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Posts from July 2012

Sketches From the Reimagination

The nice people at Wolff Olins took Mary Meeker's REIMAGINING Kleiner Perkins deck as an invitation to participation [a lovely concept from Clay Shirky] .

They sketched out some future facing conceps that build on her categories. 

Nice and sketchy.

[The word nice originally mean 'precise' making the above sentence oxymoronic, and also the point of this post.

I think.] 

A while back, thanks to my buddy Mike, I had the privilege of helping out at the Microsoft Research DESIGN EXPO.

It was awesome. I was helping the teams, design schools from all over the world, giving feedback on their projects and packaging and so on. 

You can check out the projects here: MSFT Research Design Expo 2012

One of the other people giving feedback was the legendary designer Bill Buxton

[He is one of the pioneers of human computer interaction and user experience design. He literally wrote the book on sketching user experiences. And he is completely awesome.] 

One of the most crucial pieces of feedback was about fidelity.

Sketches are supposed to be low fidelity.

If they are too Hi-FI, they aren't sketches, and we parse them differently.

As closed, finished things, not exploratory things to consider. 

Sketches are questions, not answers. 

[parenthetical postscript:

I also got to have dinner with Jaron Lanier, author of You are Not A Gadget.

He was also brilliant and super nice. He knows a truly incredible amount about loads of things - just like Bill Buxton - especially about really obscure musical instruments. 

Here's what I wrote about his book a while ago.

I said basically this to him:

'I loved your book although I don't agree with you.

However, I no longer eat cephalopods, so it clearly made an impact on me.'

He seemed satisfied with this and said he has just finised a new book I can not agree with if I want.] 

Advertising Doesn't Work [On Me]

Calvin Jaded

Surveys tell us that most people think that advertising doesn't work on them.

[Surverys are good for finding out what people think they think.]

Here's a recent example of this, about Facebook. 

This is partially due to what I call I'm Special Bias [a variant of the Lake Wobegon effect], and partially due to the more general idea that Calvin captures so well above.

We don't like to think we are subject to influence.

We believe we are rational and we know that advertising is trying to influence us but that our minds see through it and make decisions based on what we want and need and price and that. 

I suspect that one of the reasons it works is because people think it doesn't.

Advertisers Laughing

The First Computer Animation

[Or one of them anyway. This is Olympiad by Lillian Schwartz, out of Bell Labs, 1971]

My mate David invited me to a screening last night and I got to see some of the first films ever made using computer animation.

From 1971. 

In 3D. 

They came out of Bell Labs.

Back before it got broken up, and was a natural monopoly, AT&T [which owned Bell Labs at the time, but doesn't anymore, weirdly] had all the money.

[In 1983, just before it was split into Baby Bells, AT&T was worth more than: GE, GM, Ford, Xerox, Coca-Cola, IBM - COMBINED. It employed 1Million people.] 

When you have all the money, you can set up R&D labs and let them get on with it without worrying too much about quarterly returns on it.

Between Bell Labs and Xerox Parc, they basically invented the preesnt day, back in the 1970s. 

Bell Labs invented: the transistor, the laser, UNIX, C, C++, radio astronomy...

and computer animation and music, at least in part.

Thanks, in part, to Lillian.

Xerox Parc and Bell Labs had both experimented with computer generated imagery in the 1960s but Lillian has a pretty good claim to being one of the first to exhibit computer animation as art.

This is that:

It was Lillian's 85 birthday yesterday, which was the occasion that led to the screening. 

One of the genius parts of Bell Labs was putting artists and scientists together with no brief and cutting edge resources to see what would happen. 

And lo computer art was born. 

On old IBM machines.

Lillian would sketch the images and frames on graph paper, work out the motion paths she wanted and the coordinates, these would be coded onto punch cards and fed into the machine. 

Sometimes to create randomness she would shuffle the punch cards to see what happened. 

