodological learnings:

1) Seeing is not the same as percieving. Just because he looked did not mean he saw. Made me terribly unconvinced about eye-tracking techniques and associated post rationalisation
2) The footage was hard to work with. We had to review it 4 times to make sure we had cut out everything we believed to be important
3) Nothing matched this approach for obtaining naturally occuring discussions and decison making

I am sharing because I am curious. Have any of you used such cameras before? And I don't mean eye-tracking...

A Case Study from Bank of America

Here is an interesting read all about service (as opposed to product) innovation. I think I happened upon it on Twitter a few weeks ago but have only just read the article which stimulated this article. It's interesting because the researchers seem to have actually hung out with and watched people in real world settings over time. Something that doesn't happen that often because it is so labour intensive and therefore expensive.

I also liked the openness of the question/brief: How to get boomer-age women with kids to open checking accounts. If the client had any hypotheses, they would have kept them back from the researchers. And this is where researchers need to be extremely wary. On three occasions in the past 14 years we have been commissioned to explore a segment and develop a new offer where the client already HAD a new offer or strong hypotheses about an idea they we not willing to budge on. And all they were looking for was confirmation from our findings that their idea was the answer.

In one case, the idea, unknown to us, was already in production and they had already sacked their first agency for not giving them the right answers. Anyway, it's a long story but the point I am trying to make is that ethnographic researchers must have the courage to sit down with clients and rework the briefs to ensure, a) they are ethnographic briefs, b) the client does not have a pet idea they are trying to push and c) to push against point b, the client does have some ideas or hypotheses to make sense out of the data with.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Ethno schmethnos

I had an uncomfortable exchange of emails with a client this week. We are pitching for a rather large job in Asia and are up against one other agency. The brief includes a substantial ethnographic portion. So I wrote up my proposal, checked it over after a good night's sleep to make sure it all made sense, attached it and pressed the 'send' button on Outlook.

Not long afterwards I received a reply: 'the other proposals include 40 ethnographic observations per market! How come you are only proposing 8?'

I decided to phone him up.

"The reason why they have proposed 40 ethnographic observations is that they are not ethnographic observations. They are IDI's (In Depth Interviews)."

He disagreed.

"I have read these proposals and I know they include observations..."

"Then please don't call them ethnographic... what you are reading is qualitative interviews done with video cameras." I pleaded

I sent him a few clips, including this one, so he would understand that it is simply not possible to conduct 40 ethnographic observation unless you have unlimited budgets. Which they don't.

He came back to me to say that he thought he understood the difference. His next question:

"How can we ensure 8 respondents behaviours are representative?"

"So why do you have a quantitative phase then?"

I will let you know whether or not we win this study.


Hats off to Danone

Why can't more companies think like this?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

15 Years condensed to 15 minutes...

AQR ethnography from researchtalk on Vimeo.

Surinder Siama of, Research Talk, kindly agreed to film my talk a few weeks back for the AQR. I also asked Greg Rowland to join me and help provide semiotic perspectives on the clips I was using to explain ethnographic analysis. I think he stole the show.

The day was divided into a morning all about theory and an afternoon, using freshly captured breakfast footage, all about the process of analysis and interpretation.

The clip, covers the morning session, and has been edited to a mere 15 minutes in length so go get a coffee/tea/whiskey before sitting down to view it.


Air New Zealand

Once in a while something comes along which isn't stricly 'ethnographic' but it is a wonderful example of how solutions to challenging problems can sometimes be so simple, inspired and just plain clever. Share/Bookmark