Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Market Research

Last week, as I was in the middle of cooking something or other, the phone rang. Because I was distracted, I let the market researcher talk for a few minutes, forgetting even to ask why he was calling someone on the "Do Not Call" list. His company was doing market research on a new TV show, he explained. Would I be willing to watch a pilot and answer a few questions about it? Sure, I replied. I mean, we all know how much I love crappy TV.

I was told the DVD would arrive Monday, October 13, and that I had to watch the show Monday, October 13 for whatever reason. UPS dutifully delivered a package to my door yesterday afternoon. It contained a DVD, instructions, and two sealed surveys. I was told to open and complete the first survey before watching the pilot. I figured this would contain questions about my demographic profile and about what shows I currently watch and enjoy. I guess I'm just a naive idiot; it was a survey asking me about my brand preferences for such things as canned tuna and fabric softener.

Because the survey contained no words, just photographs of various name brands (I put a check next to the photo of my favorite brand in each category), the good news was that this took up only approximately 43 seconds of my day. Time to watch the pilot. Judging from the clothing and horrible "jokes," I'd say that this pilot was shot approximately 10 years ago. There's a reason why it was never picked up: it sucked. It sucked with an awfulness apparent even before the end of the opening teaser. I was asked a total of five questions about the show, which I answered within two minutes of pushing "play."

In order to ensure "the complete attention of the viewer" the DVD's rewind and fast forward features had been disabled. I soon discovered the real reason these features had been disabled: this pilot came complete with commercials, so many commercials that it's length was about 40 minutes, rather than the 30 minutes running time of a network situation comedy. Of course, I couldn't skip these commercials. And yes, the ads were for many of the products that had been featured in the pre-show survey.

After I was done folding laundry and brushing the cat the show was over. Time to fill out the post-viewing survey. It was the same as the pre-viewing survey. Exactly the same. I filled it out with exactly the same answers. What was the purpose of this exercise? It appears that the market research company is trying to find out how effective these commercials are. Would my preference for Downy change to a preference to Bounce after watching an ad? Did the happy family scarfing down Ortega tacos entice me to switch my allegiance from Old El Paso?

At least that's the only sense I can make of the whole thing. That, or there was no ulterior purpose and it was just a way of getting a bunch of unsuspecting Americans to forcibly watch some commercials. The market research company is calling me at 3:30 this afternoon to ask me some questions about the "pilot." I can't wait to talk to whoever is assigned the task of calling me. I have some questions of my own, after all. How much did each advertiser pay for this? Is this the most cost-effective way of marketing? What percentage of participants see through this charade? What percentage of those who see through it are angry? Aren't I on the "Do Not Call" list? Does this mean that television as a medium for delivering commercial messages as we now know them is dead? If we go entirely to product placement and "branded entertainment," what happens to the 30-second commercial? Is this what happens to it?

Bring it on, market research company. I can't wait to talk to you some more.


tunsie said...

I am on that list and they still call me all day.henrietta sold my name 2 those people because i wouldn't entertain her advances.what does one do when they keep calling u.next week u r the birthday girl.i luv u el .tunsie.tunsie.tunsie

J. SPIKE ROGAN said...

Maybe the test is first they send a shitty piolet to see if you pay attention to the ads. Then they will send a episode of Homicide: Life on the street and see if you pay attention to a good show.