Tag Archives: Media Research

The Future Evolution of Marketing/Media Research – Revisited 2017

Original post April 19, 2011

What will happen next in the advertising industry’s important research wing? Where is it all going? What will be the face of advertising/media/BI (Business Intelligence) research/data science?

First, the drivers:

  • Decision makers want speed
  • They want answers to burning questions that specify the recommended decision with compelling rationale – so their job of taking that position and defending it will involve as little personal risk as possible;
  • They want all the variables and types of evidence reduced to utter simplicity – as in a well-designed graphic dashboard;
  • If they have a dashboard, they love to be able to play what-ifs with the recommended solution and see what happens to the graph, so that they truly do have a key role in the decision that gets made;
  • They need to be able to get their heads above all the weeds and up to where they can actually have a master vision – but the weeds are growing like hydra – the weeds being the excess of nearly-relevant information.

In other words, as compared to when I started in the business and we were looking desperately for any scrap of information, and beating the heck out of it in terms of a high bar for validation, today all too often there is much too much information. One can have an assistant compile it all so one can scan it but that’s about it. No way to actually absorb the ever-growing heap.

This new reality engenders a new way of functioning that is always high risk (as evidenced by CMOs being replaced every 23 months on average) and in which one has to operate like the Hollywood gunslingers – on gut intuition. Or as in the Hollywood story, where Columbia Pictures co-founder and head Harry Cohn could read the quality of a film based on watching butts twitch in seats.

So in other capitals across the country and around the world we have all joined that methodology, except we compile even more quantitative information as back up and proof of whatever it is our butts twitch to.

So the drivers have led so far to a relatively undesirable condition of rationalized guesswork. The researcher tries to work within this environment and tries to uplift it. Given relative rank in organizations, the researcher usually fails in this nowadays (if absolute success is the bar) except it is relatively better than if the researcher was not pushing that envelope.

The job going forward is to achieve absolute success by overturning the current rationalized guesswork mode and bringing in scientific decision making. What we already pretend to be doing.

Next, the needs:

  • Creative people need the kind of information conducive to generating Big Ideas;
  • Creative pre-tests need to be fast, highly predictive of actual cash register ROI, diagnostically rich and appropriate to being able to make quick fixes that will drive up ROI;
  • On-air cash register measurements of Creative, without use of black box attribution methods, used to reallocate so as to run the most sales-effective Creative executions most if not all of the time;
  • Programming content needs the exact same kinds of pre-testing, except instead of brand advertiser ROI, the success metric is audience size weighted by the marketable CPM – once again devolving to a financial ROI equation;
  • Media (including in-store, CRM, place-based, social, and everything else) need to be measured in terms of how well they reach types of purchasers (heavy, disloyal, etc.) and how well they influence purchase behavior (this is even more important than measuring their reach overlaps since each one has to be bought separately);
  • Crossmedia reach overlaps and synergies need to be measured and validated, their changes tracked, and these information types baked in with all the other information so as to give the decision maker a simple integrated dashboard where real (empirical) unmodeled validated information has ultimate weight. And the modeling (marketing mix and all other forms) needed to fuse together everything for the decision maker is as validated and transparent (not black box) as possible, with so as to give modelling almost no weight in terms of which media vehicles to buy – whereas crossmedia overlaps and dollar ROI synergies are the most important factors in making the big planning allocations to media types. This unavoidable leaning of our weight on the modeling crutch is a soft spot to be studied and overcome;
  • All data and data fusion methods need to be validated against actual cash register ROI;
  • Data (and proposed decision) delivery from research to the line must be in the form of utter simplicity via dashboard where exec can play what-ifs and see how ROI forecast changes.

Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? That was a joke of course.

Finally, the prognostications:

I hate to disappoint, but these really are more like prescriptions. The industry has taken some of my prescriptions in the past, but mixed with a heavy dose of countervailing competitive marketplace forces, which tends to change the outcome a bit away from the admittedly utopian picture I had painted of what could be done. So how can I accurately prognosticate what really will happen?

Here’s instead what I think should happen.

Creatives

Researchers need to do a much better job stoking the fires of the big minds to produce Big Ideas. The advertising business is about producing Big Ideas for money. The rest is just implementation.

By the Creatives I don’t just mean writers and art directors. Everyone is a Creative, to the extent that they are allowed to come up with and share Big Ideas. In some organizations, people are disempowered by not having their Big Ideas taken seriously – but these organizations are becoming more and more rare. Thank God.

Research presentation to Creatives – the people who need to make big planning decisions – has been, well, wanting – that’s probably the kindest word I can use.

People who make planning level decisions need all the information they can get about the people at the other end of the communications process whom we are trying to influence. Right now they do get quite a bit. It does generate more insight than probably at any time in the past, including the phase of Motivational research. But it’s not yet enough, and it’s not absorbable and stimulating enough to the writers and art directors.

