ethnography & semiotics

In Abbey-Melnik, we also produce a variety of ethnographic films. Our primary focus is quality film production and research by using an audiovisual language that explores social and cultural issues. This research tool can truly capture the story of consumers/users by reflecting their preferences, desires, or tendencies. We record the participant’s behavior, reactions, emotions, customs, experiences, and comments.

Our in-home team is consisted by young, modern, trained filmmakers and anthropologists who are involved and immersed in developing relationships with the given research participants. We aim towards an empathic and original filming style that displays exciting and captivating stories. We care about informational language as well as a compellingly visual material.

The video editing is also provided and can be arranged/discussed depending on the style the client is looking for. We welcome any feedback from our clients and provide access to the film throughout the different stages.

Abbey-Melnik can also provide the raw material of the films we produce.


Drawing from anthropology we conduct ethnographic research for many clients. We use a variety of techniques to study and understand people up-close and in-context, including immersions, video biographies, ethno-diaries, mobile ethnography safaris, cultural analysis and cultural studies, life stories, myth debunking- in various field sites, e.g. dinner parties, pubs, clubs, shop-along and so on. We carry out research in a variety of field sites, from homes, offices, shops, commuter trains, cars, gardens and bars, clubs and restaurants.

One of the most interesting and fun projects we conducted was building a European panel for ethnographic purposes for a personal care client to assess new product concepts on a monthly basis. Not only did we experience the intimate process of leg waxing in the bathrooms of our respondents but we even created a special environment for trial out-of-home. Also, every step of the way was web-streamed so our American clients could witness the process and be part of it.

We have mingled with consumers at market-fairs in Voronezh, Moscow and Beijing and Guangzhou; observed/partied in SanFran pubs, Manhattan clubs, and Ecuadorian clubs, eaten Mexican rancheras, drank with Brazilians right in the streets of Rio, shopped with moms in Santiago de Chile, collected “artifacts” related to liquor in Canada, Argentina, Turkey; had lunch in a shanty town in Caracas. Oh, yes, we have a lot of amazing stories to tell…


Semiotics is generally underused and under-rated. However, following Umberto Eco, we believe that every cultural phenomenon (packaging, creative, logos, music-icons signs, etc.) can be studied as communication. As a consequence, we use semiotics to shed light and materialize that of which respondents are unaware of -and, therefore, cannot put into words-, answering questions such as why a logo is rejected, how a brand stepped into a new imagery territory without losing its essence, and so on.

Our resident semiotician is one of the best in the world and our clients can attest to this. He teaches at Doctoral levels in the most prestigious universities (he is right now at Essex University delivering a paper on Sartre and Pasolini but he also founded the first market research Department in one of the top ad agencies in Argentina!) .

We have conducted numerous interesting studies for clients. We worked together with Chinese and Russian semioticians to help a client interested in launching their soup brand in these markets. We studied the meanings of chocolate among women for a confectionery client, we analyzed the meaning of monsters, of optimism and the role cigarettes had among women.