September 12, 2014

Living With The Audience


They say that in order to be truthful you should write about what you know. Well, professionally the only jobs I have ever known have been within the account management teams of marketing agencies.

During that time, apart from a few exceptions, I’ve always felt a bit removed from my client’s audiences. Although the teams I’ve worked in have always recognised the importance of having good audience insight, it’s not always possible to get that access due to budget or time constraints.

Luckily for most agencies one-thing clients don’t lack is data. They usually have reams of the delightful stuff and as most agency folk know that’s like good dust, as in there somewhere could lie the answer to the challenge you’ve been set.

But data is only really half or maybe two thirds of the story and you need to test you thoughts with real people and gather actual truths.

Although ethnographic research is recognised as yielding the richest type of insight, most client and agencies default to the tried and tested formula of a focus group.

In my experience traditional agencies approach focus groups with a mixture of anticipation and loathing as months of work can be completely shot down by one single comment from a perfectly lovely Hampshire housewife. And herein lies the tension between agencies and their audiences and the need to get closer to them.

Two months ago I joined the youth specialist-marketing agency Livity.

An agency that is unlike anywhere else I have worked. The defining feature for me is that Livitarians either ‘are’ the audience or sit in very close proximity to the audience day in day out.

On any one day there are anywhere between 3 or 20 young people in the office attending workshops, helping develop content for Live Magazine or most relevantly for me helping co-create work for Livity’s clients.

Livity’s approach of Youth Centred Design means our youth audience are directly involved in the development process of campaigns designed for them and their peers. This unique approach forces you to think in a totally different way and see things through their eyes and lives.

As an example, I used the word ‘promise’ the other day and was told in no certain terms by one of our talented interns that my slightly ‘loose’ use of the word was not the way most young people use and understand the term and that push-back completely changed the nature of our discussion and plans.

Working directly with our audience has been an eye opening experience for me. It’s not always easy but it always results in some fantastic thinking and most importantly truthful work for our clients.

On balance and with everything considered, a ‘check in’ at a focus group simply doesn’t compare.

12.09.14, Sadia Siddiqui, Client Services Director at Livity.