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Posts from November 2007

Preferential Looking


Studying baby psychology is inherently tricky. Since they can't talk, you can't ask them questions.

Harvard psychologist Elizabeth Spelke has been trying to understand how children develop knowledge and language and so had to find more ingenious ways to understand what's happening in their heads.

The experiments carried out at the Laboratory of Developmental Studies attempt to infer the cognitive abilities through the observation of "preferential looking":

the tendency of infants and children to peer longer at something that is new, surprising or different. [To steal from Scientific American]

This fact was discovered in the 50s by Robert Fantz, who demonstrated that children [and chimps] stare longer at things they perceive as unexpected.

Which suggests that spending more time looking at something new, original, unexpected is a hardwired reaction and perhaps helps to explain why original work is more effective - our brains force us to pay more attention to it.

Attention Marketing


I saw this sticker advertising stickers and it made me chuckle. In some ways it's brilliant tactical media planning, right at the point of need, use, consumption.

But the invasion of non-commercial spaces, borrowing attention from toasters, is fraught with its own problems. You know how sometimes things just feel wrong?

Maybe that's creative / cultural blinking instinct kicking in. Maybe the stickers just need to be less lame.

When I was young, before the Cadbury Gorilla, people used to declaim the use of borrowed interest.

The thinking was that using 20 seconds to tell an unrelated joke, and 10 seconds to sell, was not a great idea.

And whilst this seems sensible, or did until the Gorilla, it didn't really sit well with me, since all interruption marketing is borrowing attention from the content it is interrupting.

Apart from posters, which increasingly I think of differently to other media. [There's a different kind of contract being struck with viewers, whether or not you think they have the right to exist at all.]

Which is why, as we know, things are so different now. We can't really buy attention anymore - people have got too good at not paying us any. We have to earn it.

Previously, the implicit value exchange - free content in exchange for watching ads - enabled the balanced value exchange between brands and people.

This model is best encapsulated by Homer Simpson:

Quiet, the commercial is on… if we don’t watch these, it’s like we’re stealing TV!

But that relationship has begun to breakdown in an on demand world, requiring a more explicit earning of attention.

Which is why I really liked the way Anthony Mayfield [at IAB Engage - I've put a bunch of slides up on Flickr] described the internet as an Attention Market.

It's been a decade since Wired realised that we are in an attention economy. Mass media lowered the cost to the point where significantly more ads can be transmitted to a 'consumer' than any person can process. Therefore, the relatively scarce resource needing allocation becomes attention.

The internet is a live, global attention market, dynamically allocating attention to those things that earn it best in near real-time. The speed of response has a corresponding diminution on the longevity of attention - everything becomes a flash in the pan. [This is just an acceleration of an existing trend - when gramaphone records replaced sheet music the record industry noticed a a distinct truncation in the longevity of hits.]

This of course puts the structure of the industry at odds with the attention market - we need a constant stream of new new things to maintain salience.

Understanding how attention is being allocated across the market is the next big frontier of analytics: Google trends, blog mentions, behavioural targeting - all attempts to track, understand, follow and then predict the allocation of attention.

This data has value - in fact its the driving value behind Google and Facebook - real, behavioural attention market data.

The Attention Trust  wants to wrestle that value back for the individual - imagine if you could actively trade attention, receiving value in return.

Back during gold rush of the web, a company called All Advantage tried to redress the attention issue and balance the value exchange by paying people watch ads. It also compensated members for promoting the site, which made it grow rapidly - one of the first viral marketing success stories.

The company died - I don't think paying people to watch ads is the right way to think about value - we'll see if it works in mobile credit - although it may have grown into a Nielsen if the ad bubble had collapsed so hard.

Thinking about value that way feels analogous to paying someone to be your friend - it's still buying attention, not earning it.

It time for brands to realise we are operating in an attention market and their money ain't no good here.

Welcome to the age of attention marketing.


Who's done this then? This is great. I really like it.

Caught the TV and saw some posters over the weekend [which I noticed because it's the first time I've noticed that happen in ages] and I thought: "ooo - this is great. I really like it. Must post that".

Having an ad for a charity that doesn't attempt to use emotional blackmail to squeeze some money out of you but that rather subverts that trope, uses some charm and humour, and actually has a great idea at the heart of it - giving 'Unwrapped' presents of various specific donations to Oxfam in lieu of crappy things no one wants.

They've even posted some out-takes.

It just starting to show an effect after the weekend - am guessing the burst has been timed to the first wave of Xmas shopping online - here's hoping it diverts some spend.

Engagement Television


Heroes is the pixel edge of transmedia television.

I'm over in Boston for the Future of Entertainment thing but on the Thursday before [15th Nov] I'm going to see a couple of the guys behind Heroes chatting with Prof. Jenkins about the shift from appointment television to engagement television.

It finishes at 7pm or and I'll be kicking around MIT grabbing a beer with a couple of people, hopefully...

So if anyone fancies joining for a mini impromptu Boston beersphere - drop me a line.

Equally there may be similar micro drinking opportunities on the Friday and Saturday.

Green is Normal


I went down to AKA last night for the launch of John Grant's new Book - The Green Marketing Manifesto.

It was great fun - saw some of the usual suspects, met a few lovely new people, and generally messed about. Although moving on to the End afterwards for raving has made today challenging.

