Friday, December 21, 2012

father christmas, give us your money

In keeping with tradition the last message posted here this side of Christmas is a seasonal tune.

This year we're going out with a lesser known nugget from the Kinks ouvre which appeared in 1977.

For Ray Davies and co it was something of a punky power pop slight-return to the Kinks garage-ey roots and very much in tune with the sound of '77.

So, once again thanks to everyone who's read, shared, commented, tweeted, liked and +1'd throughout the year.

In case you're wondering, during the break I shall be devouring Guy Kawasaki's new book APE which he kindly forwarded me the other week.

In the book Guy and co-author Shawn Welch outline their approach to 'artisanal publishing.'

'Artisanal publishing features writers who love their craft, and who control every aspect of the process from beginning to end. In this new approach, writers are no longer at the mercy of large, traditional publishers, and readers will have more books to read.'

This dropped at just the right time as part of the plan for 2013 is to finally publish the book that I've been promising.

The working title is 'He Split from the whole f*ckin' Program', and we're at the hacking-down-to-amanageable-first-draft stage.

Thanks again, see you after the break.

Assuming that the end of the world doesn't happen at some point today, obviously.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

don't stop - give it all you got!

This week sees the 10th anniversary of the death of Joe Strummer.

It's on Saturday 22nd, but as we'll be closing down for the holiday here on 21st we've decided to post our tribute today.

I'm oft to remark that in the midst of not paying attention at school I learned much of what I know about politics, geography and sociology/culture from the Clash.

From the Sandinistas to Brigade Rosse, the Vietnam war to Martin Scorcese.

Not to mention significantly broadening my young teenage musical landscape to incorporate everything from Joe Ely to Grandmaster Flash and Dr Alimantado.

On top of that, Joe was a great rent-a-quote.

This one is a favourite.

“And so now I'd like to say - people can change anything they want to. And that means everything in the world.

People are running about following their little tracks - I am one of them. But we've all got to stop just following our own little mouse trail.

People can do anything - this is something that I'm beginning to learn.

People are out there doing bad things to each other. That's because they've been dehumanised. It's time to take the humanity back into the center of the ring and follow that for a time.

Greed, it ain't going anywhere. They should have that in a big billboard across Times Square.

Without people you're nothing. That's my spiel.”

the icarus deception

A favourite quote of the year round these parts, and an idea we have adopted, came from John Dodds recently.

Doddsy correctly pointed out that platforms such as Kickstarter have another principle advantage alongside the clear and present benefit of getting one's creative project crowd-funded.

And it's no co-incidence that this benefit has been word-of-the-year at Boat HQ.


'Momentum that's derived from proof of concept; momentum that's derived from building a tribe of promoter-users who are incentivised via the range of prizes on offer; and momentum that's derived from being able to leverage critical mass with future investors, distributors and customers.

Most people see it solely as a fund-raising exercise and that's great, but they shouldn't overlook the baked-in marketing. That's priceless.'

One Kickstarter project that we participated in was Seth Godin's launch of his new book 'The Icarus Deception'.

A large box arrived at Boat HQ the other day containing 8 copies of the book, amongst other project related items (see pic).

Of the 8 copies of the book itself, I'm keeping two (one of which I will be reading over the Christmas break), I'm going to distribute 4 copies round the Sputnik office and I'm offering two copies up to the first two Australian readers of this blog who express their interest by leaving an affirmative in the form of a comment on this post.

Sorry to readers from overseas but petty cash is a bit short at the moment (always) so postage costs need to be kept to a minimum.

Who wants one?

big data bollocks

A couple of things I've learned from speaking at ad industry events over the past few years are these.

The first thing is to try and make your 15-20 mins as entertaining as you can. A story to back up your points is more important than graphs and charts, and the stories will be the thing that audience members will take away, more often than not.

The second thing is to be mindful that most events will have a hashtag connected via which delegates will tweet the bits and pieces that resonate.

A controversial or otherwise interesting 'blanket' statement about this or that will often get tweeted so it's always a good idea to structure a few of your points to be tweetable.

Also I've found that it is unlikely you will have the whole crowd nodding in agreement with you and quite often there will be significant disagreement. Don't worry about that, trying to appeal to every point of view inevitably ends up in appealing to no-one.

To that last point, I've had a few bits of feedback from delegates at last weeks AIMIA Future of Digital bash.

In my final section I proposed that 2013 may be the year in which we see the bubble burst in the whole big data situation.

There was equal parts agreement and dismay among those present.

The thought was thus; the value of big data is vastly overrated.

This is not to say that there is no value but rather that the value is derived from the processing and analysis of said data and it's conversion into important information.

For those familiar with the DIKW model, that information requires further distillation in order to come out the other end as Wisdom.

In adland parlance we would call wisdom 'insight'.

The data in itself may indeed be the new 'oil' however it is crude oil at best.

The other thing is that more data does not necessarily mean better.

In fact the more data one has will often make it harder to find the patterns that become the required information to distill into insight.

Better means better.

Having dealt with many businesses over the years who cannot even make sense of their own opted-in customer database, more data is not going to help them in any shape or form.

The other point is that any data set needs human beings to interpret it.

And knowing how as humans we are subject to no small amount of foibles and biases is testament to the difficulty of this task.

To illustrate I quoted this oft repeated psychology experiment (to add, we have conducted one of these ourselves and achieved remarkably similar results to those experiments of a similar nature from academia).

We asked two groups of financial services employees to assess their likelyhood to approve a credit card application from a recent graduate.

The applicant had creditworthy history, and was gainfully employed with an above average salary etc.

However, with the first group we gave them one extra data point to consider.

The applicant had an outstanding student loan of circa $5000.

With the second group we gave two data points.

The applicant had an outstanding student loan of between $5000 and $12500.

This second group were given an extra option in there assessment process. Either approve or decline the application. Or await further information about the extent of the outstanding debt.

Not surprisingly the majority of group two asked for further information.

We then revealed that the debt was actually very close to the $5000 number.

In group one around 70% declined the application for credit.

In group two only around 30% declined.

This is despite both groups having nearly identical data in the end.

By firstly anchoring group two on the $12500 number, the $5000 debt didn't feel so bad.

The point being that humans have clear difficulty with making consistent assessments when faced with only two pieces of data.

Good data has long been the lifeblood of marketing (ask any direct marketer) but at this point in time perhaps we don't necessarily need more data but better data, and there's a criminal shortage in the advertising industry today of the actual human skills needed to interpret, distill and convert into insight.

Friday, December 14, 2012

AIMIA future of digital event

Here's the deck from yesterdays AIMIA 'Future of Digital' morning in Sydney.

A thoroughly enjoyable half day with a great bunch of diverse opinions and presentations.

Luke Steele from Samsung gave us a glimpse of Samsung's connected world.

Phones, tablets, TV, fridges and air-con all talking to each other. Fascinating stuff.

Ciaran Norris from Mindshare lifted the hood on the hidden depths of Google search and some points of view on do-not-track.

Kelly Slessor from BanterMob gave us some mobile trends to watch and some points of view on mobile ad formats, embracing the flow of content rather than interrupting it.

There were some splendid examples of kinnect style interactive installation type stuff from Grant Whitehouse of GPJ.

And line of the day came from White Agency's Brian Dargan; 'A picture tells a thousand words - but a picture of your salad tell us f*ck-all'.

