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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우에 대비해서

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Facebook executives ‘knew for years’ about misleading ad metric | Financial TimesThe lawsuit claims that Facebook represents the potential reach metric as a measure of how many people a given marketer could reach with an advertisement. However, it actually indicates the total number of accounts that the marketer could reach — a figure that could include fake and duplicated accounts, according to the allegations. – Facebook’s misleading ad metric isn’t news in its own right. What’s interesting is that the FT article goes on to claim that potential audience size in some states were bigger than publicly available data and seemed nonsensical in comparison to say census data

UK lays out plans for legal e-scooters, medical drones and more transportation innovation in test cities | TechCrunch – if electric scooters is going to be anything like what I saw in Paris, it’ll be carnage

Xenophobia amid the coronavirus pandemic is hurting Chinese immigrant neighborhoods – Voxanti-Asian xenophobia and racism have become a bigger issue around the world as a result of Covid-19. As Nylah Burton reported for Vox, in major cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, and Toronto, East Asians have been targeted — from racist comments made by TSA agents to verbal street harassment. Meanwhile, Chinese restaurants across the globe say they are struggling for business because of widespread misconceptions about the “cleanliness” of their food – exceptionally dark reading

Time Out rebrands to Time In as coronavirus ‘social distancing’ takes effect | The Drum – circumstance encouraged Time Out to rebrand, but the strong equity they have in their brand allowed them do so successfully, like Pizza Hut’s Pasta Hut or the Google Doodle

Madison Avenue Insights | Creative agencies: winning the battle but losing the warCreative agencies have mastered the requirements of integrated campaigns, from TV to online video, websites, Facebook, Instagram, ad banners and e-mail marketing. It’s a pity, then, that this victory is being undermined by agency price-cutting strategies that leave agencies understaffed and underpaid. Senior agency executives need to create winning business practices – they’re losing the business war. – great read by Michael Farmer. I suspect the piece that’s missing is the devastation wrought by procurement

Russian influence operations using netizens in Ghana to target African Americans – GrapfikaThe operation used authentic activists and users, fronted by an ostensible human rights NGO, to covertly propagate an influence campaign. It is not the first time such an attempt has been made, but the tactic is of concern. The unwitting individuals co-opted into the operation bear the risk of reputational or legal jeopardy; indeed, CNN reported that the Ghanaian operation was raided by law enforcement as a result of their online activities. For the human rights community, the risk is that genuine NGOs may be misidentified as being involved in influence operations by accident or malice, and there is also the danger of tarnishing the reputation of important work and organizations across the field – its a fascinating read – a mix of information ops, subterfuge and offshoring. The west African link is interesting

The Public Interest and Personal Privacy in a Time of Crisis (Part II) – Google Docs – part two of an essay by a Chinese academic- l linked to part one in this post

Between Privacy and Convenience: Facial Recognition Technology in the Eyes of Citizens in China, Germany, the UK and the US by Genia Kostka, Léa Steinacker, Miriam Meckel :: SSRN 

Lao Dongyan, “Artificial Intelligence” – Reading the China Dream – piece on biometric recognition

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Playlists and mixtapes

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Working as a remote team got me thinking about playlists and mixtapes. One of my colleagues started off a themed playlist on Spotify. The playlist creativity was based around a narrative. The narrative is driven by song title.

cassette tape
Thegreenj / CC BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)

Spotify made it easy to collaborate on putting more in there.

Its a form of surface data, easy to see. Easy for machines to grasp.
It is easy to analyse. Hence Spotify’s ad campaigns and pitch to advertisers based on data.

Initially, I thought it was this data treasure trove that made me feel uneasy about music streaming services. Where other people felt Spotify’s ads were clever, I felt they were intrusive, even voyeuristic. It felt voyeuristic reading some of them.

Music curation is a very personal thing. But in the end I realised it wasn’t the data that bothered me. Now I realise its the nature of curation and consumption on the platforms.

Music is something that exists in everyone’s lives. For some people it was background wallpaper. It occasionally took on ‘sound track’ starring roles at important life moments. For instance, the track the bride and groom choose to dance to at their wedding. Or a one-hit wonder attached to holiday nightlife memories.

For some people it moves beyond being a trigger. It stirs a passion. Myself and some friends have collections of records. Owning a thing has a power of its own. Digital services don’t really understand this drive.

iTunes organisation

iTunes in its day revolutionised digital music. It made music accessible in way that consumers wanted. But it wasn’t a perfect experience.

