Category Archives: Ethnography

Farewell Friends

Farewell London. Rozloučení Prague.

Farewell to new colleagues I have met and friends we have made.

Each city inspired us to see the world through a new lense. Together we opened our ethnographers’ eyes to new cultures and began to see how brands move across cultures. The truth is, I could only guess at how this class would unfold. I had a plan and a lot of industry contacts. But, blending two universities and 15 people (who didn’t know one another) and dropping them into foreign lands was not a sure bet for success. It was, however, an assured adventure. And what an adventure it turned out to be.

Together we immersed ourselves into worlds unknown, opened our sense to unfamiliar cultures in search of their unique cultural codes for autos, beer and fashion. My students were like sponges and I ran them ragged. We traversed each city moving from ad agencies, to neighborhoods, and then on to shopping malls and auto dealers, often ending up at pubs. We attended classical concerts, visited museums, and walked historical streets. In short we were students of culture. To see the cultural codes they determined for each sector, check the comments below or their sector links. Enjoy!

To my students I say, it was a privilege to be your teacher and to learn side by side.

To my gracious colleagues, a heartfelt thank you.




Filed under Branding, Ethnography

Ahoj, Beautiful Prague!

Today we concluded our ethnographic brand tracking in Prague. After one week of ethnography and agency visits, we spent the last afternoon of our class reflecting on Czech culture, and more specifically, how it influences the consumption of autos, beer and fashion. After a lot of deliberation, the three groups came up with culture codes that they think best represent their respective sectors here in the Czech Republic. Check out each of the three culture codes within the sector blogs:  autos, beer, fashion.

The ethnographic brand tracking helped the students to observe behavior and identify key patterns within their sector. The agency visits throughout the week helped the students to uncover the cultural meaning behind these observed behaviors within a historical context and learn about some of the successful strategies behind Czech advertising from the best that Prague has to offer: Remmark, Garp, Leagas Delaney, and Ogilvy.

As part of the final wrap up, the students also had a discussion about Czech advertising in general. With the help of Jan Tluchor, who joined us from the University of West Bohemia, the students compared and contrasted Czech advertising with British and American advertising.

Overall, it was an inspiring week. Everyone acted like true ethnographers and soaked up everything Czech culture had to offer. Most importantly, the students kept their minds open and embraced all of the different perspectives we learned about – something that will positively influence the approach they take with future work. Our sincerest děkuji to everyone along the way who helped to make our experience here in Prague so meaningful.


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Filed under Autos, Beer, Branding, Ethnographic Findings, Ethnography, Fashion, Teaching

Red & White

From the moment we saw the red and white building with the “Ogilvy” logo splashed across the exterior walls, we knew that we were about to have a fascinating experience at an agency that carries one of the industry’s most respected names. The Ogilvy Action presentation started with an overview of the agency’s “Four Core” model (including Ogilvy & Mather Perception, ONE Information, Action Behavior, and PR Influence) that is used to manage about 30 global brands at any given time. The students were then able to see the work in action with the examples of eight different case studies, presented by Mr. Michal Charvat, the General Director. After a short break to explore the open and stylish office, complete with a full café, and a chance to review some of the agency’s award-winning work, the students had an opportunity to hear from Tomas, one of the three account planners in the office. Tomas shared insight into Czech culture through the lens of history, focusing on how Czech cultural history affects the mindsets of consumers today. Then the students had the great fortune of having Tomas facilitate a mini brainstorming session based on the students ethnographic work for their respective market sectors (autos, beer, fashion). It was magical!

As we were leaving, I shared with Michal the sensory ethnographic exercises I had the students participate in on Parizska Street. He loved them! That led to an extended discussion on the role these exercises, and sensory ethnography in general, can and should play in understanding consumers and overall brand development.

Thanks for the inspiration!


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Filed under Autos, Beer, Branding, Ethnography, Fashion

Cultural Immersion

There is no way to take in Prague without letting your senses carry you away. It’s unavoidable. At every turn there is another site lovelier then the last. Each scent nearly glorious and each sound a curiosity.  The textures and tastes of Prague simply sweep you up and away.

I have tired to make our time here a sensorial, cultural immersion. Something off the beaten path, a sensory awakening. Something that engages the students with the soul of the city and its culture. This is, of course, no easy task as we are tourists. Yet, in pursuit of an ethnographic sensory awakening we sometimes look nothing like tourists. Is the average tourist a Tesco shopper spending 30 minutes documenting 30 sensorial impressions? I think not. Does the average tourist walk blindly (literally) down the Parizska Street on the arm of a friend accounting for every scent and sound? I think not. Nonetheless, yesterday, that’s exactly what we did. And then we found the sweetest café, tucked around the corner from Parizska Street, where we sat with lattes and hot chocolate debriefing and learning, having taken in Prague with all of our senses.