Thanks to MC John Butterworth and the AIMIA for a great morning. Let's do it again soon.

the facebook texas sharpshooter fallacy

Our current favourite cognitive bias is the 'Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy'.

Here's the often cited example of the fallacy in action.

If you were to shuffle a deck of cards and draw out 10 cards, the probability of that exact sequence you drew coming up are a squillion to one, no matter what the cards were.

If you drew out an fully ordered suit, it would be pretty remarkable - and 'clearly' contain some mystical properties - but statistically, of course, the chances of that sequence coming out are just the same as any other set of 10 cards.

So the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy describes the cowboy who fires his gun into the barn door and then paints a target around the holes, thus proving his accuracy.

It struck me that the announcement last week by Carolyn Everson – the VP of Global Marketing Solutions at Facebook - that Samsung made a 1200% ROI on a $10 million Facebook ad campaign which directly resulted $129 million worth of Galaxy S III smartphone sales was a tad on the Sharpshooter Fallacy side.

There was plenty of other marketing going on outside of Facebook, not least the sterling work of 72 and Sunny which will be appearing in many 'best-of' 2012 lists, not to mention some pretty serious demand from existing users upgrading whether Samsung had spent a dollar in Facebook or not.

I've no doubt there was some effect but the 1200% ROI statement is clearly a message to calm anxious Facebook investors - by painting the target around the bulletholes - and 'demonstrating' the supposed validity of Facebook as a game-changing advertising platform, along with it's likelihood to deliver a future big bucks return or other.

But the enthusiasm in which this statement 'proving' the effectiveness of Facebook has been received in the social media 'expert' fraternity and the social media tabloid-esque news sites is comical.

So before any of your hapless marketers, bamboozled by their social media expert advisors start spunking next years marketing budget in one Facebook basket, please remind them about Sturgeon's Revelation, as applied to the social media commentary echo chamber.

90% is total bollocks.


Here's a trap that we often find ourselves falling into.
Even when you know this it's hard to stop yourself repeating it.

Take this example.

Your agency has just produced a new piece of work and it's worthy of making a noise about.

So the project leader will send a company wide email asking for support via tweets and Facebook status updates from the group to help spread the word.

All good so far, except usually no-one responds and only very few comply with the request.

It's an example of what is known 'diffusion of responsibility' and is closely related to what psychologists call the 'bystander effect'.

There's many reported examples of incidents where individuals who get into some trouble in public places - being mugged is common example - and despite there being large numbers of witnesses who could have made some sort of intervention, no-one does.

This is because two common things happen.

Everyone looks around at everyone else to see what to do, no-one is doing anything so that feels like the norm, so that's what they do.

Or, everyone assumes that someone else will be calling the police or an ambulance so no-one does anything.

In fact, if one is going to be robbed or have a heart attack in the street, the less people there are around to witness it then the greater the likelihood there is of someone intervening.

So in our pimp-my-agency example the diffusion happens because everyone who receives the mail sees that it is a mass email and therefore assumes that it's someone else's responsibility to do something.

There's no malice involved, no lack of commitment to the team or anything, it just doesn't feel urgent because it's something that someone else will do.

But the sender then gets miffed and wonders why no-one in the group wants to participate.

The project leader then pivots and does what she should have done in the first place and then goes round finding individuals in the group who are the most prolific tweeters etc and asks them individually and personally to post something, which they then happily do.

Similarly with email or other direct message marketing, don't ever be fooled into imagining there's any personalisation in mass communication where the name and salutation has been interchanged to match the names on a list.

While the tools exist to easily do this with a database of thousands lets not kid ourselves that this equates to personalisation of any sort.

If we really want a response there's no substitute for - firstly, having permission - and a truly personal message crafted specifically for the person whom we are talking to.

And flipping the diffusion of responsibility effect work in your favour by explaining in the message how many others like them are willing to help/give/buy or otherwise acquiesce to your request.

Works every time, simple in theory, but hard in practice.

The other good news is that once someone has done you a favour, then they like you more and will be more inclined to help again in the future.

Because we almost always like to act in ways that are consistent with what we've said and done previously.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

no pina colada

For the rarest of commodities 'creativity' is still ranking as the number one attribute that appears on the profiles of individuals on Linked-in.

Ragan report today that 'For the second consecutive year, “creative” earned the dubious title of the most overused buzzword in US LinkedIn profiles. In fact, the top three buzzwords remained unchanged from last year: “creative,” “organizational,” and “effective.”

Creative aside, it's interesting to note that the other qualities in the top ten that users describe themsleves with - and presumably the traits that they imagine will make them most attractive to prospective employers or business leads - are nearly all what one would describe as system 2 functions.

Analytical, problem solving etc.

No mention in that top 10 of anything more system 1-ish like funny, friendly, cheerful, or things we would associate with general like-ability.

Not likely any time soon, methinks.

But in effect, linked-in is kind of like a corporate dating site, and though the conventions forbid it, perhaps it's an idea to perhaps pepper the rational with some more subjective information.

How about pina colada's, getting caught in the rain, not being into yoga, or having half a brain?

make it easy to give #nfp

A mail from charity:water popped into the inbox this morning.

They are pretty much the poster child of nfp marketing so we do tend to pay attention to what they are up to.

This particular mail announced launched some charity:water gifts for Christmas. The gifting thing is a staple of many nfp marketers but this example has a couple of things that caught our eye.

Firstly, the gifts themselves are actually attractive things that one might consider buying.

Choice is kept to a manageable minimum. There's only 3 things to buy. Easy.

Check them; a JamBox ghetto blaster type of thing, a nice scented candle set and a stylish water decanter.

But also charity:water inform us that 'Profits [from the sale of the gifts] support our staff, help us grow and allow us to continue working to solve the water crisis'.

And we can see exactly how much $ of the ticket price the charity will receive.
With a nudge, natch, towards the middle choice, the candle, which sells for $28 with $18 going to charity:water.

Supporters know that 100% of all 'regular' donations go directly to their projects.
This is part of the charity's core proposition.

Whereas this gifting activity initiative is directly and transparently aimed a raising money for operational costs.

This supports their overall strategy of total transparency.

In effect they are segmenting the action of giving on behalf of the donor.

By chunking the 'kind' of donation even regular donors may give twice.

This is very smart.

Monday, December 03, 2012

move over gangnam style

The next dance craze to sweep the globe is straight outta Elgin.

315 views, and rising...

via Dangerous Minds

more on momentum #strategyfail

As someone with a foot in both the creative and planner camps I'm able to see both sides of many of the typical arguments between the two.

Often the strategists will be irked when a creative idea takes something in a direction away from the original strategy.

This is not necessarily a wrong thing, and strategies need to be adaptable.

Add to that the point that many creatives secretly (and sometimes not-so secretly) don't actually see the need for, or value, the contribution of planners in the first place. That's another debate for another time.

However if creatives feel that the planner's role is superfluous, then they need to be able to cover that themselves and in this example, no-one did.

This spot from mental health not-for-profit organisation Beyond Blue is perhaps an interesting example of a great creative idea that is let down by poor strategy.

A couple of people pinged me this over the last few weeks (thanks Kev, who was the first) as, on the surface, it has all the elements of stuff we like at Boat HQ.

