Featuring Mike Follett from Lumen Research
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Mike Follett is the Managing Director of Lumen, the leading attention technology company. Lumen uses eye tracking to understand the reality of attention to advertising, helping clients buy better digital media and develop more eye catching creative.
In this episode we discuss:
- Eye tracking technology and how it helps cut through opinions in advertising
- Starting off doing studies on newspaper ads and moving into digital
- How ad agencies work and the problems with opinion v fact
- Measure twice and cut once in planning for your ads
- Marketing as an art v science and the rise of data
- Art directors v copy writers
- Why you’re thinking about Facebook ads the wrong way
- Why no one cares about your ads
- The attention economy and algorithms
- Marketing is more like seduction than war
- Advertising attribution models and why you should look at incrementality not last click
- Why the site your ads sit on has a huge affect on impact
- Does advertising work
Mike’s Book Recommendations
- Paid Attention: Innovative Advertising for a Digital World by Faris Yakob
- Eye and Brain: The Psychology of Seeing by Richard L Gregory
- The Attention Merchants: The Epic Struggle to Get Inside Our Heads by Tim Wu
- Bob Hoffman’s ad contrarian blog http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/
- Mark Ritson https://www.marketingweek.com/mark-ritson/
Mike began his career in advertising, working for in DDB in London, New York and Mumbai, before being part of the team that founded Lumen in 2013. He holds degrees from Oxford University and Imperial College London.
Find Mike on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-follett-a474216/
Or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
And Lumen Research on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/lumenresearch
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Andi Jarvis, Eximo Marketing.
This transcript has been done automagically using Happy Scribe and hasn’t been checked by a real person, so there may be some hilarious mistakes where the AI can’t work out our accents – I’m sure they’re trained on just the American accent.
Mike, welcome to the Strategy Sessions. It’s great to have you with us. How are you today? Very well. I did very well. I didn’t realize you can be filming this as well. So I have a pre Corona lockdown haircut. So if you’re if anyone is actually on your YouTube channel, you can see see that I feel for your listeners. I’m OK for you. Your view is not so much that I’ve got a beard, which looks more like I’ve been kidnapped for a number of years.
So it’s the locked out world, isn’t it? So anyone listening to recording this in December?
It’s a couple of days before Christmas. And yeah, we’re looking a little bit so hairy, if you know what she’s like. Let’s tell everybody what your company is looming and give us a little bit of an introduction to what you do.
So Rubin is an attention technology company. We’ve developed the software that turns your computer or your phone’s webcam into a high quality eye tracking camera. And that means that we can recruit people anywhere in the world. Uh, you can create a hundred or a thousand people and say, please download our software and then we can observe not just what they could see on their phones or their computers, but what they do in actual fact, look at because people are really good at ignoring things.
Um, and just because you can see something doesn’t mean you will see it.
So we collect all that data about your digital advertising or about your site design or TV ads or whatever, um, and understand what people actually have been looking at rather than what they say to people here.
Fantastic. So this is our first real step into research, into strategy sessions, but that’s not really talked about in any great depth. So to have a whole show to talk about this is fantastic. I’m really, really keen to get into this. So how did the company start eye tracking software? There’s been some eye checking stories out there for a while.
So how did you get into this and why did you think let’s go into this sector?
Well, I started my career in advertising at DDB. Um, and one thing I noticed again, again, again, throughout my entire 15 years of working there is that no one knows how big a logo should be on an ad.
And everyone’s got an opinion. Should it be half the size of the ad? Should it be tiny? You know, you have these ad logos, shrinking creatives and these logo expanding clients, and everyone has got a bloody opinion about it. And and if you do lots of research with people, you can to ask them, you can have a focus group or you go, which one do you think should be bigger?
Everyone’s got an idea, you know, in the in the focus group or in the questionnaire. I think it should be like this because of this reason. I think it should be.
The thing is, though, that it doesn’t matter what people think they think it’s what they actually do that that matters to why it used, i.e., tracking, which had been used in the in the user experience, the UX, um, environment for quite some. I’d use that.
