A Needle from the Haystack

Guess what. There is one actual journalist working in the United States! Who’d have thunk it?

Logically and probably necessarily, he is based in the epicenter of imperial decline, Detroit, Michigan.

In any event, check it out, and compare this with what passes for reporting in every other outlet, where brains, real questions, and major non-elite topics are banned:

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.

Oppression by Surfeit

mindcontrol Highly interesting report today by Ad Age reporter Jeanine Poggi.  Poggi discloses some important aspects of how the big business marketing endeavor known as “television” functions.  Turns out one of the major devices there is refusal to permit what’s called “a la carte” TV subscriptions.

The basic problem is this:

A significant amount of TV viewing comes from casual viewers watching channels that are available to them, but that they likely wouldn’t want otherwise. Networks that fall outside of the top tier include independents like ReelzChannel and Ovation, as well as networks owned by conglomerates like Viacom‘s Centric and Discovery Communications‘ Velocity and the Military Channel.

If people could subscribe to plans of their own choosing, the channels that draw this excess viewing would be dropped and disappear, meaning that the price of ads on channels people actually want would increase, while — horror of horrors! — people might actually watch less television.

Poggi quotes an insider with an utterly exquisite surname:

“If people watch the same amount of TV, only getting channels they want, the supply of ratings points would remain constant for the most part,” Mr. Parent echoed.

But Mr. Parent doesn’t believe the same amount of content would be consumed on TV. “There would be less casual viewing and a drop somewhat in surfing,” he said. “It might drive some people online to watch certain shows. If out of the 10 networks there’s nothing on you want to watch, you will turn it off.”

This, of course, cannot be permitted:

[M]edia buyers are skeptical the industry will ever allow consumers to cherrypick individual networks.

TV networks are staunchly against the idea, fearing consumers wouldn’t pay for their smaller networks like MTV Jams or Cloo and might even blow a hole in revenue for midsize players.

But advertisers could also suffer if cable bundles break up and smaller channels thin in number, which would send more viewers to the bigger networks and drive up prices of reaching a mass audience.

This openly secret core aspect of institutional reality is, as always, a sharp disproof of the #1 alleged reason for allowing private business to run the media environment: “We give people what they want.”

“Social” Networking?

facebook-logo1 I like the idea of trying to out-compete capitalists, especially if that were ever to become a policy and practice of nation-states and world government. I also like open source software, which is a pretty impressive example of the viability of the project. But, with all due respect and solidarity, I find ZSocial, the putative Facebook competitor, to be a hugely quixotic endeavor.

It doesn’t take much looking at Facebook pages and Twitter feeds to notice that “social” is hardly the essence of those operations, even from the user’s side. Legitimate information trading is certainly there, but also obviously a far-distant second to the dominant motive on display. That motive is vanity, bragging, “personal advertising.”

As such, TCT suggests that “social networking” is but a symptom of very-late-capitalist culture. It will have no place in a future progressive-survivalist socialist world. It is not just a trick to advance the penetration and power of big business marketing, but also a pure waste of time and electricity.

How and why does Z miss this basic point?