Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Dear ABC7Listens. Listen to this

Just took a survey for ABC in SF. I orginally signed up to take political and news surveys. The pulled the old bait and switch on me and had me take the VALS survey (used to catagorize people for ad sales.) under the guise of a news survey. Wankers.

This pissed me off. After taking the survey I sent them this letter:

Hi ABC Listens people:

What a BS survey I just completed for you! Now that I have completed your little VALS survey are your Ad guys happy? Will it help them sell more ads? I guess as VALS type "Innovator" you should be happy I am a "very active consumer." ( Seriously, VALS? How 1980 of you.

You should at least have been honest about why you did this. This isn't for some news story, unless you are doing a story about using outdated consumer classification surveys to help sell TV ad space to stupid advertisers. I doubt you are doing a news story on "how people are really consumers and not citizens or voters in today's world". I'm sure that you didn't have us take the survey in order to tie my opinion to what kind of consumer I am.

I'm guessing that someone in sales said, "Hey, we have a captive audience who said they'll take any surveys! Let’s give 'em the VALS survey so we can tell our advertisers what kind of audience they are buying. It's an Easy Focus group for us!" And the person who actually works on the news side of the house objected, "But these surveys for are people’s opinions on issues of the day! They are for news stories! We’ll lose our credibility as a research dept if we tell them we are doing the surveys for news but then turn it around and use it for our own demographic sales data!" he was probably told to lighten up, know one will notice. That is if there even WAS anyone there from the news/research biz overseeing this.

Look, I signed up for your surveys to add my opinion for news stories. I believe it is good to have representative samples for surveys. I hate the unscientific surveys that some shows run. And frankly I don't even mind if you also needed data for your ad reps. But you sold this survey under false pretenses. From your letter, "We're not sure when the results of this poll will be broadcast on ABC7 News" and then later: "In a couple of days, you'll receive an invitation to the first of our extensive series of polls on the November Special Election."

Sure sounds like you have positioned this as a news opinion poll.

How you approached having us take this survey and even having Dan Ashley reading us the instructions gave us the impression of NEWS. If you had the station owner or head of sales on it would have sent a different message to us. Dan was used on purpose to lend credibility and to mislead people into thinking that this is all just part of a legit survey for news. How did I figure it wasn’t going to be used for news? You know and I know what VALS is used for. It’s used to put viewers into buckets to show to potential advertisers.

Frankly I think maybe the “I Team” should do a little investigation on this.
Did the sales staff co-opt the News staff’s database of people willing to take news surveys for their own purposes? Does management know about the lack of firewalls between the news research group and the sales staff? Does anyone even they care what impression that might give the people in the news survey database?

Mr. Spocko


ellroon said...

Holy Crap, Spocko! You must have the complaint department cringing when they see you approach.

Hope they learn something.

11:27 AM  
coho said...

Hiya, Spocko!
The VALS test also gives them a baseline on you and your likely responses (though I bet they didn't expect your letter) in any future interaction with them. It allows them to weight your results so they can spin the aggregate results however they like regardless of what the results actually say.

11:33 AM  
spocko said...

Ellroon: Yep. And I never take it out on the low level people. I'm always unfailing nice to them. Do NOT mess with a Vulcan with access to email.

Coho: Thanks. Interesting. Do you know if VALS is typically used in prep by legit pollsters for political polls?

I get a sense that political pollsters they have much more sophisticated tool and profiles they can use.

I really should send this to the I-Team. I want to watch them spin this.

11:43 AM  
coho said...

Hiya Spocko!
They do, in fact, have more accurate, sophisticated methods. However, if they used those right at the outset you'd know about it and it would color your responses. Using a more innocuous survey first allows you to be examined by the right department at the second vetting.

12:08 PM  
spocko said...

Coho: I'll update my post soon.
I got an email back from the people in the news dept telling me that this isn't for sales. they are probably telling the truth.

But I'm so cynical these days after being lied to by the Bush Administration and having information gathered for one purpose then being used for another purpose (i.e. personal info sold to "3rd party partners" with no way to opt out.)

I almost feel like calling the person up and chatting with the to see if they understand WHY I felt like I did.

2:15 PM  
coho said...

Hiya Spocko!
I have to admit that my first reaction is incredulity, though they may be on the up and up. Having heard the phrase "American Consumer" used where "American Citizen" should be by the (speechwriters of the) last two Presidents has left me thus.

10:37 AM  

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