Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Talkin' dirty after dark

From time to time, I get called by a marketing firm to participate in consumer focus groups. This is a paid gig and doesn't come around that often, simply because they don't want to talk to the same people over and over again. They're also usually seeking feedback from certain target demographics so even if you're called, there's no guarantee you'll be selected unless you make it through a detailed screening process. It just so happens that I recently dropped significant cash on car repairs so I really need money right now. So when the call came in with an offer for $100 for a two hour discussion, I was thrilled. After you do enough of these, sometimes you can get a read from the screener what they're looking for and you can kind of steer your answers toward what they want ("Did I say I don't drink ginger ale? What I meant was I not only drink it but frequently buy extra so I can bathe in it."). It's kind of the opposite of what you try to pull when you're called for jury duty; you actually want to be detained and locked in a windowless room with a bunch of strangers for a period of time.

As it turns out, the nature of this particular study was adult entertainment, specifically that which is available on cable television. I don't think I'm allowed to tell you the brand. Maybe you can guess. I don't know. I don't think I'm even allowed to give hints. Sorry. Anyway, as part of the screening process, the lady who called from the research firm asked the usual questions about age, race, line of work and such but also concentrated on two particular points:

  1. You will be required to view and provide feedback regarding sexually explicit video clips and images.
  2. You must be comfortable speaking in front of others and discussing and viewing adult content material.

She made a point of asking about these points several times, which is totally understandable. Obviously, they want to make sure they get people who aren't shy with what can be a sensitive topic. Now, I like to think I'm pretty liberal but I'd also like to think I'm discrete and polite, and that can come off as being a bit of a prude. So while I'm not necessarily uncomfortable talking about porn, it's probably not among the first three or four topics I'm liable to bring up while making small talk with someone. I don't think that makes me a weirdo but maybe I'm wrong. Like I said, being a veteran I kind of know how to manipulate the game at this point. And being desperate for money, I'm willing to do whatever it takes.

SCREENER LADY: "What, if any adult men's magazines do you read on a regular basis?"
ME: "Read? Hmmm..."
SCREENER LADY: "Well, you know...um, enjoy."
ME: "I'm not sure what the name of it is because it's all in German".
SCREENER LADY: "Oh. Ok. Uhh..."
ME: "Which is odd, since all the models are Asian, you know?"
SCREENER LADY: "Well, all right. Uhh..."
ME: "I just ask the guy behind the counter for one of the ones where they're all wearing rubber outfits."
SCREENER LADY: "That's great. Now, um, how can you assure me that you will be comfortable discussing this type of material in front of strangers?"
ME: "Well, would you like to hear me recite a list of crude euphemisms for female genitalia to the tune of 'Turkey In the Straw?'"
SCREENER LADY: "Uh, no. That won't be necessary."
ME: "Are you sure? There's two verses and a chorus..."
SCREENER LADY: "No, no, that's ok. I think you'll do fine. These are just questions I need to ask. You understand, right?"

Sure, I understood. The main thing was that I was in!

The discussion took place tonight and consisted of me and nine other dudes (surprise, no women) sitting around talking about what kind of programming could be added to a certain cable tv channel to get us ten dudes to spring pay for it. There's always one person who is more vocal at these things who tends to dominate (or try to anyway) the discussion who made an appeal for programming with some character development so it would draw his wife into it and become something they both could enjoy together. Doesn't that sound nice? However, this same guy later in the discussion also said he'd subscribe if the directors would "just pan down and zoom in already". I guess the characters he wanted to develop wouldn't have speaking parts. I'm not sure how much his Mrs. would enjoy that, but what do I know? The guy moderating the groups said he was only talking to 20 people, our group of ten dudes and another ten that was in before us, so we all represented, like, 10 to 20 million dudes each. That's a lot of dudes and a lot of responsibility! Suddenly. I kind of felt like a senator. A dirty senator ("The chair recognizes the distinguished gentleman from Smutslvania." "Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm here to express concern about the rising price of petroleum products..."). When it was my turn to talk, I campaigned for entertainment in adult entertainment. Now that I was guaranteed to get paid I didn't have to worry very much about what I said. I told him if it's adult entertainment show me some programming with comedy, drama, sports, current events...but strictly for grown-ups. Seriously, I probably would pay for that. Does anybody remember that's sort of what we were all promised cable tv was going to be when it first started? But I don't think that's what they were looking for as they kept going back to Mr. Pan Down, Zoom In. I kind of feel like I let my constituents down and they probably won't elect me to a second term. Not that I mind. I was only in it for the $100, which is a bargain rate, considering that there are people that get $3.95 a minute to talk about sex. What can I say? I'm cheap.


citizen jane said...

I'm so going to steal and use "just pan down and zoom in already" -- although probably in a different context. That is unintentional hilarity at its best.

Wildhair said...

This is priceless. I never get these calls to duty. haha I just said 'duty' ~ I want money. I need extra money. I could talk until my tongue falls off about nonsense if required. Show me the money! (not the money shot)

Why, it's Clark! said...

Jane: I don't think I underst...ohhhhhhhhhh, wait a minute!

Wild: If I'd been paid a quarter for every time the term "money shot" was mentioned, I think I'd have made more than $100. You should be able to find one of those marketing places. They have offices all over.