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TURNING TRASH TO RESEARCH TREASURE RUMMAGING THROUGH RUBBISH SHOWS ARGENTINE BUYING HABITS

By Published on .

BUENOS AIRES-Never mind research giant A.C. Nielsen's push south. A consulting company here has found garbage-digging the way to the top of the local research heap.

After studying the curbside contributions of 400 homes in this city for the past year, the Dynamics Group consulting company is expanding its aptly named Garbage Data Dynamics study to 1,650 more residences in the greater metropolitan area. The hope: That the saying "one man's junk is another man's treasure" continues to ring true.

The company has already racked up its share of heavyweight clients for the study, including Coca-Cola de Argentina; Mastellone Hermanos, Argentina's largest dairy products marketer; pasta marketer Matarazzo; and two large wine and meat marketers, which pay $4,500 a month for garbage analysis.

What's the advantage to studying garbage?

"By analyzing the disposable containers we can certify that this is real consumption and not what somebody felt like saying or what they `thought' was right for a survey," said Market Dynamics Director Mario Haiquel. "The people in this study don't know that we are studying their garbage so the information is totally objective," added Mr. Haiquel.

While the Dynamics Group compiles marketing related data from garbage, the hands-on work is handled by the Fundacion Senda, a service which also studies refuse for sociological research. This local organization sorts through the 1,900 kilograms of garbage it collects daily for clients which include the Argentine Economy Ministry, local refuse collector Manliba and on occasion the local United Nations office.

Although the two garbage analysis groups may sound similar, they have distinct differences. "The same study by an anthropologist or sociologist would have completely different results," said Mr. Haiquel.

The bulk of Garbage Data Dynamics results come from studying disposable packaging, a growing phenomenon here, especially in the beverage category.

Through the analysis, which he would not discuss, Mr. Haiquel said he can provide data on brand share gain and loss, key competitors and customer loyalty. Additionally, Garbage Data Dynamics can inform marketers of associated consumption, for example, what food product was consumed with a soft drink. Mr. Haiquel said the analysis can also measure the effect of ad campaigns by monitoring the amount of the advertised product in the trash after a big media buy.

He said the last three can be key in helping marketers develop more local and concentrated ad campaigns and point-of-purchase promotions, rather than more expensive broad-based campaigns.

More possibilities exist since garbage is collected daily here and people use small bags with grocery store logos-something which may interest retailers as competition in that sector heats up.

Discarded newspapers, magazines and, interestingly, cable TV guides-ll measured by the study-can also point advertisers in the right direction.

The most fascinating find for Mr. Haiquel has been people's leisure time spending habits.

"In some poor areas we've found that on weekends the people are buying more expensive wines and champagnes. And vice-versa in the wealthier areas."

The study's clients have also had their share of finds.

"This is the only study of its kind here. We can get information about sales from Nielsen, but this shows us more about end consumption," said Eduardo Castro, institutional relations director at Coca-Cola de Argentina.

"The study confirms that Nielsen is doing well and vice-versa and lets us [Coke] see what is happening in a number of sectors that aren't measured. It's also an important tool when we want to analyze environmental issues."

All current Garbage Data Dynamics clients are food or beverage marketers, though Mr. Haiquel is aiming for a much wider base including marketers of household cleaning products, health and beauty aids and paper products.

What happens to the garbage after the study?

"It all gets thrown out. None of it is saved or recycled,"said Mr. Haiquel.

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