Book Review: The end of Advertising by Andrew Essex

About a third of the way into this book I was wondering why am I reading it. I had only 3-4 lousy notes added to my arsenal and a lot of information seemed to be redundant and uninteresting. However, my patience has been rewarded because after this desertified region of the book came some really nice bounty.

The advertising model as we know it is changing. The author was shocked to find out in 2015, from a radio show, that there is a thing called Ad blocker. And the author was at that time the CEO of the most renowned advertising agency in the world. “Well, that’s how dinosaurs die, they never know what hits them” I thought.

Let’s see what the author thinks about how proper advertising should be done.

Great storytelling still sells:

“Interesting times, yes. And a time to be interesting. In the age of the Feed, the age of infobesity and Peak TV, one was compelled as never before to be entertaining and authentic, to tell a good story, the key to being interesting. This was something that human beings and marketers alike could agree on: the power of a good story. Now that would always be welcome; good stories were something we could never have enough of. This was the sentiment uttered by the chief marketing officer of GE, at a recent industry conference. “Nothing,” she said, “will take the place of great storytelling.” “

Don Draper would have a hard time competing nowadays with a lot of attention merchants:

“Were he toiling on Madison Avenue today, Don Draper would have a hard time navigating the complexity of the current advertising landscape. Beyond the aforementioned array of blocking technologies, advertising must now compete with, in no particular order, massive media fragmentation, mobile mass adoption, cord cutters, self-quantification, selfies, podcasts, a million apps, a zillion video games, endlessly proliferating social media platforms, the golden age of TV (made bingeworthy, as noted, by the absence of ads), the hegemonic power of texting, the chimerical pursuit of “inbox zero,” and dozens more dopamine-stimulating bits and bobs that drive the economy of unprecedented abundance that is modern life.”

The human mind constantly seeks novelty so creative approaches are still winners:

“The irony is that the Super Bowl approach actually provides a useful lesson: In a world in which we are drowning in noise, any content, whether it’s advertising or serial crime dramas, must be qualitatively superior to be appreciated, and that doesn’t always require a huge budget. The most important thing is to be excellent, interesting, authentic, or useful. To be the thing, not the thing that sells the thing. That’s fantastic news for creative people, who specialize in the stuff. Thanks to toomuchness, creativity, once exclusively the province of poets, has suddenly become a business imperative.”

Some creative advertising models, Dunkin Donuts partnered with Waze:

“Dunkin Donuts’ CMO said the company was now all about value and utility; for example, it had recently partnered with the social navigation app Waze, using location-based marketing, to offer discounts based on a traveler’s proximity to a store.”

Advertising has to add value, it has to be the thing, not the thing that sells the thing:

“Among the more pleasing by-products of the coming end of advertising is a heretical realization among some industry thinkers: the idea that for advertising to survive, or rather to thrive, it must add value to people’s lives. In a world in which lazy, superfluous, and stupid no longer cut it, advertising will have no choice but to compete as primary content, not secondary intrusion. It will become the thing, not the thing that sells the thing.”

Old, traditional advertising was quite high quality:

“In many homes, early “chromolithographic” ads torn out of magazines became the closest thing the average American family came to owning art, “the chief means of brightening a dreary visual environment,” according to Lears.”

Creative advertising from Lego. Fortunately, I didn’t saw the movie.

“This is why The Lego Movie is so significant. A brand made a brilliant, well-executed movie. The movie was a hit. The movie also happened to be an ad, one that people were willing to pay to see.”

Zappos put their logo inside the plastic trays you use to pass your shoes through security:

As I mentioned earlier in the Citi Bike story, Zappos once ingeniously put their logo inside the plastic trays you use to pass your shoes through security at the airport. They’d found virgin white space that was also contextually connected to their business, and decided that this was the ideal place to put their brand name.

The author proposes the rebuilding of dilapidated infrastructure as a creative and value adding form of advertising:

“Our roads and bridges are falling apart. Forget soda cups and brown paper bags—America’s interstates, airports, and railroad stations are the new white space. We don’t need the thousands of tiny, inconsequential ads that currently blight our transit hubs, we need a big-thinking brand to literally repave the road.”

Even though it has a slow start, there are other bits and pieces that make this book worth reading.

Book Review: How to Create a Mind by Ray Kurzweil

I’m always on the lookout for new discoveries in the neuroscience field and to understand and learn more about the synergy of the  human mind, brain and consciousness  and this book by Ray Kurzweil, one of the leading figures in Artificial Intelligence, proved to be quite enlightening in this regard.

I have a lot of notes and Kindle highlights on this book and here are some of them:

  • There are no images, videos, or sound recordings stored in the brain. Our memories are stored as sequences of patterns. Memories that are not accessed dim over time.
  • The human mind is capable of recognizing patterns even if they are altered:“This represents a key strength of human perception: We can recognize a pattern even if only part of it is perceived (seen, heard, felt) and even if it contains alterations. Our recognition ability is apparently able to detect invariant features of a pattern—characteristics that survive real-world variations.”
  • We are constantly predicting the future and hypothesizing what we will experience.
  • Unused pattern recognizers (the authors thinks that our mind contains about 300 million of them) get reassigned to other more-used pattern recognizers:

“That is why memories grow dimmer with time: The amount of redundancy becomes reduced until certain memories become extinct.”

  • DNA doesn’t determines how the neuronal connections work:

“There are on the order of a quadrillion (1015) connections in the neocortex, yet only about 25 million bytes of design information in the genome (after lossless compression), so the connections themselves cannot possibly be predetermined genetically. It is possible that some of this learning is the product of the neocortex’s interrogating the old brain, but that still would necessarily represent only a relatively small amount of information. The connections between modules are created on the whole from experience (nurture rather than nature).”

  • Four items of working memory at a time:

“We are apparently able to keep up to about four items in our working memory at a time, two per hemisphere according to recent research by neuroscientists at the MIT Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.6 The issue of whether the thalamus is in charge of the neocortex or vice versa is far from clear, but we are unable to function without both.”

  • The brain is wired to seek novelty:

“Each brain hemisphere contains a hippocampus, a small region that looks like a sea horse tucked in the medial temporal lobe. Its primary function is to remember novel events. Since sensory information flows through the neocortex, it is up to the neocortex to determine that an experience is novel in order to present it to the hippocampus. It does so either by failing to recognize a particular set of features (for example, a new face) or by realizing that an otherwise familiar situation now has unique attributes (such as your spouse’s wearing a fake mustache).”

  • There is a struggle between the old reptilian brain and the neocortex, but the neocortex has the last say:

“There is a continual struggle in the human brain as to whether the old or the new brain is in charge. The old brain tries to set the agenda with its control of pleasure and fear experiences, whereas the new brain is continually trying to understand the relatively primitive algorithms of the old brain and seeking to manipulate it to its own agenda. Keep in mind that the amygdala is unable to evaluate danger on its own—in the human brain it relies on the neocortex to make those judgments. Is that person a friend or a foe, a lover or a threat? Only the neocortex can decide.”

  • There are medical cases in which a hemisphere was removed from a  patient’s brain and the patient continued to function properly (and even to have an above average IQ):

“While these observations certainly support the idea of plasticity in the neocortex, their more interesting implication is that we each appear to have two brains, not one, and we can do pretty well with either. If we lose one, we do lose the cortical patterns that are uniquely stored there, but each brain is in itself fairly complete. So does each hemisphere have its own consciousness? There is an argument to be made that such is the case. “

  • Ultimately most of our thinking will be in the cloud:

“What I believe will actually happen is that we will continue on the path of the gradual replacement and augmentation scenario until ultimately most of our thinking will be in the cloud.”