Instead of dashboards for the writers and artists, something like a ripomatic is used nowadays – both in selling new business and in pumping the Creative people. A ripomatic (or feelomatic, etc.) is a succession of clips – mostly video, a few still, with music – that tell the Creative about the target audience. One thing that could be added is the ability to drill down on one image or idea and get more information in the same emotive form on that facet of the picture – as in some of the early branching video CD-ROMs that IBM, BBC, British Telecom and others produced to show where video could go someday. There might be a dial where the Creative can slow down or speed up the images. And touchscreen or voice command to indicate what to drill down on.

Neuroscience should be able to show a picture of the target audience that is even more conducive to Big Ideas. Findings from neuroscience could be presented in the same video format to inspire the Creative – all findings can be pumped in through the Creative form of the same dashboard idea. Just to have a name I call it the Clashboard – the dashboard for Creative, which is branching video rather than Flash pages that remain static until one plays what-ifs.

The underlying historical reason for both the dashboard and the Clashboard is information overload. People in the advertising industry are no exception – we get even more information than the average person, and the average person is deluged. My book Freeing Creative Effectiveness is all about breaking out of EOP (Emergency Oversimplfication Procedure), the condition that sets in when there is too much information – desperate shortcutting such as rationalized guesswork.

By focusing the eyes on a dashboard or Clashboard that is comprehensive and yet utterly simple, the mind can also begin to focus. All the information is in one place. No distraction thinking of where can I get this piece of missing information – it is all there.

My best to all,

Bill

Follow my regular media blog contribution, In Terms of ROI at Media Village, Myers new site. Here is the link to my latest post.

Latest Lessons from Erwin Ephron

Volume 4, Issue 15

This last Monday I was presented with the Erwin Ephron Demystification Award by the Advertising Research Foundation. Naturally, I was tipped off in advance, and had organized my thoughts about what I would say.

Bill Harvey receives The ARF's first Erwin Ephron Demystification Award - June 9, 2014
Bill Harvey, recipient of the first Erwin Ephron Demystification
Award, with Gayle Fuguitt, CEO and President of the ARF.

(On the subject of acceptance speeches my mind always goes back to Sally Fields’ Oscar acceptance speech in which she emoted “You… like me!”)

For those of you who did not know Erwin, who passed on some months ago, he was one of the thought leaders of the advertising industry, known best for his ability to express himself so that not only did everyone understand him, his arguments were inarguable. He was also a great friend and mentor of mine. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had so many great mentors. The Universe sure has treated me nice since I acknowledged its sentience.

For those of you who weren’t there on Monday, here’s approximately what I said, with some unintentional omissions and a couple of new thoughts as I write this:

Thanks ARF, everyone involved, for this award. Thanks Erwin for teaching me how to demystify a little bit. I’m working at it. No one can do it like you could, buddy.

Interestingly, the last conversation I had with Erwin sort of presaged that there would be an Erwin Ephron Demystification Award. I was in a hotel room in Manhattan and my cell rang. It was him. He said that he and I still had some unfinished work to do together with the ARF. He said that the keyword is simplicity, that we need to get back to the basics of brand building (sales and long-term brand equity), and resist the attractiveness of all the new things that distract us from getting the brand to be more successful by making wise creative and media decisions. He expressed concern about how much time we spend reading or talking about new technologies. He didn’t object to including new stuff in the conversation, he just didn’t want us to go goggle-eyed and indecisive and to spend all our time that way. He knew how much hard work it takes to make brands succeed better.

I’ve been applying his advice. I have people editing my ravings to help me demystify more (hopefully). There are large blocks of time in which I refuse to even glance at email and instead focus on the biggest priorities. I studied Erwin’s book, Media Planning – From Recency to Engagement, again for more clues. Of course, I love his first chapter, since he wrote it about me. How can you not love a friend who does that? But it was in his second chapter, on page 8, where I found that any brand can gain 5% to 10% more cost effectiveness by geotargeting. It’s still true. Five to ten percent is a lot considering that typical mature brand domestic growth is almost zero percent. Back to basics. With partners, I’m developing hyperlocal automation partly inspired by Erwin. Actually we are not claiming 5-10% but only a minimum of 2%. Not to revise the master, but he wrote that a while ago when mature brands were still growing domestically. Today the game is a lot harder. What is really needed goes beyond what media and creative people can do. What is really needed is new product development focused on healthy sustainable environmentally-friendly and animal-friendly products more than on advertising to fuel a new growth cycle.

Let me leave you with a tip as to how to be next to win the Erwin Ephron Demystification Award. Write something that de-confuses us, something simple yet profound. Take the mystery out of something we are grappling with. Or at least, help us organize our confusion.

Thanks again to all!

The ARF is a great organization that nurtures the actual and potential brilliant scientists in the industry. Marketing science is every much a science as behavioral economics, and the two are interlocking fields of psychology.

Wishing you all great joy at your work!

Bill

PS — In my Myers blog (link below takes you to the most recent post in that series) I will soon publish a supplement to this post focusing on the technical comments I made, which are of interest to marketers and possibly of less interest to most people.