The 'left-handed' analogy used to illustrate the ridiculousness of discriminatory behaviour that is faced by young people of sexual orientations outside of what might be described as the 'mainstream', (for want of a better phrase, whether mainstream is an appropriate description of anything in 2012 is debatable) is a splendid creative idea.

However the pay-off at the end, when it is revealed that 'left-handed' is a metaphor, is ultimately a let down.

The spot ends on...Stop - Think - Respect.

It's a nice attempt at chunking, I'll give it that, but the problem lies in imagining that asking homophobic or otherwise prejudiced individuals to 'stop and think' is going to affect any sort of behaviour change.

Attitudes can only be changed by there first being a change (even an enforced change, if necessary) in the behaviour.

There's at least two strategies that could have employed here that might have done justice to the creative idea.

1. This could have been part of a campaign to galvanise support for legislation that makes the illustrated discriminatory behaviour punishable by law.

The out and out ban on smoking in public places for instance has become a social norm very quickly aided by legislation.
This would have been something that supporters could do together.

2. This could have been part of a campaign to demonstrate how the type of prejudice illustrated was something of a bygone age, the domain of un-cool people and how most young people now find it laughable that we used to discriminate in this manner.

Again, something that people with shared values could gather around.

In a nutshell - Beyond Blue would be more effective in influencing behaviour if instead of trying to change the minds of individuals who are opposed to the cause, they focus on creating a sense of momentum among those who are in favour.

Friday, November 30, 2012

two of a kind

One of the many great things about Apple's advertising is the way they make technology look like it's not technology.

In the Steve Jobs biography there's a chapter about his love of industrial design. In particular the Braun products designed by Dieter Rams.

indeed, Jobs vision for Apple products was that of 'appliances' like food mixers etc.

For fellow BE enthusiasts the iPad mini spot above makes splendid, and confident, use of the anchoring effect.

Worth noting also that, again, Apple are also never afraid of a bit of bold, strategic cannibalisation.

Plus the use of 'Two Of A Kind' by Bobby Darin and Johnny Mercer (with Billy May's Big Band) is another masterstroke.

HT to Owen Jenkinson.

keep on keepin' on

I think it was Seth Godin who coined this one.

'If you can't explain your position in 8 words then you don't have a position.'

As we are in a vein of posts with some slight mod-ish connections - and, possibly, testament to some sort of mid life crisis that brings me to revisit my teen period circa late 70's early 80's - I'm recalling the strategy of the mighty Redskins.

In 8 words, with a sort-of double metaphor effect, to boot.

'Walk like the Clash, sing like the Supremes'

Keep on keepin' on, yeah.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

we are the mods #momentum

Thick as Thieves is a new book, that explores the story of The Jam ('the best band in the f****** world') through the collective stories of the fans, and associates of the group.

Authors Stuart Deabill and Ian Snowball describe their work as being 'produced by the fans for the fans'

For me also, the story of the Jam is pretty much the story of growing up in a provincial outpost in the 1970's.

My thanks go to Petar who pointed me to the above 25 minute promo documentary which gives a bit of a flavour of the content of the book, as various fans recount their take on the Jam phenomenon in their own youth.

There's also a couple of pointers/reminders for us from a marketing perspective on how people may come together around an idea.

In 2012 in agency land we still receive the challenge from brand marketers asking us to help 'build a community' around their brand.

My answer is still the same as it was in 2007.

'How about building your brand around communities?' How does the brand fit in people's lives? What role does it play? If any?

About 7 minutes in, journo and 78/79 era mod, Garry Bushell talks about the pivotal moment in 1978 when the Jam headlined at the 11,000 capacity Wembley Arena.

This was a major leap in venue size for bands of the broadly 'punk' era.

'Although there had been mods around since '76, in little individual pockets, even as late as 1978 they didn't realise that each other existed.

So by the time we had the Great British Music Festival [in November 1978]...that's the first time that all these Mods, who were consciously calling themselves Mods...that's the first time they realised that there was more than just them...then it really began to crystalise as a movement'

Because - and here's the thing - movements aren’t driven by so-called (or self-anointed) ‘influencers’, but can be sparked by a mass of individuals who influence each other and copy each other.

The key point of this being that when they can see each other, so they can copy each other.

That's how we get momentum and scale.

The Jam didn't invent the movement but they became the focal point that then acted to unify the disparate groups.

In 1978 it was harder for the mods to see each other. It took two years to get from the Marquee club or pubs in Fulham to Wembley Arena (and scale).

Today this can happen in an instant.

So, brands, where are the disparate groups out there that you can serve?

Can you make it so they can see each other?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

sandy island (cognitive outsourcing revisited)

You may be familiar with the story of The Mountains of Kong.

They were a non-existent mountain range charted on most English maps of Africa from 1798 through the late 1880s, following their 'discovery' by an English cartographer.

Some cartographers stopped including the mountains on maps after some French explorers noticed their 'disappearance' in expedition to chart the Niger River but the mysterious mountains continued to appear on maps until late in that century and even in the 20th century, when they appeared in a Goode's World Atlas in 1995.

Mark Earls uses the story as an example in his book 'I'll Have what she's Having' to describe the way in which we rely on and use the brains of others in our decision making, a kind of cognitive outsourcing.

We can all very well have a chuckle at 19th Century cartographers but I was delighted to see that a modern day version of The Mountains of Kong story has emerged this week, and reveals that even the all seeing Google doesn't think as much as we possibly think it thinks..

The Independent reports that a team of Australian scientists, led by Maria Seton, a geologist from the University of Sydney, found themselves sailing straight through what appeared on charts as a large island during a research trip in the South Pacific.

'Sandy Island – according to Google Earth, world maps, marine charts and scientific publications – lies in the Coral Sea, between northern Australia and the French territory of New Caledonia. Except that it doesn’t, as the scientists discovered – or undiscovered – during their recent 25-day voyage. Where the island was marked on maps they found only deep blue ocean – very deep, as it turned out.'

'We sailed over it,' Dr Seton told ABC radio yesterday. 'We’re actually not sure [how it got on the maps]. It must just be that there was some error that was created in one of the coastline data studies, and it’s just propagated through the scientific literature.'

Friday, November 23, 2012

getting rid of the albatross

An interesting day at iStrategy in Melbourne yesterday, culminating in an end of day panel that I sat on with Andrew Smith, the head of brand marketing from Bupa Australia and Murray Howe, the head of digital strategy and innovation at Suncorp.

We discussed behaviour change, the real cost of social media marketing and the inevitability of social business, amongst other things.

Also, and nearly two years down the line, the famous NAB campaign is still something people want to discuss, however I'm now drawing a line in the sand and it's time to move on.

If you catch me speaking about it again then please come and give me a slap.

'I know you very well, you are unbearable,
I've seen you up far too close
Getting rid of the albatross...'

Thanks to the iStrategy team and in particular MC Adam Burns, I'm def stealing a couple of his gags for future use - and see you next year for my keynote after the book comes out.

Photo credit: Nicole McInnes

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

that's entertainment

Two little connected things i liked this week, both about pop music though contextually about 30 years apart.

On BBC Radio 4's Mastertapes, Paul Weller reflected on a couple of his most well-known songs from the Jam period, 'A Town Called Malice' and 'That's Entertainment'.

PW said that when he performs those songs today he does not feel any ownership of the songs anymore.

