Links – 31st January 2009

As Des’ree once bemoaned, “Life, oh life, oh life, oh life”. A hectic few weeks are *fingers crossed* finally over. Rather than just watching the evening news and eating toast in that time, I also managed to read and bookmark some interesting things posted on the internet. Here is part 1 of a two-part collection of said stuff.

Insights

I’ve enjoyed the back and forth discussion regarding the nature and usefulness of insights. Richard Huntingdon used Simon Law’s presentation as a basis to provocatively state that insights do not come from the research department but from a combination of within (presumably not from those within the research department though), real life, academia and “weird shit”. This inspired several other posts.

Rory Sutherland sought to distinguish between an idea – creative – and insight – deduction.

Kevin McLean, a Qual researcher, felt that a little humility could have been used in the argument.

Will Humphrey offered a balanced summary, arguing that research findings should promote creativity and lateral thinking, but that planners should be more “ballsy” when pushing for decent research.

In terms of being ballsy and challenging, Dave Trott offers an inspiring story of changing a slender brief to a truly impactful one after going away to research the product

My own thoughts? Bad research, and bad researchers, exist. As do bad planners, creatives, account managers, product directors and so on. A project is more likely to succeed if each stakeholder is capable of implementing the necessary vision. This requires dialogue on each side – utilising specific skills and expertise to challenge, mould, amend and hone a brief. It is a researcher’s duty to provide a bespoke solution that will provide real, accurate, tangible outputs. If they don’t then they have failed. But other people in the chain have just as big an opportunity to succeed or fail.

Marketing and advertising

Rory Sutherland wonder if we can outsource media planning to the public through recommendation mechanisms within social media.

John Willshire followed up on that post with the notion that this removes control on how the message is propagated. He gives a great example of how such a scheme can easily be commoditised.

Ad Week looks at the rising relevance of shopper marketing in times of media fragmentation.

Faris Yakob uses a brilliant (fan-made) Thundercats trailer to illustrate the power and benefits of recombinant marketing

Iain Tait has a minor rant about the trend of using the themes of connection and collaboration within TV advertising

Graeme Wood remarks on ways in which the internet and social media can be used to deepen involvement in a television show

A NY Times article on ways in which the internet is being used to promote new novels

“Trust Me” – a new shot set at an advertising agency has launched in the US (NY Times). Within the show, real life brands and campaigns are placed. Personally, I think this is a great way to involve brands into entertainment in an organic way. However, in the UK product placement is currently illegal and so I wonder whether the show could ever be shown over here. Precedents are mixed e.g. we may get James Bond films with the “kerching” moments uncut but the Coca Cola drinks within American Idol are pixellated.

Rohit Bhargava on how advertisers can use consumers to help promote them

Ad Rants takes a look at Bob Garfield’s overview of the widget economy. I’m now locked out of the original article, so if anyone has access I would appreciate it if a copy could be sent my way 🙂

Claire Beale on Walker’s campaign to crowdsource a new flavour of crisp

Online video

Jim Louderback makes an excellent point in that, online, the third dimension of depth – or engagement – is far more important than reach and frequency

Mark Cuban believes online video is overhyped because the technology isn’t stable enough for mass simultaneous viewing. I would argue that this is what TV is for; online video is not TV and its benefits are different, but complementary.

And to highlight that difference, because the web is much more about discovery and experimentation, we see a huge drop off in viewing between episode 1 and episode 2 of a web series. Newteevee has a great overview of a recent report

Music

A Freakytrigger post shows that the number of new entries in the UK charts has dropped off a cliff in recent years. A negative effect of the long tail?

A very interesting Music Think Tank post on a pull music paradigm shift. There is some dissension in the comments but I found it fascinating

Tomorrow’s update will feature articles on social media, technology and the internet, and business and ideas

sk

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The Science of Lifelong Learning

On Tuesday evening I attended the lecture / debate “The Science of Lifelong Learning“, co-hosted by the RSA and the NIACE. The evening was centred on neuroscience and how understanding of its mechanics can impact upon education. The event was recorded, and I believe that feed will soon be uploaded here.

It was an enjoyable evening, though with over-running speeches the debate was sadly lacking and limited to a couple of rounds of questions (incidentally, this was the first panel where I’d seen questions asked in groups, rather than one at a time. Is this standard?).

If there was one overriding theme, it was an echo of Public Enemy – Don’t Believe The Hype. Neuroscience may aid an advancement in our understanding of how the brain works, but it does not work in isolation and cannot alone answer all questions.

