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Is SxSW any good? It depends on your perspective.

I wasn’t going to write about SxSW this year. As I sat on the plane back to Australia I felt exactly the same as I did last year when  I wrote about the need for some more imagination in the advertising industry.

To be honest, there didn’t seem any point.

And then I watched about 20 minutes of Bob Garfield’s amusing little ITV sponsored rant about everything being bullshit apart from TV ad breaks.

So on reflection, I do feel a bit different. Instead of naively calling for some industry wide imagination, I now believe we should just stop wasting time and energy with people that are all a bit jaded. It’s exhausting and life’s far too short.

These people don’t want the industry to progress and flourish they love things just the way they are. You will never change these people’s cynical perspective, so spend your time hanging out with people their share your optimism. Work with them and find them in places like SxSW.

A post modern philosopher once said there is no such thing as an objective truth, only subjective interpretations that are dependent on your perspective. I tend to agree.

A scientist, at least the ones at SxSW, would of call this a load bollocks. There’s the truth and then there isn’t the truth. I also agree.

The advertising industry often falls into the former camp, believing that the world, all systems, people, and industries within it, revolve around us, rather than the other way around.

Much like Bob, we twist and interpret the data to fit our view of the world. We develop our own little culture of awards that detracts us from the important stuff.

Essentially our perspective on things is wrong. In the year 2014, half the advertising industry is still psychologically and culturally stuck in the era of Mad Men. And if you went to SxSW looking for a shiny new gadget that might lead to an award, you’re going with the wrong perspective.

So to test whether you have an optimistic perspective that’s actually productive, I’ve developed a highly scientific test off the back of SxSW.

What goes through your mind when you see this?

Disgusted this has even been attempted? Concerned for the arts? Worried that you won’t have a job? Or in awe of the creativity required to make it happen and inspired by the opportunities it creates?

Now let’s take the Quakebot – a robotic journalist that reports the facts about earthquakes as they happen. Do you worry about the future of journalism or are you pleased to get news untainted by an agenda?

How about this?

Cool but it won’t win anything at Cannes? Interesting but what’s it got to do with marketing? Or hopeful that it will create new positive industries in our world (that may need marketing services) and fascinated by how diverse teams come together to solve important and complex problems?

What goes through your mind when I say data, privacy, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden?

Then what if I reiterated Bruce Sterling’s closing remarks about government agencies being more dangerous than Cody Wilson, the guy behind open source 3D printed guns and a Bitcoin ‘Death Wallet’. Scared and uncomfortable or glad people are fighting back against the system?

Then there’s Scanadu – a company developing an affordable Tricoder from Star Trek. Yep – it’s a little device from the future that prevents illness by giving you more information about your vital signs and well-being than your GP. What’s even more interesting is that they don’t want your data; it’s yours to own and maybe even sell or leverage against other purchases such as health care.

Think about that for a second. What are the ramifications of people having the power to control or monetise their own data rather than companies?

I’m sure by now you get the drift. We can look at this stuff as irrelevant and bullshit or we can think deeply and intelligently about what it all means and how we can embrace it.

So let me leave you with an interesting perspective from inventor Dean Kamen.

What if we celebrated scientists, engineers and inventors, in the same way we celebrated celebrities, entertainers and Silicon Valley? (Perhaps even creative directors)

If we celebrated a broader definition of human creativity, the problems that need solving, and how we work together, with different people and in different ways, I’m pretty optimistic.

For me, SxSW is brilliant because it twists and changes your perspective for the better. It’s not just about gadgets and awards – it’s about making positive and genuine progress.

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Advertising

An experiment – Do emotional stories affect behaviour or are we talking bollocks?

This post is going to test an old adage from adland. That adage relates to emotional stories and whether they really affect behaviour.

I’m doing this for two very selfish reasons.

Firstly everyone in advertising preaches emotion as the Holy Grail. It’s the thing that brands should do above all else when communicating with people.

