Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Who are you?

The following is a reprint of the Ad Nauseam column which appeared in the July 8, 2008 edition of the Metaverse Messenger

Ad Nauseam

The whole time I was talking to Andrew Mallon I had the song, “Who are You?” running through my head; specifically, the version used in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

After eight seasons I still get a kick out of hearing Roger Daltry’s distinctive, rocking voice wailing over the opening credits. And the show, if not exactly fresh, has at least managed to stay engaging. It may be formulaic, and it may be overly stylish, but I generally like the story-lines, and always enjoy the glimpse into forensic science, even if none of them have the sense to wear hair nets when working with hair, fibre, and DNA evidence.

Plus it’s got Marg Helgenberger, whose gorgeous red hair is probably part of the reason they never wear hair nets.

The opening song obviously embodies the series’ central theme. A crime has been committed and the investigators must identify who committed it: “Who are you?”

Of course, as the team works to uncover the culprit, the viewer is forced to put up with a few commercials. Like 87.9% of the population (a reliable statistic I just now made up) I tend to mute them. Having an interest in advertising, however, I can’t help noticing a certain consistency in their nature, even if I’m not paying too much attention to their specific messages. Car ads lead the pack followed closely by prescription drugs (including Viagra), then the upscale department stores like J. C. Penney and Sears, and telephone plans like Sprint. In other words, there are no Xboxes, no toys, and certainly no meet-up chat lines.

The bulk of the CSI audience consists of upscale adults, and it’s obvious the sponsors know it: “Who are you?”

And that’s why the song was going through my head while talking to Andrew Mallon. With 30 years in business development, marketing, and advertising sales, Mallon is a leading expert in asking, “Who are you?”

As the creator of the Credit Union Technology Magazine, the first, and so far only, technology magazine focused on the credit union industry, he’s also an expert in new methodologies and techniques. Put them together and you have First Opinions — Mallon’s in world market research organization run by his Social Research Foundation.

While Linden Lab regularly produces demographic statistics, these tend to be elementary and crude: hardly the sort of thing Fortune 500 companies, which make up much of Mallon’s clientele, can rely on when initiating a marketing campaign. First Opinions, on the other hand, analyzes its members through 33 demographic and psychographic attributes dealing with both their real and their virtual lives.

With over 10,000 participants, 1,400 of whom own at least one group, Mallon not only can provide ready-made statistics concerning the makeup of the Second Life population but also deliver a wide range of specific demographics for focus group studies.

“One client wanted beer drinkers in Second Life,” he says. Another, a television network, wanted U.S. citizens who watched TV. “Their aim was to create samples of their shows in world and try to figure out why they weren’t getting the ratings.”

Unfortunately, the writer’s strike interfered with that particular plan.

Signing up for First Opinions is free. There are a fair number of questions to answer after which you’re eligible to be called upon for focus groups looking for people exactly like you. There is a small remuneration of $L100 which assures that those taking part are doing so out of interest, and not for the money.

The First Opinion studies aren’t to be confused with the casual surveys promoted under the “Hippy Pay” kiosks dotting the landscape of Second Life. First Opinion deals with top marketers interested in getting accurate information from exactly the people they’re targeting. “One client wanted nothing but CEOs in Second Life. I was able to hand him about a dozen,” said Mallon.

Nobody else is presently engaged in the kind of work Mallon is doing with First Opinions: giving marketers specific demographics for research. As for Linden Lab, they barely seem to even understand the need. “I asked for a list of exhibitors for the Second Life birthday display and they told me they didn’t have one because it might infringe on privacy. Isn’t that the meaning of ‘exhibitor’? To exhibit?”

We all know that marketing can be annoying, but the less a company knows about its audience, the more annoying the marketing will be. If you want some input in the process, I highly recommend that you go to the Social Research Foundation’s website, click on the First Opinions tab near the top of the page, and sign on.

You’ll be helping to keep Second Life free of wrong-headed advertising.

Social Research Foundation is located at http://www.socialresearchfoundation.org.


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