Follow my regular blog contribution at Jack Myers Media Network: In Terms of ROI. It is in the free section of the website at  Bill Harvey at MediaBizBloggers.com.

My new book, You Are The Universe: Imagine That is now available.

Continuing Praise for David Brooks at ARF, and Holosentience

I’ve long been bemused by the fact that some people really love my book FREEING CREATIVE EFFECTIVENESS, while others seem to stare at it uncomprehendingly, not knowing what category to put it in.

I myself have struggled to put the book in a category since there were no other books in that category. Or, at least, not since the Vedanta Sutra around 200 BC, and not until David Brooks’ THE SOCIAL ANIMAL, which I am now reading. I was drawn in by the uncanny similarities I discerned between our books during the most valuable Keynote I’ve ever heard at a conference — David’s Keynote at the recent Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) Audience Measurement Symposium (AMS) 6.0, the world’s largest annual audience measurement conference.

Now there are two modern books in the category. The category is about looking inside to learn the right adjustments to become a truer you — the you that was born, sans a lifetime of fear-driven conditioning.

David draws his sources from the latest psychology research especially the brain frontier and its integration with classical psychological pattern observations. When I did my first brain experiments within the advertising field and U.S. military in the early 80s, I saw that the mapping of inner/outer experiences to parts of the brain in specific states was going to explode soon. And it has.

Back in the day I had the honor of working with Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson, former Harvard Psychobiology professors who had been at Harvard with Leary and Alpert. Richie has gone on to lead a large portion of the cutting edge brain research and is highly respected by every brain scientist I’ve met. Dan is best known for his best-selling EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE series.

Why don’t I put Dan’s books in the category of looking inside to learn the right adjustments to become a truer you? It’s because I have a larger division in my mind between books that show theory (“descriptive”) versus books that are specifically meant to be used as a manual of techniques (“prescriptive”). I made my manual fun by a sort of neopoetic style and parsing that I find also singles out ideas. David made his book fun by making it a love story. But I feel David’s motivations are similar to mine — a chance to improve everyone’s lives. All they need is equipoise — the ability to objectively look inside and make little acts of will in daring to follow one’s dreams with love and humility.

The two books agree in that. David’s is more descriptive, mine more prescriptive — and still somewhat unique in its emphasis on practical application of very specific techniques that have been proven to work by my own experience, and by a few thousand readers who wrote in to attest to positive results from reading my book.

David cites the actual experiments that are the basis for the way he makes his characters act. Although there is some experimental and fact-based grounding to my book, it exists within a seamless synthesis of brain research with psychoanalysis, 6000 years of inner observation findings and prescriptions summarized in pithy “sutras”, and all the other books I read in the 70s — but mostly from observing my own inner experience for my entire life.

As early as I can remember, I was fascinated more with what went on in my mind and soul than what went on outside. Long before I knew the words, I was often in a state of contemplation, concentration, or meditating. Ideas sprang into my mind that I found myself writing. I was keeping track of my own observations because from what I heard adults saying, it was apparent they would not know what I was talking about.

In my teens I found psychology, esoteric psychology/philosophy, and in my 20s, yoga. I started by trying to put together for myself a science by which I could intelligently predict my own behavior and understand its dynamics, causes and effects.

Soon after college, my career in media research — because it involved computers (in the 60s) — gave me the ability to see the mind through the lens of what computers do. Media research further allowed me to ground my ideas in the stable patterns and slow changes in population behaviors, brain function, attitude shift, cognitive science, and behavioral econometrics, and introduced me to the idea of optimization, which I instantly decided to apply internally.

Out of all of these fuzzy sources comes the theory of Holosentience. It’s amusing that after I thought I had coined this term, I Googled it and found a reference to the light-based doctor in the Star Trek megaseries. He called himself a holosentience, I recall that now. Well, I’m not going to change the name of the theory.

Here is the essence of my theory of Holosentience:

  1. We have a true self that is stitched into the fabric of the Universe. Whatever the Universe is, that’s the same as what the true self is. Our true self is who we are when we were born. It is the root and substrate of our existence, our being, who we are, our true identity, our essence — it is the most real thing about us in the sense of quantum physics reality. We experience it as an observer — it is an observer. It is consciousness, which we define as “that which experiences”.
  2. From pre-birth we begin to program our brain. Every conscious experience creates proteins in the brain — nerve tissue encoded with meanings derived from those experiences. Association areas take form, clusters of related experiences. Programs are written — true software — that inhabit the brain and begin to share control of motor functions with the true self. You do things you seem to not be able to stop yourself from doing. The classical name for this phenomenon is Ego. It is trying to protect you, trying to be helpful like Bill Gates’ Paperclip-being, is still doing things you now have long since forgotten you told it to do, and is in all ways doing what a robot does, acting on its programming. I call this part the software layer or Robot.
  3. Some of this programming needs to be removed, and you have to use what David calls equipoise — objective introspection and small acts of will — to gradually remove it. It does not leave easily. A lot of my book is about how to track down those behaviors and expose them to yourself for what they are. Because there are different centers in this software stemming back to different traumas and extraordinary experiences, in my book I use the term “Senators” to point out that we actually have different selves — although these are not our true self but rather copies of other people who made impressions on our software. David again echoes the idea of not one but many different selves, though he does not point out that they are all within a Robot layer apart from the true self.