And I thought, well, perhaps we could, instead of doing it for websites, do it for advertising and for print advertising just to begin with.
And uh and so to resolve one of these questions, uh, while I was working for Texaco’s ad agency, we we we got together a hundred people and asked them to read a newspaper, um, and half the sample saw the ads for the big logo, half the sample. So the ads for the small logo. And, um, we took the the findings back to the client. Um, and instead of saying what I think this and it stands to reason that it should be A No.
B is better than a big logos that we are both.
So, uh, you’re showing your age a little bit, obviously, because it was tested on newspapers. So you must be at least a hundred and twenty something around about that.
Yeah, I am.
I do have some younger listeners that we like newspapers. What are they we see that’s that’s the thing.
It started off. I mean, the thing about eye tracking is that it, uh, the technology’s been around for a while, for a while.
But, uh, the the the eye track is much easier to do, at least initially if you have static things to look at, if you know that what everyone’s looking at and that static and all you have to do is, is measure their eyes, whether that’s that’s moving. Um, that’s how that’s how we started.
Um, but but I think at the end of the first meeting, um, this is when I was I was I was working at an ad agency and had got this technology sort of off my back to do this weird piece of research for the client. At the end of the meeting, the guys at Tesco said two things. One is they said, um, God, this is really interesting.
Let’s do more of this, which made me think I should ditch my career at an ad agency and set up Lehman. And the second thing they said is, yeah, but we.
Newspapers, um, can’t we do this for, um, for, uh, for computers and for phones? So already before I started, the company clients were asking for something better than I had.
Yeah, that’s been my experience for the last seven years.
Clients constantly say, yeah, I mean, yeah, that’s good. But what about this?
Um, I it’s you shouldn’t ever really use fictional TV programs to quote unquote them as philosophy. But there is a great line in Game of Thrones, which is everything that comes before but is usually a lie.
Oh that’s great. Well, OK, so, so very true with your experience.
Well, the other interesting thing about that, I think not only is that it is what I have found in the stock of the company is that I thought that the company was always going to be about creative stuff.
And again, the clients have always been ahead of me in in their requests and their demands. They want more technology. And so and that’s been sort of client led innovation.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could do this or whatever? But also, clients are the ones who come up with really interesting questions. So I thought that I was going to spend my life saying that, you know, big logos should be better than small logos. Um, but over time, in actual fact, what’s happened is that clients have come to us with tons of interesting questions that I had never thought of myself.
You know, uh, let’s let the let the development of the company.
So let’s just jump back a little bit. So back to the very early days with the newspaper ads and where you started from, because in in adland there are some kind of things that creatives just know to be true. Allegedly a number of words you have to have on a billboard headline. No more than six, I think.
Is it five or six? Yeah, we’ve got lots of good evidence now to support that.
A number of words on a billboard where you should put the product verses the text. Is it and again, I’m not creative, so I don’t know. But put product one side the text to the side because people in website land that, you know, people read in an E apparently, and all of these things, which are some based on greater or lesser evidence, depending on who you believe and where they came from.
Is this what you were up against? Is this what you were almost initially setting up to prove or disprove whether the the founding principles of design were correct, that that was the starting point for where you were looking at?
Yeah, I think it was a bit like that.
I there’s there is an awful lot of sort of folk wisdom, you know, law in in from the creative side.
And there’s also equally a whole load of, uh, assumptions that go into it from the client side as well.
You know, that, you know, nothing matters unless people know that the ad is from your brand. It’s all very well. Don’t don’t spend all this money advertising something that could be from anyone. And and what I.
I suppose so. Yes, definitely. We were in the business of trying to prove empirically which of these sorts of, um, bits of wisdom were actually true. And what we’re just sort of old wives tales or that.
But I think a little bit more was just the process of decision making and what tends to happen in ad agencies quite a lot is there’s a strong hierarchy authority, um, and and the decisions are sort of made almost politically.
