Before I started my Masters in Art in Advertising program, I took three course prerequisites for admission into the program. In addition to Introduction to Advertising and Media Planning, I took an Advertising Research course with Christopher Owens from The Richards Group. Initially, the course was full so I was resigned to the fact that I would take the course during first semester of grad school. However, after a week of waiting, I was enrolled in the course and the next day I arrived to our 7 p.m. class bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
My first day of class with Christopher was confusing. Here I thought that this course was going to be another dull and dry course based on library research and surveys. Instead, Christopher was talking about “ethnography” and “qualitative research”. He he showed us mini-biographies on audiophiles and video recordings of focus groups. Each class meeting he would expound upon the importance of account planning in the advertising industry and his passion was infectious.
Our final project consisted of a ten page paper and a presentation of a qualitative research project that sought to figure out why particular people liked something you despised. I chose horror film enthusiasts and I had a great time working on the project. I walked away from Christopher’s class with a new-found understanding and appreciation of account planning and research. I thought I had a strong grasp on ethnographic studies and consumer research. And then I went to India.
According to Hy Mariampolski’s Ethnography for Marketers: A Guide to Consumer Immersion, there are Ten Commandments for Great Ethnography. These include:
- Be an observer first.
- Respect the site protocol.
- Be objective.
- Love your respondents unconditionally.
- Follow the stages of a site visit.
- Everything counts as data.
- Ask questions fairly.
- Probe positively.
- Don’t change what you’re watching.
- Take good notes.
While I read Mariampolski’s book throughout my travels in India, I realized that the work that Christopher and other account planners do isn’t just a job – it is an art form. As I tried to follow Mariampolski’s Ten Commandments, I realized it is really difficult to navigate a cultural immersion project without breaking these rules on a daily – if not hourly – basis. I had to give myself a little bit of grace seeing as this was my first time traveling internationally. However, it was hard not to feel like a failure time and time again because what seemed so easy proved to be a rigorous mental and emotional experiment.
Within my graduate admission prerequisite work and my first year of the MA in Advertising program, I have developed an academic respect for account planning. However, after my two-week trip to India, I’ve grown to truly appreciate the remarkable work account planners do to be advocates for consumers worldwide.