There are three broad states of the foregoing Theory of Holosentience, which are not covered in THE SOCIAL ANIMAL:

  1. Emergency Oversimplification Procedure (EOP) — where we are now due to Acceleritis. Acceleritis is not new to today’s obvious-frenetic culture, it actually started 6000 years ago with seeable language. The individual is not processing out the counterproductive programs — that whole part of life is put on hold. There is little if any equipoise. People are not open to objectively considering their own flaws, they are too scared to admit they have any flaws. There is low effectiveness to decision making, action is mistimed, there is little grace and even less inspiration. The world as we see it aggregately — wars, Havenotism, selfish ignoble behavior all around. Creativity is being channeled negatively. In the presence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and a deteriorating environment and what appear to be permanent systemic challenges emerging in the economic system, it is quite possibly critical to the human race to get out of EOP asap. I feel that David and I are hoping to make a difference there.
  2. Observer State. There is a detachment of the true self from the software or Robot layer such that there is an arc gap, where the true self is able to objectively see what the software layer is doing. David calls this equipoise. The last great psychologist to urge us to introspect was William James. He was on the right track. Much of the inner work done in the East and in esoteric Western enclaves relates to simple (hah!) deconditioning of the counterproductive programs in the software layer. Decision making in the Observer State is much more effective because of objectivity and truthfulness. Self-protective defensiveness yields to greater clarity. Pragmatism becomes natural and automatic.
  3. Flow State. Instead of detachment of the true self from the software layer, they are a perfectly integrated team. Typically during well-practiced, deeply-known activities, from one’s highest work to sex, from spiritual experience to athletics, the Flow State comes to us as a gift. David calls this Moments of Transcendence and Self Forgetfulness. I understand the Self Forgetfulness part in that there is no subject-object division in Flow State, it is all just doing itself and is of one piece. David uses the word “lost” — “an athlete lost in sport, a believer lost in God’s love, lost in love for one another… the conscious mind disappears.” I would say instead that the chattering mind — part of the software layer — subsides, but that all minds are present (“Holosentience”) during Flow State, they are simply not dwelling on their selfdom in the usual EOP subliminally anxious way. Perhaps David is hewing to his theme of rational versus unconscious — where he is advocating a shift to include the unconscious in a more balanced way, including emotions and values. There are obviously ten places where David and I agree for every one where we might differ. In fact I doubt that we would differ once we mapped our maps together.

For a fun and mind-opening read get THE SOCIAL ANIMAL.

If you like it, try FREEING CREATIVE EFFECTIVENESS next. (After all, it comes with a money-back guarantee. 😀 ) It is also mind-opening and spends more time on the “how to” of it — though as John Ziegler said, “[the book] seems to do it TO you. IT works. YOU don’t.”

Best to all,

Bill

 

Psychotechnology for the 21st Century

This post will overview the Institute and our work. As a media researcher I’ve analyzed large databases, done surveys, measured brainwaves, tracked eye movements, absorbed a vast amount of information, and thought for the past 40 years about the way media affect the mind.

I started using computers in the 60s and was on the Internet in 1980 when it was called Arpanet. My exposure to computers during this period as they ascended to a major role in our culture got me to think about how the mind and the computer work in similar ways.

In my childhood my showbiz parents put me on stage from age 4 onward. The pressure of being on stage gave me the experience of “flow state” – almost an out of body experience, watching myself perform as if from the outside. These experiences made me intensely curious about what was going on in my head not only at these times, but all the time.

I have always been a meditator and contemplator, having discovered the techniques myself, under pressure to perform at above what I thought was my ability. What do these words mean to me? Contemplation is immersive observation, and can be focused on any subject. Meditation is when the focus of contemplation is one’s own self. You observe your self without identifying with the feelings and thoughts that arise, observing them as if from afar.

All of these currents in my life coalesced into a set of theories that are the basis for my nonprofit work, which is the Institute.

THEI as I call it for short has the Mission of disseminating useful psychotechnology – tools for internal information processing optimization – similar in a way to the media optimization tools I’ve helped invent for the marketing industry. Tools for sublimating negative emotion into learning and into action items. Leaving only positive emotion.

The Vision is that one day, maybe pretty far in the future, the whole human race will be using such psychotechnology on a continuous basis. Because this will avert war at the individual level and cause a shift from competitiveness to cooperation and mutual nurturing. May it come as soon as possible.

The history of the human race is uplifted over and over again by the introduction of bits of such psychotechnology, which in the past has manifested as yoga, Zen, religion, mysticism, philosophy, science, psychology, morality/ethics, aesthetics, and many other good things.