And in most big ad agencies, you have a man and it is almost exclusively men at the top has creative directors and they are the ones who have the ideas and the ones that and then surrounded them. You’ve got the planners and the and the junior creatives and then you have the planners and the and the and the suits with er to to to justify, uh, the, the thoughts and the wisdom of this great man.
Uh, usually. And his authority is usually based almost a shamanistic early on. Well I just know what great design is and then you know and now uh which is some successes historically.
Well maybe sometimes but sometimes not I think um and but it leads to a style of arguing which is not evidence based, but is instead based on authority.
I know what I’m talking about it. And that that is a very dangerous, uh, position to me because that person comes up against a client who is ultimately paying the bills.
The golden rule, you know, you have to follow the you have to follow the money there. And so if he or she doesn’t agree with that sort of authoritarian, argumentative, uh, style, then you were at an absolute impasse.
And what happens is usually you go into research. We’ll let the researcher and you have something called agency version of ad and client version of AD, which is another way of saying losing version of ad and winning version of AD. And now that’s a tremendously demoralizing way of making a decision because it disempowers everyone around you, because you just have the authority of this man versus the desires of the client. And there’s no buttheads.
But it also means that it’s very difficult to build up a corpus of wisdom and a corpus of knowledge that’s based on any evidence. Sometimes people will say what I think the logo should be big and other times people say, I think the logo should be small. And in this instance, why is that? And, you know, you don’t have an awful lot of evidence to say one way or another because any evidence that would, um, disempower the creative process, you know?
Well, in this instance, you know, I think it’s this now I think is not a very good way of justifying things. So I think that the great thing about eye tracking is that it gives you this really powerful, rich quantitative evidence. You go 18 percent of people did this, whereas 42 percent of people did that.
But the mode of doing the research is almost entirely passive. Instead of asking people, you know, I talk about it in a second.
Most people ignore most ads most of the time.
And people just glance at things, you know, when you’re reading the paper, when you’re online and because of this reality, because people don’t really care about ads, because of that reality. The the guy in the turtleneck jumper, you know, that is right, because what he ends up saying a lot is keep it simple, make it funny, make it beautiful.
No one has to look at this stuff. And it turns out a lot of his, um, uh, intuitions are exactly right.
And we should be taking his advice, but not because he says so, but because the evidence supports, um, uh, his contentions.
What I find really interesting to be for people listening is kind of the where Doyle Dane Bernbach is now and, uh, in fact, DDB, Adam and Eve now.
That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. So still one of the country’s biggest and best agencies. Uh, and DDB has a history that goes back forever. They’ve had the Volkswagen account almost since time began, made one of the ads, which is universally recognized as one of the best ads ever made. VW think small ad back in the fifties.
Uh, yeah, 50s and 60s that’s been written. But, you know, I don’t think Bill Birnbach wrote the ad, but he he certainly was the, uh, the head of the creative department when it came out.
So so this is I mean, just a quick Segway into this, because it’s a great line, but obviously very clearly of its time, which came from a Jewish guy talking about the, uh, the VW and how it became popular American, how great that ad was. And yes, this line doesn’t work in 2021, but it did work in the 50s. So just excuse me for once. Said it sold a Nazi car in a Jew town.
Yeah, it was the line that we use now that is you wouldn’t use language like that these days, but just shows you the impact only. This is ten years after the Second World War finished, just over maybe fifteen after the Second World War finished. And the Volkswagen people’s car, the German car is being sold hand over fist in New York because of this ad, you know, and it’s the ad that started the mythology. So come back to where we were.
It’s really interesting to hear the problems in the creative process.
Even Anse, what is regarded around the world, is one of the greatest creative agencies about.
You know, I know that the.
I don’t want to say that there are problems in, you know, in the creative process, per say.
I think Debbie has a a long and amazing tradition of, uh, of especially at DDB London or Adam and Eve as of creating the concept of planning, um, you know, where you sit and work out exactly what consumers want and come up with you sort of measure twice and cut once. Yeah. Um, and that hopefully primes the creatives with exactly the right area to go in to.
