Front Porch Research’s approach to creative concept development is to use audience input to understand where a project is and to seek audience help to bring out its full potential. Whether a show concept is fully baked and ready for filming or if it is just a nugget that has potential that still needs development, we have experience enabling creative to take their work to the next level. We recently went through this process with a client who was working on a specific request for a major network. The client brought forth some great creative work and asked us to verify their gut feeling that their ideas were strong, to help identify any weak points in the concept and make improvements where necessary.
Often times creatives have a negative approach to research. This is typically based on prior experiences where the data was simply used to criticize a show concept or the research was not executed properly (not the right audience, too small of a sample, not in context, not having the right benchmarks to compare against, etc). When done properly, the creatives should come out of research inspired and empowered with new insights on how to better connect and communicate the story to the audience. This is the experience we had when our client presented our team with the concepts that they had just finished developing for a network pitch.
After setting a clear set of objectives and on a tight schedule, we quickly placed our first round of research. We asked a large base of consumers spread across the US to rate three concepts that were being considered for presentation to a network. However, in order to know whether any of the concept scores were good or not, we compared it to an average score of similar programs (length and genre) on similar channels (viewership, reach, etc.), which had been culled from our large and ever-expanding database of concept scores. Rather than just looking solely at a ‘will you watch this’ measure, we wanted to look deeper into a large array of attributes and open-ended responses to see if there was an ‘essential element’ present that could be magnified to drive the strongest possible viewing interest.
All of concepts scored at or above the benchmark, which was very encouraging for the creative team. However, when looking through the internal data and audience comments, it was evident that despite their strength, there was more that could be done to make the stories even stronger. The creative team looked through the audience comments, discussed with the Front Porch team the elements that were generating the most energy and then went to work to refine their concepts further. What resulted was fascinating.
The concept that scored the lowest was the one where the creative team really embraced the idea of making changes and went right at the core issues. They came back and delivered something that was clearly different but captured the same basic premise and message as the original. Characters were added and evolved, the plot got tighter and the drama was more authentic. As a result, in a second round of testing, this concept became the strongest of the three revisions, improving its score 19%.
Our Creative-Friendly Approach
The creative team treated the concept that scored highest in the first round, very carefully. The team was fearful of messing up something that was already strong. Thus, a revised concept was tested where very little of the audience feedback was integrated and the scores only increased by 5%. The middle concept integrated more feedback and saw a 17% gain.
After the first round of revisions, the highest scoring concept was deemed ‘ready to go’, but for the remaining two the team again looked at the audience data and feedback to incorporate additional improvements. The creative team was encouraged to be bold with the stories for the next round since the revised concepts had already tested strong. There was no downside as the worst-case scenario was to just go back to the prior version if a revised concept ended up scoring poorly.
When re-tested both of the revised concepts scored significantly above even the higher scores that came out of the first revision. Both concepts improved another 13%!
Datat That Actually Fuels Better Creative
The total time taken to test, revise, re-test, revise and re-test again was a mere 6 weeks. The result was three concepts that were 28%, 34% and 34% BETTER than other stories aimed at the same audience. The creative team was excited and energized as the audience pushed them to really hone their work, be original and different (rather than cliché) and recognized it when they got it right. The folks on the business side were excited as they had greater confidence in the projects. They also felt that verifying the audience appeal before funding the full pre-production and production activities was a smart way to minimize financial risk.