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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

2017 Musical Crescendos

Sparkler FiveWelcome to our Sparkler Five series. Here, we’ll be sharing anything from top philosophies through to future trends; what they all have in common is that they’re created within Sparkler, and succinctly kept to 5 points. Hence Sparkler Five.Our second piece is from one of our newest additions to the Sparkler team, Ali Pike. Here, he'll be sharing the top 5 things that are influencing our relationship with music. Enjoy.Anthropologists refer to music as a cultural universe; common to all human cultures worldwide, even if celebrated completely differently. The below explores five contemporary 2017 happenings in this universally loved sphere we call music:1. Subscription platforms continue to surgeSpotify continues to embed its mainstream-defining product globally, leveraging stand-out strengths in its catalogue, playlists, data insights – expect to see this cultural juggernaut re-focussing new efforts towards video and podcast in 2017.Tidal continues to struggle to make an impact in a progressively claustrophobic streaming landscape; with Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon Music and Google Play all battling it out for listenership – and Jay Z’s recent move to take 9 of his 12 albums off Spotify a symbol of this concurrent turf war.2. Embrace the vinyl revivalIn spite of the once unimaginable disruption brought to music by technology, the much talked-about vinyl revival reflects an interesting consumer and cultural behaviour from discerning music lovers. Vinyl sales in the UK have hit a 25-year high, while running simultaneous to the impressive rise and accessibilities brought with subscription and freemium music platforms - these old relics, by contrast, offer a very different listening experience. Think back – when was the last time you listened to an album from start to finish? I’d argue vinyls invite and encourage the listener to stay with a record in its totality, more so perhaps than dipping into Harry Styles’ latest bubblegum pop?   3. Social platforms battle for young musical engagementAs the music industry pivots towards ‘storytelling’ more and more to amplify the presence of artists in the digital space, innovations by social media giants will no doubt prove important. A partnership between Snapchat and Coachella last year perfectly illustrates this progression in music; exciting 40 million viewers who attended the festival remotely via Snapchat Live Story.4. Music/Brand RelationshipsA study in the US by AEG & Momentum found that 83% of millenials leave a venue with greater trust for brands that support a live music experience. More brands understand that they need a music strategy and partnering with an artist or music event in a meaningful way can help position their brands favourably to a highly engaged audience. In recent times, we’ve seen brands as unexpected as John Lewis build music festival partnerships (‘On Blackheath’) to achieve just this.5. Smart soundsStreaming music is getting ever simpler with new smart speakers being introduced to the marketplace. Speakers like Google Home, Amazon Echo and Sonos mean you can tune in to your favourite songs without your laptop or smartphone now. Google and Amazon are showing a huge appetite to build out their respective Home and Echo products, which is poised to significantly change the way content is listened to. At their WWDC conference recently, Apple also announced an up-and-coming launch of their own smart speaker – Apple HomePod. Studios and production houses will no doubt be racing to be first movers on such devices.  

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Opinion

Accelerate!

We live in a world stuck on fast-forward.  In the digital age automation is non-stop as AI disrupts industries from advertising to finance.  The merging of the human and digital worlds draws ever nearer, political paradigms shift in the blink of an eye, and everything we thought solid melts into air. It’s a state of affairs that was predicted, theorised and even celebrated by a radical group of intellectuals: the Accelerationists.Accelerationists argue that technology and capitalism should be sped up and pushed to the extreme.  Against conservatism, socialism or environmental concerns, they favour increased automation, deregulation, the shrinking of the state and the fusion of man and machine.  Are we in the midst of a technological boom time?  Go faster!  Are we ever more dependent on gadgets?  Bring on the age of the cyborg!As a movement, the Accelerationists came together at Warwick University around rogue academic, Nick Land.  Influenced as much by science fiction as philosophy, they endorsed novelist JG Ballard’s view that, ‘what the writers of modern science fiction do today, you and I will do tomorrow.’   In the 1990s they formed the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU), which published texts with titles like Swarmachines that often stray into unreadability in their attempts to imagine the future:‘Urban shock-out short-circuits alphaville eurobotics, jacking up non-organic intersentience – fluxing markets with riotswarm technix racing out of it’s face.’Heady stuff.  By the end of the 90s, Nick Land had taken to living in his office and delivering lectures while lying on the floor.  The CCRU abandoned academia and for a time had its HQ in a rented room above the Body Shop in Leamington Spa.  The group eventually split and Land wound up in Shanghai, where he has since become an ideologue of the alt-right.In recent years, Accelerationism has proliferated and gained in cultural influence.  The recent publication of Inventing the Future by Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek, authors of the 2013 Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics, has moved ideas initiated by Nick Land and the CCRU to the political left.  Inventing the Future looks towards a society where work has already been fully automated and asks how it can be made liveable.  ‘Demand full automation.  Demand universal basic income.  Demand the future.’Accelerationist ideas have also been taken up in Silicon Valley where they have found a natural home amongst thinkers, programmers and entrepreneurs who believe that traditional politics can be set aside in favour of technological solutions to social and economic problems.  The movement has even found its way into music via the Hyperdub label and artists like Kode9 and Burial.As we rush towards a world of intelligent machines, driverless cars, genetic enhancement and electronic prostheses, we can at least reassure ourselves that the Accelerationists got their first.  As one observer of the movement has pointed out, ‘Like it or not, we are all Accelerationists now.’

