Monday, December 23, 2013

if you kissed me now I know you'd fool me again

Seasons greetings and that to everyone who's read and shared this blog throughout the year and also to everyone who's ideas and thinking has shaped the stuff written here.

As is traditional we finish off for Christmas with a tune.

Here's James from the Manics injecting some angst into Wham's Last Christmas.

Thanks again, and see you after the break.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

if you can think of it, it must be important

It's sobering to note that at the end of 2013 there are still people, clients, agencies and organisations out there who are in varying degrees of confabulation - driven by emotions ranging from blind terror to rapture - around the impact (both apparent and potential) of the social media for their businesses and communications.

This, of course, only contributes to further uncertainty and, as we know, under uncertainty, biases in judgement - most often created by too much (or indeed too little) information - will lead to errors of thinking (and doing).

While we could joke that this situation would be easier to navigate if only there were some experts out there to offer guidance?

Or some information websites on how to successfully leverage social media?

Perhaps even a webinar or two or a set of ebooks one could buy?

Ha, but the problem is clearly the former. Too much information.

And in this situation two cognitive biases exert disproportionate influence.

Firstly, the availability heuristic is a mental shortcut by which decisions are made based on how easily similar examples that come to mind.

As a result, we tend judge that those events or examples that are easier to think of are more frequent and possible than others. We routinely overestimate the likelihood of similar things happening in the future, and likewise we overestimate the importance of stories that seem to be everywhere (ie easily mentally available).

From a brand marketing point of view, this bias is one that can be extremely useful.

Brands that appear to be popular, that are easily noticed and remembered (mental availability) and with the best distribution (physical/virtual availability) tend to benefit from larger market share. For a small brand looking to grow then getting to grips with availability is crucial.

[Interestingly, and statistically, one is more likely to be killed by a refrigerator falling on one's head than in any act of terrorism, but incidents of terrorism come to mind much more easily and are believed to be far more common.]

On the downside, the idea that 'social media is the answer to all branding and marketing problems' is a hugely available idea, initially propagated within the social media itself by 'experts' and - not only but also - repeated, received-wisdom-style by all and sundry, so that it comes so easily to mind that surely it must be true.

The reality being that there are very very few examples of brands that have been built or grown substantially through social media alone. Go to a few social media conferences and you will very shortly collect the set as the same examples are trotted out at every event.

The idea that 'consumers' want to have deep emotional connections and engage with brands is also a hugely available idea, while statistically on any given week, less than 0.5% of Facebook fans will engage with any brand they are fans of.

Given that a brand's Facebook following will mostly represent but a tiny proportion of its customer base, and for the most part follow for (let's be honest) customer service and/or freebie purposes then it's not a great case for growth through 'engagement'.

A season spent on the conference trail will further compound as one notices the constant presence of availability's close cousin, the projection bias, in which we tend to assume that others feel exactly the same as we do.

Secondly, another close cousin of availability (and projection) and perhaps the most dangerous and widely visible of biases in the social media space is the confirmation bias.

Until recently this was perhaps best described as the social media bubble, fishbowl or echo chamber, in which members display tendencies to read material that confirms existing beliefs, pay more attention to information and people who confirm existing beliefs, and search for corroborative evidence to confirm existing beliefs.

Chuck in a dash of sunk-cost fallacy and it's easy to see why, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, there is now a whole industry of social media gurus who want the 'death of this or that' to be true, will cherry pick and spotlight anything that supports it, and then congratulate themselves on their accuracy.

The word guru has it's origins in Sanskrit, the primary liturgical language of Hinduism.

Much can be learned from ancient eastern wisdom, of course.
Not least a healthy skepticism of the self-annointed thought-leader or guru.

The Kularnava Tantra is an important and authoritative text of the Shakta Agamic tantra tradition and a major statement of Hindu spiritual thought, including this nugget.

‘…there are many gurus who may rob the disciple's wealth but few who can remove the disciple's afflictions…’

Humans are probably the only species with the ability to think about the future, yet that hasn't helped our ability to predict. In fact the only accurate prediction one can confidently make is that the majority of our predictions will be wrong.

My closing hope, as opposed to prediction, is that as an ad industry we can overcome our confabulation in the year ahead, understand properly the role that digital and social has in an overall communications piece (for a role they undoubtably have, but not the be-all and end-all) and focus on what's really important.

