Tag Archives: Cultural anthropology

Ex BBDO Insights Chief: ‘Researchers Have Diluted Ethnography’

Cultural Anthropologist Says ‘Just Being There’ Isn’t Enough

By Marc Dresner, IIR USA

A lot of what passes for ethnography today probably shouldn’t.
That’s according to Dr. Timothy Malefyt, former director of
cultural discoveries at BBDO Worldwide, author of ‘Advertising and Anthropology’
and visiting professor at Fordham University’s Center for Positive Marketing.
‘Ethnography today is really flooded with researchers,’ says
Malefyt, a bona fide anthropologist. ‘This only acts to dilute the quality of research
out there, and it also introduces some bad practices.’

The problem, he says, is that most ethnography today doesn’t
go much beyond ‘just being there”basically watching, peppered with a few

Timothy Malefyt

This isn’t ivory tower snobbery. Malefyt says it boils down
to more than just a semantic distinction between genuine anthropology and perhaps
a more accessible version of observational consumer research.
‘We’re missing a tremendous opportunity,’ he told The Research Insighter, ‘because there
is insufficient rigor and really no use of models of consumer behavior to analyze
what’s going on and actually lead to creative
Setting the question of whether or not Margaret Mead is
rolling in her grave aside, it’s probably worth considering that a PhD in
anthropology is a credential many commercial practitioners of ethnography honestly
can’t lay claim to.
And if Malefyt is right, what do we need to do differently?
In this episode of The
Research Insighter
podcast series, Malefyt discusses:
‘ The importance of balancing emic and etic perspectives
‘ Getting at the complete ‘internal behavioral experience’
‘ Using ethnography to drive creativity, and more’

Editor’s note: Timothy Malefyt will be speaking at The Market Research Event 2013 taking
place October 21-23 in Nashville, TN.
For information or to register, please visit TheMarketResearchEvent.com.

Marc Dresner is IIR USA’s sr. editor and special communication project lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the marketing research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at mdresner@iirusa.com. Follow him @mdrezz.