Langbourne Rust Research, Inc.

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Company History

THE ELECTRIC COMPANY and SESAME STREET gave me my start in 1971  with a series of projects for Children's Television Workshop.  CTW had created 5 pilot programs for a new reading series.  It evaluated them using an observational technique which recorded children's spontaneous attentiveness while they watched the programs on TV.  I conducted a grounded analysis of the data to uncover the critical attributes of high- and low-attention scenes. The results successfully predicted children's attention to new programs, prior to testing, and CTW made the findings into their guidelines for achieving appeal in their new series, ultimately named THE ELECTRIC COMPANY. They contracted for a similar study of SESAME STREET and I decided to launch my own company to do formative research for companies that make things for children.

Middle years
At first my company concentrated on educational and entertainment public programming.  We later broadened our scope to include commercial programming (TV and radio), print, advertising, product development, interactive software and strategic marketing issues.  Our clients have included ABC, CBS, NBC, Children's Television Workshop, The Young Filmaker's Foundation, The Educational Film Center, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The American Heart Association, The American Cancer Society, Sea World, The General Mills Radio Adventure Theater, Family Radio Programming, Siegel Productions, PBS, Quaker Oats, Hunt-Wesson, General Foods, Procter & Gamble, Lipton, McDonald's, Mead-Johnson, Hasbro, Matchbox, Lego, Disney Interactive, Walt Disney Records and numerous advertising agencies.

From 1977-1985, every Autumn,  we did diagnostic testing of the Saturday Morning children's programs of ABC, CBS and NBC.   In 1983, and again in 1992, General Foods' Post Cereals awarded us their children's commercial copy testing business. The Rust copy test method - KidWatch(c) - integrates behavioral observations with verbal measures and has been extensively validated.

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Company Themes

My business has continued to evolve along a number of fronts, all traceable to our earliest projects:

Children and parents.  We have always focused on young people and their families.  In addition to providing quantitative and qualitative research services tailored to the special demands young consumers, we do frequent consulting in the area and conduct seminars on child development, marketing and communications.  The age span we cover reaches from toddlers through teenagers and parents of all ages.

Grounded analysis. The techniques for finding out how people perceive complex stimuli have been refined over the years. There has been useful cross-fertilization from the work of Glaser and Strauss in academia. Grounded analysis has moved the company into the study of parent-child interactions, of products, and a variety of consumer and audience scenarios. Grounded analysis is an especially powerful tool for developing new-concepts, profiling market segments and generating creative guidelines.

Observational measurement. Although we make extensive use of interviews and verbal measures, we place a priority on observing peoples' spontaneous, unselfconscious behavior. Some things can be learned by watching people that can never be learned by talking with them. UserFace(c) uses webcams and custom-built software to study people’s usage of programming and web sites in central location facilities or their own homes. EyesOn(SM) testing uses computers and webcams in a much-refined version of CTW's attention-testing ("distractor") measure, and is central to many of our projects - including KidWatch(c), our standardized service for testing children’s commercials. The value of observational research is particularly great for children (who lack skills of introspection) and for studying low-involvement purchasing with adults, who don't invoke their rational powers during the purchase process. We have done especially productive research in natural settings: homes, restaurants, schools, stores and museums.