I find this intervention of Blansky about his "market" very interesting.
I think the question of the OP could be slightly twisted in saying he asked whether the average user understands subtleties, cares for details, looks with a "choosy" attitude at photographic works, or whether he's only satisfied with the first impression, good enough. High saturation - fake skin etc. usually satisfy the viewer at first glance, but gives him after a short while an aftertaste of fake and unnatural.
I think this question could have applied to both film and to digital but, ultimately, the thread shifted toward the old same and beloved "analogue vs digital" debate, under this assumption: oversaturated = digital, subtle nuances and quality work = analogue.
Blansky reconducted this I think to a more interesting ground: clients do look for quality, and subtle nuances, but they don't care about the process, just like - I would say - the average woman wouldn't care about the engine under the hood.
The average man, though, does care about the engine under the hood!
An aspect of appreciations of objects is in the mind. A nice article about a luxury watch I read once talked about how a rich watch collector one day opened a certain woman watch (there is people who actually opens them to look at them with a loupe, just like we do with slides, and observe the accurate craftsmanship of each cod etc.).
Well, the man found that the quartz movement was kept, inside the case, by a horribile dictu plastic support. When he reassembled the watch, and since that moment on, even if the plastic was not visible inside the case (no sapphire back), the mind knew the plastic was inside there and that made that watch somehow ugly. Every time he looked at the watch he saw the plastic with his mind.
I understand him. Most of us do not stop at what we see because we cannot ignore what the mind knows. The most perfectly imitated synthetic pearl will not have breathed on the sea bed. The most perfectly imitated synthetic diamond will not have been forged into perfection by unimaginable heat, pressure and time. We simply cannot afford to ignore our mind.
This goes back to Blansky observation: 99.99% of people don't care about film or digital. I understand that.
But I think that is also because their mind doesn't see the difference. For some people, rightly or wrongly, analogue means "handmade" and digital means "machine forged" in a sense. Our question is: why the people who would appreciate "handmade" in let's say marble work would not care about it in a family portrait?
I don't have an answer.
Maybe really there is no difference to see and all the "handmade" thinking can be reduced to mental masturbation by a few Luddites who have a bad relationship with death (us).
But on the other hand maybe our culture is beginning just now to discover "handmade" qualities in photography, just like what happened in watchmaking during the Quartz revolution: for a few years quartz movements completely obliterated mechanical ones, and it took several years before the mind of people would begin again being attracted by the tiny cogs dancing in a metal case.
Quartz watches are more precise. But most of those portrait buyers would learn to love a mechanical watch if they were somehow introduced to its magic. "Under the hood" counts a lot to some people.
Possibly, those same portrait buyers would learn to love and understand "the process", and not just the result, if they were somehow introduced to the world of analogue photography and its "magic", "craftmanship", "handmade" flair. Maybe one day somebody will make a TV documentary showing enlarging in the dark and suddenly portrait photographers will begin having to use film again
I have an anecdote. The wife of a friend of my sister is a professional photographer, IIRC a portraitist. He told me that around 10% (IIRC) of her clients ask them specifically for analogue work. That was in Paris last year.
Europe, more than the US, is "tied" to analogue photography, and probably to analogue watches as well. And I imagine that in Europe, broadly speaking, what "the mind" sees is probably culturally more important than in the US. That might explain the 99.99% vs 90.00% of digital portrait in the two cases (not that I think this can be defined a statistically significant sample).
* by the way, watchmaking has its hybrids, the electro-mechanical movements.