THEI’s psychotechnology is in the realm of science and specifically relates to translating ancient and self-discovered practices into the language of information processing so that it may be considered objectively by all parts of the population including people normally biased against such possibilities.

My book MIND MAGIC is an experiment to see if this personal psychotechnology (it has been proven to work in my own life, or I wouldn’t pass it on) could actually be transferred to anyone else. About 2000 letters, cards, and emails indicate that the original  version worked at least for some people. Including a range of well-known folks from Norman Cousins to John Lennon, Ram Dass and Daniel Goleman. Also some bank officials, corporate executives, Army Generals, Colonels, Navy Captains, et al, people in jail, teenagers, seniors, without any known group excluded.

Why do we need psychotechnology? It helps reduce stress, improve health, increase emotional intelligence, maximize performance, make you able to enjoy moment to moment Life even during downturns. It is speed learning. The element that it controls is attention – where you place it, where you don’t, and how to withhold the autonomic response that gets you stuck in every feeling and thought you have before you can apply quality control.

Some free samples of THEI psychotechnology are being offered in these blog postings and on our site. We hope you get something valuable out of THEI psychotechnology and give us feedback to help us make it better.

All the best,

Bill

 

The Future Evolution of Media Research

In this posting I continue looking into the future of marketing and advertising research, today focusing on helping media decisionmakers.

What will media research look like in 2015?

First, the drivers:

  • Today the strongest driver is the universal CMO/CFO mandate to move from eyeball counts to ROI
  • This shift has to take place without incurring sizeable risk to the brand and to the brand manager (and CMO, et al. – all the people who could be blamed if it does not go well)
  • The manual agency workload cannot be increased any further at current compensation
  • The agency needs to make ROI bonus compensation a large part of the business model
  • Media agencies are also the ones moving faster than creative agencies toward custom video program production.

When I started in the agency business back at the dawn of time, we had ten people in the media department per million dollars of spend; today that is half a person. Procurement of media by people who initially had no idea of any other media value except CPM has hurt both brands and media agencies who became commoditized in a price war. The best of the procurement people have now become true media experts, and they are in the process of repairing the damage. That process is just getting rolling.

What then are the needs?

  • Singlesource* needs to continue its rollout. This method is essential to moving media research into the ROI world on a firm foundation, without need for assumptions or subjective judgments.
  • Analytic systems need to become integrated so that media people have a single screen dashboard on which they can see and manipulate all the available information in ways that are intuitively obvious, as in the iPad. This solves the information overload (at least in this aspect of their life) and scarce resource problems, and makes it easier to make the massive shift from eyeballs to ROI.
  • As a warm blankie comfort zone, sex/age currency cannot be tossed out overnight. Most brands will prefer to run in parallel, at least for a while. This means optimizers will have to hold sex/age delivery constant while increasing reach/frequency against the ROI driving segment of purchasers.

Finally, the prognostications:

  • The upfront is not broken. It will still happen in 2015. It will not look much different than it does today. The sweeping changes that will overtake the upfront before 2020 will only be seen in early baby steps. My Myers column written in 1999 described the upfront in 2005 as a war of optimizers and yield maximizers – this prediction will probably become a reality in the 2015-2020 period.
  • Sex/age will have reduced importance to many major brands by 2015.
  • Measuring all the new screens in a crossmedia, singlesource way will become the place to be for bleeding edge addicts (like me).
  • Singlesource and marketing mix modeling will become integrated, easing the transition from mix to singlesource as more and more marketing causals/media are measured by singlesource.
  • Media research companies (and other research companies) will escalate partnering relationships to bring together bodies of learning. Knowledge integration will provide more insight into how to effect higher ROI by bonding the new creative with the program environments most enhancing to sales effect and most skewed to the ROI driving segment. These decisions often have to be made before a campaign is launched, before singlesource effectiveness data become available, hence the importance of all other types of research. But to prove their validity, all other research types will ultimately have to demonstrate that they predict ROI as measured by singlesource.
  • The sharp dividing line between direct marketing and brand advertising will blur. All brands will want all of their marketing stimuli to cause audience involvement to the point of the audience taking some action, whether it be interacting, bookmarking, sharing, clicking the Like button, sending to friends, mashing up in Facebook page, and hopefully in the end buying more of the brand at less discounted prices.
  • True Sponsorship of programs and videos will increase, providing brands with increased involvement, affinity and gratitude among larger and larger audiences. Some of this sponsored content will have been custom developed specifically for the brand, mostly by media agencies taking on program production. Branded entertainment will expand from inserts into programs into the programs themselves, often with fully integrated “live read” (radio term of art) cast presenter commercials.
  • Cause marketing will similarly expand as a share of marketing dollars.
  • More brands will experiment with Gratitude Reach Units (GRUs).
  • The privacy wall will become permeable by bona fide best practices (i.e. in-context notification). This will unlock the tap for addressable commercials.
  • Marketing and media investments will become more cost effective and more accountable. In fact, more scientific. Marketing, advertising and media will attract more of the best people who have in their veins either creativity or quant/computer techie skills or both, because the game will have become – even more than ever – one of the most interesting games in town. The game I always thought it was anyway.

