Instead of simply producing ads, advertising agencies now want to be seen as creative consultancies, helping clients develop marketing strategies or even new products. DDB, part of the Omnicom Group, last month rolled out a service called SignBank, which taps the power of the Internet and the agency’s global office network to collect thousands of individual snippets of cultural change, identify trends in them and advise clients on what it all means for them.
“Focus groups confirm what you already know,” said Eva Steensig, a sociologist at DDB Denmark. “Talking about toilet paper for two hours in a room doesn’t really help.”
The problem, she said, is that most consumers are not experts on their own consumption patterns. They have other things to worry about – their families, the weather, their moods. So, in focus groups they are easily led in one direction or another and rarely come up with the kinds of original insights that a marketer needs to stay ahead in a fast-changing game.