John always staggers me with how he doesn't seem to have notes or anything prepared and then can just talk for 40 mins and sound brilliant. It's such a useful skill - I'm lost without my PowerPoint.

Anyway - the book is going to be awesome - and John is doing a blogger outreach - free books for links - that I'm now claiming as I didn't pick one up last night.



My mate Fleur put me on to this awesome new shop called Unpackaged that opened yesterday.

I went down to have a look and met the lovely and charming Catherine and Annabel who set it up.

The idea is wonderfully simple: no packaging.

We believe that most packaging is unnecessary so we’re doing something about it.

The result is Unpackaged- the new way for you to shop safe in the knowledge that you’ve not created any waste that’s going to end up in a landfill.

We want you to bring your own containers for us to fill up with your favourite things and we’ll make it cheaper if you do. We know that it isn’t always easy to remember so we can also offer reusable containers that you can bring back next time.

Choose from our range of organic wholefoods (e.g. rice, cereals & grains) and eco-cleaners, where everything is as good for you as it is for the environment!

They even provide a service called Plastic Surgery - you can take your old plastic bags to them and they will recycle them.

Just a fantastic idea and the shop is too cute - it's just up from Exmouth Market in London so go and have a look if you're local.

If you go down tonight between 5 and 9pm they'll even give you a free glass of wine.

Read Write Culture

My obsession with the remix is pretty well established.

I believe that culture is recombinant, that new ideas come from remixing old ones, that stealing is genius, but copying is lame.

That taking something and making it into something else constitutes fair use, that preventing it will ossify our culture and that thinking that way will render you obsolete, painted into a copyright corner.

That, like the postmodernists, you can attempt to create a higher order of meaning by standing on the semantic foundations of other creations, employing referents rather than starting from scratch.

That all culture is implicitly a comment on that which has come before. 

That the remix is the very nature of digital [to steal from Gibson, the sage of the age], of copy and paste, of hypertextual linking, of the internet.

I'm an especially big fan of enticing those pesky, fickle consumers we spend so much time begging for attention [like a child doing handstands and begging its parents to look, always being disappointed and crying "Hey your not looking!", half indignant half heartbroken] into messing with our ideas. I think it's crucial.

If people are interested in messing with our ideas, that's awesome: they are paying us some attention. And if people add something of themselves to what we do, that gives them a reason to pass it on.

In one of the new batch of TED talks, Larry Lessig explains the whole thing more eloquently than I could hope to, with better slides.

[Thanks Saul]

South African Wisdom


I was down in South Africa last week, speaking at a conference called Brands in the Digital World. It was great fun and I got to ride an elephant [not at the conference].

I met some really interesting people down there.

Mike spoke passionately about blogging.

Patrick pulled out some really interesting thoughts about virtual worlds.

Allan - who is creative head at Saatchi's AtPlay interactive division [anyone know if it exists anywhere else? Seems really cool - proper creative technologists - although I can't find their website] - spoke about how to get people involved and what viral really is.

And Eric tried to explain the dark arts of search.

It made me realise how Americentric [there must be a better way to say that but I can't work out what it is] the English speaking blogosphere is.

South Africa even has its own version of technorati, Afrigator, to help redress the balance.

I wonder what will happen when the English is no longer the primary language online and the world refocuses on Asia.

Can't be long now. [Thanks to Jess for the head's up]

Actually, the above link is much more important than a footnote. Once virtual worlds stop being game environments and become feasible ways to manipulate data, transact and deliver telepresence for businesses, it will change everything.

Nike iD 2.0


Nike iD is the example of DIY mass personalisation. But not everyone has a designer's eye and some people realised, having got their trainers, that perhaps lime green and purple weren't their colours after all.

So Nike are bringing the Saville Row touch to iD. In the NikeTown in London they have just opened the NIKEiD Studio.

Spread over 2 floors they've got different levels of service. Level one is the iD Bar - a walk in space where you can tweak your sneaks with a little help from the design consultant.

But if you want the full treatment, you need to book an appointment. The iD Studio consultants will help you develop your dream footwear with a one hour personal consultation.

Nike has invited the great and good to experience the full bespoke treatment first, but you can get in there as well by spotting one of these digital cubes on the streets of London town. The screens show real time images of shoes being created inside the studio.

They are appearing for the next couple of weeks, dispensing bluetooth fast track appointments.

You can find out where they'll be on the iD studio site, where you can also meet the consultants that will help you craft your masterfeets.

Marketing as a service, remember?

Don't just tell me something, give me something and earn my attention.

A Word with Ruby Pseudo


The awesome Ruby Pseudo has been interrogating the truth out of trendy tots for a while now, on her excellent blog.

Having given it away for free, she now wants to charge for it and has set up Ruby Pseudo Consulting for those clients that want more in depth neotenic anthropology [although the blog will stay free, she informs me].

Ruby shares some thoughts with PSFK here.

All of which I mention a] because Ruby is a legend and b] because I wrote this biog of her for the piece that they didn't use -  I didn't want it to go to waste so I'm putting it here:

Ruby Pseudo is a fearless investigator, bravely venturing into the dark heart of youth culture and returning [relatively] unscathed with nuggets of purest insight.

With a fearsome intellect and a laser-like wit, she goes boldly where the rest of us fear to tread, but she ain't no fool.

Sharper than a card sharp, braver than an indian brave, a dangerous drinking partner and haunting Audrey Hepburn impersonator, Ruby Pseudo is the real deal.