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News

We are Hiring

The Sparkler team is expanding! We are currently hiring for the following roles. Associate Partner - InsightWe are looking for someone who has worked within the realm of qualitative research for at least 8 years. They should have worked across a wide range of project types and clients, with an emphasis on strategic projects, ideally with digital, media and technology clients. The Associate Partner role sits at the heart of the biggest team in our business, the Insight team.  This team has around 25 people in it, including four other Associate Partners, each of whom looks after a team of 4 to 5 people who specialize in either qualitative or quantitative research. The team as a whole works across most, if not all, of our key clients. If you are interested in this role, please send your CV to joinus@sparkler.co.ukJunior VideographerWe are looking for a Junior Videographer to join our growing in-house design studio. This is a creative role that focuses on creating high quality, short insight-led films that capture the heart of the consumer. It would work closely with our Head of Design, qualitative and quantitative teams, and our wide range of clients.The ideal candidate should have at least 2 years’ agency or freelance experience who can take our AV expertise a step forward. They should also have a formal qualification in film or documentary making i.e. Bachelor’s degree or higher. They must be a creative, with an appreciation for strong communication. And should also be able to take on other design work, including animation and graphic design.If you are interested in this role, please send your CV to joinus@sparkler.co.ukPanels and Communities The Panels and Communities team provide on-going insights using a series of digital platforms. The team combines top drawer account handling, with the best quantitative and qualitative research skills. They work with some of our biggest clients including McDonalds, eBay, Google and EE. We are hiring across all levels , so if you’re interested in working for the P&C team please send your CV to joinus@sparkler.co.ukCareers at SparklerWe are always on the lookout for talented, enthusiastic and people with an entrepreneurial spirit to join the team. To read more about working at Sparkler please click here. And if you think you might fit the bill we’d love to hear from you. Please send your CV to joinus@sparkler.co.uk

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Opinion

Picture or it didn’t happen

Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:107%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-language:EN-US;} I am sure a lot of you know this sentence, or at least what it stands for. The urge you have to get the phone out to capture that crazy or special, probably cat-related thing happening in front of your eyes, excuse me – your camera. To be honest, like many other Millennials, I love taking photos and I’m very guilty of the above. However, I recently started seeing a certain ambivalence in our relationship with the imagery documenting our lives.Me standing in the garden wearing pink leather Lederhosen with a smug grin on my face – that happened. No doubt about that, unfortunately. My mother is the proud owner of the physical photograph taken in 1991. Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:107%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-language:EN-US;} But how about this?I am sure you’re seeing through my game already. Of course this image is not genuine. It was taken and manipulated with a new app called FaceApp. It uses machine-learning algorithms to morph portrait photos and features settings like 'smile'. The results are eerily convincing.However, there are limits - currently the app seems to work best when the subject looks straight into the camera. But still, this might be a glimpse into future technology. Maybe parents will be able to make their kids smile in all their holiday photos, even if it was riddled with conflict and a lack of age-appropriate entertainment.And there you have the discrepancy. We’re trying to capture our lives in images more and more, while their truth value goes down at the same time. More photos worth less and less.What’s the harm in that, you’re asking. First of all, let me say, you’re asking all the right questions to propel my narrative forward. So, thank you. Secondly, the harm in this goes beyond erroneous documentation. Take for example the study by Wade, Garry, Read & Lindsay (2002). They photoshopped childhood images of their adult participants into the image of a hot air balloon.  Even though no participant actually experienced that ride, half created a false memory - just by looking at the image and trying to recall it. They even started ‘recalling’ details such as who took the picture, or the ticket price. And memories don’t just exist isolated from the here and now. False memories can alter your behaviour quite drastically. After all our behaviour is largely based on past experiences. Change the memory, change the behaviour.Sure, in times of Photoshop and fake news we already know that photos aren’t necessarily a sign of genuinity, and that might make us a little less gullible. But when manipulating even facial expressions becomes a matter of entertainment, living in everybody’s pockets, what technology will be able to fill the gap? What will be able to help us anchor our statements and be sure our memories are real? What will be our new “Picture or it didn’t happen”?

