By Anna Taylor
Last month I went along to the Children’s Media Conference and you can read up on the highlights and exciting proposals for what’s next for the industry here: Part 1 - self-regulation and Part 2 - opportunities.
But today I want to talk about a comment a director made at one of the sessions that’s been swirling around in my head ever since (I won’t name names…).
Why children are worth listening to
When asked by a member of the audience if he had done any testing with children while making a new film, the director said he had not.
Interesting, I thought - how can you make something for someone, who you have nothing in common with, and have any confidence that it won’t go Titanic?
I’ll give you an example. I wouldn’t just do a piece of work for a client and send it to them, crossing my fingers and hoping that that’s what they’re after.
They might like it. But then they might not. And if they don’t, how much time and money have I just wasted by guessing?
No, I get a brief, and have a conversation, make suggestions, and find out what they want. I might check in along the way as well, to make sure the project is going to produce what they want it to.
Children are your clients. They know what they like, and what they don’t like. Without having that conversation with them, how do you know?
The focus group caricature
Back to the conference. So no, he said, they haven’t done any testing with children. His son or daughter probably likes it though.
And, you know, it’s only going to cost a few hundred thousand pounds to develop, does it matter if children don’t like it? And at least they had some laughs along the way.
So what was his reason for not doing any market research? The Simpsons.
The creators of Itchy and Scratchy (a cartoon in The Simpsons-verse) - who themselves are caricatures of directors, producers, and animators - carry out some market research with the children of Springfield to find out why the show is failing.
It is the perfect example of a terrible focus group - I won’t start analysing the methodology here, although it does show why one should be wary of inviting certain clients along…
In case you’re on the train (or in a meeting) and can’t watch the video above, the focus group is summed up by the moderator, while scratching his head:
Watching this back now, I find it hilarious. Is this really what people think my job involves? If so, I want to set the record straight.
The truth about children’s market research
Yes, it’s totally like that. Some children ask for everything, others go completely off track. Some also steal all the biscuits we put out for them and hide them behind their backs.
As much as they are your clients, children are still children. They aren’t the decision makers, they don’t know all the ins and outs of making a film or TV programme or app.
Does that make market research with children pointless? Absolutely not. You just need the right people, prepared to dig down and understand what children really want and need, to find your little diamond of usefulness.
It could be that a particular character doesn’t strike a chord like you thought it would. Maybe the animation and the story are targeted at two different age groups. Perhaps there’s an instruction on your app that sends children in completely the wrong direction.
You won’t know if you don’t ask.
Market research is not like The Simpsons. It is possible to make something that turns out to be successful, without testing it at all along the way. Equally, tons of market research does not guarantee creating the next big thing.
What market research can do is dig you up your own little diamond of usefulness, whatever that is, and help make your content the best it can be.