They studied what?! BBDO’s Research Department and marketing reports

Monday, May 23, 2022

The Research Department at BBDO studied, seemingly, everything under the sun. While not in reality, they did do studies and market research on a plethora of topics. Within the BBDO records, there is an extensive run of marketing research reports from 1979 to 1992, with a few outside this range.

The breadth of the topics, to me, is astounding. Wine, gum, liquid concentrate fruit drinks, fast food, bread, disposable diapers, feminine hygiene products, men’s shaving, nasal decongestant, disposable pre-moistened towelettes, carpet care, petroleum, camping and leisure, writing instruments, and automobiles are just some of the product markets studied. Two of the marketing reports that jumped out to me are below.

The first study looked at men’s roles in January 1981. Specifically, to compare the roles and attitudes of men married to working women with those of men married to homemakers. Four hundred married men between 18 and 50 participated in telephone interviews in May 1980. Men were asked about the attributes of most women they know, attributes of their ideal woman, whether a husband should help with household chores whether his wife works or does not work, household chores done by the husband, and the happiness of most men with their wives. While I won’t list all the conclusions, one was men still want women who are good mothers and family-oriented, but more men married to homemakers feel that it is important that women be family-oriented, while more men with working wives feel that women should be self-confident and career-oriented. However, being career-oriented was deemed “very descriptive” for an ideal woman by just 29 percent of working wife households, behind a good hostess, thrifty, sexy looking, sexually aggressive, dependent, and aggressive.

Results for “attributes of most women you know” question.

The second report is “A qualitative study on tequila screwdrivers” from 1984. BBDO did this work on behalf of National Distillers to examine the possible opportunities for increasing tequila consumption. Two focus group sessions were conducted – one male and one female, with participants between 21 and 35, who must have attended some college, drink vodka screwdrivers at least once a month, and have no negative predisposition towards tequila. Participants were asked a series of questions regarding vodka screwdrivers and the idea of tequila screwdrivers before taste testing. As part of the questioning, participants were asked to imagine the type of dog the consumer of the screwdriver would have. Tequila: a mean dog or Doberman. Vodka: mutt/collie or Afghan/Siberian huskie.

Cover of report.

In addition to the marketing reports, the department looked at commercial testing, consumer behavior and attitudes, repetition of advertising, and top problems for products to alleviate. Combined with the Ernest Dichter papers,  this material will be a gold mine for researchers interested in advertising campaigns and consumer behavior.

Ashley Williams is the processing and digital archivist at the Hagley Museum and Library.