Emotional stories supposedly increase people’s desire for things. They make people believe and feel things about stuff. Emotion even gets people talking, sharing and ‘liking’ things.

Some go as far saying emotional stories even get people to part with their cash.

So here comes the start of the experiment. Read this headline from, The Daily Echo, a local newspaper in England.

Cancer survivor is set to row the Indian Ocean for charity.

Did you click on it to find out more? If not, here’s a bit more information.

The person in question is called Ashley, he’s 36 with three young children, Abbie, Jay and Phoebe, plus a lovely partner called Laura.

The thing is, whilst Ashley is a cancer survivor he also suffers from severe epilepsy – at the very minimum he has at least one seizure a week. That means during the 3,600 mile row across the Indian Ocean he will be having a few.

Undeterred and to use his words; “Nothing will happen really. I would bounce around the boat but it would probably do less damage than if I had one at home. I have lived with it for so long now it’s part of my life”.

Ashley is quite obviously either insane or just a bloody inspirational chap.

Bear with me, the second point and real reason for this experiment is yet to be revealed.

Here’s a picture of Ashley rowing all day at the local Co-Op to raise some much needed funds for charity.

wrashrow02 (Read-Only).jpg.display

As you can imagine he still has a long way to go financially and as you can see the wiry little chap needs to bulk up a lot before April 2015 when he sets off from Western Australia.

Now I can call him a wiry little chap because he’s my big brother and I admire him greatly for doing something 99.9% of us wouldn’t do.

But here’s the experiment or more accurately a call for some help.

So far he’s doing brilliantly with many people and companies showing their support with much needed equipment and goodwill. Even The Prime Minster David Cameron sent him a letter, including a photo of himself.  Thanks Dave.

You can follow all his progress here http://www.nothings-impossible.co.uk/

Whilst this is all fantastic what he also needs is some cold hard cash to make this thing happen and allow him to focus on training and looking after himself.

As you can see he has a long way to go http://bit.ly/1cPeGJR

The ask/experiment is therefore quite simple really.

Maybe you could donate some money?

Maybe you work for a company that would like to help?

Maybe have a client that would love to sponsor him?

Or perhaps you could help him promote it with a tweet or something that makes the Internet go nuts?

What do you think, do emotional stories really affect people’s behaviour or are we just talking bollocks?

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Advertising

First principle companies rather than branding by analogy

OK, so this is the first post after last week’s commitment to making 2014 a bit more soulful. With a bit less advertising chat and a bit more thought on using creativity to make better companies.

To start then, I’m going to steal this marvellous way of looking at the world from Elon Musk.

In it Mr Musk advocates reasoning from ‘first principle’ rather than by analogy and also suggests the latter fundamentally hinders real innovation and progress. Given he is essentially a super hero he is probably right.

First principle is a theory that stems from mathematics, or philosophy, or physics (I’m not even sure Wikipedia knows);

‘It (first principle) starts directly at the level of established science and does not make assumptions such as empirical models and fitting parameters’.

Essentially it’s reasoning that starts from a pure almost untainted place- the roots of the task at hand if you will. For example, we’re in the business of getting people from A to B, not we are in the business of getting people from A to B in a car, that only uses petrol.

It’s kind of the purest of truths that you need to start reasoning from. Not the ‘truth’ that many agencies and brands construct over the years from some sort of analogy.

Now you’re cognisant of this I guarantee you will see it in every presentation. Everyone has heard some spiel like this:

“OK we have an idea and it’s a bit like ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ crossed with ‘Dove’s Real Beauty’ and the TV ad will use this obscure treatment nobody has ever heard of.  This will make it so ownable and deliver an emotional connection that moves your consumers to such a euphoric state, you will be sipping Pina Coladas in the South of France before you know it”  

We literally use analogies on top of analogies and quite often they’re from the same small pool.

Reasoning by analogy isn’t quite the opposite of first principle. These are solutions developed with a distraction at play that stops you seeing the real opportunity staring you in the face.

