Focus group flaws

Tony‘s been writing of his first time experiences of focus groups – two in one week. He comments:

I attended my first ever advertising focus group – a virgin audience member.

Fascinating! We watched batches of TV adverts, rated them in real time on a handheld turning knob and then answered some questions on each batch. I have to laugh. I don’t know what they do with the information, but the whole process seems so deeply flawed.

Firstly, it is so apparent the difference between a “good” advert and an advert which might actually sell something. We had to rate for both together. So there was no room for nice advert, wouldn’t buy it. There were a few of those questions on the written feedback where we could rate the advert highly but not the product. Secondly, there’s a huge difference between rating an advert in a focus group and seeing it at home on TV. I reckon from tonight and playing with my knob, I could formulate an advert which would do very well in a focus group but means sod all in the real world.

(His blog entries are here and here.)

I’ve run plenty of focus groups in my time and Tony’s comments are a salutary reminder of their many pitfalls.

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