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Opinion

Vocal Fry

3 MINUTE READOn a recent phone call my friend introduced me to the term ‘vocal fry’. She did an impression of it and I knew straight away what she was referring to. For those who, like me, are late to the party, this is a relatively new term introduced to describe a voice (usually female) that has an affectedly low-pitched, rough or creaky sound to it. You probably just need to hear it for any of this to make sense. The term fascinated me. People have studied this? This is a thing? Answer: it is a thing and people have a lot to say about it. According to research and authoritative opinion, speaking like this is bad, really bad. It makes you appear less noteworthy, less serious, less clever. It sits in the same box as other language bastardisations such as punctuating sentences with the word ‘like’ or ‘upspeaking’ (when you end a statement as a question). I’m not saying that I was in the dark over the many things your voice says about you. As with body language, regional accent and what clothes you wear, there’s a multitude of ways in which others judge you. But that doesn’t necessarily make it right.I started to think about the ‘scientific’ claim that using vocal fry makes someone appear less intelligent in, say, a job interview. There has to be more to this. Indeed, are there not plenty of voices, affected or not, which are annoying? This doesn’t necessarily mean their job prospects are less, and isn’t this subjective? This feels like another way in which women are being policed, in this case often by the older generation in a position to hire them – or not – and determine their future success.   So I carried out a quick internet search. I asked “Which actors have distinctive voices?” and was presented a list of 100 actors who supposedly met this criteria, and just 7 of the actors on this list were female. This was the case with many of the search results I came across. Without wishing to cast any doubt over their talent, I would argue that many of the world’s most famous male actors (Nicolas Cage or Christopher Walken, for instance) have affected, gravelly and often strange voices – perhaps even ‘frying’ their vocal chords in the same way young women are – and this hasn’t halted their career prospects or made them appear unintelligent in any way. In fact, it may have even boosted their careers.Speech – like many things – is learned behaviour and trends come and go pretty quickly. In my view, it’s time to stop judging how young women speak and focus more on what they’re actually saying… even if it is in a gravelly undertone.  

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Case Study

Reinvigorating Gordon’s Gin

Gordon’s is one of the oldest and most important brands in the Diageo portfolio, operating in one of the most dynamic, fun and fastest growing categories in the world of drinks. However, Gordon’s was facing competition from a whole host of new pretenders in the gin category. Over a number of years the brand had tried to find a new place, but had struggled to find the right articulation of purpose and its role in people’s lives.In the case of Gordon’s there was no shortage of equity or things it could stand for, we just weren’t sure which would connect best with the modern consumer. We used in depth online qualitative research followed up with ethno-depth interviews across Europe to get to grips with what Gordon’s areas of equity meant to people. We followed this up with semiotic and cultural analysis to understand how these themes occur in culture and how they could be executed by a brand.After a series of workshops and working closely with Gordon’s creative agency: we arrived at the new Gordon’s brand purpose. This was launched through a new creative which gave new life, new direction, and a whole new sense of freshness to the brand.

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Case Study

High Res Shopper Journeys

Sainsbury’s wanted a more dynamic understanding of what customers go through in a supermarket – identifying where, when and how Sainsbury’s could improve the experience.Sparkler joined several shoppers across the UK, recording their whole experience, from sofa to store to sofa. This was forensically analysed, with each behaviour and mind-set recorded in ‘high resolution’. This highlighted opportunities which we jointly created concepts for in a creative workshop.This real-world data was used to identify moments that shoppers are open to meaningful initiatives. It also identified key moments to marry digital technologies to. The high resolution shopper journeys formed an innovation platform for new digital services.