This might be the product you currently sell, quarterly sales targets, a category convention, something your competitor has done, awareness tracking, ad testing or perhaps the next trend from Cannes in 2014.

These analogies might be important but they can be unhelpful, they hold you back and certainly make you vulnerable to disruption.

It’s all so bloody obvious but hardly any of us manage to do it – mostly due to the fact it can require massive change. It would also put planners out of a job but some might say that’s a good thing.

Google is a great example of a company applying first principle to its search business (I’m post rationalising I know, they might not actually do it but humour so I can illustrate the point)

A copywriter I once worked with hated the Internet. In fact he was quite dismissive of anything that wasn’t ‘on tele’. Google was one of these companies – it was essentially the Yellow Pages of the Internet, he just couldn’t get what all the fuss was about.

This is an example of reasoning from analogy and it happens in advertising everyday.

To Google however its first principle is about freeing up information and allowing people to search it, irrespective of the interface or technology.

This leads to products like search engines but also Google Earth, Android, Google Glasses, Google Now, self driving cars and of course a lot of advertising revenue.

Where Google makes money is a byproduct of what they focus on, it’s not the first principle they focus on. If Google’s ambition were based on being a better directory that sold more targeted advertising it would not be as successful as it is. In fact you would probably have got to this page via AOL and a Nokia.

Now let’s take TV networks.

TV networks are fucked because they have forgotten their first principle and ruined the experience.  It’s all reasoning from the analogies of a television set and advertising revenue generated from spots and dots. Enter Netflix et al.

FMCG brands, at least in Australia, are fucked because they reason from a narrow definition of their products and supermarkets as the primary distribution method.

Which leads me finally on to advertising agencies or how we would rather be described, creative agencies.

I know everyone says they solve business problems but only if it’s using advertising of a very narrow and quite passive nature

Even our definition of advertising has lost it real meaning thanks to reasoning from analogy. If advertising derives from the latin ‘ad vertere’ meaning ‘turn toward’ perhaps that might be a more constructive first principle to start from?

If we can just drop the analogy of advertising from creativity and just apply it to making companies better perhaps we might see some real progress.

Maybe our first principle could be to help companies deliver on their first principle or is that all a bit too much like Inception?

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Adliterate, Marketing

2014? Let’s make better companies, not better ads

I had a very enjoyable Xmas and New Year thanks for asking.

I switched off the Internet as much as possible and just hung out with my Wife, who hasn’t had the greatest of years with her Mum being ill on the other side of the world.

I read a lot of very deep but very inspiring books. Like this, this, this and this.

Plus a couple of pals and I started getting the Sydney launch of Good for Nothing together.

I also watched England get stuffed in The Ashes.

Then I got back to work, switched on the computer, checked my emails and read the usual advertising blogs and websites that mundanely listed the same 9 ½ things the industry needs to know, to be exactly like everyone else in 2014.

Then I thought about writing the usual New Year new me guff

What professional goals and commitments do I need to inspire me through my twelfth year working in advertising?

What is so exciting about the industry in 2014 that will keep me motivated (and writing on this blog)?

Unfortunately I was stumped. I really couldn’t think of much that blew my hair back.

Which on reflection is pretty much how I felt about the advertising industry last year.

So rather than rattle on about everything everybody already knows.

Such as how advertising is a homogenous and increasingly commoditised service – thanks to the over supply of agencies that all offer said homogenous and increasingly commoditised services. (I wonder why margins are shit?)

How there are hardly any agencies with an important point of view or positioning in the industry anymore.

How it’s still led by narcissistic, artsy bureaucrats or worse still – ‘Chief Financial Officers’

How it’s lost much of its integrity, soul and invention.

I’m not going to talk about those things, at least not in isolation.

I’m going to spend 2014 thinking, writing and doing something more important. Applying creativity and marketing to make better companies not better ads

Last year I was stuck by something that Michael Porter said in his quite brilliant piece about ‘Creating Shared Value’.

