Focus groupie

Fascinating experience last night – I took part in a focus group at St. Lukes – a v. groovy ad agency. (Getting £40 for being opinionated! Bring it on). Subject matter: Clarks shoes.

Now, I’m a bloke. I buy shoes when I need shoes. I go to one shop with a vague idea of what I want, and buy the first pair which conforms, is comfortable and is within price range. Like most blokes. So I felt sorry for the focus group lady who had to ask us how we felt when we found the right shoes (“Job done. Next!”), what words came to mind when we thought of Clarks (“Being dragged to get untrendy school shoes by mum”) and so on.

 Then she started reading out treatments for commercials. They varied from the crashingly obvious to the howlingly stupid to the actually quite cool. And once the amateur ideas about what adverts they should make instead were out of the way, we got to say what we thought. (“Yeah. Nice.”). Interesting process. Made me think about the way I write pitches and treatments.

The clients/agency people were in the next room, poring over our ignorant opinions in real time. What did they make of it? Who knows.  I’d like to think that my contributions were uniquely insightful, and that the clients in the room threw their pads aside and said to the agency people “Stop what you’re doing, and go in and hire that man now! We must have him on our account, and hang the expense”. But I very much doubt it. As we shuffled into the Euston night, gripping our paltry fees and belching from too much free fizzy drink, I suspect the agency people and client people agreed that what the hell to these civilians know, and that we’ll go ahead with the idea we fancy most regardless.

So the next time you see a crashingly obvious, howlingly stupid ad for Clarks shoes for men, think of me.

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