For instance, someone like myself won’t necessarily follow an artist. Electronic music often sees artists change names as often as changing an overcoat.

The producer or remixer becomes important. Tom Moulton back in the days of disco, Danny Krivit’s famous edits or London’s Nicolas Laugier (The Reflex). All of them have distinctive sounds that bring tracks to life.

A record label becomes synonymous with a particular sound. Blue Note Records’ jazz, Strictly Rhythm’s New York tinged house music or the early rock of Sun Records. This is a mix of a curators ear, in house studios, producers and engineers.

Yet in iTunes you could never search by remixer, or record label in the way that you could search for an artist or group name.
Even the way iTunes treated DJ names indicated a lack of understanding. Someone like myself would treat DJ, the way rock fans would treat ‘The’ in a band name. So DJ Aladdin would come before The Beatles. But DJ Krush would come after.
In iTunes, it ignores ‘The’ so The Beatles sit just behind The Beastie Boys. Both of them come before DJ Aladdin who is grouped with with all the other DJ names.

Playlists and mixtapes

iTunes introduced the concept of playlists with the iPod, but the marketing around it was creating lists for how they made you feel. Music to run by, a chillout list etc.

In design, this was closer to a mixtape than a typical Spotify playlist. Apple worked on making them social. At one stage artists could share playlists of tracks that influenced them. Apple tried to create editorial content around it. It was an interesting idea, but discovery in iTunes was problematic.

A mixtape is about careful curation. You take the listener on a journey, it is often meant to convey a feeling or an emotion. One of the few people that I’ve seen do this within Spotify has been Jed Hallam’s Love Will Save The Day selections. A non-verbal message.

A mixtape was often time bounded by its medium.

  • Cutting your own vinyl record which was done on 78rpm discs might give you 2 minutes. Enough for a short voice mail home, if the record survived the postal system.
  • Reel to reel tape might give you up to 90 minutes at reasonable quality on a 10 1/2 inch reel of tape.
  • Cassette tapes were typically 30 or 45 minutes per side.
  • CDs could provide up to 80 minutes, depending on the disc. But the original ‘Red Book’ standard capacity was 74 minutes

The playlist has no capacity considerations. No limitations that force choices or prioritisation.

Consuming playlists and mixtapes

A mixtape often brought a deeper experience to the listener. Whether it was an expression of love, passion or nerdiness. A playlist tends to operate much more at a surface level. This changes the dynamics of consumption. A playlist doesn’t require active listening. Its like drive-time radio. A backdrop to life.

A playlist is often found, again rather like tuning into a radio station. It is usually a more passive consumption experience. The audience has less invested in it.

Playlists and mixtapes business models

This difference in attitude helps explains how music changed in fundamentally in business model. When you’re more passive, you don’t need to own your music.

You don’t mind if tracks disappear due to licencing disputes. Music becomes a utility that you pay for each month. In this respect Spotify looks a lot like the post-war Rediffusion service.

It’s an operating expense rather than a capital outlay for young consumers. It facilitates algorithm as taste maker which leads to a reductive path. Apple Music has tried to keep away from this. They’ve got specialist curators in niche genres. Want to hear the best of bluegrass and outlaw country? Apple Music likely covers you better than Spotify.

If I am following your playlist, it opens up opportunities for payola. Artist brands become less important than a steady stream of releases in popular genres. Music plugging becomes an arbitrage play; streams versus promotional costs RoI. Traditional artist development no longer makes sense. Instead you end up with a model that looks closer to a fast-failure production line. More on media related topics here.

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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우에 대비해서

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Chinese attitudes to immigration. Some really interesting interviews done by Inkstone. Inkstone is part of South China Morning Post. Whilst the attitudes seem shocking, you do see them mirrored in other monocultural countries.