The five speakers were a mixture of scientists and educators. Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (a neuroscientist at UCL) opened things up by looking at the “seductive allure” of neuroscience. Aids such as the Brain Gym are, apparently, sold on “facts that aren’t factual”.

She quoted a great study from Weisenberg et al (2008), which indicated that people became more satisfied with a “bad” explanation of brain activity once extraneous technical words were included. This was true for both neuroscience novices and students. Neuroscience experts were immune to this effect; amusingly, they instead felt the “good” explanation was less satisfactory when the neuroscience terms were included.

The takeout for the advertising industry is that products designed to improve intelligence will sell better if brain words are included in the description.

Despite the seductive connection between the mind and brain, Blackmore concluded that neuroscience can still be used effectively – e.g. we have discovered that the brain still develops within teenagers.

Usha Goswami, a neuroscientist from Cambridge, followed up by positing that creating optimal conditions for early learning makes our later learning more efficient, and increases the complexity of what can be learned. However, the ongoing environment has a bigger effect on development trajectory. This is a reason why continual learning is important (it can also help fight Alzheimer’s disease).

Paul Howard-Jones (University of Bristol) then presented evidence that training can improve targeted cognitive functions. While there is less evidence that this can transfer to non-targeted functioning, a recent study (Willis et al, 2006) suggested that reasoning tests in 74 year olds resulted in less self-reported functional decline in everyday life. Paul also had some very snazzy glasses, where the visual shapes projected within the lenses have been shown to enhance cognitive functions.

Andrew Pollard (ESRC Institute of Education) contended that there are four ways in which we can learn – formal workshops/training, personal support, a learning culture, and opportunities for self-reflection. He placed particular emphasis on the final point, saying that biography and history shouldn’t be overlooked. Learning needs to recognise the nature of phenomena; not just the brain but meaning and identity.

Matthew Taylor (Chief Executive, RSA) rounded off the speeches by agreeing that neuroscience is important but shouldn’t be overhyped. He also spoke about the extended mind and distributed cognition. The former refers to how external devices (e.g. a mobile phone) can extend our cognitive capacity while the latter relates to intelligence embedded in our social networks. He argued that learning takes place in groups, and that “collaboration is a meta-skill for lifelong learning”. Something our friends in social media will surely agree with.

A couple of interesting points also came out of the questions. Sarah-Jayne Blackmore said that different learnings have different sensitive periods e.g. social learning can continue for decades. Matthew Taylor noted that within schools, differing innate abilities meant that few could ever fall within a sweet spot of motivated learning and that assessment systems only added to the problem. Andrew Pollard named it the tragedy of the education system – feedback is not in a loop and so people cannot take it on board.

For further reading, see the blogs of Matthew Taylor and Tom Schuller, who chaired the evening.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fornal/

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Links – 17th January 2009

Aside from links, this blog probably won’t be updated for a week or so. I’m trying to stick to my quality over quantity aim, and my schedule is pretty full at the moment.

Marketing

Paul Isakson posits that weird and wonderful advertising works because of the prompt that our brain receives, irrespective of what the actual message is

Advertising has been about persuading people to purchase things they don’t need. So, with overconsumption being scaled back, Brian Morrissey wonders how the industry will react

Demanding a read/write city – why interactions such as graffiti should be encouraged (Anti-Advertising Agency)

The best and worst logo redesigns of 2008 (Brand New)

Fred Wilson predicts that display advertising will become so cheap that it will outperform search. I somewhat disagree – prices may fall, and effectiveness may improve but publishers can justify premiums due to the surrounding content and context. Network display is more likely to be filtered out. However, the piece is worth reading

Technology

The Feltron 2008 Annual Report – Nicholas Felton has collated a huge amount of data about his life, and published it.Are the benefits of this self-analysis worth the expended effort? I’m not convinced but the report is fascinating, and his interest has led to the development of daytum

CJR has a fascinating two part interview with Clay Shirky

Russell Davies has some excellent ideas in his new schtick

Graeme Wood’s post on the future of television and TV advertising dovetails nicely with my post on targeted TV ads

Business

Umair Haque has a brilliant guide to 21st century economics – he argues that we have to reinvent the global economy

The mistakes that are made in the hiring of NFL coaches (via Ben)

Music

Do the BBC’s Sound of 2009 and other such polls encourage a narrow and homogenised outlook on upcoming music? (Sweeping the Nation)

Interesting look at the remuneration (or lack of) with perceived promotions e.g. I didn’t know that US radio didn’t pay royalties as it claims it is free marketing

Websites

Stack – a great idea for magazine subscriptions – a pick and mix from leading independent titles

I Wear Your Shirt – another social media get-sort-of-rich quick scheme. Pay (fee rises at $1 per transaction) for a guy to wear your t-shirt and promote it online

For the time-pressed, particular recommendation goes to Clay, Russell, Umair and Graeme

sk

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Could targeted ads work on TV?