Each tape could only hold 80something frames and would take about 2 months to create.

So it would take 2 months before you saw anything and the you would see less than 4 seconds of film.

Here's one called GOOGOLPLEX from 1973.

Apparently, she had to change some of the frame rates as they were at the magic frequency that can cause seisures.

[Disclaimer. May cause seisures.] 

The 3D thing was an accident.

When ChromaDepth 3D was invented using two prisms as lenses, someone somehow discovered that the way Lillian and Co made the films made them work in 3D. 

Lillian teaches at NYU and you can check out the rest of here stuff on LILLIAN.COM.

[That's right, she has her first name domain. She wins.]

Welcome To The Contextual Age

 [post title loving stolen from Mark Earls's excellent book Welcome to the Creative Age

A while back I got the opportunity to speak at NXNEi in Toronto.

[It was awesome, I heartily recommend it, like SXSW, except..before it got big I guess.]

They filmed this little clip for Strategy Magazine in Canada. My talk had been about proximty, because things that are near you are more important to you, in lots of ways. 

My thought above was that context is super important, both psychologically and technologically, and that finding useful, interesting ways to understand and leverage it is an opportunity and a responsibility for brands.

Psychologically, it's becoming increasingly clear that contextual elements beneath our conscious awareness have dramatic effects on purchasing decisions. We spend a lot timing thinking about people and what makes them tick, but who you are is only part of it, where and when and what are important to.

Who you are provides aspects of contexts, what you have done before, what you seem to like. Then circumstances activates that context with another layer - most people do most things because they are convenient. Impulse drives far more of our behaviour than our conscious mind leads us to believe. 

Technologically, we are leaving a data exhaust that can interact with itself and the world, and that eventually it might be able to predict purchases before we consciously know about deciding to buy them

As is often the case I'm waxing futurological, I'm not exactly sure what I'm talking about will look like until I see it.

Then, my mate Chris sent me this, and I saw it.

Or at least some future echoes of it.

It's called Gimbal.

Qualcomm announced it yesterday. It's a new context awareness platform for iOS and Android. A mobile SDK designed for the contextual age.

Scoble covers it here with undisguised glee

This video explains how they see it - connecting all the ways your phone understands you together, giving it some weak intelligence, and letting it interact with the world around it to infer context, and how that might be useful. 

Welcome to the Contextual Age. 

Planning the Future of Planning

Admap prize

A while back I wrote a paper to enter the ADMAP Future of Planning contest. 

I was shortlisted, which was nice. 

You can and should check out the winning papers. They are awesome and wise.

Nick Hirst [DARE] GOLD wrote an excellent paper on the division in strategy and how [user] Experience Planning provide a model to both understand behavior and architect holistic brand experiences. 

His perspicacious analysis of the strengths, and corresponding weaknesses, of brand planning ['conceptual planners'] and media planning ['practical planners'] is enlightening and rings true to me, having been on both sides at various points. If you have a hammer etc..

[As an aside

{I feel like it's been a while since I've been paranthetical.}

- I think everyone who works in advertising should spend time working at the other side of the fence if they can: creative, media, digital whatever. It really helps.

We need polymath thinkers to build holistic solutions in complex times.

Also we'd probably be more forgiving and less prone to fundamental attribution errors.] 

Tom Woodnut SILVER wrote about Mutuality Planning - that the job of the planner is to broker a mutually beneficial solution - an equitable value transfer - between brands and people. 

[He kindly credits a [poorly titled] post from TIGS back in 2006 as something he drew on.] 

Phillipa Dunjay BRONZE wrote that in a world where data mining will be able to predict who buys what when, the role of the planner will no longer be to mine for insights,

[Remember - there's no such thing as an insight - they are a kind of reifed strategic currency we use as an industry, no doubt useful but not technically that kind of noun, there's no THING called an insight, insight describes a quality or process of developing a deep and intuitive understanding of something.] 