Marketing in times of upheaval | LinkedIn – cites Beeston’s Law and then fulfils it

The 1970 Osaka Expo: Looking back at the past to gauge where Japan sits in the present | The Japan Times – some of these pictures are fascinating

SMS In Emergency Situations: SF COVID19 Updates Via SMS | Forrester Research – mature platforms work well

Coronavirus Is A Headwind For Search Advertising, But The Outlook Remains Promising – not a terribly surprising analysis given Baidu’s recent financial performance in the Chinese New Year period

Innovation of the Day | Heineken – alcohol free beer aimed at drivers without running the risk of drunk driving

Augmented-Reality Startup Magic Leap Is Said to Weigh a Sale – Bloomberg – interesting that Johnson & Johnson are mulling an investment in Magic Leap

Introducing Fluent Devices – System1 Group – is it fashion or is it a lack of effectiveness?

cyberpunk « Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! – great series of posts on cyberpunk and its impact on culture

Innovation of the Day | Time – letting exhiibition attendees get some sense of the experience involved in the 1963 civil rights march on Washington DC and experience Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I have a dream speech’. VR’s real power to engage audiences is emotional experiences rather than storytelling in the way that we usually understand it

Persona Spotlight: Generation X – GlobalWebIndexWhile younger audiences are actively trying to regulate their digital activity – nearly 3 in 10 millennials and Gen Zs track their screen time each month – only 1 in 5 Gen Xers have done the same. Another possible reason is that, compared to Gen X, younger age groups are now using social media more passively. When on these sites, 4 in 10 Gen Zs fill up their spare time or search for funny content, while Gen Xers still flock to their social accounts with a greater emphasis on socializing. – this bit feels like they’re throwing hypotheses against the wall, planners pick your favourite

In February Smartphone sales in China Crashed more than 50% – Patently Apple – not terribly surprising, Apple’s increase in iPad sales probably didn’t compensate for the drop

The Public Interest and Personal Privacy in a Time of Crisis (Part I) – Google Docs – translation of a Chinese blog

Is busy the new stupid? – hustle porn etc.

SoftBank Vision Fund’s Rajeev Misra: 18 months will prove I’m right | CNBC – it will be interesting to see how this plays out

Measure your distinctive brand assets | Ehrensberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science – well worth downloading and reading (PDF)

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Things that caught my eye last week

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Whilst the world is becoming ever more digital, the book publishing industry has remained print focused due to customer demand. This is a great segment from CNBC that goes into it in more depth.

Dina Amin’s stop-motion assembly and disassembly video of everyday objects caught my eye. I would be surprised if this doesn’t show up in future ad agency work concepts.

What’s inside by Dina Amin.

Even my lack of expertise in gaming means that I have heard of Crash Bandicoot. What’s interesting in this video is how the development of Crash Bandicoot for the original PlayStation is similar to getting software to work on early PCs. Crash Bandicoot was one of a handful of titles that drove PlayStation popularity.

How Crash Bandicoot hacked the original PlayStation from Ars Technical’s

I did some initial work on dental health campaigns in APAC. It fell apart due to politics within my own agency, making us unable to collaborate with our colleagues at Red Fuse. Our agency was appointed for social media marketing work; but we couldn’t get anything out the door. During that time I came across some really smart people working in this space. This is why work like this: Colgate Ice Cream and Candy – The Inspiration Room made me smile. Great insight, simple execution in collaboration with confectionery companies ensuring a win-win outcome.

Greg Girard’s street photography from Tokyo in the 1970s feels like postcards from the future – check out these previews from a forthcoming book of his work: Rare 1970s Street Photography from Tokyo Published in New Photo Book. You can see more Japan related posts here.  

I’ll be working from home for the foreseeable future, but will be working hard to try and keep this blog as free of coronavirus-related content as I can.

I am not a virologist, so my expertise doesn’t matter. I do know about the media and social platforms. You will see contradictory information, confusion and uncertainty. A classic example is the way hoarding toilet paper became a self-perpetuating meme.

While I am working from home, I don’t imagine that it will be too much of a trial as the office environment itself has become ever more digital. I am going to use the time that I’d have spent commuting to improve my reading. I have a stack of unread books that won’t read themselves. I may even explore the ideas from them here with you my reader(s).

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Salience overloads advertising

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Salience is the buzz word of the moment in advertising circles.

What is salience?

According to Siri salience is a noun. It’s definition:

the property of being particularly noticeable or important.

Historically, when you tested an ad through the likes of Kantar. One of the attributes that an ad would be measured on is salience. Relatively recently salience has become a more important attribute in advertising from a marketing science point-of-view. But this shouldn’t be to the extent of eclipsing other attributes such as distinctive brand building.

Salience becomes pre-eminent

But now you see campaigns where salience is pre-eminent. I had only seen this in Asia in the past, where random endorsement choices looked to drive impact.