I’ve been exploring the concept of targeted advertising on television. Loosely defined, it is the ability to purchase advertising space against a diverse array of groups that go beyond the traditional trading audiences.

This post accumulates the background information I’ve collected on the topic and speculation (mostly mine) on how theory may become reality.

Because it is such early days, I’d love to hear the thoughts of people (media side, client side, planners, buyers, researchers, interested parties) on the subject. Do you think it will work? What would you like to see and what would you like to avoid?

(Disclaimer: I have no involvement in targeted advertising – this is purely background research. This is preliminary work and any errors are fully attributable to myself).

1. Background

Traditionally, trading television advertising is a complicated beast, but Thinkbox have a gentle overview of the topic here. Essentially, there are several criteria that advertising can be bought against – channel, time of day, region (for analogue channels) and so on. Specific trading audiences can also be bought but unlike other criteria they can only be estimated.

To use a simple example, I may want to purchase 300 ratings against Women on ITV1. My advertising would be placed in shows that would be expected to deliver the required number of female viewers. However, only when BARB viewing figures become available do I know how many ratings were delivered. If ITV1 delivered more than 300 ratings that I am in debit; if they undelivered then I am in credit. The difference is carried over to the next advertising campaign I run.

However, as we all know, TV is changing. On-demand and IPTV, to give two examples, are changing the concept of what TV means.

The concept of targeted advertising emanates from this seachange. As it is still (largely) a concept, definitions are loose and the vague. Targets could theoretically be grouped according to demographics, lifestyle, behaviour, attitudes or a combination thereof. While an internet connection is the likeliest means of delivery, it is not the only option.

Whoever delivers effectively targeted advertising first will have a tremendous competitive advantage. The future is up for grabs.

2. The Players

In the UK, the platform providers are best positioned to introduce targeted advertising

In the US, Project Canoe is looking to develop consistent metrics which in theory could then lead onto targeted advertising

It is also theoretically possible for non-platform providers to offer targeted advertising. These could include

3. Strengths and weaknesses of targeted advertising

With the concept still fluid, it is difficult to come up with specific answers but broadly speaking: (NB: Several of these came from a Mediaweek piece by Barry Llewellyn of Packet Vision)

Strengths may include

  • Ability to target a more tightly defined audience – less wastage
  • Greater relevance for viewers
  • If ads are interactive, there will be greater accountability for direct response
  • Frequency of exposure can be capped
  • Advertising watersheds could be removed in adult-only homes (e.g. alcohol advertising in the afternoons)
  • May be more affordable for niche advertisers with small target audiences
  • Greater flexibility in pricing options – pay by impressions or acquisitions?

Weaknesses may include

  • The whole concept will succeed or fail on the quality of the information captured
  • Different platforms offering different options could hugely overcomplicate matters; can a consensus model emerge?
  • The current pricing model will be completely destroyed; with a near infinite number of targets a new system, such as Google style keyword auction bids, will need to be introduced and accepted
  • Similarly, how will total advertising audiences be audited? Everyone could be seeing different adverts around the same programmes. BARB would also need to be overhauled
  • No-compete clauses can severely inhibit the ability to target e.g. a beer brand may pay a premium to ensure it is the only beer brand in the spots they have identified as being key
  • Unpopular targets may get the same few ads on continual rotation e.g. will 65+ C2DE spinsters only get ads from the COI?
  • Serendipity of appealing to people outside of the perceived core audience is lost – do targeted ads have the same attraction to brand-based advertisers as direct response?