[Once the square brackets come out it's hard to control them.]

but instead to find and foster microcultures around the brand for ongoing development.

I'm aligned with this thinking.

The issues of strategic fragmentation are important and structural - we have created them ourselves.

The impact of technologies will continue to change, well, everything.

Dynamic data definitely impacts the Platonic ideal of insight in some ways. Vocal communities of the interested, if you can find them, are our allies.

[See earlier caveats re: insights and square brackets]

The questions I was reaching towards are, perhaps, epistomelogical. 

How does advertising work? How do we make [purchase] decisions? 

How do we know? What if we have it wrong?

It's something I've been thinking and writing about for a couple of years, which is why it references a bunch of previous stuff I've published for discussion.

There has been lots of interesting experimental work in this area, most importantly by Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman, captured beautifully in his magnum opus Thinking Fast & Slow [this is required reading, no excuses.]

The dynamic interactions between System 1 and System 2, or the unconscious and conscious if you like, and the impact that non-conscious elements have on decision making, have led scientists to dub this 'the new unconscious' [to distance it from the largely dismantled Freudian repression model of the subconscious or ID]. 

This is not to be reductive - clearly what we think has an impact on what we buy, but it's far from the only driver, nor is it, seemingly, the most important. 

In fact, some go as far to describe your experience of consciousness as an epiphenomen - something is being created by something else, rather the author of our actions. 

Experience of Conscious Will

This directly challenges the fundamental model underlying advertising: AIDA.

So... that's something we should probably be thinking about..right?

I tried to map out some approaches based on the science as I understand it, borrowing heavily from Feldwick and Earls and Kahneman and Heath and Watts and lots of other people. 

Since part of the role of planning is to bring rigor to communications - to inform and help the work, work, - it occurs to me we also need to be thinking, more than ever in light of this stuff, about HOW and WHY it works. 

[The role of strategy is to decide if we need any advertising, but that's another discussion.] 

In fact, here you go - here's the paper. Forgive the title. 

Download Choose the Future - Faris - ADMAP prize

I would really love your thoughts here - our explorations are just beginning. 

I was very recently gladdened to read that I'm not the only person to suggest that Kahneman's work challenges the very fundamentals of advertising. 

One of the smartest minds we have - and definitely one of our most eloquent - Laurence Green, formerly of Fallon London and founding partner of 101London recently wrote this in his Telegraph column.

Professor Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 for his work debunking the myth of rational decision-making that underpins so much of the “dismal science” and, indeed, broader government policy.

Ten years later, his thoughts are finally lapping at advertisers’ shores.

The implications of Kahneman’s lifetime’s work, now summarised in his best-selling book Thinking Fast and Slow, are as challenging to the advertising orthodoxy as any ponytailed art director’s more intuitive pronouncements (and, note well, they actually turn out to have much in common).


But, faced with an audience of advertisers, he couldn’t help but dispense a little impassioned advice:

You must recognise that most of the time you are not talking to System 2.

You’re talking to System 1. System 1 runs the show.

That’s the one you want to move.”

And it is here of course that his groundbreaking thinking butts against much ingrained marketing and advertising practice, which still adheres, consciously or otherwise, to the notion of “homo economicus”, or rational man.

Too many advertising briefs still set persuasion as their goal and modus operandi, tacitly assuming that the consumer can only be argued into desired behaviour.

They spring from organisations that “think slowly” (because no one ever got fired for System 2 thinking) but should, of course, start with the consumer, who, in most categories most of the time, is making choices impulsively.

Kahneman’s myth-busting also lights a bonfire under many of the advertising industry’s prevailing research methodologies, especially the rigidly structured quantitative variety. The very nature of “testing” creates conditions for System 2 responses when the category will actually be shopped to System 1.

Kahneman makes no prescriptions for the advertising industry, but his provocations should be taken up and debated by all responsible practitioners.

Thanks Lawrence!

Let's debate.