Wednesday, September 28, 2011

a spectre haunts the [creative] imagination

'Systems are inherently brittle and retain authority only as long as we treat them as having authority', according to Beaudrillard.

As humans, of course, we have this inherent authority bias, never more apparent than in the famous Stanford Prison experiment that we rediscovered recently.

The experiment was conducted at Stanford University from August 14 to August 20 of 1971 by a team of researchers led by professor Philip Zimbardo to examine the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard, with pretty startling results.

While likening the advertising establishment to the situation Zimbardo was attempting to evoke is probably a bit harsh,  the system justification we persistently hear describes how multi-channel advertising campaigns are nearly twice as effective as their traditional counterparts.

However this is often framed as TV plus multi-channel is more effective than TV alone.

Hurrah, say the digital community, recognition for the ghetto.

But, digerati, this framing is simply reinforcing the myth of  system authority.

How about saying multi-channel campaigns are more effective if the include TV in the mix?

Simply flipping (reframing) the question completely changes the context.

Beaudrillard also says 'There is nothing more mysterious than a TV set left on in an empty room. It is even stranger than a man talking to himself or a woman standing dreaming at her stove. It is as if another planet is communicating with you.'

While the world of advertising is somewhat more polite, here is an old adage 'no-one ever got fired for buying a billboard in Times Square', similarly no-one ever got fired for buying a 30 second spot in the Super Bowl (or Grand Final).

That's not to say these tactics don't have effect, they clearly do, but what else is required? And what system or authority bias is it that is continually getting in the way of experimenting with other approaches?

Or is it simply fear?

But as Beaudrillard tells us, once you lose the fear of systems, or conventions, the status quo, they lose the hold they have over you.

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