4. Potential methodologies

Largely speculation on my part, but potential ways to target ads include

  • Geographic/geodemographic information – the most basic targeting option. Homes can be targeted geographically through IP address or MOSAIC/ACORN postcode information. Geo targeting may only be attractive to local advertisers, but these could make up a long tail of demand. Alas, these methods are far from flawless. I’m a male 16-34 ABC1 (highly desirable, if I do say so myself) yet live on a council estate – would I ever see Leffe, Audi or Playstation 3 adverts?
  • Registration data – when homes purchase a new TV or set top box, they could be asked to register not only demographic information but also lifestyle/behavioural information (additional information would need to be opt-in). This gives a richer understanding of viewers beyond demographic profile, but there will be ambiguities over individual and household information and usage, and the data needs to be regularly refreshed in order to be useable (for instance, my cat may die and I may get a dog instead)
  • Return path behaviour – Interests can be inferred from the types of programmes that are watched, or the types of website that are visited. For instance, if I watch a lot of DIY shows, an ad for Ikea may be suitable. This is achievable but it is an art rather than a science. What if it is my girlfriend watching the DIY shows, not me. I could get all the DIY ads during football, and she wouldn’t get any during Hollyoaks. This type of targeting can be quite transparent and with an uncanny valley, is the method most likely to irritate.
  • Panel information – whether a panel like Skyview or an extension of BARB, a sample of viewers can be recruited, with advertising targeted around their behaviour. This could be extrapolated to all viewers through programme audience profiles or registration information. However, this would only effectively be targeting a small proportion of viewers, with the majority guesstimated. With around 35,000 Skyview homes representing over 4m households with Sky+, the level of accuracy may not be high enough.
  • Opt in system – give people the choice to submit information – either through an in-depth registration or regular surveys. By communicating the benefits, people may actively choose to receive targeted ads, creating value for everyone. This could be achievable, though the proportion of those opting in may be too small to be useful. With an opt-in, several additional steps could be taken to ensure accuracy e.g. a BARB style remote control (each viewer needs to “sign in” by pressing a button) could be introduced so advertisers know exactly which members of the household are watching.
  • Social profiles – Bringing social networking to TV – such as this BBC/Microsoft prototype – offer a lot of information that could be harvested. People like to communicate their favourites, and this could be utilised. And with users logged in to their profiles, advertisers will be sure of at least one viewer in the room. This could work – Joost is currently the number one contributor to Facebook Connect – but again, it would only be a limited dataset and a lack of take-up may prohibit effectiveness

5. Implementation

We should be seeing several prototypes and trials following in the wake of the Inuk experiment. Due to the difficulties of implementing targeted advertising within live broadcast, I believe targeted ads will initially concentrate on on-demand and interactive content (whether red button or the electronic programming guide).

There appears to be a first-mover advantage, and so the stakes are high. Virgin would seem the best placed to lead the way – the internet is already connected to the box and with subscription fees they are partially shielded from any effects to advertising revenues – but I wouldn’t rule out any of the other players leading the charge.

Indeed, the first implementation may not even be within advertising. What if I could let Sky know which sports I like and dislike, and then get a customised news ticker on Sky Sports News? I’d certainly opt into that.

6. Further thoughts

This is an early stage outline of how targeted ads appear from my perspective. I’m really keen to hear other people’s views on the subject. Do you think targeted ads will take off? What would you like to see? What problems do you envisage?

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated

sk

Image credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pbo31/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/melilab/

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Links – 9th January 2009

Enjoy your Friday

Products

  • Jon Canter rants against the rise of personalised copy on product packaging. “We’re the couple who love to make crisps.” It sounds like a personal ad in Snackmakers Weekly: a couple seeks another couple who also love to make crisps, in the hope of meeting up in a car park in Colchester. (Comment is Free)

Social Media

  • Rick from Eyecube rails against the personal branding phenomenon. He argues (correctly, I believe) that it is about value and not chasing numbers
  • Alan Wolk talks about “Scoble blindness” – something which I strongly believe in. People within the tech bubble live complete different lives to the average member of the public, which often creates a disconnect between hype and reality. Even now, Twitter hasn’t crossed over (though @wossy, @the_real_shaq and @stephenfry may change that)

Consumer Insight

  • More Intelligent Life argues that rather than society dumbing down, we are in an age of mass intelligence – societal fragmentation has allowed niches to grow and flourish

Online resources

  • Getty Moodstream allows you to filter images and videos on a variety of settings

I would particularly recommend 10 constituents of the WOW factor, The rise of the personal media platform, “Scoble blindness”, How behavioural ad targeting punishes web publishers and The science of shopping

And check out my Tumblr for a few more links

sk

Learning from textbooks

Are textbooks valuable?