At one stage in the early noughties you could see Jackie Chan side-by-side with over 20 products including:

  • Canon cameras
  • Mitsubishi cars
  • An anti-hair loss shampoo that allegedly contained carcinogens
  • Zhongshan Subor – games consoles with a basic home computing capability. Subor ‘Learning Machines’ had educational programmes, games and provided Chinese children with an opportunity to try computer programming. Think of it as an analogue the Sinclair range of home computers in the UK
  • Fenhuang cola drink
Jackie Chan-branded Canon Rebel T2i / 550D
Jackie Chan branded Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D via M.I.C Gadget

A classic example of an ad that personifies salience is Burger King’s The Moldy Whopper.

The campaign is a one-off stunt designed to drive water-cooler talk. Some colleagues were at a breakfast event last week. The outtake that they took from the event was that the future of advertising is PR. Or to be more exact the publicity stunt.

I get it, creative directors are measured on memorable award-winning campaigns. They are less worried about effectiveness and brand lift. It’s sexy. And it moves things away from soul-crushing digital disruption-driven work. Big data, A-B testing that’s just aimed at sales conversion.

But publicity is just a short term effect, contrast this with effective advertising that can keep paying off for decades!

But when you’re doing stunt-after-stunt what does the brand stand for? I agree that a brand has to be distinctive, but to make a brand distinctive you need to reinforce it. Think about Coca-Cola; distinctive and instantly recognisable.

Don’t believe me, here’s what Mark Ritson said about it. Ritson uses ‘brand image’ as a way to discuss brand distinctiveness and visibility at a granular level in the ad:

The new global campaign from Burger King features a month old burger complete with the mould and decomposition that comes with it. Supposedly, this is a campaign aimed to promote the absence of preservatives. But is it good advertising? No. Showing a disgusting, mouldy version of your hero product to target consumers is – believe it or not – a really bad idea. So why are Burger King doing it? First, we see the ultimate exemplar of the focus on salience over image that is sweeping much of the advertising world. “It got me talking about it, so it is great marketing,” has been the response of many addled marketers to the new campaign. While it’s true that salience is a much bigger goal than we once thought, there is still a need to focus on brand image. All publicity is not good publicity. It’s also the latest in a long line of marketing stunts that Burger King has pulled. Hiding Bic Macs behind Whoppers in all their ads, asking consumers to order a Whopper online from a McDonalds, the list is long and stupid. It wins awards and gets marketers talking but it is eclipsed by KFC and McDonald’s less flashy, more enduring and more effective tactics. Same store sales growth over the last two years tells its own story. This is flashy, ineffective fare.

Mark Ritson on LinkedIn

Or Phil Barden who wrote Decoded:

From a behavioural science point of view this is a bizarre use of marketing money; Firstly, our attention and perception are implicit (‘system 1’) processes that are stimulus-bound. System 1 can’t imagine, it responds to stimuli. Kahneman uses the phrase ‘what you see is all there is’ and it is the stimulus (what you see) that will be decoded using our associative memories. The brain metaphorically asks the questions, ‘what is it, what does it represent, what’s in it for me’? The answers to these questions are ‘rotten food’ and ‘nothing’ because rotten food is a threat to survival. This triggers ‘avoid’ behaviour. Secondly, this image is highly likely to trigger ‘reactance’ which is emotional arousal with negative valence ie it’s unpleasant. Thirdly, memory structures are built on the basis on ‘what fires together wires together’. In this case, Burger King and rotten food. Fourthly, the category is hedonic; it’s all about enjoyment. Rotten food and enjoyment have no implicit intuitive association. The only saving grace for BK may be that their logo is such low contrast and the food is so salient that the brand may not be attributed to the image.

Phil Barden on LinkedIn

Many of Barden’s points are very specific to the mouldy burger creative. But points like attention and perception are implicit processes that are stimulus bound works against salience. It triggers related memories, which is distinctive brand building allows you to tap into. The importance of hedonic enjoyment plays against a lot of shock tactics used to get salience.

I am not saying that marketing campaigns shouldn’t have salience. Some of the best ads of all time use salience like Coca-Cola’s ‘Hilltop’ advert.

But that they shouldn’t be salient at the expense of other attributes of brand building. A side serving of salience adds cut through to consistent distinctive brand building. But balance in different attributes for an ad is needed.

For more on how to achieve a balance in attributes, I can recommend Building Distinctive Brand Assets by Jenni Romaniuk. The book is based on research by the Ehrensberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science.

More on advertising here.