Advertising Week NYC: Y&R Panel Explores the Value of Cultural Immersion

Sep 27, 2017

“If you want to create advocacy, you have to foster understanding.” – Laura Cole

Walking a mile in someone’s shoes isn’t just a phrase, it’s a research method. At this year’s Advertising Week in New York, Y&R presented a discussion on the power of cultural immersion to drive creativity. The panel featured Sandy Thompson, Y&R Global CSO, Dick de Lange, Y&R NA CSO, Andrew Jenks, Filmmaker, TV Producer and Author, Lauren Cole, Lieutenant Commander of the U.S. Navy and Julie Arbit, VP Insights at VICE Media.

Y&R’s Sandy Thompson argued that with all the big data available, it’s easy to lose touch with our consumer and the reality of what their life feels like. The solution? Get up from behind our screens, venture out of the office, and spend time with real people. Thats why we created Y&R eXploring - our unique approach to insights through cultural immersion. It takes research from behind the focus group mirror and out into the world to find the simple human truths that connect brands and people.

Currently, eight of our strategiests are eXploring four different cities across America’s heartland: Memphis, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Phoenix, in a project called "Days Out: The Middle." They're goal is to get to know real consumers through real experiences. No “respondents.” No two-way mirrors. No focus groups. To follow their journey visit:

Here are our key quotes and takeaways from the panel:

  • People want to share their experiences and world with you. Showing you’re willing to learn makes all the difference. “If you give a little bit of yourself, you’ll get so much back.” – Sandy Thompson
  • Cultural immersion goes beyond Q&A. It’s about understanding people by digging deep into their lives and communities. “There’s no substitute for experiencing something yourself.” – Julie Arbit
  • Gaining trust is key. Any time you go into a new culture, you have to meet the challenge of fostering understanding and acceptance. “It’s not about objectivity, it’s about deep empathy.” –Dick de Lange
  • Cultural immersion is a moral obligation. Y&R’s Dick de Lange believes we have a responsibility to make sure we’re representing people in a way that’s relevant and important to them versus only how brands want to portray them.
  • For effective cultural immersion, be humble, be vulnerable, make friends, ask questions and don’t make assumptions. “Cultural immersion is about putting yourself out there and getting involved.” – Sandy Thompson

View the full panel here: Advertising Week Replay