Queen Of Pop Checks Herself

The Telegraph: They have been used to sell everything from washing powder to New Labour. But now it seems that even Madonna has woken up to the power of focus groups.
The most successful female artist in chart history has chosen songs for her next album after secretly trying them out on nightclubbers.
The tunes, with her distinctive vocals removed, were played in clubs from Liverpool to Ibiza throughout June. The reaction of the crowds were filmed and used by the 47-year-old mother of two to determine the final track listing for Confessions On A Dancefloor, her 10th studio album.
The idea of Madonna seeking affirmation for her work before it has been released has surprised many in the worlds of advertising and music. After all, she has sold more than 175 million albums and 75 million singles worldwide.
Claire Beale, the editor of Campaign magazine, said the research could be seen as a crisis of confidence for someone normally known for their business acumen.
“This is a new one on me,” she said. “In the advertising world, creative people tend to distrust focus groups precisely because they can undermine originality and bring everything down to the lowest common denominator.
“Having said that, people in the advertising industry are becoming increasingly reliant on them because there is a growing lack of confidence about what people want.
“Madonna is obviously running her material past a very niche audience rather than a focus group. But it still suggests she feels a need for endorsement. Like a lot of people who work in advertising she is far older than her target audience. She may feel this is a useful way of reconnecting with a younger generation.”

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. “The most successful female artist in chart history” – successful in what regards?
    Interesting take on focus groups.

  2. while this may seem new to some, in the dance music and hip-hop world this is an old hat. many records are white labeled or test pressed and handed out to top DJs to guage reactions and to build some ground swell of interest.
    madonna just has the resources to take it a bit futher.

  3. Someone should tell her the well known fact that 80% of new products tested in focus groups fail in the market place. But, I suppose, in common with today’s BDA’s (Big Dumb Agencies) the paranoia regarding failure and loss of the account (in her case, audience) that always happens in any relationship drives desperation. In spite of all the bullshit about “how exciting the new advertsing will be” from your later post on Lee Daley, nothing fundamental will ever change in the ad biz. The agency/client model is broken, and no one has a clue how to fix it.
    Wow… Now I feel better.

  4. Recently did some research for a project:
    Without a focus group,
    “90% percent of new products fail once they hit the shelves”. (Harvard Business Online)
    As well,
    “(Hung Up) stayed in the UK top ten for ten weeks, a career high for Madonna that beat her previous record of nine weeks set by “Like a Virgin” and “Vogue”. “Hung Up” was also at number one for a record-breaking seven weeks on the UK download charts.” (Wikipedia)
    Whatever she’s been doing this year, it’s been working. Get over it.