Friday, October 19, 2007

Research Is Dangerous And A Waste Of Time. This Video Proves It

In this brilliantly-constructed piece of film, a research group (genuine members of the public - not actors) gets shown an animatic of Apple's '1984'.

Their recommendations include a directive to make it 'less depressing' perhaps include fun elements like 'a dog or maybe a chimp'.

I wish there was a way to make every Client in the world watch it.

Thanks to my French correspondent for the tip


Anonymous said...

It just makes you feel ill. Especially if like me you have spent alot of time sitting with people and nodding politely while they them shit on your work on the basis of a paucity of dogs or too much animation in the animatic.

That said this feels more of an indictment of so called 'focus groups' that are so popular in the US and that our american cousins have to endure. Structured questions, business meeting setting, moderator that is just there to ask questions, client behind the glass, literal research debrief, and dare I suggest consuemrs with no interest in buying an apple.

But the bottom line is if any research anywhere had threatened that ad it would indeed have been a waste of time and money.

Anonymous said...

Richard, you don't make clear if you believe the research or the ad would have been the waste of money.

Unknown said...

What did the release of '1984' do to Apple's market share when it was released? How did it effect sales? What was the effect on brand image and stock value?

Eugen Suman said...

lol@ the security dog and his client kissing bs lingo. i'm thinking of getting the ae to include this short film into presentations :)

Anonymous said...

as my old legendary boss used to say " if research worked, everything would be a hit". still true.

thank god i've had very little to do with that bullshit in my career. i can't imagine dealing with it on a regular basis.

but on the few occasions i have sat/slept through focus groups done PRIOR to creating ads, i've always had the same outraged reaction. and it's this. "How the hell can you (the marketers) abdicate decision-making to random people plucked from a shopping mall?!!" Isn't knowing what constitutes a good ad for your brand basic to having the job? it's just not that hard.

Anonymous said...

@security dog, the spot first aired on the Superbowl and was arguably the first big superbowl spot. it had an immeasurable impact on the apple brand image. and a lot of it was due to the fact that it aired there. it established apple as a competitor to IBM.

check it out here:

Scamp said...

An e-mail correspondent writes:

…this quote proves it also. It is from the Millward Brown research debrief on ‘Flowers’, the first Stella TV commercial (where the guy sells all his red carnations for one Stella Artois).

“There is no indication that this commercial will build a sense of premium-ness and worth paying more for.”

Unknown said...

lol @ a very defensive eugene. I sense you have been burned by public trial as well. The questions I asked were all relevant: essentially, what impact did this have for Apples profile, sales and stock. These are all questions that every potential advertiser asks before they even go down the road of hiring 'creatives', eugene.

No-one likes their work crucified, eugene. I can understand it when 'creatives' who have 'toiled' to create their 'vision' are left somewhat angry and dismissive when persons possibly lifted from a shopping mall or trailer park take an almighty dump on their offering.

There seems no doubt that this advert 'worked' on a grand scale at the Superbowl, and perhaps that is how it should have been judged. It's an impact advert, after all.

Anonymous said...

Security Dog. After the 1984 ad Apple went into tailspin and was out of business inside a year. That Apple has nothing to do with the global superbrand Apple which also happens to make computers, ipods etc

Anonymous said...

If only they'd had a planner in the edit suite that apple '84 ad might have been half decent.

Anonymous said...

Very funny, but what you see here is the old way of involving consumers in research. The new way of doing this is by putting an unfinished (and by that I don’t mean unpolished) digital idea out there and see what people do with it. If they like it they will engage with it and participate. If they don’t you can do two things: Change it or bin it.
No focus groups needed. Do it live on t’internet. Consumers (or participants as I like to call them) can either click it or close it. It’s much scarier, but also very exciting. A bit like fishing really. Put out the bait and see who bites.

Unknown said...

paul: I know about Apple's shit storm back then. The 1984 ad is probably more notorious for the fact that it was the pre-cursor for the Superbowl grand reach-around: the SuperBowl has two competitions now, one sporting, the other commercial. I guess Ridley Scott figures in there as well, somewhere.

I'm also aware that Apple have gone from a company that makes big-budget adverts to the minimalist type they have these days. Odd how the better and more expensive a product becomes, the less it's marketing and advertising budget is.

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

You can almost see how they are keeping their comments to a group understanding. The third person doesnt want to stray from what one and two have said etc.

Research can be useful. But god help any agency who uses this kind of research to make creative decision.

Anonymous said...