And obviously still they have to come up with new and interesting thoughts that haven’t been thought that wouldn’t occur to a sort of rational sort of, uh, mind you, you have to have that sort of, uh, right brain sort of in a inventive thinking and even coming up with ideas that are always going to be, um, disagreements.
And any new thinking should, um, uh, provoke a bit of an argument.
Otherwise, it’s not there.
And any new thinking should, I suppose, make you feel a bit uncomfortable.
I mean, can you imagine trying to sell, you know, uh, think small or lemon or, um, you know, the like you say it’s trying to sell a German car in a tourist town.
Um, that that it’s unlikely that research would have got you out, that you have to have a leap of faith.
Uh, so any agency worth their salt is going to, um, to have, you know, arguments. And that I think is is a totally OK. Um, and that’s what I enjoyed about my time at DTP.
But I think when you’ve had the same argument, um, uh, for ten years in a row and it’s like a toss a coin sometimes, you know, it’s in black and white and sometimes white is white and sometimes the logo should be big and something you go you realize how, um, political most decision making is finger and and finger, you know, and and and and that can be for people who work in industry, you know, a very, very demoralizing because you realize that you after ten years of working in the industry, you haven’t actually learned anything.
All you’ve learnt is that it’s a crapshoot. The sometimes the ideas come and sometimes they don’t. And, um, uh, sometimes you can you can sell them into the client, but they’re not.
And you go, well, where is my body of knowledge. Yeah. A, you know, because that body of knowledge is super, super important for helping you sleep at night.
You know, the debate about marketing being an art or a science started roughly in the fifties. The Americans were codified in marketing from the thirties. And then this debate kicks off, um, I think it was Harvard Business School initially about is it an art? Is it a science? Where does it sit?
And I think the needle was firmly in the art direction, probably all the way through until the explosion of digital.
There was eye tracking and things. But most of the science was post campaign, I think is probably the best way to think about it. Yes, there was there was pretty stuff in the surveys and focus groups put the hard and fast evidence often came after you’d taken the leap of faith. Did it work? What the detail? How many people? All that sort of stuff.
I think the needle moved with digital analytics and things like that moved sort of into the middle and then maybe in the last ten years kind of went all the way towards the science.
But where they digital marketers and the performance market is and data scientists felt like they were taking over the discipline, it feels like we’re kind of moving back towards the middle a little bit with creatives, um, sort of reasserting their their push at this and actually people taking the data and using it to improve the creative as opposed to just the data being the answer to itself. I think it was David Abbott who said about digital shit that arrives at the speed of light is still shit is a fantastic way of putting it.
But I think what’s happening now is to come back to your products is that we using the data to make better decisions, not to lead the creative process almost, but to give it the full picture so people can make better decisions. Is that what clients are coming to you for?
Absolutely. I think that I mean, to to build on what you were just saying there, I think there has to be an idea of, you know, marketing science for for for a long time. Claude Shannon.
And, you know, the the but it used to be so expensive to get the data. You know, doing research was really expensive. And then tracking sales afterwards was really, really hard work. And so people did take it very, very seriously. But it was only open to the biggest and most well funded companies to to be able to.
Now, it’s really easy to see how many people have downloaded your podcast if they have listened right towards the end. Where did they go afterwards? Did they you know, you in. Your business and with your clients were can give your clients this amazing sort of, uh, granularity of data for you can, you know, in the 50s that would have cost, you know, millions of dollars to be able to and you’ve got it all at your fingertips.
So what happens is because you’ve got the data, the next question the clients ask is, so what does what have I learnt here and what does?
And so as as marketers, we are we’ve been, you know, primed to go. Well, this is really interesting because I can predict definitely that this is what’s happened. This is what happened the last 10 times.
So if we do this and we use this as a leading indicator, this will definitely happen again and again because data is so plentiful and so cheap, we think it must be predictive.
And the answer is it is to an extent.