Essentially Governments don’t create wealth anymore, companies do.

Which is fine if it was genuine, positive wealth creation but it’s not, it’s corporate wealth creation at the expense of society and culture.

Now given that advertising is a $500bn industry that represents companies, society and culture, it makes sense we should be a little bit more critical and ambitious in how we apply our talents?

Ways that will undoubtedly test whether people are creative in an inventive sense or just an artistic one.

Should we just accept money makes the world go round and continue to make cool artsy shit rather than cool shit that actually matters?

Sorry if that’s a bit heavy for the New Year but I opt for the latter.

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Uncategorized

The fine line between simplicity and being a simpleton

From day one, to approximately day 4,075 of my career in advertising, I have regularly heard the following phrase, ‘keep it simple’.

Early on it seemed like wise words from wise old owls that knew better than I.

However now I’ve clocked some hours it seems antiquated, or more accurately, it has lost its meaning in the same way many others words the industry uses have, such as creativity, digital and innovation.

So indulge me for a second whilst I muse on some vast and varied quotes to try and find the real meaning behind simplicity.

 “Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication”

Leonardo Da Vinci

I’m sure some minimalist design obsessive would interpret this as anything simple is sophisticated, where as I would say you need a sophisticated mind to make things simple.

(Remember we are also talking about Da Vinci here so the benchmark of simplicity is probably quite high. The association of Da Vinci with advertising or the Bauhaus movement may also be construed as offensive, so I apologise).

This brings me to this famous thought from Mark Twain et al:

“If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter” 

Part of the problem the ad industry faces is that we are unable to charge and unwilling to spend time trying to investigate and define the complex problems our clients face, let alone put it into a short letter aka the creative brief.

Simplicity has now become a short cut for ‘we need to do this quickly and at a good margin’.

Even worse it’s mostly used by lazy ad people that tiredly reject the words of Stereophonics’s Kelly Jones; “you’ve gotta go there to come back”.

Just keep things straightforward. We don’t have time to think about it. Let’s not over think it. Nobody ever won awards for solving the actual problem – many a well-travelled adman will say.

But Mr Adman (and it probably is a man and I’m using it in a derogatory way so I think that means I’m not being sexist) I see your lies and I raise you Albert Einstein, the master of pithy but insightful quotes.

 “Keep things simple but no simpler”

According to Albie there is quite clearly a fine line between simplicity and being a simpleton.

Perhaps that’s a line we have crossed with proprietary planning tools? Pithy propositions? Homogenous briefing templates and processes? Using the same skills and experience to surround varied problems? How we really only charge clients for the output and not the input?

The list of over simplifying creativity and what we do is endless in our industry and maybe that’s why we don’t generally sell it for a premium anymore?

After all if it’s that simple, why not do it yourself?

In the context of what we do, simplicity is about distilling complicated problems or opportunities into something actionable people understand.

So to finish with another Einstein-ism.

 “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself”

The next time someone tells you to keep it simple, ask them what they really mean, because the most brilliant things ever invented might seem simple but they never started in a simple place.

Only simpletons think otherwise.

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Uncategorized

I’m feeling sorry for clients, not agencies

I’ve stopped blaming things on clients. It’s really not their fault that bad advertising fills almost every corner the world.

I genuinely believe that they are simply the victims of agencies creating ridiculous myths about advertising and only offering a few rather spurious models to choose from. Everyone is just too scared to rip it up and start again.

One of the greatest things to happen as a result of all this volatility we are experiencing, is that agencies are going to be forced to come up with radically different business models.

But until they come to fruition, clients can only really choose from the following;

 One: The National Trust of Artvertisers

This model is the oldest and the one with the most problematic legacy. Essentially it’s a clique. A bunch of artsy bureaucrats that run the agency and post rationalise a client’s problem, solely based on an execution’s artistic merit and potential to win awards.