@security dog. credit where credit is due. it was a ballsy move by both chiat day and steve jobs. did it eternally guarantee Apple's profitability and shift units in perpetuity? no. no single ad could do that.

but it helped create the culture around the brand that exists to this day. one that survived the Steve Jobs-less years of sucko products. just as "think different" rejuvenated that culture in the mid 90s.

ads aren't always just for immediate measurable boosts in sales. esp. on the superbowl. steve jobs thinks big and bets big. and wins big.

RFB said...

"Production by committee" never fails in watering down a good production.

Anonymous said...

@ security dog

Good thing the 'creative' remark isn't patronizing.

Relevant questions? Sure. But so typical of clients:

“I want you to tell me exactly how many people will rush into the store and buy my product after this ad runs, otherwise the ad will be a failure.”

I'd flip the equation around to play off what a few have noted:

Show the spot to a bunch of older Mac loyalists and ask how it influenced them and if it changed their lives at all.

Alan Wolk said...

Interesting history behind "1984" - check out George "Madscam" Parker's comment on the Adverganza post:

When I posted this I got a comment that the video was a scam/prank, but no follow-up, so I can't confirm.


Unknown said...

@ anonymous 6.53pm and make the logo bigger.

If you note in my first post, I asked what effect the advert had on brand image. Without a doubt, an advert has more reasons to exist other than to increase sales. So, as I stated, this advert worked on a grand scale.

You may believe that those questions a client asks are 'typical', but there ya go, that's the deal you chose when you sold your 'vision' to them. It better be a good one.

And ref: Mac zealotry. Man, I have a Cube gathering dust in my loft, and I'm writing this on a Powerbook, one of two on my desk. Yesterday, I (surprisingly easily) unlocked my iPhone for UK use. I am that Mac zealot. But I will seek out a fellow Macista and ask them how it affected them, even though I'm unsure of their exposure of this advert in Europe.

@ toad. That's what I thought when I saw it. I honestly thought it a set-up.

Anonymous said...

@flo heiss. true. digital is less of a bet. but why do that? why not just do what makes obvious common sense. isn't that what always is later hailed as a triumphant breakthrough anyway?

sony demonstrates that its TVs have better color. duh! nike motivates the athlete. duh! guinness takes a bit of time. duh!

research is for people who haven't got a clue what the hell they're doing and probably never will. and, when you think about it, one of the primary traditional motivations for doing it (apart from being a clueless and spineless nonentity) was the sphincter-tightening knowledge that millions and millions of people would dutifully attend to your advertising, so therefore you had to "get it right". which is no longer the case. in fact the opposite is increasingly the case. ergo, pre-testing advertising must surely die.

Anonymous said...

They should have got a focus group into the edit suite. Their suggestions would have made the ad much betetr. Get the focus groups out from behind the glass and at the coal face. We should replace plannersm, account men and crative directors with a group of people plucked from a shopping mall and creative teams present their work direct to them. Cuts out the middle men. Anything they approve, the client can automatically buy because it has been given the seal of approval by a focus group. Voila! Perfect ads everytime.

Anonymous said...

shit scamp
the planners have moved in

JG said...

Doods, this debate is a little unfair to research (and I don't say this simply because I happen to be a quant ad researcher).

1984 isn't exactly a run of the mill piece of copy designed to air ad nauseum (no pun intended folks) for 18 week stints at high GRP levels with volume growth objectives. The objectives of 1984 are wildly different from that of most advertising. Could research have hindered the creative? Possibly. Was the ad actually a success for the brand? (success here being defined as creating equity or driving volume, as opposed to winning awards and generating buzz on ad blogs) We have no idea. Is Jay Chiat a fucking genius? Of course.

...Still, I'd like to see ad folks get away from the idea that a bunch of other ad guys thinking something is "really cool" defines success. Ultimately we're just trying to get more mindless fatasses to consume more products and services that they probably don't need. If we happen to make art along the way, awesome.

But! I would also like to see researchers abandon formulaic recommendations, that shit sickens me. So help me Jesus I will never, EVER utter the words, "Dial up the baby," "have you thought about adding a dog?" or "the ad failed to introduce the brand within the first seven seconds." I will also never claim that we can quantify the magic, complex moments that occur when a human being watches an ad. At our best, researchers are interpreters for the voice of the consumer (ideally a minimum of 100 consumers, focus groups are often misused and generally wack anyway) and guides for both the client and the agency. We should not be creative analysts there to prescribe tweaks and take a shit on great ideas.