THE TORONTO STAR Saturday, August 14, 1999 A27

THE TORONTO STAR Saturday, August 14, 1999 A27

Focus groups gain key insights into needs

Re Vision is blurred (Opinion page Aug. 5).

The opinion piece about focus group participation written by Michael Dojc contains many blanket statements based on supposition, with little to link it to quantifiable facts.

Dojc seems to attribute an apathy and incompetence to the recruiters who so willingly (in his view) allow a self-admitted liar such as himself to gain admittance to these groups.

He also seems to think that the recruiting industry is somehow at fault for not finding him out.

As is the case with many activities within this 3ociety, market researchers

have to rely to some degree on the inherent honesty and goodwill of everyday people.

Focus groups provide a unique and Important medium for marketers to gain key insights into target consumers attitudes, needs and wants in a dialogue that allows for in-depth probing.

And, in my observation, not only do Many focus group participants enjoy the opportunity to provide legitimate feedback about a product or service, most understand that their reactions, thoughts, and feelings may have a substantive impact on marketing activities, and as such they do not actively misrepresent themselves.

Of course, there are always a few "bad apples" out to milk the system for whatever they can get.

To weed out these people, Central Files, a centralized database of focus group participants, exists to maintain control over the frequency of respondent attendance, and to exclude undesirable respondents (defined as those who have been determined to have lied during screening, been overly disruptive during a group session, or those classified as professional respondents because they have attended many more groups than normal as a way to make extra money).

The ability of the system to function

effectively is directly related to the number of firms who participate.

The Professional Marketing Research Society, of which I am a member, strongly endorses that all researchers buy recruiting services from those firms who submit names to Central Files, to minimize the chance that fake respondents such as Dojc slip through.

Dojc's description of his interaction with focus group recruiters serves more to reveal his own moral inadequacies (Lying and cheating to make a few bucks) than to expose systemic problems in the research recruitment sector.