To be better at understanding the behaviour of people in buying situations and developing the kind of things and communications that have the best chance of influencing those behaviours.

And finally, to perhaps best illustrate that heady brew of availability and confirmation bias I leave you with this splendid cartoon, shared by Doddsy some time ago in an unrelated tweet, and one that has featured in a number of my presentations this year to illustrate some of the points contained in this note.

Friday, December 13, 2013

magic piano

Here's another nice little situational thing, a public intervention enhancing the mundane by use of 'invisible' digital technology.

Or possibly a man inside the piano.

Drawing in bystanders and spectators at Chicago Union Station.

The Magic Piano, allegedly responds to changes in the environment in real time.

Some of the participants in the clip are clearly actors (or direct agents, as we prefer to call them) but we still smiled.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

what is there to be seen and what we actually notice

The snippet below from Consumer.ology by Philip Graves - a tome who's place on the plannery types bookshelf should be taken as a given - gives further power to the argument that getting advertising and branding noticed in the first place and subsequently remembered in buying situations is our imperative.

And furthermore should raise alarm at how often and easily the lofty goals such as consumer engagement and deep emotional connections are trotted out as likely and achievable.

The reality being that people don't think about brands very much, nor do they know much about them or particularly care. While this sounds grim, what it really describes is the opportunity for creativity.

I think it was Dave Trott who said that the most important question on any creative brief, yet the one that rarely appears is 'how does this piece of advertising get noticed?'.

Anyway, I digress.

Here's the science bit.

"According to researchers from Penn University, the human eye can transmit approximately 10 million pieces of information per second. Regardless of the mind-boggling quantities of data involved, anyone who has ever spent any amount of time looking for something, and then found it in one of the places they had already checked, will know that there is a big difference between what is there to be seen and what we actually notice.

The highest estimates suggest that the most we’re able to process is around 40 pieces of information per second (from all our senses, not just visually), so you can forgive yourself for not finding those keys first time around!"

There is a big difference between what is there to be seen and what we actually notice.

In psychology one description of this phenomenon is 'inattentional blindness'.

Which leads me to this 'card-trick' from Richard Wiseman, kindly shared with us by Wiemer Snijders.

We are into card ticks this week, I played a simple one on the audience at AIMIA last week, as a faux-mass hypnosis memory experiment.

I subsequently recieved several messages asking how it was done.

As my magic-circle application is pending, unfortunately I can't reveal.

may I ask what you expected to see out of a Torquay hotel bedroom window?

In an episode of Fawlty Towers, Basil entertains a hard of hearing and somewhat curmudgeonly guest - Mrs Richards - who complains about some of the features of her room.

Mrs. Richards: And another thing. I booked a room with a view.

Basil: [Goes to the window] Yes, this is the view as I remember it, yes, yes, this is it.

Mrs. Richards: When I pay for a room with a view, I expect something more interesting than that.

Basil: That is Torquay madam.

Mrs. Richards: Well it's not good enough.

Basil: Well, may I ask what you expected to see out of a Torquay hotel bedroom window? Sydney Opera House, perhaps? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the...?

Mrs. Richards: Don't be silly. I expect to be able to see the sea.

Basil: You can see the sea. It's over there between the land and the sky.

Mrs. Richards: I'd need a telescope to see that.

Perhaps the good people at Google Creative Labs had this in mind as they developed this splendid installation (not sure what to describe it as) as part of Sydney Opera House's 40th birthday celebrations last month.

The project, entitled Binoculars, entailed a special set of those vintage panoramic view binoculars (the ones that look like a face), installed on the footsteps of the Opera house.

Viewers who participated were then able to do what Mrs Richards was unable to in Torquay and view 40 other iconic locations around the world - including the Colorado River, the Palace of Versailles, and Shackleton's hut in Antarctica - using imagery from, and to demonstrate, Google Street View.

Thanks to CiarĂ¡n Norris, who kindly pointed me to this in recognition of my current infatuation with outdoor media enhanced with digital technologies.

The beauty being the ability deliver indiscriminate shared experiences for broad audiences without the baggage of tight targeting, faux-relevance and hyper-personalisation that the adtech world has misguidedly embraced.

