Task 6 – Creating and using focus groups

For this task, the class was split into two groups, based on which row you were sat in. Certain members of the class volunteered as invigilators  and were convened at the front to discuss the task. Chike and Jasmin J. came to our group, with Chike leading the focus task whilst Jasmin made notes of our responses. The subject chosen for the task was the highly controversial, explicit version of the music video for Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. The whole group watched most of the video, which contained completely topless women, sharing most of the screen time, amongst fully dressed men. Once we had finished, Chike went around each member of the group and asked for their individual reaction to the video. He then went into more depth by asking if we were surprised when we first saw the video and how we came across it. These questions generated a mixture of response. Whilst some were very offended, others were not so shocked by its content, being used to the controversial imagery found on the internet, but still felt that it objectified women.

The questions eventually broke down into a general debate/discussion about the video as well as other objectifying videos. Chike brought the discussion to an end so that Jasmin could read out the 3 questions and collect a final tally using the basic hands-up method. Once that was completed, Jasmin read the results back to us, as well as what share of the group was male and female and how that gender-share was reflected in the answers. The group then finally dissolved.

How are focus groups used in the media industry?

Whilst they are still undergoing post-production, major films are often given test screenings to a small audience, perhaps within a small auditorium or secluded venue. The most influential type of test screening are Focus Group screenings where the audience is expected to provide detailed responses to the previewed film so that the filmmakers understand whether they need to re-edit or even re-shoot certain sequences. The response from the Audience, which is usually comprised of a carefully selected target group, is usually collected using surveys or group discussions. A very recent example of the use of test screenings involves The Dark Knight Rises, which required an audio re-edit after test audiences found it hard to understand the film’s central villain, Bane.
I believe that focus groups are an effective means of receiving detailed responses in relation to a film or media product. Surveys and recorded discussions allow companies to understand how they need to improve their product and to further understand their potential consumers.  However, the setting up and organisation of focus groups can take considerable effort, particularly as the members of the focus group must be hand-picked in order to reflect the product’s target audience. The response from this small focus group is often then extended to the rest of the population. Some focus group sessions also require a budget, as some test screenings, for example, record the results with specialist data equipment whilst using free food to entice volunteers. In brief, focus groups are much less time and cost effective than other means of research, such as Social Media.

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