Much like The Turner Prize, every single person in the room is looking at the ‘art’ thinking it’s utter bullshit, they are all just afraid to speak up for fear of ridicule from the Ideas Trust. Little do they know, everyone else is thinking the exact same thing.

Should the Ideas Trust be challenged internally, very matter of factly they revert to the line: ‘clients buy the work that wins the awards’.

This retort isn’t that different to game show host, Bruce Forsyth’s famous quip: “What do points make? Prizes’. It’s catchy but don’t live by it.

Seriously it kills me when a young art director or copywriter just aims for an award winning execution rather than an inventive solution that answers the brief. Since when was narcissism better than imagination?

Similar to The Impressionists of the 18th Century, who valiantly tried and failed to get into the old and stuffy Paris Salon exhibition, young art directors and copy writers quite literally compete for the chance to get their work hung on the ECD’s walls.

It’s the same, just a few hundred years later and much like The Impressionists, they will eventually go off and do their own more meaningful work.

It’s easy to identify this kind of agency, as the presentations are formulaic – a few TV scripts ranging from 15 to 90 seconds long. Some web films and a Facebook app to prove how prepared they are for the digital age.

This model is great for clients that value the following;

  1. Trips to Cannes to pick up awards
  2. It’s easy and requires little to no thinking about anything important
  3. You can leave at 5 on the dot and sleep easily at night in blissful ignorance of the real problem you face

Two: The society of advertising practitioners

Of course if you believe every single agency you ever meet, the future of marketing is overwhelmingly about 1000 other kinds of advertising. These agencies like to think of themselves as the surgeons of the communications world.

Does your brand have a problem with content? Yep you need a content agency. Not on top of Snapchat, idiot. Welcome to Snapchat, Twitface and Partners.

There are real surgeons in and amongst all the guff that you do need but unfortunately 80% of them just aren’t that qualified, they simply plug a hole in the ignorance of a poorly trained GP.

You can recognise this model as it takes forever to arrive at a diagnosis. You get passed from specialist to specialist, each advocating their more advanced solution at the expense of the previous specialist you have just seen.

The result is a list of confusing but easily actionable tactics. They won’t solve the main problem but at least you feel like you’re doing something about it. After all who got sacked for hiring qualified specialists.

There is a huge downside to this model that you need to be aware of. If you’re in a really tough spot, things can go horribly as this poor journalist found out.

“What did I learn? Physicians do get things wrong, remarkably often. Studies have shown that up to one in five patients are misdiagnosed. In the United States and Canada it is estimated that 50,000 hospital deaths each year could have been prevented if the real cause of illness had been correctly identified”.

I know, it’s silly comparing advertising agencies to physicians that are well trained. I imagine the rate of misdiagnosis must therefore be much higher.

This model is great for clients that value the following;

  1. Procrastinating means you never really have to make a bold decision. By simply focusing on the myriad of short term tactics you can ignore the major issues
  2. You have the best roster of agencies in town, so you can blame them when it goes wrong
  3. You can times your social life and awards potential by the number of agencies on your roster

Three: The one stop shop

I know, I didn’t need to make up a name for this model, it actually exists.

Yes it is strange. Many agencies proudly describe themselves as one stop shops. Similar to a massive supermarket on the outskirts of a buzzing and vibrant community of actual people, this model is all about driving efficiencies and just making life easier for clients.

You don’t really pay for the quality, you pay for the low price, convenience and a lot of people in your meetings. It’s typical supermarket tactics – get punters in with a low price, then hit them with 2 for 1 deals so you end up buying more stuff you don’t need that just sits in the cupboard.

Quite often you will sit in meetings with the general manager, the manager, the assistant manager, the assistant to the manager, the supervisor and the checkout guys but all they do is relieve you of your cash for substandard products.

Every time you leave, you promise yourself you will never go back but it’s all just too easy.

