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Posts from December 2010

Stephen and Jeremy Explain It All

Down in the comments of the previous post, Dom points out that we didn't really have it wrong all along.

Rather, Stephen King, one of the grand architects of planning, pointed out quite clearly that:

"- communication is an indirect force rather than a direct persuasive one

- its primary role is to intensify a brand's meaning totality ('brand gestalt') by creating intensity of feeling, rather than conveying rational messages

- it works most effectively by building long-term brand associations & values rather than via short-term sales shifts

- a planner's role is to understand & empathise with human responses to stimulus (ie behaviours AND attitudes), not get dragged into the nightmarish mechanistic false world of purchase intent methodologies." 

Fortunately, I did actually point this out during my presentation, but the slide in question was a video that I didn't put into the slideshare.

[The challenge of posting a deck, which is only ever half the presentation at best. Context is everything.] 

The video in question is above.

It's from a JWT training video from the early 1970s - I have it on VHS somewhere, it's very worth watching if you can get hold of a copy.

We've always known this stuff, but the metacognitive error, by its very nature, fools us despite us knowing about it.

And, of course, it's not as simple as the naive dichotomy of emotion OR reason. 

[Emotions are the lubricants of reason - they require each other, they are components of a decision making system that interoperate.]

There is no one way in which these things we do work.

To steal from Giep Franzen, as I did in my hidden persuaders paper:

No single theory or group of theories can explain it all, because advertisements work in such different ways.

We've Been Wrong All Along

Faris Yakob_Strategy for the Post-Digital Age
View more presentations from bdwcu.
This is the deck I presented at Boulder Digital Works NY: Making Digital Work.
It starts from the premise that in order to evolve 'strategy' and 'account planning' for a digital [or postdigital if you like] age, we have to know how it worked before, and, well, we didn't.
Or, more accurately, we kind of did, but a persistent metacognitive error, the same error that causes people to answer market research questions incorrectly with rational explanatory fictions of emotional decisions that function below the level of consciousness, afflicts the advertising industry in much the same way. 
So, even though we know, and all the academic research confirms, that decision making is primarily emotional, and that rational messaging in advertising doesn't really seem to help, we persist in structuring briefs around the core proposition, a model we all derive from Rosser Reeves' model of advertising, which insists communication is primarily about message transmission - which it's not - and that advertising is the same as selling, which it's not.
What do you think? 
You can see more of the decks and ideas being discussed over on the Making Digital Work blog.

A Net's Tale - Part Two

Kakumbi Rural Health Clinic is in Mfuwe, right on the cusp of South Luangwa National Park.

It is a very basic front line clinic, run entirely by local nurses, with visiting doctors from UK, USA and Australia doing 3-6 months stints.

[If you are a doctor and are interested [DO IT! GO ON!] - contact [email protected] for more details on this scheme. I will also happily intro you to my friends out there and you will get to see lions and everything.] 

The clinic has very limited supplies and services an estimated population of 20,000 people. 

That's a lot. 

And it's growing relatively rapidly, due to the increased employment in the area, and corresponding semblance of financial security, that the tourist economy provides.

Our friends at the Buschcamp Company know the place well and took us there to distribute the nets. 

Our friends at Malarianomore provided the nets - and we have now connected them to the local community there, via the Bushcamp Company

[But - to clarify once again, this is not the usual way they distribute nets! Just us trying to help a little bit.] 

We arrived the day of a maternity clinic - there were people waiting for hours to see the nurse or maternity nurse with their babies.

The nurse presented us with one of the many impossible decisions she faces every day: with only 40 nets in a bail, and many more mothers than that - who do you distribute them to? 

How do you decide?

She also, kindly, thankfully, mercifully, took this burden away from us, sorting them by age, and giving them out to the youngest and most vulnerable. 

And there our net's tale ended, but the tale of the nets continues.


It was important to us that we get the nets to people alongside the appropriate education about how to use them prophylactically and how to keep them maintained. 

The nets don't just stop you being bitten - they kill mosquitoes. 

Female anopheles mosquitos [for it is indeed the only the females that bite] fly around at night looking for food.

They hit the net.

They die. 

The nets need to be retreated every 6 months or so because the pyrethrum wears off.

When they are treated, the nets cause positive externalities.

The more dead mosquitoes in the area, the less biting, the less transmission and infection.

But when the poison wears off, this no longer happens. 

That's why it's not just nets, but treated nets that are the key. 

Treated nets

Nothing about epidemiology is simple I'm afraid -  it's a massively complex system problem.

I'm incredibly fortunate then that my brother, Dr. Laith Yakob, is an epidemiologist and has done extensive malaria research.

This is what his work looks like.

It's the results of a mathematical model that looks at how different vector management methods - insect treated nets [ITNs] and destroying larval habitats - interact. 

It shows that it is better to focus on wider net distribution, instead of diverting resources into doing both, because that works better, while the nets are fatal to mosquitos [when they aren't, this changes].

ITN model laith

Figure 4. ITNs and habitat source reduction in the integrated control of malaria.

The colors correspond to the basic reproductive number of malaria (R0) as highlighted in the key (the parameter space for local malaria elimination, R0<1, is black). The values in white font at the top-right corner of the plots indicate the killing efficacy of the ITNs: 0.5 (a, b and c); 0.25 (d, e and f); and 0.0 (g, h and i). Three human densities are used: ‘Low’ (100 per sq Km) (a, d and g), ‘Medium’ (333 per sq Km) (b, e and h), and ‘High’ (1,000 per sq Km) (c, f and i). Other parameters used in the simulation are mosquito search ability 1,000 sq m per day, and larval habitat density 1,000 per sq Km.


Laith's work also shows how DDT use in Africa interacts with ITNs, which may be antagonistically rather than synergistically, as is currently believed: 

“When used in the same household as bednets, repellent DDT will reduce mosquitoes contacting the insecticides with which bednets are treated.” 

Current strategy of combining DDT with bednets may actually detract from the community-wide benefits experienced with bednets alone. 

“Treated bednets are highly effective at killing malaria-carrying mosquitoes," Dr Yakob said. 

“Spraying DDT in the same residence will divert the mosquito away from the treated bednets, onto unprotected homes." 

You always have to think about how what you do interacts with, well, EVERYTHING ELSE. 

Everything is part of a system of interoperating systems.

And we think the newly emerging mediascape is difficult to navigate.