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Focus Groups

Not a day after we watched the PBS Frontline Documentary, The Persuaders (you can watch it online) I received a phone call asking if I would like to be part of a focus group for a local auto dealer. I would be paid $75 for my time. Sounds good!

We met on wednesday, in a nondescript building in the warehouse district. I had a number of conspiracy-related daydreams as I approached the building, found it locked, saw someone inside coming over to buzz me in. Then he used his key card to call the elevator, punch the button, and tell me to “just follow the signs” as the doors closed between us.

Anyway, I found the office, and was amongst the first few to arrive. We made small talk about focus group participation and experience, of which there was none. About this time, the previous group came filing out of a room. They were, as expected, a cross-section of american, (or at least minnesotan) demographics. Roughly distributed in age, gender and color, they seemed to be, if nothing else, not traumatized by the experience.

As we settled into the room, they explained how everything was going to work. Questions, discussion, one person at a time, don’t worry about the people behind the two-way mirror. I pretty much felt like I was in “The Persuaders” the whole time.

The evening focused on a particular dealership attempting various “alternative” methods of advertising. We gave our opinions on a campaign that ranged from the standard print ads, to coffee cup sleeves, to fake parking tickets, to bike tags encouraging you not to bike (downright offensive, in my opinion).

It was interesting to hear what a few of the members of my focus group were interested in as marketing tools… free t-shirts, floor mats, and air fresheners.

There was a particularly good moment after we were asked what radio stations we listened to… (as a group, mostly NPR). Next question: what radio commercials do you remember recently? I raised my hand, and said, “they don’t have commercials on NPR”

All in all, a pretty interesting experience. I was hyper analyzing everything, having just watched the documentary about it all, and I really wanted to be on the other side of the glass, listening to what they thought of our answers. Maybe in my next career.

Categories: Media.