Magazine article Marketing

Not Just a Room with a View

Magazine article Marketing

Not Just a Room with a View

Article excerpt

As a result of the video revolution, more flexible and more mobile methods of consumer interviews are being introduced.

The ideal tool for qualitative research specialists would probably involve some kind of mind-reading gadget and facilities for holding respondents captive until they had spilled the beans on why they buy, what they do, or what they really think of the client's latest advertising campaign.

Unfortunately, these methods would doubtless be frowned upon by the Market Research Society's ethics committee, so researchers have to take a more subtle approach to probing the inner workings of consumer minds. A key tool is the specially designed viewing facility, which offers two-way mirrors, sound-recording equipment and hidden cameras.

The number of viewing facilities available in the UK is growing fast. Richard Barnes, qualitative research field director of Research Resources, comments: "Where there used to be only five or six viewing facilities in London, there are over 30 here now. There is one popping up every week."

Barnes believes the increased use of viewing facilities is due partly to a growth in business-to-business research. "Bank managers being interviewed for research expect to be taken somewhere up-market," he says.

And John Jones, senior research executive at Informer, thinks the growth of viewing facilities is driven mainly by clients. "The clients feel that within their own company they need to be seen to be more actively involved in the research process, and there is also a genuine desire on the clients' part to see the consumers," he says.

Not all companies with viewing facilities subscribe to the "secret-camera" method of recording group discussions. Richard Cox of Vox Pops International says his approach is to bring the camera into the room itself. "We use very small Hi-8 cameras," he explains. "These can be controlled remotely, if necessary, but we have no qualms about the camera operator being in the room."

Cox argues that even in specially designed viewing facilities the quality of the video and sound recording can be poor. "Material produced using a hidden VHS camera is not good. Hidden cameras are usually in the ceiling. They can't focus on an individual's face, so you lose their expression. Also, since our cameras are close to the group, the sound quality is good," says Cox.

It is also claimed that, with the rapid expansion of facilities, not all are of a standard that clients and researchers require. Jones says: "I think the growth of focus-group viewing facilities is not driven by researchers, but by panel recruiters. …

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