Other times cultural immersion comes in the form of agency visits. Yesterday we visited Remmark. There we were introduced to Czech consumer culture from three counter points: geo/political orientation, religion, and the Velvet Revolution of 1989. We learned that Czech people are resilient survivors, but skeptical and ironic consumers. For these resilient skeptics, there is one cultural icon that binds them together across time and space — beer.

Today we visited Garp. The energetic team at Garp set up a hands-on workshop focusing on BTL marketing, framed by a Staropramen case study. The students had a chance to use their new-found cultural insights to brainstorm branding solutions. And then, much to the delight of the students, the team offered to moderate a pub tour.

For tonight, it’s time to rest. But then it’s hard to rest in a city that beckons your senses to awaken as never before.


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Filed under Ethnography, Fashion, Teaching

An Ethnographer’s Dream

Walking through Manchester Amanda and I came across Magma Design, a bookstore I wanted to take home with me. Unable to do so, I settled for purchasing two books. One I gave away as a gift. The other was much too coveted to part with. I tore through it on the plane. (Actually I’m writing this on the plane.) That book changed this class and EVERY class I will ever each in the future.

How to be an Explorer of the World is an ethnographer’s dream come true.

So how does one dream? Freely and with our senses unhinged. In our dreams we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch without reservation. In her book, How to be an Explorer of the World, Keri Smith (who, by the way, is an artist) implores use to be uninhibited and free while awake. Harnessing an uninhibited sense of wonder and using her book as a guide, one is bound to experience the world in ways that cultivate inspiration and insight as never before.

Like the exercises at the back of my book, Teaching Advertising Creative, make copywriting come to life, the exercises in Smith’s book make ethnography come to life. (Even if she is an artist. Or maybe because she is an artist.) Her “One Thing” exercise is a twist on my cultural collage. “Fifty Things” encourages explores to document 50 things on what might otherwise be a mundane trip to the grocery store or library. Or how about her “Sound Map,” which challenges you to sit in one place for an hour and map out every sound, marking the approximate location relative to yourself? Follow that up with “Found Smells” by going for a walk and sniffing every smell and identifying its source. Then there’s “Your Favorite Street.” Imagine sending people into the field to describe every detail of their favorite street. And for my copywriters, there’s “Found Words.” Be a voyeur and sit in close proximity to your target audience and eavesdrop. Collect every gem they utter. My personal favorite, and the perfect way to bond a new group of ethnographers, is “Self Ethnography.” Use yourself as the subject and document all your movements, activities, behaviors, and conversations through the course of one day, then report back. And at the end of the book there’s a spot for field notes. It’s the best hands-on, inspiration driven idea book I’ve laid my hands on.

And so dear students I will be enlivening our cultural explorations and tweaking the blogs posting assignments. How could I not?

Look out Prague. Here we come!



Filed under Ethnography, Teaching

Accent on London

We wrapped up our London ethnographic brand tracking on Monday. If there was one constant that made our visit a success it was everyone at Accent. Robbie was an extraordinary guide, making London come to life at every turn. Natasa, and her staff, made our time in London delicious on every level.

After more than a week of agency visits and tracking brands in culture the students have become fine fledgling ethnographers — with many thanks to the inspiring words of Alfie and Adam at Flamingo International.

Our agency visits helped us see the sweet spots that underline British advertising. Lucy at Wieden+Kennedy encouraged students to take chances and be willing to make mistakes. Gareth and his team at EuroRSCG demonstrated global branding brilliance with three case studies. Students left with a deeper understanding of global branding — inspired to consider the possibilities for advertising justice with the tck, tck, tck campaign.

Off we went to Manchester to learn about British B2B, from the best of the best at IAS. More on that in our next post.

We ended our time in London making a cultural collage with contributions from each student — none of which could be purchased. Check our their interpretation of the collage in the form of headlines posted in the comment section.

More from the north soon.



Filed under Ethnography

Sensorial Ethnography

Borough Market is the world’s longest continuously running public market. It’s right around the corner from the Globe Theatre and few shorts steps from the Thames River.

One of the things I stress in ethnographic training sessions is using all five senses. Sending them off to Borough Market made that point perfectly. There students conducted a sensorial ethnographic field exercise. Check out the comments below and find out just how delicious their experience was.



Filed under Ethnography, Teaching