Though of course he wrote both songs back in 81/82 and continues to perform them both today in 2012. He explained that these kind of songs have become so much part of a modern strand of a kind of ancient folk tradition that they are now almost the property of the people.

Presumably from whom he occasionally borrows them back.

In framing them this way PW can choose to play them or not without having to deal with any nostalgia interference.

Then over to K-Pop chap PSY talking about Gangnam Style (what else?) which I caught on the Jonathan Ross TV show.

JR quizzed PSY about how he viewed the success of 'Gangnam Style' and did he feel under pressure to follow it up with something else of a comparable scale?

Almost wistfully PSY rebuked JR by stating he was fine with success, and was 6 big albums into a very successful pop career in his native Korea.

But, he added, Gangnam Style was not success.

It was actually a phenomenon.

And that that this phenomenon actually had very little to do with PSY and everything to do with its adoption by everyone else.

So as well as contributing his piece to this folk tradition, or publicly 'owned' culture, even if no-one outside of Korea hears of PSY again after this year he has also nicely framed 'Gangnam Style' as a special case rather than one-hit wonder, and can then go back to simply being a success.

Or something.

the deification of imbecility

Can't really argue with Craig Ferguson's splendid insight here.

via Dangerous Minds

Friday, November 16, 2012

his brilliance baffles them

The post earlier this week entitled 'You win nothing with kids', struck a chord with a number of readers.

Perhaps the sensitive nature of the topic dictated that the commentary mostly happened through private channels, heh.

I am grateful, however, to Harshal (and I hope he doesn't mind being identified) who reminded me of this one from the Ernest Wooley charachter in J. M. Barrie's 'The Admirable Crichton'

It's appears that GenY over confidence was also a conversation in 1902.

The quote itself is often mis-attributed to Oscar Wilde.

In Wilde's 'Phrases and Philosophies for the use of the Young (1894)' he declares 'The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything' however the Ernest character in '...Crichton' is widely believed to be a caricature of Wilde's character in'The Importance of Bieng Earnest'.

As I suspected.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

no festival of facebook posts

In an episode of this new series on Radio 4, Mastertapes, Billy Bragg talks to John Wilson about the making of his mid 80s classic album 'Talking with the Taxman about Poetry.'

Towards the end Bill closes with a sagely comment that acutely sums up the limitations of social media that perhaps we overlook from time to time.

Social media never won any election, brought down any oppressive regime or moved any group of people to do this, that or the other.

Social media are tools, 'revolutions' happen among people.

‘Young people are engaging in politics through Facebook and Twitter, and that’s great , but the sad thing is that no-one, as far as I know, has written a tweet that can make you cry...there is no festival of Facebook posts where you go to Canada and stand in front of an audience that you have never met before and ‘wow’ them with your Facebook comments.’

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

you win nothing with kids

I've just recently started paying attention to the Linked-in Today feature, mainly through the mobile app.

If you don't know about this it's kinda a news aggregator within linked-in that picks some of the top stories of the day for you, presumably contextually based on the information in your personal profile.

There also seems to be some ability to customise the feed though I haven't tampered with that as yet.

Ons story jumped out this morning - full marks to the author for a headline that was def going to grab me - 'Why I hesitate to hire forty-somethings' by Belgian self-styled thought leader Inge Geerdens.

The post had managed to rack up over 700 mostly derisory and critical comments overnight. The outrage is probably based on the headline rather than the content.

The post itself contains no great revelations. She is basically bemoaning the fact that experienced candidates want more money, she has no money, so she will prefer to hire 20-somethings.

Blah blah.

This age thing is a can of worms, however.

Particularly in the advertising world, and extra-particularly it's digital wing.

First a disclosure - despite my youthful good looks I have to confess to being over 40 myself. Hard to believe, I know, but it's true.

There's a bullshit idea in adland that 'digital' is only understood by the under 30's.

That simply being digital-native (ie having grown up at the same pace and time as the internet) is somehow evidence of credentials.

It's not, but youth and enthusiasm is a great base on which to build the experience and chops needed to complete the picture.

At the end of the day, it's never mind the technology - here's the marketing communications and 90% of the chops are learned over time, on the job. This takes time.

Having said that, there's been a flurry of noteworthy appointments recently to top agency management roles for number of under 30's.

One guy I worked with at a previous agency is now MD of a big shop at 28. However, he started working at agencies aged 18 - doing his uni studies in parallel - so in effect he has ten years in anyway, making him almost a veteran.

There's definitely a case for taking an early interest in your career, putting in the hours early on and having a determination to succeed.

I wish I had done that.

Alan Hansen will never be allowed to forget his comment after a young Manchester United team suffered an early season defeat at Aston Villa in 1995.

Hansen remarked 'You win nothing with kids'.

United responded by winning the Premier League and FA Cup Double.

Hansen was right, though.

You'll struggle to win with 'only' the kids.

The United 'kids' in question were, of course, the likes of David Beckham, the Neville brothers, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs.
But they were supported by the very experienced Peter Schmeichel, Roy Keane, Steve Bruce and the legendary Eric Cantona.

Our friend Inge Geerdens, would be best advised to note that perhaps the trick is the old blend of youth and experience, while being mindful that, unavoidably for the most part, you get what you pay for.

Monday, November 12, 2012

none of the above (miniskirts part 2)

Back in the day there was an old anarchist/situationist slogan that used to appear around election time that went something like..
'Don't vote - It only encourages them'.
Or the other one was 'Whoever You vote for, the government gets in'.

I'm not sure this story correlates exactly but I was intrigued by this nugget from Eric Horrow's blog 'Peer-reviewed by my neurons'.

As the dust settles on the US election, and collective America asks itself...

'Is everybody happy?
'Good, it's a deal'

What about those 'voters' who actually wanted neither Obama or Romney in the Oval office?

What was the choice available to them?

Horrow argued that if you are one of those dissenters then thing to do was vote for Obama.

'...the goal of these voters [who want neither] should evolve into ensuring that neither Obama nor Romney is elected president in 2016. Here’s where the decision become clear. If Obama wins this year there’s almost no chance that Obama or Romney will win the 2016 election. But if Romney wins there’s better than a 50% chance that Obama or Romney will win the 2016 election.

For people who claim they don’t want either Obama or Romney to be president, a 2012 Romney victory is a disaster because it ensures that in 2016 one party’s nominee will be somebody they already disapprove of...[so, in 2016] an unknown scenario is better than helping pave the road for the favored nominee to be somebody you already know you disapprove of.'

So although Baz appeared to romp home, could it be that a big chunk of the electorate overcame their natural tendency for hyperbolic discounting and figured that the best way to get rid of two candidates that they didn't support was to vote in the encumbent in the knowledge that in four years time both candidates will be gone.

Suddenly that 3,000,000 margin in the popular vote doesn't look so impressive.

I'm slightly joking, and I'll take Baz over the other guy any day of the week but, y'know...

As our old friend Ebbe Skovdahl, clearly a big data skeptic before we even invented the term, noted back in '09...

'Statistics are just like mini-skirts, they give you good ideas but hide the most important thing.'

Friday, November 09, 2012

look out honey, 'cause I'm using technology

I'm due to be doing a talk at the iStrategy event in Melbourne in a couple of weeks.

While compiling my presentation I've found an old segment I've used a couple of times about how the technology always comes first, then creative people mess around with it and something different and interesting comes out the other end.

