Group Speak

By: Troy Nottingham
September 8, 2016

Down And Dirty

About two months ago, I got a call from someone who said they had been referred by a client of ours.  I always, always like it when someone starts by saying they have been referred.  Why?  (1) I know they are serious about doing something.  (2) It is likely they have heard good things and are already sold on Bantam.

This caller (Marketing VP) went on to say the company was investing in a marketing/ad campaign to build one of its brands.  And, as a part of the business case for the campaign, they needed a baseline measure of the brand now and another measure at the end of the campaign to demonstrate its success.

Smart thinking … exactly the right course of action to take.

So, we put together a proposal to include the ideal scenario and a couple of scaled-back options – just in case the ideal didn’t fit with the budget.  Three days later, I got a call …“this is way more than we need.  We just need something down and dirty.”  Hmmmm.

Wish I had a dollar for every time someone called and said – “I just need to do some down and dirty research.”  What exactly does that mean – down and dirty research?  By its very nature, “research” requires the use of a certain level of rigor and discipline in approach and process.  Without that rigor, you have to be careful how you interpret the down and dirty findings.

Anyway, back to the story … we proposed a tracking study (2 waves) among a random and representative sample of people to whom the campaign would be targeted.  The client, however, just wanted to do a quick 4 or 5-question survey using a list of names she would provide.  My first question:  Can you tell me about this list?  “I’m not sure who is on the list, I just know we have been collecting names through a couple different sources and have been doing it for a few years.”

Here’s another rub … it would take 4 or 5 questions just to make sure people were qualified to participate in the research (aka … to make sure they are in the target audience).  “Don’t worry about that.  Anybody on our list will do.”  Even if they are not the target of the campaign?  “Yep … like I said this needs to be down and dirty.”

But don’t you want to benchmark and track multiple measures to see specifically how the campaign is impacting the target audience?  That way, a determination of success or failure isn’t dependent on just one metric.  “No, I just want awareness.”  Is the campaign just designed to build awareness?  “No, but that’s the number I’m interested in.”

You can lead a horse to water … yet, I was never able to convince the client that this particular down and dirty option could easily do more harm than good.

You see, to measure the success of an ad campaign in building brand awareness, the research must include those who are are in your target audience and who have the potential to be exposed to the campaign.  And it must exclude everyone else.   Otherwise, the awareness scores might be artificially high or low … which means they may misrepresent the ad campaign’s performance.

In this client’s case, the down and dirty is almost guaranteed to gather information that will not be reflective of the campaign’s effectiveness.  But, the real trouble is that no one on the client side will know this problem exists, and will be left to evaluate the success, ROI and future of the campaign as if this down and dirty survey is gospel.

There is a good chance that, if you are reading this, I’m preaching to the choir.  But … I can’t help myself.  The best time to go for down and dirty is when ordering a martini.