Getting inside your morning commute

June 17, 2015

A tangential learning from a brilliant brief

Traffic – or more specifically, being stuck in traffic – is undoubtedly one of the most regular things that make us go mental. Everyone has had a time when they have had to channel their best Bruce Banner keeping his alter ego, The Hulk, at bay (my subtle way of showing my excitement for the new Avengers: Age of Ultron, thank you).

However, the car can also be considered one of the last few bastions of mental refuge; a little bubble of personal space created around us, where we can truly be ourselves.

We sing out loud unabashedly or muse over the day’s happenings – it’s the other shower, where we can spend time alone with ourselves. It’s a rare, and underappreciated, space in a culture that has a complicated relationship with ‘alone time’. Or, in the very same space, we could have tête-à-têtes with a child or spouse, who would otherwise be running around with divided attention.

Even public transport, by definition not a personal space, can provide a break from the day’s duties, watching as houses rush past us or relaxing to our favourite playlists.

This is one of the tangential learnings that we didn’t expect to find when we undertook an extensive look into the daily lives of Australians as they commuted to and from work, school and university, and across their weekly routines.

Our foray into morning and evening journeys started with a unique brief from a client who asked us to help them understand the big picture of how outdoor communications play a role in Australians’ personal lives today.

Ethnographies – Old school methodology, new school method

It was a big topic. In order to do it justice, we tackled it from multiple angles – from large social and demographic trends, right down to people talking us through their personal thoughts and feelings.

We started with a wide scope, viewing it through the lens of our current cultural studies, and the substantial past work that the client had commissioned. Once we had refined and developed our hypotheses about the type of media Australians consume daily, we matched it up with the daily reality of how people interact with media on their daily journeys.

To do this, we immersed ourselves in their world – in their car or bus or train or tram. We got up close and personal with commuters with help from our new, versatile and powerful action cameras that fit in the palm of your hand. These cameras are typically used to explore lions’ dens and death-defying stunts, but we harnessed them to help consumers forget they were being filmed, to ease them into a more natural conversation.

Image courtesy of GoPro

Rich and unexpected insights in a tangible output

With our tried-and-tested ethnographic approach, and our new school equipment, we found a way to enter into the personal bubble of the daily commute – people subconsciously flicking through their car radio stations or staring dreamily out the window of the train. Through this, we managed to stay as close as possible to the actual experience, exploring different travelling occasions over an extended period of time.

Image source: Flickr user, tripp

It was an amazing, rich and revealing journey for us as researchers and strategists (and for a client who isn’t afraid to ask the big questions), and our outputs have since advised a nation-wide social media strategy.


Thumbnail image source: Flickr user, Alfredo Mendez