They encourage rote learning, are open to malignant biases, are frequently tedious and the contents are promptly forgotten about before they can be digested.

So why are they so commonly used? Simplicity? Equality? Continuation?

Personally, I find them useful. Up to a point. I wouldn’t attempt to fly an aeroplane, but I might attempt a few choice words of Cantonese with a native speaker on completion of an instruction guide.

Where do marketing textbooks fit on the scale?

marketing by paul baines, chris fill and kelly page

I wonder because I have recently read one. This one (Marketing by Paul Baines, Chris Fill & Kelly Page), to be precise. My apologies to the folk at Research Talk for leaving it so long, but I am holding true to my word by blogging about it. I did say that it may take a while.

I studied Philosophy, Politics & Economics at university (though it turned out to be more like History & Politics) and so my knowledge of marketing is accumulated from various bits I’ve picked up on the job, through courses, magazines and blogs. However, I wished to know more and so picked up the book.

Because of the chasms in my knowledge, I have appreciated another benefit of textbooks. They offer a logical and consistent guideline to work from. Many elements sounded familiar but I had never fully considered the surrounding context and implications. There is now a degree of coherence unifying my thoughts.

Textbooks should only be the first step in learning, but they provide a base to build upon. A base where thoughts and theories can be evolved through experiences, interactions and feedback. After all, textbooks will expound the prevailing wisdom and as the old aphorism goes; “Conventional wisdom is always conventional, but rarely wisdom.” We can learn from our mistakes and progress (even if the experts are just as wrong as chimpanzees).

And as far as textbooks go, this was a very readable and well-paced example. It gave a decent introduction to topics, which while basic contained thorough references for further reading and plenty of case insights. A broad range of topics were covered and it can equally be studied for 5 minutes or 5 hours at a time.

I would suggest two additions to the book. Firstly, more competing or emerging theories where applicable; alternate theories tended to supersede rather than sit alongside. Secondly, an additional chapter on changes to communications due to the ubiquity of mobiles and computers would have been welcome, but I presume this runs the risk of fast obsolescence.

Unsurprisingly, I learned many things by reading the book – some small nuggets; other major theories. A few of my takeouts include:

  • STP – segmentation, targeting and positioning
  • DMAP targets – distinct, measurable, accessible and profitable (I’m a fan of using acronyms for mnemonics)
  • The difference between opinion leaders and formers is that leaders ar in same social circle
  • The five characteristics of service products are intangibility, inseparability, variability, perishability and non-ownership
  • RATER dimensions of service quality – reliability, assurance, tangibles, empathy and reassurance
  • Porter five forces analysis
  • Bettman’s memorisation processes affecting consumer choice include factors affecting recognition and recall, effects of context, form of coding objects in memory, effects of processing load, effects of input and effects of repetition
  • The six types of relationship are partner, advocate, supporter, client, purchaser and prospect

Now the trick is to put them into practice before they’re forgotten

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenliveshere/

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Links – 2nd January 2009

The year has started off well – I didn’t write 2008 in the subject header.

Social media

  • The US Air Force has published their “rules of engagement” in responding to blog posts and it makes for a very sensible read. Considerations include transparency, sourcing, timeliness, tone and influence
  • JP Rangaswami has some typically thought-provoking posts on the nature of consumer control and what that means for publishers and businesses alike – here and here
  • Piers Fawkes considers the 50-50 corporation – with half a focus on profit and half on being social

Changing businesses

  • What would happen if gamers ran the world? Tom Armitage considers the skills in gaming and how they can transfer over

Psychology

  • Nostalgia can overwhelm – people look back with misty eyes and prefer to live in past decades despite all the advances in creature comforts. Me? Send me to the future… (Intelligent Dialogue)
  • Our brains can lie to us. Facts are stored in the Hippocampus but memories are processed in the central cortex – this leads to source amnesia and means we may remember false accusations (e.g. Barack Obama is Muslin) as fact (International Herald Tribune)

Resources

  • Advertising Age have parts of their 2009 Annual online
  • Ad*Access is a database of 7,000 old advertisements that have been released from copyright for use in research

2008 lists

  • Not only does Fimoculous have 30 notable blogs of 2008, but there are also additional links under each subject heading

Particular recommendations go to How to grow communitiesConsumer’s relationship with music and advertising, Our brains can lie to us, 30 notable blogs of 2008 and Top 10 Slideshare presentations of 2008

For further links unrelated to the subject of this blog, check out my Tumblr account

sk

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