How Irrelevance Serves Monopoly

In the United States, our overclass has used its ownership of politics to prevent serious regulation of communications infrastructure, to say nothing of public ownership. As a natural result, we get the highest prices and worst services in the supposedly developed world.

Of course, a small part of the gargantuan cash geysers the overclass reaps from such a sweetheart set-up is used in marketing the overpriced, inferior products underlying its profit ranches.

Having no rational product differences or genuine technological breakthroughs to describe, such marketing is always mere empty manipulation.

Consider this perhaps familiar example:

How, one might wonder, could such unfunny and ham-handed irrelevancies be profitable to AT&T? What’s the business rationale? Is AT&T stoned?

Turns out, as always, not in the least.

Per an Ad Age story titled “How Big Data Shapes AT&T’s Advertising Creative,” there’s rather rigorous method to the apparent superfluity:

It’s Not Complicated” may have been its name, but the insights that drove one of AT&T’s most successful ad campaigns ever were based on a massive three-year big-data project that was plenty complex.

The campaign featuring comedian Beck Bennett and little kids in a classroom was the product of a three-year project. It involved an analysis of 40 copy-test variables and tagging 370 AT&T and competitive wireless communications ads on everything from the type of humor used and how characters interact to type of storyline.

The BBDO-created campaign that resulted from the analysis generated an additional $50 million in sales in AT&T’s estimation, said Greg Pharo, director-market research and analysis for the telecom in a presentation at the Advertising Research Foundation’s Re:Think 2014 conference in New York today.

Here’s how that happens, per Ad Age‘s report:

Mr. Pharo and AT&T Senior Data Scientist Damon Samuel, who made the switch from working on the telecom company’s marketing-mix analytics team to working on the project, delved into sometimes surprising details about what works and what doesn’t in their ads and those of rivals. Among the lessons:

-Ads with storylines are very effective

-Informative demonstrations boost ad performance

-Simple outperforms complicated

-Slice-of-life and transactional or promotional ads can both work

-Humor is effective at driving recall, brand favorability and likeability, but not all types of humor are equal

-Character interaction matters a lot

Of course, some of those lessons have guided TV advertising since Mrs. Olsen was pouring coffee for Procter & Gamble Co. and Folgers in the 1960s. But AT&T’s analysis has helped delve deeper into exactly how elements work, particularly humor.

The team, along with its market-research shop Added Value, painstakingly code commercials for such things as the type of humor. And they found, according to Mr. Pharo, that ads featuring humor deemed clever, sarcastic or snarky tend to outperform ads with silly humor (though Mr. Samuel noted that ads with darkly sarcastic humor tend to underperform).

While ads with storylines do better generally, those with complex storylines, too many scenes or vignettes and complicated visual montages “underperformed very significantly,” Mr. Samuel said. “Thirty seconds is just not enough time to share all the story elements and come to a resolution.”

Particularly effective are ads with informative presentations when a character explains the benefits and presentation of a product, Mr. Pharo said.

While people demonstrating product benefits works, just showing phones and benefits, or what Mr. Samuel termed “phone porn,” doesn’t. At best, such primitive product demos drive a shift in the mix of handset types sold without increasing total sales.

The rewards for AT&T are substantial, Mr. Pharo said, with the project showing that 25% of AT&T’s total sales are driven by media advertising and 10% from TV alone. Creative quality and tonality rather than media weight or placement account for a third of TV ads’ impact.

Such are the building blocks of our market-totalitarian culture.

6 Replies to “How Irrelevance Serves Monopoly”

  1. Okay, well done, you got me with all the nauseating, moronic, evil detail, like the title of “Re:Think” – so now what?

    Refuse to live in that world as anything but a hostage. Stop according it legitimacy – it is fully corrupt. It cannot be reformed.

  2. Martin, I certainly don’t accord it legitimacy. Quite the opposite.

    As for the possibility of reform, that’s a matter one has to judge for oneself. Myself, I put the odds of snatching something decent from the jaws of barbarity at about 33%. I also subscribe to Gramsci’s aphorism about optimism.

    If I thought the odds were indisputably (rather than just possibly) zero, I’m not sure I’d be spending time thinking about much other than my own personal pleasure.

  3. I actually didn’t mean for you to “stop according it legitimacy,” more that others, those legions inclined to follow my precious words of well-honed advice, should do so. Or maybe I should – there was whole heaps of soft “exceptionalism” or mainstream propaganda going on in those hallowed ivory towers that left their mark somewhere.
    33% though? Wow. That’s not a typo? That much chance of of dethroning the AT&T hipsters? 1 in 3? Every other piece I see on the quasi-official prog sites is straight doom. In fact, I am going to go so far as to say there is a going movement of those who see the grand scheme of Carbon Man as completely
    and terminally indecent, as in, as GDP rises, energy use rises, and as efficiency rises, energy use rises, and as GDP collapses, down goes civilization – a long ride down. Pleasure? Thought? Company? Still necessities as matters coalesce further down the drain.

  4. What is even more disturbing though that movies, books, and music are already being produced using the same methodology. NETFLIX, Amazon etc. Put their data to such uses. Not that the culture wasn’t dead before that, but the proliferation of big data tools virtually guarantee it.

    I too am a bit surprised by the optimistic odds, and I thought my 20 pct were already optimistic. The reason for this optimism is simply the presence of so many possibilities. Just because capitalism is doomed, doesn’t mean everything is doomed. It will be scary, but not so scary one you realise that suburban home is not the only way to live. In any case, we are all going Jodie, and under what specific circumstances this happens should have not much influence on what we think about in the meantime

  5. To my way of thinking, anybody’s odds are extremely speculative, which, IMHO, provides another reason to keep hope alive and keep prepping for the moment.

    And there are objective reasons for some optimism. This system is comprehensive and powerful, but only in a shallow way and only by pretending it comports with various kinds of decency. That was never true of other kinds of total dominance. Meanwhile, there have been huge, irreversible strides in things like race, gender, sexuality, and ecological concern. I suspect there’s even a sea of suppressed class rage, despite all the propaganda freezing it over. Need I mention the opinion gap, as documented and discussed by Chomsky and TCT?

    And history is cunning. It’s my view that progressive forces manage to convert on about one in three of the major opportunities that open. When the Fugitive Slave Act passed, who predicted slavery would end within 15 years? In 1919, who thought Jim Crow would ever be gone? Who among us saw Hugo Chavez coming? Nobody, nobody, and nobody.

  6. Just to be fair, there are some now-radical currents that flow in the direction of labeling such liberalism and leftism in a pejorative way, though these folks tend to be “rewilding” anarcho-primitivists, but they are talking some smack.
    The left/liberals have been trafficking in hope/folk/better world tropes since the 60s, and yet matters are far, far worse than might be depicted by “huge, irreversible strides” in identity politics and “ecological concern” – leaving the ecology itself out of this hope, of course.
    Plenty of people were “predicting” progressive reform back in the past, or each one would never have come about. Historical forces, not singular inevitability, brought about these upsurges in secular humanism, but Jim Crow is still all around us, in the inner cities and prisons and devastating wealth gap. We saw Hugo Chavez come, and now we’ve seen him go, much too soon, and yet Rex Tillotson, payday loans, cobalt mining, Andrew Cuomo, and the NSA, to mention a few points of the empire, live on.
    I have tried to get my mind around the hope of “Imaging Living in a Socialist America,” a cheap e-book whose profits are solely to go to freeing Mumia Abu-Jabal, but you can feel free to label me an abject nihilist on that Popular front – no way, no how, zero percent chance.

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