The audience for this intervention is anyone with eyes and a sense of curiosity.

The future of digital advertising is out-door :). Here's the Fawlty Towers clip too.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

when saturday comes

I was speaking for the Australian interactive media industry body, AIMIA, this week and last week.

The events were their annual 'Future of Digital' seminars in Sydney and also Melbourne.

I did my usual controversy, which seemed to go down reasonably well.

One of the other speakers was Laurie Patton, the Media and Entertainment Exec Director from Telstra.
We chatted before and after and he was a very nice and smart fella.

He nonchalantly dropped this anecdote in his talk but it struck me as being something of an insight that I had not considered before.

Amongst his duties at Telstra Laurie is working with a number of sports stadia in Australia to integrate digital technology into live sporting events, to enhance them in situ.

The remarkable point Laurie made was that stadia owners and operators are cognisant of the sports viewing experience at home becoming more of an 'experience' than attending in real-life.

In an unexpected flip (to these ears at least) viewing at home on TV with connected devices etc offering in running stats, multiple camera angles and replays (and close proximity to the fridge) is potentially more attractive than the schlep to the stadium and is therefore increasingly a challenge to both the stadia and sporting associations.

Good luck to Laurie and his people in solving this conundrum.

On the one hand it's further fuel to the 'TV is not dead and nor is it likely to be dead anytime soon' lobby and also my own pet thought that the media channel that stands to benefit more from the introduction of digital-ness is the humble out-of-home.

feel good hit of the summer? (or winter - choose your hemisphere)

A textbook case of how how to have a viral hit and maximising brand effect.

Using branding and market-based assets throughout (purple Santa and Elves was a nice touch) – tick

Evoking high arousal emotional response (i.e. reason to share) INSPIRATION, EXHILARATION, ASTONISHMENT – tick

Presented in the context of brand use and occasion - tick

Creative device? - 'personal triumph (sort of)' - tick

Probably backed with significant paid promotion and seeding upfront to maximise initial reach - (assumed) tick

Also worth noting: another example of doing something first - a situational or cultural intervention - then advertising what you have done.

Congratulations, WestJet.

Friday, December 06, 2013

a friday note on distribution and sharing a coke

This short World Cup 2014 film for Coca-Cola by Ogilvy in Shanghai has almost everything required to be be a viral hit, yet it isn't (yet).

Why should that be?

Here's some clues, from the appliance of science.

In Chapter 4 of 'Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing' by Karen Nelson-Field from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute (the chapter is entitled, 'Not all Fart jokes are Funny') Karen imparts the following.

In the course of her team's extensive research they find no correlations between sharing and the particular creative device used in a film, neither were there links between specific emotions and creative device, but there are relationships between the degree of emotional arousal felt and likelyhood of sharing activity.

They describe this as high arousal emotional response.

The one exception to the rule is when the creative device employed is 'personal triumph' - this shares significantly more even with low arousal emotions.

To get shared, the general lesson is to focus less on which creative device is applied and more on how arousing the creative is. So far so good for Coke and Ogilvy Shanghai, the film has all the ingredients

But that's not the whole story.

Karen and her team challenge the common belief that the key to spreading is in infecting a few adopters in order to reach millions over time.

This is the most available idea of how the diffusion of content occurs.

The evidence however says that this is the opposite of what actually happens.

Apart from a few cherry picked exceptions (the ones that appear in the social media case studies) the diffusion curve is, in fact, negative - after launch the degree of penetration for a video drops after a short period of time.

And, assuming it's compelling content, evokes high arousal emotional response, the single biggest other predictor of online video sharing is it's initial distribution.

According to Karen's research, for the best performing videos the ratio about 8 views to 1 share.

For others that perform reasonably well 24 to 1 is the average.

So to get mass sharing, initial seeding/paid support is key. Assuming the video is good and pulls the tricks above, then it needs to be put in front of as many people as possible in order to spread.

A few 'influencers' will not cut the mustard, most of the time.

One can only assume that little paid promotion has been put behind this terrific little film - a story of personal triumph - or else it would be a viral smash.

Likewise the many other Coca-Cola World Cup films in the series, from around the world, all of which are languishing with very few views and shares in YouTube.

Don't tell me Coca-Cola don't have a few bob to stick behind this great content.