I've been pulled up by certain marketing digerati in the past for expressing the view that the tools and tech of the day are not so important, it's how we go about understanding the behaviours that the tech enables or makes easier or whatever that we should be most interested in.

I stand by that view, but should explain that the it's not simply that the tools don't matter per se, but the tools themselves are transient, they come and go. What really matters is using the available technology do do something that really matters.

That's flimsy segue into Iggy, but it's Friday..

Look out honey, 'cause I'm using technology...
Ain't got time to make no apology.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

i'm a mess

For some reason neuromarketing seems to be flavor du jour in some quarters at the moment, I appear to be hearing about it all the time.

Or perhaps it’s another example of the ‘frequency illusion’, or 'the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon' that we've mentioned here before.

I was asked to describe our point of view and approach to this subject via one of our clients and responded that, yes, this one area of enquiry that we can turn to in informing how we look at describing buyer behavior but certainly not any one-method-fits-all.

In truth, our process means we probably ‘magpie’ some relevant parts of neuroscience research, mix it up with other bits of behavioural economics and human psychology.

It’s not important or even necessary to have a complete understanding of the above sciences however it’s important have a broad understanding to pick out the pieces that are most useful.

In fact one of the most important parts to address before developing strategies is knowing 'how' a product or service is bought and what the influences are.

We often hear about communications that affect a behavior change, or otherwise.

But what is often not properly explained is what-the-existing-behavior-is-that requires-changing.

Selecting product X versus product Y is not a behavior change it’s just an instance or two of substitution of product.

I like this four quadrant model for identifying buying behavior which I’ve paraphrased from ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’.

Independent choices

1. Guesswork – where the choice is mostly independent, in categories with with low differentiation and a high number of choices - then things like sales promotions, 'twofers', and suchlike are key . Things like insurance often purchased in this manner.

2. Considered choice – again the choice is broadly independent, but there are fewer choices – in the book Mark cites things like deodorant falling into this bucket.

Social choices

1. Copying experts – where there are fewer number of choices but a higher price point then expert opinions matter – high end tech products are one example, some automotive is probably another.

2. Copying peers –where there are a high number of choices then social influence is a major factor. Fashion, music, movies etc. This is a pretty large quadrant and in fact most buying behaviour is influenced by peer copying.

Once this is established then the fun starts...

The key thing is to understand that the combination of social influence and then a layer of human biases is a heady mixture and testament to the idea that we really don't act in the rational cost-benefit-analysis way that economists and marketers imagine we do. In fact we are manipulated by our own biases all the time.

Here's my top five favourite biases.

A common human trait to rely too heavily, or ‘anchor’ on one trait or piece of information when making decisions.
Here’s a real cancelled flights example that I fell for recently.

Airline: 'Sorry Mr Pritchard the 5.45 has been cancelled, but I can put you on the 9.45'
Me: 'WTF!'
Airline: 'Hang on, there's one seat on the 7.45 I can get you'
Me: 'cool!'

The restaurant wine list – we instinctively go towards the mid price wines because the restaurant are craftily framing them with super-expensive and cheapskate options.
Or buying a car – 'do I get the basic no frills model or the high end super deluxe souped-up version? Actually let’s go for the one in the middle that looks like better value'

We've recently applied this to how we frame donation levels for a charity's online campaign. I expect to see an uplift in overall donations vs where they have been.

A mental rule of thumb in which we use the ease which similar examples come to mind to form an idea about the probability of certain events.
For example, more people are killed every year by refrigerators falling on top of them than by terrorists, but because of the 'availability' of information about terrorism we see that as more of a threat.

Someone who has to write a blog post about neuromarketing, for example, will primarily search for information that would confirm his or her pre-existing beliefs ;)

The situation where people justify increased investment in a process, based on the cumulative prior investment, despite new evidence suggesting that the cost, starting today, of continuing the decision now outweighs any expected benefit.
See also 'sunk cost fallacy'. Think about CommBank who continued to pump money into the 'CAN' campaign despite early evidence that it was sure to flop. heh.

And the best of all…

Also known as the 'knew-it-all-along effect' is the inclination to see events that have already occurred as being more predictable than they were before they took place.

'I wish I'd put that $100 on Green Moon, I knew it was going to win…'

That’s not an exhaustive list by any stretch. There’s literally hundreds of foibles we all succumb to on a moment by moment basis.
I’m working up a post on the Texas Sharpshooter Bias as we speak, so stand by for that…

Also the other fundamental to remember is that behaviour shapes attitudes not the other way round. We will almost always modify our attitudes to be consistent with our behaviours.

We post-rationalise our decisions afterwards.

Any given product does not have to be clearly better in terms of rational features or benefits. Its social value, for instance may be more useful.

After all, there’s plenty of 'better' phones out there other than Apple’s but, for now, it's arguably still the popular choice because it says something about the taste of it's owner.

So the if objective is to change the buyer behaviour first, this may involve moving the behaviour around a product or service from one ‘type’ of behaviour to another.

For instance, outside of two or three big ones, the majority of breakfast serial purchase behaviour could be lumped into in the guesswork category. Driven by promotions and such-like, so any behavior change strategy would first involve moving buyer behaviour from a guesswork, commodity, space into a peer-copying space .

There is a precedent, I've seen some research to suggest that around 60-70% of groceries are bought because they are the brands that 'mum' bought, so there’s a territory to start with.

Unfortunately there is no 'buy-button' in the brain despite what some neuromarketers say. If only it were as straightforward.

There’s a great TED talk I saw recently, and I forgot to bookmark it so if any readers recognize this bit then please point me to the talk.

The speaker recounts the ways in which through his research he identified the ways in which people describe the 'story' of their lives.

A Journey?
A Film?
A Novel?
A Battle?

These were all popular descriptions.

No-one described their life story as a mess.

But, for most of us that’s what it is.

For those looking for a silver bullet in marketing then the bad news is that there isn't one.

Human behavior is a big wonderful a mess that you just have to pick through and try and find the bits that are going to work for you.

Friday, November 02, 2012

out to lunch

I'm having a few days off. Don't expect anything here til next Wednesday at the earliest.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

don't be a menace

This post on Finalmile cought my eye this morning.

In 'Don't be a cheater' they pose a question that asks; can our sense of identity and therefore behaviour be affected just by the simple construct of a question or statement?

This is described as noun vs. verb framing.

In an experiment participant groups were given different sets of instructions prior to the test - 'don't cheat' vs 'don't be a cheater'

'When ‘Please don’t cheat’ (verb form) was used in the instructions, participants in a group resorted to the same amount of cheating as a baseline group, whereas using ‘Please don’t be a cheater’ (noun) eliminated cheating completely.'

'Why should this happen? People can downplay instances of cheating and convince themselves that these occasional lapses do not make one a dishonest person – this is harder to do with the use of a self-relevant noun that clearly states the implications of cheating.'

If you work with nfp organisations on fundraising, for example it's worth considering experimenting with the subtle difference between 'please support/donate/help' or whatever and 'please be a supporter'.

Indeen it's worth A/B testing noun vs. verb framing with any call to action for that matter.

'Find out more' vs 'be one of the first to know' or even 'Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood'.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

there's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out

The majority of the readers of this blog seem to come from in and around the greater New York area and from broadly round that eastern part of the USA that has been the worst affected by Hurricane Sandy.