 

Briefly Noted

  • David Poltrack, speaking at an Advertising Age & TRA breakfast on April 14, was asked by The New York Times advertising columnist Stuart Elliott about how conditions might have changed the odds of getting a hit show on television. David replied that in the 60s, 50% of the population sampled the average new broadcast network TV show between the start of the new season and the May sweeps, and today, with so many program choices for the viewer, that 50% is now down to 15%.
  • In the previous posting, Ameritest CEO Chuck Young alluded to four types of memory that a TV commercial must affect, and so I asked him to elucidate. This posting continues below with more thoughts on the future evolution of creative research from myself and from Chuck.

All the best,

Bill

 

The Future Evolution of Creative Research, redux

In my April 19 posting I wrote about helping advertising creatives to do their best work through future research into the minds of the audience, tied to what they buy and how that changes in response to specific stimuli.

In the previous posting I commented that through all forms of research including but not limited to neuroscience, advertising research will evolve into even more science and less art; we will learn how advertising, in all of its forms, works inside the mind/brain connection.

A superlative example of that trend from today’s research is in the work of Chuck Young’s Ameritest. For example, here is what Chuck has to say about the memory agencies which mediate advertising sales effect:

Four Memories: Advertising Is Planting Seeds

The original method of pretesting was recall testing because marketers understood that for an ad to be effective it had to leave something behind in consumer memory. Unlike promotions, ads create long-term value because of the brand structures they build in our memories.

But one of the chief lessons from modern neuroscience is that the old tape-recorder model of memory long held by recall testers was overly simplistic. It is now well established that there are multiple memory systems in the mind, not just one—It is now pretty clear that for an ad campaign to build strong brand value, it must make at least four kinds of deposits in the different memory banks of the mind.

To understand the four kinds of brand memories that are important for advertisers, it is helpful to think of a simple model about how we learn to make a sale.

Bright young people coming to work for me are afraid of the very idea of selling.  Fear of rejection is one reason for this.  As a result, their preferred method of approaching a client or prospect is to send an email. They quickly learn that this, by itself, doesn’t work very well.  So, as their level of knowledge builds and their confidence grows, they reach for the phone.  They soon discover that over the phone they hear something that was missing from an email, perhaps something in the tone of voice. What is being said, they realize, is sometimes not as important as how it is said.  An emotional dimension has been added through voice and a relationship begins.  But this, too, is not always enough to close a sale.  Finally, when they are competent enough in doing their job so that I am confident they can properly represent the brand of my company, they get on a plane to make a sales call in person.  Here the final discovery is made: the real trust that comes from physical eye contact is essential to getting to the handshake, turning a prospect into a loyal customer.

Selling in person is more effective than selling at a distance—and in large part this has to do with the different kind of memories that are created with the in-person sales call.

The semantic memory system, which can be thought of as the rational, verbal part of the brain, is the place where advertisers can use email effectively. These emails communicate features and benefits, product concepts, unique selling propositions, brand positionings. Semantic memories are those that can be accessed with traditional recall testing methods.

The episodic memory system is the place where personal, autobiographical memories are stored. Where were you on 9/11?  The images that come to mind form your personal narrative of the events that you have lived through, real or imagined, and how you felt about them. Advertisers can telephone their brand stories to this memory system of the brain with radio or television or other storytelling media.  Recognition, rather than recall, is a better way for researchers to access these emotional episodic memories.

The procedural memory system is the oldest place of memory, where physical sensations and physical skills are stored. What does a headache feel like? How do you remember how to dance or drive a car? Advertisers can shake hands with this part of the brain in two general ways.

The first, by means of the operation of mirror neurons, is through the magic of physical-action-at-distance that I call “virtual consumption”.  It’s why bite-and-smile, product-in-use or other kinds of brand experience scenes in ads are so important. It’s also why we consumers get so addicted to watching sports or playing video games.

The second way that brands can reach out and touch someone is through click-throughs and other action-interactions in this new high touch age of iPhones, iPads, Kinect and other Internet-machine extensions of our bodies. We researchers have much to learn about how to measure the impact on advertising ROI of these new physical brand memories being formed.

The fourth type of memory that is important for advertisers does not pertain to the brain but rather to the brand.  It’s the brand identity tag that links the other three types of memories to your brand’s name or icon or other identifier, turning the other three types of memories into a valuable property in the brain that can be monetized.

Measuring brand linkage across the three different memory systems of the brain is a work in progress that perhaps modern neuroscience can shed some light on. (If you would like to read more of my ruminations in these areas, you can find them on the Resources Page of our website, http://www.ameritest.net.)

The implication of thinking about advertising from the standpoint of the multiple memory systems of the mind is that advertisers need to develop a clear strategic framework for designing ad campaigns that sell the head, the heart and the hand of the consumer.

