Today Spaceship Hightower takes you into the bizarre world of Madison Avenue, that shimmering galaxy where advertising agencies dwell. Here, they are constantly trying to probe deeply into the psyches of consumers so they can produce more silly ads that deal with us superficially.
Oh how they long for the good ol' days, when they could simply corral a bunch of consumers into a "focus group" and ask how they felt about an ad or a product. But now, they say, they can't get candid responses in focus groups, because people in a group tend to say what's expected, not what they really think.
The Wall Street Journal reports that advertising executives have coined a slogan for what they seek from their consumer probes: "Naked behavior," they call it. Among the techniques they've tried is the "early morning ambush" -- literally showing up at people's homes at sunrise to ask why they had chosen a particular cereal to eat or cologne to wear. Another approach is to "dog" consumers in the stores, questioning their every move as they reach for a product, pause in front of a display, sneeze or whatever. Alas, these in-your-face techniques have mostly produced irritated shoppers and a couple of surveyors with bloody noses.
Next, ad researchers tried going high-tech, using headbands to track brain impulses as shoppers watched ads -- even using laser beams to "read" consumers' eyeballs as they read ads -- but still the researchers weren't getting that "naked behavior."
The latest trend is to be touchie-feelie. One agency has its test subjects fool around with Play-Doh, asking them to mold shapes that express their innermost feelings about McDonald's hamburgers. Apparently they are even planning to hypnotize people to help them get in touch with themselves.
Leave my naked psyche alone. Just make a better burger!