So this post is just a message of support from Boat HQ to all of you out there, hoping that the worst is now over and that everyone can shortly start to pick up the pieces and get back into the swing as soon as possible.

I recall listening to an interview with - quintessential New Yorker - Lou Reed that was being conducted in a mid town Manhattan hotel room.

In between questions the journalist commented that it was becoming hard to hear Lou's answers because of the noise of the traffic outside the window.

To which Lou Reed responded 'It's New York. What do you want me to do?'.

Knowing the stoicism of many of my east coast buddies, this week's events won't be too much of a problem.

Finally, and on a customer-service-as-marketing note, we were interested to learn from Business Insider that many of the major banks have agreed to waive a number of fees for customers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut through till Wednesday.

Citibank, Capital One, and Chase customers will pay no fees on many items including extended overdraft, returned Item and insufficient funds Fees, late fees on credit cards, and also loans, including mortgages until the the storm is over.

Friday, October 26, 2012

the death of...the death of...the death of...

A second Schnabel related post.

Regarding the death of this, that, the other and the next thing which seems to be reported every other week.

Personally I've learned in recent years to stop worrying and love the bomb.

Back in 2008/09 I probably was that douche-bag pontificating about the death of advertising and how only social media conversations etc etc was going to be the saviour of marketing.

Eventually one gets over one's own bullshit, to a degree.

I'm taking each day as it comes.

I guess you would call this a MT...

“I thought that if [advertising]is dead, then it’s a nice time to start [doing advertising]. People have been talking about the death of [advertising] for so many years that most of those people are dead now.”

having a job and blaming it for your inability to do your own art

As it's Julian Schnabel's birthday and during my formative years as a young art student the big emotional neo-expressionism of Schnabel and others like Basquiat and even David Salle was pretty exiting, we'll have a quote from him.

That whole 80's period was a bit like punk for painting, a breath of fresh air amongst the pseudo intellectualism of the minimalism that was the dominant or establishment ascetic in the mid 80's.

Schnabel is also known for being a bit of an egocentric mouthpiece hellbent on self-promotion.

So, I probably picked up those 'qualities' from him too.

For all that, he also had a pretty solid work ethic.

This is one of my favourite soundbites.

"It's a great excuse and luxury, having a job and blaming it for your inability to do your own art. When you don't have to work, you are left with the horror of facing your own lack of imagination and your own emptiness. A devastating possibility when finally time is your own."

strategy jukebox friday

If a customer's bond with a brand/product/service is strong enough, then they will continually repurchase without jumping through any of the previous decision journey hoops that they initially made to get there.

This is different from any status quo bias because it is about bond not inertia.
The cult of Apple being case in point. We'll put up with foibles and mistakes from Apple because we feel something for them. The relationship is not simply transactional.

Up to a point, obviously.

A big part of strategy has got be about this, a solid bond.

Though how this can be expressed in a spreadsheet, or brand onion I've yet to find out.

'Feel.. is a word I can't explain,
At least not in words that are plain,
Makin' it easy to express, But I'll try to do my best, to hit you where it counts,
I just want to build up...a solid bond in your heart'

Friday, October 19, 2012

free your ass, your mind will follow

On the day it was announced that the mighty George Clinton and the Parliament/Funkadelic mothership are to headline Victoria's Golden Plains Festival early next year, it seemed like an appropriate juncture to finally call out the legendary P-Funk architect on one small issue.

Changing people’s behaviour first is, in fact, the best way to open their minds.

Action come first, attitude comes second.

For instance, it has been scientifically proven that the simple act, the behaviour, of donning the labcoat of Dr Funkenstein would enable one to believe oneself the actual intergalactic master of outer space Funk.

So we should be better advised to Free Our Ass, then our Mind will Follow.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

come on feel the noize

Our thanks go to Tomas Czeszynski, over in Sweden - and a constant source of interesting behavioural nuggets - who pointed to an old post on the Branding Strategy Insider blog yesterday.

Controversial author Martin Lindstrom - remember? Love your iPhone, Literally - published a splendid article on Sensory branding, and the criminal lack of attention paid to the power of sound in advertising.

Lindstrom, this time talking sense, points out:

'There can be no doubt – sound is immensely powerful. And yet 83 per cent of all the advertising we’re exposed to on a daily basis (bearing in mind that the average person will see two million TV commercials in a single lifetime) focuses, almost exclusively, on the sense of sight. That leaves just 17 per cent for the remaining four senses.

Consider to what extent we rely on sound. It confirms almost all our digital and electronic connections. We rely on it to dial or text on our cell phones. Interestingly, the revenue from the slot machines in Las Vegas fell by 24 per cent when the whirring and tinkling sounds was removed. Furthermore, experiments conducted in restaurants show that when music slower than the rhythm of a heartbeat is played, we eat slower and we eat more!'

At the end of the post he also references some research his company conducted that produced three top ten lists of the most 'addictive' non-branded and branded sounds.

Unsurprisingly - from an evolutionary standpoint - baby noises top the chart, and from a cultural point of view, cash register sounds also figured highly in the overall combined chart.

How many times during creative development in advertising have you witnessed the scenario whereby the soundtrack or audio components are the last things selected?

Perhaps even some stock audio has been crow-barred in as a semi-afterthought?

Even if it's just a few it's too many.

Legend has it that Quentin Tarantino takes the audio route first and actually selects and plots the soundtracks for his movies before commencing the writing of the script.

The power of music and sound to evoke memories, feelings and emotional responses is undeniable, that's why it was one of our earliest pre-language forms of communication and continues to have the power to shape culture.

Indeed, everyone has a soundtrack to their lives.

Here's my soundtrack to the spring of 1973, a lanky brat running round smashing windows in Aberdeen with short trousers.

find products for your customers

I remember this story from last year about the kid who invented a doorbell which calls the householder's mobile phone if nobody answers the door.

Laurence Rook, the 13 year old boy from Croydon, said he got the idea after noticing his mother had missed several deliveries by not being in the house.

Laurence licensed his invention off to the tune of circa 250k.

At the time it struck me that the combined innovation departments of BT, Orange, T-mobile, Vodafone and goodness knows who else from the telco sector had failed to notice this simple customer insight/problem, yet a 13 year-old kid, paying attention, had come up with fantastic piece of utility using a sim card and some bits and pieces lying about the house.

Another one that the telco's have missed cropped up on FIR: the Hobson and Holtz Report podcast that I listened to this morning in the car.

This was the first time I'd heard of Connectify, a software based router for Windows computer that shares wi-fi connections your other devices.

One of the principal benefits for the business, or otherwise, traveller being that in many hotels the wi-fi access is limited to one device at a time - Connectify solves that conundrum.

Again, one has to wonder why this had to be invented by a small start-up (the software's development was funded via crowd-funding platform Kickstarter, by the way) when there was a simple customer insight to be leveraged and yet none of the telco's saw the opportunity.

I'm reminded of this simple maxim that Seth Godin is often quoted on, in regard to where businesses should look for innovation opportunities and to temper the impulses that lead them to be hellbent on acquisition of new customers.

'Don't just look to finding customers for your products, find products for your customers.'

Friday, October 12, 2012

the paperless office self-nudge

I wonder if this one will work? I took a tip from Pete at work and in an attempt to cut down the amount of paper (ie printed material) in my office at home I've simply made the desk space so small as to be nigh on impossible to stack up documents, therefore discouraging me from printing in the first place.