The Future Evolution of Marketing/Media Research

What will happen next in the advertising industry’s important research wing? Where is it all going? What will be the face of advertising/media/BI (Business Intelligence) research in 2015?

First, the drivers:

  • Decision makers want speed
  • They want answers to burning questions that specify the recommended decision with compelling rationale – so their job of taking that position and defending it will involve as little personal risk as possible;
  • They want all the variables and types of evidence reduced to utter simplicity – as in a well-designed graphic dashboard;
  • If they have a dashboard, they love to be able to play what-ifs with the recommended solution and see what happens to the graph, so that they truly do have a key role in the decision that gets made;
  • They need to be able to get their heads above all the weeds and up to where they can actually have a master vision – but the weeds are growing like hydra – the weeds being the excess of nearly-relevant information.

In other words, as compared to when I started in the business and we were looking desperately for any scrap of information, and beating the heck out of it in terms of a high bar for validation, today all too often there is much too much information. One can have an assistant compile it all so one can scan it but that’s about it. No way to actually absorb the ever-growing heap.

This new reality engenders a new way of functioning that is always high risk (as evidenced by CMOs being replaced every 23 months on average) and in which one has to operate like the Hollywood gunslingers – on gut intuition. Or as in the Hollywood story, where Columbia Pictures co-founder and head Harry Cohn could read the quality of a film based on watching butts twitch in seats.

So in other capitals across the country and around the world we have all joined that methodology, except we compile even more quantitative information as back up and proof of whatever it is our butts twitch to.

So the drivers have led so far to a relatively undesirable condition of rationalized guesswork. The researcher tries to work within this environment and tries to uplift it. Given relative rank in organizations, the researcher usually fails in this nowadays (if absolute success is the bar) except it is relatively better than if the researcher was not pushing that envelope.

The job going forward is to achieve absolute success by overturning the current rationalized guesswork mode and bringing in scientific decision making. What we already pretend to be doing.

Next, the needs:

  • Creative people need the kind of information conducive to generating Big Ideas;
  • Creative pre-tests need to be fast, highly predictive of actual cash register ROI, diagnostically rich and appropriate to being able to make quick fixes that will drive up ROI;
  • On-air cash register measurements of Creative, without use of black box attribution methods, used to reallocate so as to run the most sales-effective Creative executions most if not all of the time;
  • Programming content needs the exact same kinds of pre-testing, except instead of brand advertiser ROI, the success metric is audience size weighted by the marketable CPM – once again devolving to a financial ROI equation;
  • Media (including in-store, CRM, place-based, social, and everything else) need to be measured in terms of how well they reach types of purchasers (heavy, disloyal, etc.) and how well they influence purchase behavior (this is even more important than measuring their reach overlaps since each one has to be bought separately);
  • Crossmedia reach overlaps and synergies need to be measured and validated, their changes tracked, and these information types baked in with all the other information so as to give the decision maker a simple integrated dashboard where real (empirical) unmodeled validated information has ultimate weight. And the modeling (marketing mix and all other forms) needed to fuse together everything for the decision maker is as validated and transparent (not black box) as possible, with almost no weight in terms of which media vehicles to buy – whereas crossmedia overlaps and dollar ROI synergies are the most important factors in making the big planning allocations to media types. This unavoidable leaning of our weight on the modeling crutch is a soft spot to be studied and overcome;
  • All data and data fusion methods need to be validated against actual cash register ROI;
  • Data (and proposed decision) delivery from research to the line must be in the form of utter simplicity via dashboard where exec can play what-ifs and see how ROI forecast changes.

Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? That was a joke of course.

Finally, the prognostications:

I hate to disappoint, but these really are more like prescriptions. The industry has taken some of my prescriptions in the past, but mixed with a heavy dose of countervailing competitive marketplace forces, which tends to change the outcome a bit away from the admittedly utopian picture I had painted of what could be done. So how can I accurately prognosticate what really will happen?

Here’s instead what I think should happen.

Creatives

Researchers need to do a much better job stoking the fires of the big minds to produce Big Ideas. The advertising business is about producing Big Ideas for money. The rest is just implementation.

By the Creatives I don’t just mean writers and art directors. Everyone is a Creative, to the extent that they are allowed to come up with and share Big Ideas. In some organizations, people are disempowered by not having their Big Ideas taken seriously – but these organizations are becoming more and more rare. Thank God.

Research presentation to Creatives – the people who need to make big planning decisions – has been, well, wanting – that’s probably the kindest word I can use.

People who make planning level decisions need all the information they can get about the people at the other end of the communications process who we are trying to influence. Right now they do get quite a bit. It does generate more insight than probably at any time in the past, including the phase of Motivational research. But it’s not yet enough, and it’s not absorbable and stimulating enough to the writers and art directors.