These one stop shops are however getting smarter. They are really part of a network that can import goods from all over the world to the detriment of the local producer. They are great with data and loyalty schemes to the point they are developing automated systems, just like the financial industry. It must be great hey, that all worked out brilliantly.

In fact marketing teams will soon be able to come into work once a month and just choose between one of three buttons that unleash a chain of events via a bunch of systems and administrators ultimately designed to rip you off.

This model is great for clients that value the following;

  1. You have a really complex business so it’s just easier to ignore it and go with one network
  2. You are drowning in so much cash you don’t really need to look at the finer details of the receipt
  3. Your marketing department really answers to procurement not customers

Ok. If you have got here you have read over 1100 words and that means you care, a bit. It would therefore be rude of me not to leave you with at least one alternative solution, so here goes.

The new guilds of marketing

Much like in medieval times an agency is made up of guilds. Guilds are defined as: ‘An association of persons of the same trade or pursuits, formed to protect mutual interests and maintain standards’.

Agencies employ (or have a little black book) of master craftsmen and women (across the 4 Ps) that all work towards a common goal (marketing).

Going to war? Engage the blacksmiths. Times of famine, focus on agriculture. Perhaps when there is a celebration, blanket yourself in gold from the finest goldsmith.

This model needs diversity, partners and genuine craftspeople that want to work together.

So by getting rid of every single resemblance of agency departments, mediocrity and baggage associated with deeds and titles, here is what I would do, if of course someone was stupid enough to give me a bundle of cash to start an agency tomorrow.

Client Service becomes marketing and intimately represents a client’s category

This department is responsible for having an in depth knowledge and experience of a category but have the freedom to push the boundaries. They really know the client’s business inside and out and have a team of project managers on hand to get shit happening and keep things on budget.

These people need to be radical though, with genuine imagination about what a business could achieve. This guild should not be organised by a bunch of advertising services, it’s about the growth of a client’s brand and not the selling of services and head hours.

This group is also responsible for the marketing and business development of the agency. In fact there is a dedicated team focused just on marketing the agency and running pitches.

Replace creative and planning departments with flexible concept teams

It’s critical agencies get better at thinking and making at the same time from a cost, but also a time and quality of output point of view.

Clients need conceptual people with varied backgrounds to solve varied problems, so the idea of art directors, copywriters and account planners solving every business problem is lunacy.

Working with the agency’s newly created marketing team the concept lead mobilises a project group after assessing the scope. These are the gun thinkers, makers and doers. It may include a copy writer, art director or an account planner but it could also include media planers, product designers, technologists, researchers, designers, shopper marketers, economists, project managers and even the client to name a few.

There is no discrimination as to where these people come from, they just need to be massively conceptual people that also bring the required skills to the problem at hand.

They focus 100% on the job without the distraction of a multitude of other jobs or clients. Yes it’s might be more expensive but it’s a premium product worth paying for that will actually deliver better results quicker. Outside of a core concept team, the people are more transient making it possible to hire the best when needed and not keep any deadwood.

This model is great for clients that value the following;

  1. Real marketing
  2. Giving a shit
  3. Being inventive

I’m sure there are many more models but it’s a start.

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Advertising

Truth, lies and the advertising industry suffers from a severe case of confirmation bias

Nope, this isn’t a review of Jon Steel’s new book (although I think it would be a great follow up), it’s one of those posts that identifies yet another cognitive bias that proves humans are not rational beings.

To date there is at least 58 biases that make us behave in a myriad of weird and wonderful ways.

What’s increasingly clear to me however, is that people in advertising seem to have an acute case of one in particular – confirmation bias, or sometimes more accurately called myside bias.

This bias (on Wikipedia) is defined as:

“A tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. They also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position”

You only have to read the headlines coming from our industry’s publications, blogs and tweets to see it’s endemic.

The problem does however have a hugely negative impact on our industry.  We’re simply unable to answer some of the most important questions in a balanced and objective way.

