General Research Services

Audience Response System Sessions

The Audience Response System developed by FM3 collects and analyzes public opinion data with state-of-the-art "Perception Analyzer" technology provided by MSInteractive.

In research calling for the testing of active visual and audio materials, such as television or radio programming, this electronic data collection and analysis system makes precise, moment-by-moment, measurements of the reactions of individual test session participants while participants are in groups of as few as 10 to more than 100. Further, the ARS can integrate this testing and analysis capability with survey type questioning and follow-up, focus group style discussion to make a complete program of quantitative and qualitative inquiry in a single session.

In many instances, the ARS is the best research method for measuring the specific strengths and weaknesses of visual or audio materials or for questioning about sensitive subjects.

FM3 has successfully used the Audience Response System in applications as diverse as gauging the persuasiveness of election campaign advertising, assessing the impact of commercial advertising and public policy messages for major corporations, eliciting the perceptions of potential users of a transportation system, ascertaining the attitudes of a company's employees on multiple subjects and exploring public reaction to the features of a municipal solid waste disposal project.

The perception analyzer hardware used in the Audience Response System is very user-friendly. ARS session participants register their responses to active or static test materials by turning a dial pointer on a simple hand held device about the size of a TV remote control. The hand-held device's dial is calibrated with numbers from 0 to 100, and respondents turn the dial pointer to calibrated positions to instantly register their responses. The individual hand-held devices relay the test session participant's responses instantaneously to a laptop computer at the test site, either by wireless radio signal or by hard wire hook-up. The computer's software immediately compiles and displays responses to research questions. The simple dial device permits respondents to communicate their attitudes and perceptions without having to divert their attention from test materials and without the potential bias and annoyance of surrounding conversation.

Since each test session participant responds individually but simultaneously with others in the test session audience, the perception analyzer eliminates the potential for bias from respondent interaction while producing immediate results.

The ARS provides researchers with four types of data collection formats: moment-by-moment, categorical, continuous and trade-off. Each has its unique purpose and method of displaying results.

In the moment-by-moment mode, respondents react in a free flow fashion to test material — for example, a television or radio commercial — by turning their individual dial pointer right for a positive and left for a negative response. The computer reads the dials once every second and displays the cumulative response in the form of a real time, moving line graph and a final mean score.

Used in this mode, the Audience Response System perception analyzer not only tells you whether people like or dislike the test material overall, but also what images and features in particular elicit negative or positive responses.

The categorical format offers respondents a question and a choice of answers just like a survey. The dial pointer is simply turned to the appropriate numerical value that is designated for the answer. For example, 1 on the dial can represent "yes" while 2 can represent "no" and 3 can be "don't know." This is ideal for basic demographics, frequencies on "yes/no" type questions, and it is also an excellent method for testing pre and post reaction to advertising materials. The resulting bar graph on the ARS computer provides an instant visual impression of the response patterns to facilitate quick analysis.

The continuous format allows respondents to dial anywhere on the 0 to 100 scale to reflect the intensity of an opinion or attitude. For example, 20 can be "very important" while 40 can be "somewhat important." The resulting graph displays the mean and standard error for the total and the data for up to four subgroups.

The trade off configuration presents the respondent with pairs of options. Respondents record their preferences and the strength of those preferences by turning the dial pointer left or right starting from the neutral position of 50. The more a dial pointer is turned in either direction, the stronger the preference. The resulting bar graphs show the response to each individual test and the total of all the tests.

The four data collection formats -- moment-by-moment, categorical, continuous and trade off -- provide access to a range and depth of information that is unattainable from either survey or focus group research alone. The ARS bridges the gap between qualitative and quantitative research methods by providing the stability of a larger sample size with the opportunity for discussion. And this theater style system allows a large group of respondents to participate simultaneously, thereby improving research economics on a per capita basis.

The client, as well as being able to see and hear the session in progress, can view test results as the ARS on-site computer tabulates and displays responses instantaneously in graphic form. If clients feel more information or clarification is needed, they can instruct the moderator to initiate discussion or prepare another question for computer input.

ARS data collection is often integrated with other form of data collection in the same session, including "write-down" of thoughts or impressions and interspersed open-ended, "focus group" style discussion. FM3's staff and team of experienced special ARS support consultants can code and report "write-down" comments in Excel spread sheets within hours of completion of an ARS session. This is particularly important as part of the analysis process for identifying effective commercials in a fast-paced election campaign.

FM3 assures optimum value from the use of the Audience Response System by handling the complete process from start to finish. FM3's services include research design and research session logistics, including precise target audience recruitment. FM3 finds the right people, gets them to the session, has them participate as respondents in a well thought-out research process and sends them home with a positive and interesting experience. FM3 performs quantitative and qualitative data analysis, some of it on an instantaneous basis, and delivers meaningful research results in a timely manner.