Instead of dashboards for the writers and artists, something like a ripomatic is used nowadays – both in selling new business and in pumping the Creative people. A ripomatic (or feelomatic, etc.) is a succession of clips – mostly video, a few still, with music – that tell the Creative about the target audience. One thing that could be added is the ability to drill down on one image or idea and get more information in the same emotive form on that facet of the picture – as in some of the early branching video CD-ROMs that IBM, BBC, British Telecom and others produced to show where video could go someday. There might be a dial where the Creative can slow down or speed up the images. And touchscreen or voice command to indicate what to drill down on.

Neuroscience should be able to show a picture of the target audience that is even more conducive to Big Ideas. Findings from neuroscience could be presented in the same video format to inspire the Creative – all findings can be pumped in through the Creative form of the same dashboard idea. Just to have a name I call it the Clashboard – the dashboard for Creative, which is branching video rather than Flash pages that remain static until one plays what-ifs.

The underlying historical reason for both the dashboard and the Clashboard is information overload. People in the advertising industry are no exception – we get even more information than the average person, and the average person is deluged. My book Freeing Creative Effectiveness is all about breaking out of EOP (Emergency Oversimplfication Procedure), the condition that sets in when there is too much information – desperate shortcutting such as rationalized guesswork.

By focusing the eyes on a dashboard or Clashboard that is comprehensive and yet utterly simple, the mind can also begin to focus. All the information is in one place. No distraction thinking of where can I get this piece of missing information – it is all there.

To be continued in next posting on April 24 – covering the Future of Media Research.

In my prior posting I reviewed Neuro-Insight as part of a series on validating our measures across the industry, with emphasis on new cutting edge measures such as in the neuroscience field. Next is a short posting by Chuck Young, CEO of Ameritest, a non-neuro copy testing company whose measures nevertheless are cutting edge and relate to the same mental function levels addressed by some in neuroscience. Researchers if you have validated your measures please send them in and we will publish them here. We post every five days.

All the best,

Bill

3 Levels of Validation

In responding to Bill’s recent call for additional validation work on the new techniques of neuro-copy testers, I should point out that I share Bill’s enthusiasm for the new knowledge being generated by the exploding field of neuroscience.  But I also agree with the conclusion of the recent Advertising Research Report that neuroscience techniques should not be used as stand-alones, but in conjunction with the well-established self-report data currently used by mainstream copy testers.

At Ameritest we have been combining in a single on-line system standard copytest metrics with our proprietary Picture Sorts® technique for quite a while.  And while some researchers might not categorize our diagnostic technique with the techniques that measure brain waves, skin conductance, heart rates or facial response, I would argue that our moment-by-moment measure of memory — even though it does not involve electrical apparatus — is equally as important as attention and emotion for understanding how effective advertising works in the brain.

Moreover, our experience working with leading advertisers for many years has taught me that validation is not a one-dimensional construct.

Like the zoom lens of a camera, good copytesting research should be designed to help advertisers see how an ad is going to work when viewed over three different time scales:

  1. Short Term — predicting sales effects over a short-term period of a few weeks to a few months;
  2. Long Term — predicting an ad’s contribution to brand equity over the longer-term period of months to years;
  3. Up Close — diagnosing how an ad is actually working during the few seconds a consumer is interacting with it, in order to provide insights for optimization.

 

The Resources page of our website (www.Ameritest.net) is an open source for reporting the many experiments and studies we have conducted over the years to validate the effectiveness of our own ad research on all three levels of ad performance. To date, we have contributed over 60 articles and peer-reviewed papers to the ongoing research conversation.   I hope that some of the experiments we have described might be useful as models for how neuro-researchers could approach the problem of validating the incremental value of some of the new technologies being applied to ad research.

To illustrate, one example of validation to sales over the short term, chapter VI of the Handbook of Advertising Research, provides a case history of how standard copytesting measures of creative quality (Attention, Branding, Motivation), when combined with media information on share-of-voice, were able to explain over 60% of the change in same-store-sales in the U.S. that McDonald’s reported in public, to Wall Street, over the year and a half period that was studied.

As an example of validation to long term brand equity, papers such as “Connecting Attention to Memory”, “Aesthetic Emotion and Long Term Ad Effects”, and “Why Ad Memories Fade,” describe experiments that show how the short term, moment-by-moment memory test that we employ in our system can be used to predict the four long term brand memories that are laid down by the average thirty second commercial.

Finally, as an example of how moment-by-moment diagnostics can be used to optimize the performance of commercials before putting them on air, you can read the “Spielberg Variables,” an article in the Harvard Business Review about how Unilever achieved an 87% success rate in improving average performers by re-editing and re-testing ads using the insights provided by our on-line picture sort diagnostics.

Test-retest would be a particularly fast and direct way of proving the added value of these new neuroscience and biometric techniques.  In an age when a high school student with a laptop can do a creditable job of re-editing a commercial and uploading it to Youtube, I suggest that it might be useful for ARF to sponsor a Challenge to copy testers where they can prove the value of these new diagnostic insights by re-editing and re-testing some ads that have proven to be poor performers.  A company like Bill’s TRA, which combines sales with media data, would be ideal for identifying a good set of ads to test.

Chuck Young