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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Anti-Kata No. 1

Anti-Kata No 1 How to get bad ads through research Dominic Scott Malden

Right! After all those positive kata I thought you would enjoy an episode on the dark side.  The idea of an anti kata is to play the Devil’s advocate – and here’a a great one. I have got Dominic Scott Malden’s permission to print a hilarious piece he wrote for Sharp Stick in 1998 on the subject of how to screw up groups to get the results you want. Dominic now plies his trade as an independent researcher at Circus Street Enterprises.  Here’s his linked in connection.

As a planning and research guru the question I am most often asked by young aspiring planners is ‘How can I get a really bad ad through research?’ Well here are some top tips.

Top tip 1

First of all qual or quant? Instinctively your answer may be qual but it’s much easier to get a turkey through quant. The questions are simple, so the numbers easily look quite good, and the same set of figures is open to wildly different interpretations.

Top tip 2

If you do go into qual, always do the groups youself, and subtly encourage the group to praise. Not only will the turkey do surprisingly well but you will genuinely think it is much better than you first thought and might even fly.


Top tip 3

If you have to use an outsider, recommend a researcher on a very short time schedule, preferably one who actually takes notes during the groups (a key indicator that they don’t listen to their tapes afterwards). And ask for a topline debrief at 9 am the morning after.

Top tip 4

Give them loads of boards and tapes. Add a few at the last minute if you can, then the whole groups gets used up in showing the stimulus materials and there are no responses to argue about.

Top tip 5

Go and watch at least some of the groups. Hint there is a huge Euro project in the offing if these groups go well, though this may backfire if the researcher guesses your economic power is not that great.

Top tip 6

The first words that you say to the researcher after the groups are the most vital. The researcher is in active listening mode and will be unable to resist listening carefully to what you are saying. Start with what a brilliantly insightful, well moderated, generally excellent group it was. Remember that researchers respond to flattery the way a cat responds to cream.

Top tip 7

Go in for the kill. If the ad got a good kicking, say how it was so clearly bang on strategy, so who cares if ‘not everybody’ liked it. If one or two people liked it, point out how only the most interesting/leading edge/forward thinking people in the group really appreciated it. If everyone quite liked it in a luke warm sort of way, reinforce their approaval (try phrases like ‘I’ve never seen an ad go down so well at this stage or in this sector’)

Top tip 8

If you encounter any resistance, be firm. Make it clear to the researcher that unless your turkey gets a rave review you won’t pay the bill. If this fails, threaten a stalking campaign, dog shit through the letter box, obscene telephone calls, tearful confessions of adultury to his/her spouse, kidnapping the children , drowning the rabbit, setting fire to the dog, informing the local vigilantes he/she is a child molester etc

Top tip 9/10

Don’t do any of the above. The prime duty of your highly paid Creative Director is quality control. In the face of flagrant dereliction of this duty, you really need turkeys to be killed off quickly; the consequences of running them publicly can poison your career for years. I’ve known planners who have had to change theire names not just their CVs. And of course clients can never forgive or forget that ad which cost £200K but which none of their friends in the golf club liked.







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