Why McCann WorldGroup's 20,000 Staffers Are Swarming the Streets

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Look around your city today and there's a good chance you'll see a staffer from one of the McCann Worldgroup agencies roaming the streets asking people questions about their shopping habits and local cultures.

And if you miss them in person, you can easily spot photos of McCann Worldgroup's 20,000 staffers across more than 100 countries on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #TruthAboutStreet. They'll all be wearing matching T-shirts -- including Chairman-CEO Harris Diamond.

The "Truth About Street" study, which started in Latin America four years ago and hadn't been done globally until now, aims to put McCann Worldgroup's employees face to face with consumers to the tune of an estimated $2.5 million worth of time. The agencies within McCann Worldgroup include McCann, Weber Shandwick, Momentum and more.

"Too much research is still based on point-of sale-purchases or what people are answering rather than necessarily observing people and how they actually act, and there is a distinction between the two," says Diamond, who plans on hitting the New York streets Tuesday afternoon.

Each street team is asked to conduct a survey with passersby that includes six questions, such as "Which products do you prefer to shop for in person rather than online and why?" and "Can you think of one brand or company that captures the spirit of where you live?"

The teams are splitting up duties that including interviewer, photographer, producer, scribe and community engagement manager.

McCann Worldgroup employees kicked off the process in Australia at 5 p.m. EST on Monday. To track all the social media posts and team outings, McCann New York's office set up an "Engine Room" filled with strategists, social-media specialists and senior leaders, many whom pulled all-nighters to stay up to speed.

Ad Age went to check out the action in the Engine Room and despite the lack of sleep, the staff was full of excitement about the initiative kicking off in the U.S. today.

The initiative is not mandatory, but McCann estimates that about 90 percent of staff will get involved. As of 10 a.m. EST, the Engine Room determined that more than 10,000 staffers worldwide were participating, particularly in Europe, Asia and India. Each region has a dedicated Whatsapp to stay connected and McCann also created a global Whatsapp to help with any troubleshooting issues.

McCann Worldgroup President Luca Lindner, who launched the first Truth About Street in Latin America four years ago and had the idea to do it globally, says the reaction so far from employees has been "beyond belief." Even McCann New York's Concierge, Juan Santos, was sporting the T-shirt this morning.

"I hope to see is that the overall experience for all our employees around the world has been positive," says Lindner, who will be asking people the survey questions around the Empire State Building. "This is crucial because it means we may be able to do something similar in the future."

Suzanne Powers, McCann Worldgroup Global Chief Strategy Officer, who is hitting the Rockefeller Center area this afternoon for interviews, says that quantitative research can only show you so much. This massive amount of qualitative research, while "hard to tabulate," will add to the richness of the agency's other data because it's "ethnographic, behavioral and it gets to where people live, and you need that layer," she says.

Findings from this study, coupled with McCann's other recent qualitative and quantitative research, are expected to be released in the first quarter of 2018.

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