Friday, October 05, 2012

chair man of the bored

Just a couple of points on the Facebook 90 second film released online yesterday. The ad has been broadly panned by the social media commentators for a variety of banal reasons I wont go into, however I liked the spot before I knew this and the criticism has only served to make me like it more.

It's worth stepping back for a second and remember what this advertising is for.

It's not about acquiring new customers or promoting trial.
It's not about brand awareness.
It's not even any sort of post-purchase rationalisation.

It's no accident that Facebook picked Wieden and Kennedy be agency of record, the next evolution of Facebook, the brand, will have to involve moving it out of the technology and social network categories - how they do that and where it goes will be interesting to watch - but from a comms point of view that's just the kind of emotional storytelling shift that is bread and butter for W&K.

See Nike, Levi's, P&G to name just a couple.

This spot didn't have to be made for any commercial reasons, but works as a kind of celebration of what's been achieved and a look-how-far-we've-come.

Facebook is one of those American dream success stories so perhaps a little hedonic boost is permissible and from a strategic point of view, starting to position Facebook in that same iconic Americana-brand-for-the-world, space like Nike and Levi's is the correct move.

One small note to the writers - it's aeroplane not airplane.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

to be perfectly frank

I don't know if Frank Sinatra ever wrote a song in his puff.

But it's hard to argue that as an artist his blues-inflected saloon balladeer ouvre (particularly his mid-50's period circa 'Only The Lonely') pretty much wrote the book of sharp American masculine cool, and with significant sex, style, subversion and skill to boot.

Sinatra's ability to interpret a song, and take it somewhere else was his art.

It was not necessary to have been the originator of the material.

As a young guitar slinger in the early 80's I was the principle tunesmith in several bands.

(None of these particularly 'made it' but that's not what the story is about.)

I was a fan of the hits of Burt Bacharach and Hal David for a time, but the prolific nature of that partnership meant there were literally hundreds of their songs that I was not familiar with.

So to write tunes for my band I would often pull out the Bacharach-David songbook, pick a tune a didn't know and use the chords to make up my own tune.

I couldn't read music so all I had to go on were the chord shapes.

So nine times out of ten I'd end up with something new based on 'copying' Burt and Hal.

In advertising we idealise and revere the novelty or originality of ideas and insights.

In fact, we relentlessly pursue the 'new', almost at all costs.

We hold aloft the stuff that proclaims 'this has never been done before'.

Really this is the true advertising conceit.
If we are honest, advertising has routinely hi-jacked, jumped upon or otherwise adopted and commercialized existing cultural ideas since day one.
That’s what it does, and that’s why it works.

But is new always better?

I've no qualms at all about adopting an insight from somewhere else and applying it to the particular problem I'm looking at.

I've equally no qualms about adopting the basis of an idea that may have been used somewhere else and improving it.

Because, and I’ll quote enfant terrible of le Nouvelle Vague, Jean Luc Godard here, it's not where something comes from that's important, it's where it goes to.

Novelty is over-rated, to be perfectly frank.

We don't always need new, just better.

Friday, September 28, 2012

new york city

We are currently loving this stop motion video from director Greg Jardin for the late great Joey Ramone’s 'New York City.' - a splendid, and joyous love song to his home town.

The tune is taken from the posthumous album, '…ya know?' - a collection of previously unavailable sketches and demos retrieved from Joey's post-Ramones sessions and archives.

Among the the 'cast' in the clip are Ramones long time producers Ed Stasium and Tommy Ramone (also of course the original drummer), Andrew WK (whatever happened to him, btw?) plus assorted members of equally legendary punkers The Dictators, and a selection of interesting looking regular New Yorkers who happened to be passing by.

Don't know how my NYC friends and readers feel, but if the New York City tourism office are thinking of launching a new ad campaign any time soon, then I would humbly suggest that they look no further than this piece.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

one of the problems with Australian advertising

At Sputnik Planning Labs we love our cognitive biases; and a particular favourite is the one sometimes called 'the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon' or more commonly the 'frequency illusion'.

This particular foible being the illusion in which a word, name, phrase or other thing that has recently come to one's attention suddenly appears 'everywhere' with ridiculous frequency.

So, if you've never heard of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, never fear, you'll absolutely be hearing about it again soon.

In this case it's the phrase 'world class', and the context principally Australian advertising.

This or that campaign or spot is 'world class'. This CD/Planner/other is 'world class', this or that agency are 'world-class'.

To boot, I was chatting with an acquaintance who is a very senior Professor in Melbourne the other week who informed me that this 'rating' is similarly applied to the scoring of academic papers in his University.

A top mark qualifies a study as 'world class'.

World class then, being clearly up a notch from simply Australian class.

Herein lies the problem.

It's a classic example of another of our favourite cognitive traps coming in to play; the worse-than-average effect in which people will routinely seriously underestimate their own ability to do stuff in comparison to their perceived ability of others.

When does one ever hear of 'world class' work coming from London or New York for example?

Hardly ever.

Because agencies these markets don't feel the need to benchmark* themselves against any other territory.

(*In fact 'benchmarking' itself is another hideous trap, but we'll cover that one another time.)

The work is what it is.

It's either great or not great.

C'mon Australia. It ain't where you're from, it's where you're at.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

vip mail

If you've upgraded your iPhone to iOS6 then you may have noticed the VIP mail setting in the email fuction.

For users it’s a way to flag certain contacts as VIPs and have their emails appear in the special VIP section in your mail.

Simply put, this means you potentially never miss messages from people that you want/need to hear from.

Priority mail has been around in Gmail for a while, of course, but VIP seems extra handy as it's device based and it's super-easy to aggregate contacts from different accounts for the non-geeky.

This is not to say 'email-is-dead' but is further testament to the idea that effectiveness of communication correlates directly to the existing level of permission.

Another nail in the coffin of unsolicited spam, and a pointer to perhaps a renaissance for email as a viable channel.

Friday, September 21, 2012

whoops now

Over the last goodness knows how many years I have either worked on or pitched on a dozen or so campaigns and projects for Breast Cancer Charity organisations.

And since 1993, when Janet Jackson's 'Janet' album was released featuring the now iconic sepia toned shot of Ms Jackson being supported, I must have presented an adaptation of that shot several times.

Much to my relief the idea has finally been used as part of a promotion by UK Breast Cancer charity Coppafeel featuring ex-Spice Girl Mel B as 'Janet'.

So thanks to Coppafeel and their agency (if there was one), the idea may or may not be great but it's a terrific relief to know it will never have to be wheeled out again.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Fear is a pretty powerful emotion and when confronted with fear humans seem to be wired to recoil first and ask questions second.

As a result, fear can be pretty easily sparked in such a way that is instinctive and not subject to rationality.

In fact, many phobias are firmly rooted in irrational fear - monsters and clowns for example - while other fears are rooted in more automatic areas of associated memory - fear is a pretty efficient survival tool, learning to look both ways before crossing the road it's a pretty vital early skill to learn.

Emotional manifestations of fear include things like apprehension, terror, dread and panic.

In advertising a 'fear appeal' is a type of psychoactive trigger that is often used to evoke an emotional response in the participant regarding the effect of other automatic behaviours.