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Opinion

Sparkler Five

Welcome to the first edition in our new series of articles, Sparkler Five. Here, we’ll be sharing anything from top philosophies through to lessons learnt; what they all have in common is that they’re created within Sparkler, and succinctly kept to 5 points. Hence Sparkler Five.Our inaugural piece is from one of our Founding Partners, Magnus Willis. With 25 years of experience to share, it’s a great way to kick off. Enjoy.This year, it’ll be 25 years since I started work.  Of course it has been a period of tumultuous change, but as someone ‘celebrating’ his silver anniversary I feel now is a good time to reflect on what’s stayed the same.  And in particular the advice I’d share with people starting out – what philosophies I think will set you in good stead for a rewarding and successful working life.  So… 1. LEADERS ARE READERSRead, read, read…and then read some more.  You are now responsible for your own education and that it is a responsibility you need to take seriously. Read things that provoke and stimulate as well as confirm and reinforce.  Read biographies of great people.  Keep plugged into what’s going on now. Read to help you develop and progress and solve problems. Don’t stop.2. SUCCESS IS A LOUSY TEACHER I hate not doing well. If you’ve been top of your class at school and uni, you’ll probably be used to doing well, but starting work can be tricky – you’re new, don’t know the ropes and the office is full of people who have real skills and real experience.  Almost inevitably things will go wrong.  And you’ll feel mortified. Don’t. It’s not worth it. Take a moment. Work out what went wrong. And then make sure it never happens again. Simple.3. FAIL TO PREPARE; PREPARE TO FAIL This is perhaps the most obvious of the lot, but one that I keep coming back to.  And perhaps one, as you get more senior, you can be ever more guilty of. In short, don’t believe your own hype. Don’t think that ‘busking it’ is ever the best policy. Be professional. Write agendas. Take time to prepare. Get there early. Come on!4. FIND NICE PEOPLE AND WORK WITH THEMLife is too short to spend time with people who are arrogant, selfish or rude.  So when starting out, find an organisation that has people you like and will want to spend time with.  When it comes to hiring, find people whose company you think you will enjoy. When hiring I now always ask myself whether I could spend a 3 hour train journey with them. And, finally, if you ever have the luxury of choosing your clients, the same criteria apply – nice people, every time.5. KEEP IN TOUCHWhen I worked for someone else I never appreciated the importance of keeping in touch with people – Sparkler’s early days would have been a lot more straightforward if I had! Your connections can be a source of friendship, advice, stimulation and work.  From a practical perspective, the bulging address book has been replaced with LinkedIn.  It only takes a second but, like a pension, if you start early you’ll reap the rewards later!So that’s it – five simple philosophies to help you on your way.  Good luck. Work hard. Stay positive. Now it’s over to you!

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Opinion

Pixelated Learning

3 MINUTE READ Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:107%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-language:EN-US;} Watching a child pick up a toy for the very first time is an awe-inspiring experience. Stimulated by novelty and colour, a child’s reaction is often, wide eyes, a smile, and a look of wonder. What goes on inside a mind of a child during this time is indescribable, to them the possibilities are endless. As such, a child’s creativity is highest during these early years. Research has shown that 98% of children can exhibit ‘genius’ levels of creative thinking, whilst only 2% of adults can do the same. Essentially, humanity begins with play.Play is important because it contributes to cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development in all youth. Studies have shown that skills developed from play at childhood can remain into adulthood. So, a child that unlocks an imaginary door so to speak, can be set for life. Play is so important that the UN recognises it as the right of every child.And, yet, despite all the benefits derived from play, many say it is in decline. The concern is that ‘free play’ in its conventional free-spirited form is being replaced by online play. And in these online environments, the worry is that play is becoming more deterministic and an isolating activity between child and screen.Whilst it may be true that screen-time is increasing, new platforms are emerging where kids can play in unrestricted digital worlds.  Sandbox platforms like Minecraft allow for play where room for the imagination is vast. Hence, the name ‘sandbox’ – a style of game in which minimal limitations are placed on the gamer. These new digital platforms are helping kids to develop cognitive as well as technical skills.Sandbox games are much more inclusive than their non-sandbox counterparts. Children can create, share and discuss creations with classmates, family and friends – both near and far. And parents have reported that they’re able to connect and learn from their children in more ways than they thought possible.So, whilst screens are encroaching  into all our lives, there is hope that traditional aspects of play might be kept intact after all. If we can maintain the benefits of traditional play in digital environments children will not lose out. Far from it, they will become more fluent in the skills which will be needed to navigate a truly digital world.

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Case Study

Studio Showreel

We believe that research needs to live and breathe in order to reach its full potential, and that visualising research in engaging ways is one of the most effective ways of achieving this.Below is a short video which illustrates how our studio team helps to activate insights through design. 

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