The 'tragedy of the commons' describes a situation in which individuals, acting independently and rationally in accordance with their own interests, ultimately end up destroying the resource that sustains them all. Think of many farmers all letting their sheep graze on a piece of common land. As long as everyone controls their flocks, the grass doesn't get totally destroyed and so it grows back and keeps feeding them all. But if one farmer realises he can get fatter sheep by eating just a bit more, and so does another, and then they all do, the grass all dies, and all the sheep go hungry.
In my book, Paid Attention, I suggest that we should consider human attention a finite and valuable resource, one that powers the media-industrial complex, the world wide web, and the technology giants of our time. As a resource, it is approaching a Malthusian moment, and it's all our own fault.
The Jay Chiat Awards went live on warc.com today. The global 4A's Jay Chiat Awards recognise the best strategic thinking in the industry. Great strategies lead to ideas that engage us, move us to action, and even change the way we see the world.
Here's a selection of my top picks.
Mountain Dew: Dew bottle tool
Mountain Dew, a soft drink brand, wanted to regain relevance among its niche skater community target audience in Colombia. On-ground research revealed that skaters in Colombia do not leave home without a 10'' ring spanner in their pocket which they use to tighten or loosen their board screws. This presented Mountain Dew with the opportunity to put utility, via its packaging, at the heart of its campaign. T
I recently read The Evolution of Everything: How Ideas Emerge, by Matt Ridley, and was struck by the following passage:
"Evolution is far more common and far more influential than most people recognise. It is not confined to genetic systems, but explains the way that virtually all of human culture changes…The ways in which these streams of human culture flow is … undirected, emergent and driven by natural selection among competing ideas" (my italics)
Over the past few years, my company has been trying to identify factors which fuel the spread of ideas, and why some succeed, while others fail. Here are some of the insights and hypotheses we want to share:
The MMA Smarties went live on warc.com this week. The Mobile Marketing Association Smarties Global Awards are presented to campaigns that use innovation and creativity to successfully push the boundaries of mobile marketing.
Mobile marketing is still relatively new, and so effectiveness is hard to achieve. But the following case studies showcase some interesting techniques and emerging innovations. Here's a very brief run down of the campaigns that I thought were noteworthy, and why.
I once met someone from an IT company who had been present at several advertising pitches. By and large he was impressed. In countless ways - the pitch theatre, the audio-visual displays, the presentation skills - he had found what the agencies did extraordinarily impressive; much more exotic and polished than anything he had seen before.
"But," he went on, "every agency made the same terrible mistake."
"Go on then..."
"You all sold what you had to offer as an improvement - a bonus; a nice thing to do which would be good for business."
"What's wrong with that?"
"Well, in the IT business, only in the direst cases would we ever attempt to sell positives. It's a really difficult sell. Every business has plenty of ideas for 'nice things to do' already, and you're just competing with them in offering what they see as a cute optional extra; a 'nice to have' - a flagpole, a fountain in reception. In IT we don't sell positives - we sell the absence of negatives. We don't say 'if you do this it will be nice'. We simply say 'if you don't do this it will be bad - or even catastrophic'. Once you can see the horror in their eyes, the sale is already made."
Advertising has benefited significantly from the application of Daniel Kahneman's research into behavioural economics. However, Kahneman is not the only Nobel Laureate that advertising should look to for inspiration. Konrad Lorenz's work, for which he was awarded the Noble Prize in 1973, deserves more attention than it currently receives as it has direct relevance to marketing.
In Lorenz's most famous experiment he split a batch of Greylag geese eggs into two. One set, the control, was raised by their mother while the experimental set was exposed to no-one else but Lorenz. The goslings in the experimental set became deeply attached to Lorenz; to all intents and purpose he became their mother figure. They followed him wherever he went and mimicked his behaviour. When, after a few days, they were introduced to their mother they showed no sign of recognition.
From this experiment, and others like it, Lorenz developed the theory of imprinting. He hypothesised that there was a short window of open-ness, roughly 32 hours for geese, in which basic characteristics and behaviours could be shaped. Outside of that window habits became solidified and no amount of hectoring could change them.
In many ways consumers are like those geese. There are short windows of opportunity in which brands have a good chance of influencing behaviour.
By 1971 Manchester United’s Irish star George Best's hectic off-field celebrity life style had began to take its toll on his effectiveness on the pitch.
Arguably the most talented footballer of his (or just about any) generation George had lost interest in the game, developing a reputation for general unreliability and missing both training sessions and matches.
This erratic behaviour was connected to Best's developing problem with alcoholism. He eventually parted company with United (and football) during the 1973/4 season, at the end of which Manchester United were relegated.
George Best was only 27 when he quit - an age when most players are usually regarded as being at or near their peak – and the ‘wasted genius that threw it all away’ narrative was never far from the tabloid headlines.
Without the distraction of football, George was free to pursue his other interests – namely drinking, gambling and glamorous women.
Heading into the summer holiday season, people were telling me of their plans to go away, leave their laptop at home, switch off their devices and 'get back to basics'. It occurred to me that digital marketers should use the 'back to basics' ethos back in the office.
Right now is a great time to take stock and review. As we approach the silly season (aka Christmas). And the November- February pressure to adopt the Top 10 Marketing Trends of The Year is off.
I suggest right now you strip out the complexity and get your digital marketing back to basics – that is, the simple things all digital marketers should be doing. And it starts with your website. Many brands are going big on paid and earned media when they haven't even got their owned media tip-top. Those that sell online have no excuse. Yes, web trends go in and out of fashion every year. But trends are new things we've learned and the new things that are working for consumers right now. Digital consumers change rapidly so your website must do so too.
When we first began to replicate reality at reasonable resolution, it was such a novelty we confused it with the real thing.
Famously, early moving pictures of trains speeding towards the camera would frighten audiences so much they would leap from their seats. Orson Welles' War of the Worlds radio broadcast sent the populace into paroxysms of hysteria.
When everything you experience is real, you assume reality. Jean Baudrillard predicted the counter position – when more of existence was mediated than not, as a 'hyperreality', where we can't tell the difference between illusion and everyday experiences.
We now consume media more than doing anything else, including sleep. The illusory power of verisimilitude is still strong – the suspension of disbelief when watching film, the sense that the camera can't lie – but the modern media literate knows to trust nothing he or she sees. Photoshopped, framed, edited and excluded, all media is susceptible to manipulation, in manifold ways. The assumption of truth becomes the suspicion of falsehood.