Thursday, 30 October 2008

Friday, 17 October 2008

clients paying agencies to advertise agencies

So the FT will shortly be running ads to warn against slashing ad budgets. Says Frances Brindle, FT's Global Marketing Director, "There is considerable evidence to suggest that companies that continue to invest in advertising in tough times emerge stronger than those that don't." 

It's all correct but there's just something lovely about clients paying an agency to advertise agencies.

turn left where the telephone box used to be

Thought it might be nice to record the Stage 1 IPA talks for selfish future referencing and for anyone else interested. They are a series of talks that aim to cover some of the essential truths of the communications industry. My posts will be pithy and I'll add bits in sometimes, esp. if there's a jump-off to psychology.

The first one was by industry legend Jeremy Bullmore. Here's his talk, triple-distilled:
  • A man asks for directions to a shop in a small town. The postman tells hims to go up the road and turn left where the telephone box used to be.

    Why has the postman failed in his communication? Because he makes the assumption that the listener knows what he knows. Or rather, he fails to appreciate the listener's knowledge is not the same as his. This lacks a word in English but it's something like empathy. Psychologists, however, do have a term for this faculty, theory of mind. Using clever methods - like the Sally/Anne task - it is possible to see this mental trick coming online around the age of four in developmentally typical children. Autistics never master this. The point: communicators need a theory of mind - or the ability to see events through the eyes of those they are communicating to - in order to be successful.

  • Passive audiences were never passive. Audiences have always actively understood communications, it's just that before digital they never had a way to express it; digital makes stuff that has always happened explicit.

  • There are no such things as messages. There are stimuli and responses. 

  • The best creativity elicits the best contribution from the receiver (the artist rules his subjects by turning them into accomplices)

  • There is no dichotomy between creativity and effectiveness in communications. Effectiveness is the end; creativity is the means.

  • Advertising creativity makes client's money go further. Anything outside of that definition is not creativity.

  • Brand body language is what people read. When the body language doesn't match the communication, there's a problem. 

  • Good brands make you feel safe, they release you from anxiety (mostly likely because of problems with information in market economies)

digital britian

"Our ambition is to see Digital Britain as the leading major economy for innovation, investment and quality in the digital and communications industries. We will seek to bring forward a unified framework to help maximise the UK's competitive advantage and the benefits to society." 

Stephen Carter, UK Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting

clarity crunch

"My favorite time to manage is during a bust. It brings more clarity about what your customers need and what your priorities should be."
Sergey Brin

Thursday, 16 October 2008

i love data layering

...especially if it's in 3D.

Friday, 10 October 2008

believing real

One of the first things I think when I see something online, and one of the first things that gets banded about on comment lists, is whether or not something is genuine, rather than set-up, faked, CGed etc. If it's genuine, interest soars; if not, interest dwindles (usually).

With this in mind here's a variation on Kelly's idea:
When content is faked, it becomes emotionally worthless.
When content is faked, stuff which isn't fake becomes scarce and valuable.
When content is faked, you need to show people things which are not faked.
I'd add on that some stuff that's great is faked (e.g. Cadbury's Gorilla; clearly that's not a real ape drumming away). It's when stuff is faked and needn't have been (or could have been done for real) that the emotional bottom drops out.

rebel selling

This is a screen grab from LastFM before they ruined their design. Putting that to one side for the moment, the interesting thing about it is that, after 'rock', 'alternative' came in as the second most popular tag. A screen grab from today shows much the same pattern.

[Aside: It's interesting how 'seen live' is a major label too. Like Kevin Kelly has said when stuff gets superabundant it gets cheaper to the point of being free. When this happens things that can't be copied become more valued by both the ordinary people, hence the tag's popularity, and record companies, hence the money in music now being in touring.]

There is more than a strong whiff of irony about one of the most popular tags being 'alternative': 'popular' and 'alternative', at first blush, cannot operate in the same place in a Gaussian distribution.

Now, it could be something particular about LastFMers: they might be alternative sort of folk. There's that. It's part of the reason the 'alternative' tag is so big. But, there's a greater truth too: 'alternative' is the driver of capitalism and culture.

Bakunin, Nietzsche, Sombart and Schumpeter all saw capitalism not for the homogeneity it created but as a fundamentally creative (and thus destructive) system. Capitalism and culture can be stated as the effort to escape sameness.

But you get information problems here. There are too many alternatives. Just like brands are there to help solve this problem, so certain things become pin-ups for 'alternative' to avoid the crippling effects of having too many alternative things. These things are then popular for being alternative.
Here, then, 'alternative' and 'popular' can operate the same place on a Gaussian distribution: everyone is trying not to be mainstream.

(Another irony here: counterculturalists believe they are rebelling against 'the system' when they are most probably contributing towards it, because rebellion is in the very spirit of capitalism. This could be problematic: "
Not only does it distract energy and effort from the sort of initiatives that lead to concrete improvements in people's lives, but it encourages wholesale contempt for such incremental changes [The Rebel Sell])

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

why psychology is so important

The mind has evolved to solve certain problems that kept cropping up in evolutionary history. Part of that is a general intelligence to work stuff out (be flexible) that history hasn't prepared it for. However, there are lots of other things that are more specific and muddy general intelligence.

When I say psychology is not the same as philosophy now but vital to it, what I mean is that without an understanding of the mind, we cannot get a good understanding of reality. We have to know the mud to remove it.

All knowledge gathering without an awareness of the mind's natural biases is the straight line in the diagram below. Knowing how the mind works allows you to travel along the bendy line, circumventing the mud, and obtaining unfettered knowledge. Close eyes, deep hum....