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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

Luddart

"Do you remember when you almost drowned in the shallow bit of the sea whilst five bald men dressed head-to-toe in brown took pictures of you instead of helping?”“Yes. I do. It took a week for my shoes to dry out.”The above conversation did not happen. It is fictional, just like the cartoon it’s based on. But despite the technical flaws that can’t be rescued by its vibrant colour scheme, the illustration carries a lot of weight in the digital age.  I found this particular picture on my Facebook feed, carrying a few thousand ‘likes’ in tow. The message is clear: people nowadays would not save a drowning person. They wouldn’t even do a Phil Collins and write a song about not saving a drowning person. Instead, they would glibly take a picture and post it online.The sentiment of this beige complaint is not alone. Anyone on social media will often see Luddite art – or ‘Luddart’ as we hip people like to call it – float up into their feeds. But ignoring the flagrant irony of posting anti-tech artwork on the internet for a moment, it’s good to question why this stuff gets such a reaction out of us, because it clearly does.The reasons why Luddart resonates are undoubtedly varied. Some people simply seek to reject any progressions beyond what they see as a halcyon age of bus conductors and rivers of jam.  Others get their kicks from indulging their sanctimonious tendencies, “This is everyone else except me, the protagonist of reality.”  And perhaps the majority simply react as a result of their guilt complexes being stirred up by the big spoon of self-reflection.With access to the sum total of human knowledge, all the people you want to hear from, and a 24/7 worldwide news feed, it’s hard to blame people for shooting that bright blue beam of information directly into their eyes from time to time. And surely it’s what’s going on inside the phones which we should be concerned with. We live in an odd time where differing political opinions are transforming into either absolute truths or #fakenews. A glowing impatience with the current state of affairs has shown itself across numerous populations. So there’s a natural imperative to converse, share jokes and seek truth. We can already see that the discourse between millions can apply massive pressure to those most able to enact change. And if this phenomenon can only be facilitated online and accessed through a device that means I spend less time staring at people on the train, so be it.New technology regularly brings about new behaviour. Nobody got carsick before the invention of the wheel. Yes, a lot of time is wasted looking at cat videos. Yes, online anonymity has allowed people to spread opinions that would otherwise crumble in the fresh air of face-to-face conversation. And yes, the edited life we show online has allowed all to look as wondrous as the cosmos. But if you were to sketch out all the positives of this interconnected era as well as the more exciting tragedies and stack them up, I’m confident the Luddart pile would be residing in the shadow of its chirpier, more valuable & constructive neighbour.  

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Opinion

Maximising Artificial Intelligence

2 MINUTE READArtificial Intelligence is the latest digital age buzz word that will be reverberating around our heads for years to come. It offers the possibility of a better world - cleaner, more efficient and more productive. It is said Artificial Intelligence is already making better decisions for us. Particularly, that it could help us make better use of our time. We have done our own study on human attention in the digital age, and found attention is evolving to fit what we do with it, and particularly the technology we use. However, Artificial Intelligence is not yet sophisticated enough to make better decisions for us. But this is not just about development time, I believe that there is a fundamental difference between the way computers and humans make decisions.Computers are simple maximisers. They work to a metric based world, they make choices by comparing metrics and select the choice that maximises what they are measuring. TV VOD services use a simple maximiser, rating the success of their recommendation algorithm, by the number of recommendations that are viewed for a prolonged period by subscribers.However, humans are reason-based maximisers, they make choices not based on metrics but a working set of values, commitments and customs. They don’t look to maximise metrics, but look at the context in front of them and make decisions based on a series of questions they ask of themselves and their environment. So what do I want to watch is broken down into a series of inter-related questions like, how am I feeling? What sorts of things would suit my mood? And, what do others with me want to watch?Artificial Intelligence can only look and make inferences based on the things it can measure and turn into metrics. So it can definitely look at some of these questions but perhaps not all. Particularly and most significantly it will have difficulty in capturing what the end result of viewing is, what makes it enjoyable and what the audience gets out of it?It is this input which is required to make better recommendations. So what I see as the challenge for Artificial Intelligence is not so much whether it can make intelligent decisions, but whether it can turn the spectrum of human experiences into things it can compute. Until then I will still be looking to my friends, family and work colleagues to tell me what is best to watch - and my time will be better spent as a result.To read more about our thoughts on attention in the digital age here and here.

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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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