This spot from Finland clearly plays to that, showing how children are affected by parents drinking habits.

A few people have pinged me this with a footnote around 'there you go, using emotions in shaping behaviour'.

But exactly how much fear induces behaviour change or a simply a looking-the-other-way is another question. I don't know.

Compare the Finnish spot to this one about teen smoking in Texas, which uses the social norms nudge '8 out of 10 Texas teens don't smoke' and a large dose of teen humour to tackle the problem.

The problems are somewhat different but I have still a wee hunch that addressing what is a social norm (parents bad drinking habits in the presence of children) with a 'fear appeal', while ultimately more effective than an information or gawd-help-us 'educational' appeal, would be more effective still, in the long game, by promoting a new social norm.

'Most parents with under-5's say one is enough', for example.

That said, it's a pretty powerful spot.


We do a lot of work in the NFP-charity sector and, regardless of media, storytelling is the probably single most powerful tactic we have to try and move behaviour.

Often this takes the form of dramatising the experience of the beneficiary.

And while direct mail is the default first tool in the box for many NFPs, I'm always mindful that film is pretty much the unbeatable storytelling medium.

I'd normally be on the side of happy endings being more effective, there's fairly robust science to back that up, but occasionally something comes along in this category with a surprising twist and proves the exception to the rule.

For me, this film made for The St John's Ambulance service is another example of this almost situationist trend for communications that incriminate the audience.

The story reflects new research from St John Ambulance which shows that over four times as many people believe that more people die from cancer than a lack of first aid - an availability cascade - when there is compelling evidence and statistics to indicate that the danger of choking, for example, is at least as frequent.

(On a minor tactical note, and bearing in mind that 'virality' is going to be an important mechanic for this spot, the 'surprise' element of how the piece ends up is somewhat spoiled by the labeling of the film on You Tube)

Friday, September 14, 2012

first look at the iPhone 5?

Thanks to Mike in the Sputnik Creative Lab who pointed me to this skit from the ABC show Jimmy Kimmel Live.

JKs people went out onto the streets to ask the public to evaluate the new iPhone 5.

In a splendid demonstration of visual and verbal priming many of the participants reported the new device to be lighter or heavier, faster, bigger or benefiting from improved design.

Of course there was no iPhone 5, all the participants were looking at a regular iPhone 4S.

Thus proving that special ability humans have to post-rationalise percieved product features and benefits with System 2 following our automatic story building System 1 response based on whatever available information we have.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

larry, woody and me

Some comedians and comedy writers would make excellent planners.

Larry David would have been a classic, for instance.

'Anyone can be confident with a full head of hair. But a confident bald man - there's your diamond in the rough.'


'If you tell the truth about how you're feeling, it becomes funny.'

Insight, is the comedy writers stock in trade.

In fact a cheat I often use when looking for nuggets around any given topic is to search for jokes about it.

We're working with a mental health not-for-profit, so of course I went straight to Woody Allen to see what I could find.

'More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.'

'Most of the time I don’t have much fun. The rest of the time I don’t have any fun at all.'


'My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.'

Unfortunately the reverse is not true. I've not met that many planners who were great comedians.

Not intentionally anyway.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

momentum and strategy

I've always thought that the single most valuable skill of a strategist or planner, if you prefer, is the ability to be constantly on the alert, noticing things and then interpreting them.

This is called having insight.

It doesn't have to be an earth shattering revelation, just 'apprehending the true nature of things'.

Our thanks then go to our Tahlia, in the Sputnik Insight and Planning Lab, who noticed this yesterday and pointed the rest of us to it.

An excellent short sequence of heavily loaded tweets - posted below - from the Obama 2012 campaign that clearly demonstrates that - despite Cass R. Sunstein's recent departure from the Obama camp - applied behavioural economics are still very much part of the Obama strategy.

Before Charlie gets at me, a quick note that this post is merely an observation on a piece of the Obama communications strategy, I'm not close enough to the policies debate or other political issues in the US to be voicing any informed opinion.

(My own representativeness heuristic does, however, lead me towards feeling that Baz is the the choice most capable for the next term, so there you go.)

A quick look at a couple of the key tweets.

'317,954 who gave were giving for the first time'
In psychology this is called the Bandwagon effect or Herding – this influences our tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same.

Also known as social proof.

This is all about momentum-as-strategy.
Despite Obama being the current Prez and therefore extremely popular with a section of the electorate there are still more (a lot more) NEW people joining the cause.

This acts as a sort-of counter availability heuristic to the neck-and-neck nature of the race as described by the opinion polls (always the scourge of momentum and often the hardest battle).

If I'm unsure about which side to back then this statement is indicating clearly that there's a groundswell for Baz's camp, something is going on.

'$5 or $10 helped, most donations were under $250 but the average was $58'
This is a clever tweet that combines a framing effect plus anchoring and a bit of herding.

Once the anchor is set, there is a bias toward adjusting or interpreting other information to reflect the "anchored" information.

This tweet anchors us on the high figure of 250 (probably too much to contemplate as a donation) however $58 seems reasonable

And that's the average i.e. That's what most people are giving. Those who gave $5-$10 are thanked but clearly are being encouraged to rethink their donation based on the social norm - $58.

The final tweet of the sequence - endings are very important in the efficacy of communications of course - adds the sense of urgency with a clear direct instruction to act. 'RT this link, right now".

The link goes to the donation page, and, wahey!, the page title is 'Build the Momentum: Donate today'.

In his paper 'Understanding how behaviour shapes strategy' Mark Earls concluded with the following paragraph, one which I seem to have commited to memory and find myself oft to recount when talking with clients about strategy.

'...wouldn’t it be useful to think about strategy in terms of momentum?
Strategy as being primarily how to create a sense of momentum in our favour?
About creating the sense that we, staff, customers, citizens or investors are moving more andmore towards something? Or that more of us are doing so?
Or that our velocity in any given direction is getting faster?
And if this is right, shouldn’t we start to judge all strategy by the sense that it is creating or sustaining momentum?'

Anyway, let's notice how the rest of the campaign unfolds.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

the planners dream goes wrong

In an experiment two participants were given boxes of lego bricks and instructions on how to build a simple robot from the bricks.

The participants earned two dollars for the first robot they built, then a subsequent fee for each additional robot on a decreasing scale of 11 cents per robot.
So robot 2 earned them 1 dollar 89, third robot 1 dollar 78 etc etc.
The participants could continue building robots for as long as they felt motivated. Both participants were told that their robots would be dismantled and the bricks re-used for the next participant.

Condition 1.
The first robot builder managed 10 builds before packing in and received $15.05 in payment.

The researcher took each of his ten constructed robots, placed them carefully in a box, in clear view, beside his table upon completion.

Condition 2
The second participant only built four robots and received payment of $7.34. Each of his four constructed robots was dismantled immediately upon completion by the researcher.

Throughout the day condition 1 robot builders averaged 10.6 robots.
Condition 2 robot builders average 7.2 robots.
The economic reward for the activity was the same for both conditions, yet the participants in the 'meaningful' condition – the ones who could witness the progress of their work – were motivated to keep building robots.

The condition 2 participants – for whom the task had no meaning – were much less motivated to continue.

This is a short version of a longer story that features in Dan Ariely's 'The Upside of Irrationality'.

I wonder if any of the planner fraternity can relate?