The Real Picture

By giving us an insight into the creative and sometimes surreal world of advertising, Simi Dhawan rightly reminds us that it’s better to risk knowing about a failed plan than to risk implementing a plan which will fail…

As is routine within our so-called “modern world”, no week would follow the norm if a plurality of “forwarded emails” did not make their merry way into my personal inbox. Whilst I can appreciate the heartfelt sentiments that might go into a friendship chain mail, I’ve seldom the patience to pass these on and, frankly, I find them more than mildly irritating. (Having to manually delete each one wastes at least a few seconds of my life – possibly several hours spread over a lifetime!) However, one which didn’t follow this same ill-fate by instantly grabbing my attention included the artwork of a Mr. Julian Beever – a British artist now famous for his ability to create 3-D illusions using just chalk (and an eye for detail) on pavements all over the globe. By some, he has been bestowed the respectable title “Pavement Picasso”. I include one such example of his ingenious work below:

At first glance, it’s difficult to comprehend how a sketch could be made to look so real and far removed from a standard 2-D drawing. The answer can be found in the angle at which the photo is taken and only one perspective allows for the 3-D effect we are seeing, as the photographs below demonstrate:

Whilst this startlingly clever trick-of-the-eye might be considered no more than “art for art’s sake” by some – merely a momentary distraction from whatever we were doing before we caught sight of these images – I beg to differ. The talented efforts of our aforementioned “Pavement Picasso” are, in fact, modern-day examples of some very creative advertising, and it is certainly no accident that these have landed in my inbox – or that I now share them with you! To prove that this 3-D image technique has been used in practice more explicitly as an advertising medium, see the following example, courtesy of the German-owned company Bionade:

At the core of any project we are assigned, in one form or another, every client ultimately seeks to strengthen their brand. From market segmentation and product testing, through to customer satisfaction and value propositions, all of these research agendas allow an opportunity to communicate with customers/potential customers and raise awareness. Even if we do not explicitly ask questions about the brand itself, it’s part of our professional DNA as researchers to ensure that we meet our responsibility to positively represent our client when communicating with these respondents – so as to (at the very least) protect the reputation of our client’s brand.

An array of marketing mediums ensure that we meet the goals we set ourselves in getting our message across and reaching our target audience – ranging from branded products, literature and POS materials, through to posters, banners, newspapers, trade magazines, television adverts and internet websites (to further examine some creative design ideas, you can view images of multitudinous campaigns at

This week alone has seen my involvement in several projects centred on this ever-present theme of advertising and, whilst I’d like to conclude that research outcomes have offered me a foolproof insight into surefire campaign approaches, I’m afraid I can’t quite claim that to be the case. In practice, every company needs to assess their (often inter-related) unique target markets and end-goals thoroughly, to create a powerful and effective bespoke solution to the continual challenge of raising both brand awareness and perception. Unfortunately, ad-hoc choices based around a “gut feeling” of what might work, in short, might work – and that’s the point. It’s a time-consuming and expensive process to invest in any such campaign and, to avoid unnecessary risk-taking, we shouldn’t launch into these blindly – careful planning is imperative.

Led from research experiences thus far, as a starting point, my advice is to seek thorough answers to the following 3 questions (although possibly not at the same time):

  • Who is my target market?
  • How do I reach them?
  • What do they want?

Most interestingly, it is the first question which is most understated in practice and actually, it is the pre-cursor to the others. Only too often, we see that it is sometimes a pre-agreed business plan or budget allocation which sets our creative minds spinning – and very like the 3-D drawings we saw earlier, our own preconceptions offer a sometimes misleading perspective. As a result, possibly in our understandable eagerness to reach our customers, our focus naturally tends to shift to the latter two questions which effectively cover off questions we want to know to set the ball in motion. Questions such as “What do they want?” “Which are their preferred advertising mediums?” “How can we improve these or better our competition?”

Whilst these are crucial questions, a fundamental backdrop to bettering our understanding is “Who is our audience?” “Do their needs differ based on different parts of this market or are they similar?” “Do we need to consider multiple avenues of communication to suitably engage with different parts of our market?”…and so forth.

Collectively, all questions we ask should strike the correct balance between what we would like to ask in relation to our preconceptions and what we need to know to make suitably informed decisions – even if the outcome directs us to completely review our current strategies and plans (better to risk knowing about a failed plan than to risk implementing a plan which will fail!).

In short, as our “Pavement Picasso” might commend – our chalk is any problem drawn-out or created by a business; the pavement is our canvas or research design to lay out the problem; the passers-by are our audience feeding us their thoughts and opinions……whilst we, the researchers, seek to ensure that our perspectives are not skewed by any illusions…so that we can help reveal the real picture.

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