Focus groups are an integral part of the studio business. Networks test show pilots, movies, trailers, even posters. This marketing information helps studio executives decide what movies we will see in theaters, what shows make the Fall television line up. Invoke CEO Gigi Wang describes how her company leverages new technologies to make virtual focus groups an essential tool for decision making in a recent episode of The AAFCA Podcast.

Traditionally, films and television shows are tested and retested before they are released to the public. The entertainment industry has used focus groups to gather feedback about their projects for decades with very few changes in its process or technologies. Typically, a pilot or film is shown to a select group of invitees based on a demographic determined by the studio and marketers capture the feedback after the viewing. But Wang explains that times have changed and how people access content has to be added to the mix.

(Photo courtesy of Gigi Wang)

“The traditional focus group experience has been around for a long time, and it made a lot of sense because in the past a theatrical production of film would be released to theaters first,” says Wang. “So it made sense to have people come to a site, view the film, answer a lot of questions. But we’re in a different era today. Look at the kids’ day, look at us – we’re streaming content and we’re watching it. We’re not going to theaters even pre-pandemic. We weren’t going to theaters as much. We’re streaming content, we’re watching less linear television, so the world is changing. And because of that a lot of the studios have come to us because when we’re talking to these consumers, these consumers are in the environment in which they consume the content.”

Invoke is a technology-driving marketing research company that provides data and feedback in real time to its industry-leading clients. At Invoke, they use proprietary software to facilitate virtual focus groups where participants watch and react to content in real time. The information is tabulated for the facilitator and executives to see and also interact with the audience with poling and chat. Wang became CEO of Invoke in 2015. She has been a leader in the industry holding several executive titles including Chief Research Officer at the Yankee Group.

As a woman of color, Wang recalls the obstacles she had to overcome growing up and in her professional career.

“I’ve got to say, I ran into a lot more hurdles as a woman, as a female, than I had of a person of color,” Wang says. “I saw a lot of Asians, a lot of South Asians, North Asians, but I saw a lot fewer women. And so that was more of my ceiling.

“You know, growing up as a minority, I was always different and it didn’t matter where I was. I just grew up knowing that I had to be twice as good as anyone else. You want to be accepted as a child and there were lots of playground taunts, I just grew up with those so you have to kind of get mature really quickly or it can really break you down. And I think the wonderful thing, for me personally, is my family was really supportive and I didn’t really understand or appreciate what my parents always taught me until I got a little bit older.”

Listen to the full interview on The AAFCA Podcast

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