It’s just all one big mind numbing cock off between people inadvertently protecting an existing belief.

Take TV advertising and digital advertising as one example.

Pro TV organisations such as Think TV and Oztam have been peddling the same rather rudimentary argument for years. That being, if more people are watching more TV than ever before, brands should a) spend most of their budget in TV and b) pay a premium for it.

Well within its rights given the years of ‘framing the data’, Google responds with other data that suggests digital consumption has now surpassed TV.

This then makes even the smartest people’s myside bias kick in without really addressing the most important points.

Essentially everything is media and every media is different. That means that every media is also measured differently by different organisations that have a vested interest in the data painting a certain kind of picture. It’s all just a very silly exercise that makes life complicated.

Please don’t trust any of it and question all of it. Don’t let your myside bias get the better of you and scratch the surface even if you find it a touch challenging.

For example, take this from Oztam’s website:

“OzTAM is an independent company owned by Australia’s major commercial television broadcasters – the Seven Network, Nine Network and Network Ten”

By law this company is an independent entity but let’s be honest, its data and methodologies used to capture it, is not.

It gets even better, or worse depending on which way your myside bias hangs.

OzTAM ratings are audience estimates based on actual viewing behaviour in 3,500 panel homes in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth and 1,413 homes nationally for subscription television.

Once a household has been recruited onto the panel, all television sets in that home are monitored by a sophisticated metering system called Unitam which captures viewing to all broadcast television channels on all TV sets in that home.

The Unitam meter records and stores all information about viewing including:

- Who is watching

- The time, duration and date

- Whether each TV is on or off

- The television audio signal”

What’s wrong with this you might ask?

Given the technology that’s available, at a relatively low cost, the methodology is archaic.

First of all the sample is just not good enough now we are dealing with over 100 hundred channels, in a diverse population of 23 million and a multitude of distractions that stop people actually watching the media.

I’m no researcher, but I know brands wouldn’t accept this in any other part of the business.

Then there is the issue of using a television’s audio signal to determine whether you watched a programme or indeed the ads.

Seriously, audio to measure what’s being watched – it’s like something out of the Flintstones.

Let me put this into perspective. My Xbox can measure movement through Kinect and I’m quietly confident there are more than 3,500 of them in Australian homes. You can even hack the technology from your bedroom.

Samsung S4 uses facial and eye recognition that can pause a video when you look away from the phone. Yep, people are walking around with technology in their pockets that is more advanced than an industry that spends billions of dollars every year.

The technology is there but it’s obviously not in many organisation’s interest to change it. Companies need to keep fuelling the bias rather than deliver an accurate picture. Far too many businesses and industries would lose money.

Everyone has heard of the quote by John Wannamaker:

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half “

The reality is, it isn’t a case of not knowing, we just can’t be bothered to find out, it would make life far too complicated and uncomfortable.

It’s not just TV advertising either – everyone is at it. More people have just developed a bigger bias towards TV

The biggest limitation with data of any kind is that it’s easily manipulated or interpreted to reinforce a pre-existing position.  It’s simply dangerous in the hands of people with a strong myside bias that contradicts the data.

In a recent Forbes article some of Warren Buffett’s success as an investor was attributed to his ability to recognise the frailties in human behaviour.

Warren Buffett used a nice story in Fortune magazine 12 years ago highlighting the problem:

 “Charles Darwin used to say that whenever he ran into something that contradicted a conclusion he cherished, he was obliged to write the new finding down within 30 minutes. Otherwise his mind would work to reject the discordant information, much as the body rejects transplants. Man’s natural inclination is to cling to his beliefs, particularly if they are reinforced by recent experience–a flaw in our makeup that bears on what happens during secular bull markets and extended periods of stagnation”.

As with much of life, the truth isn’t black or white, it’s somewhere in between. We do however need to take a bit of Darwin’s advice if anything is going to change. We could of course just keep wasting cash.

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