“The most elusive target in 21st century corporate America – the mind of an 18 year boy . . .” MTV has long emphasized market research to learn about its teen audience. But in the late 1990s it noticed its ratings were starting to slide. So MTV embarked on a new teen research campaign, the hallmark of which was its “ethnography study.”
“We go out and we rifle through their closets,” explains Todd Cunningham, senior vice president of strategy and planning for MTV. “We go through their music collections. We go to nightclubs with them. We shut the door in their bedrooms and talk to them about issues that they feel are really important to them.” At the end of these “ethnography study” visits–for which MTV brings a check for the teen and their video camera–Cunningham and his team translate the visit into a videoclip to show to MTV’s executives.
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