But there’s still an awful you know, that the role for creativity is saying something new when a, you know, definitely that hasn’t gone away.
You know, it’s it’s in actual fact, the data should be able to tell us exactly the contribution of these, uh, of the crater.
I mean, for, for instance, one of the things that we we know at Lehman, we test thousands of ads every every hundred of us, every every every week, thousands of ads, probably every month, um, uh, to to help people understand what actually gets people to notice and what people get people to remember ads. And, you know, from that, you get a whole bunch of sort of general learnings about how advertising in general works and then very specific things about how your ad in particular, it works well.
And what we can confidently say is that, um, art directors are underpaid and copywriters are overpaid, um, because the average the average dwell time with most ads I did is about two seconds.
Um, when people are online, um, your average 12 time is around about two times. What you’ve got here is a poster.
And is that when you said digital ads, do you mean banner ads on banner ads.
Um, uh, actually video. Um, everything.
Everything. Basically your average dwell time with a YouTube ad, a 15 second YouTube ad is four point nine seconds, um, which is almost like a TV ad.
But everything else. Everything on Instagram. Everything on Facebook. You know, video or static, um, everything I mean, it’s, uh, you know, the whole the whole lot about two seconds and you may have made a TV ad and stuck it on Facebook. Um, but just because you think it’s going to be used like a TV ad doesn’t mean, you know, people are in charge. And when you’re on your phone, you’re you’re you’re flicking through like it’s like a one Umbanda, isn’t it?
You know, like a like one of those slot machines in a going round that you are not so weird.
And that’s how everyone else does it, too. Now, that tells you something massively important, which is that Facebook isn’t like TV and it’s certainly not like print advertising. Facebook is not a video platform. Facebook is an out of home platform.
What you need to do is think like a poster.
Now, that is a big, big, um, uh, empirical learning that we can take to TBWA or TDB or, you know, OKL Vagos and go whatever, whatever you think.
This is how people actually engage with with the ads. And that’s probably sort of, you know, uh.
So I don’t want to point of point of fact, I don’t know anyone who works at Guinness. Not anymore anyway. But Guinness make great TV ads, but they up until I don’t even know if they still do. But in the early days of digital, they would push out TV and just dumped on, uh, YouTube as a pre roll of Facebook is not only like you’ve spent all this money on these great art and you just do the same thing on Facebook now coming from a digital background.
So I started in digital agencies, um, you know, we would our feeling was that you had to capture people on on the skippable YouTube page to capture people with something interesting before you could skip, whereas a TV are typically told the story to an end, to a reveal at the end was like, well, no one’s going to stay for that reveal.
You need to almost think of it the other way around it. And that was that.
Perhaps it’s not a murder mystery. No one’s hanging around to reveal. Oh, my God, it turns out it was a beer brand.
Um, you know, it’s you know, that that data, I think, is really, really important in, you know.
So your question was about does the day does the data help support creativity? And. Yeah, well, what we do is we sort of tell people, tell creatives especially how people actually engage with their stuff. And if you know that really you’re not meant to be doing a TV ad on Facebook, really, it’s a poster on Facebook, then that puts it in a different box and then you can make the best poster. The insider could be moving digital posters up, but it’s essentially you go right, I’ve got three, three or four seconds max here to play with.
Let’s not let’s not do the murder mystery. Let’s not even think about it like a TV. You know, let’s think of it like a poster. And then once you put once you’ve got your head into that head space, then you can make the most amazingly creative poster there ever was.
Um, but, you know, that’s where I think the data supports creativity. Helps you say what what game are we playing here? What are the rules of this game?
And then then you can have all the debates you like about making the world’s best poster, you know, and I think, like I say, I’m a very, um, a very textural verbal sort of person. Uh, I can I can I know what I like when it comes to pictures.
I’m just not very good at making them. Um, so I am absolutely in awe of of art of the art direction.
But that I think is that that’s that’s the big learning from from my research, which is that, um, uh, you know, if you were to invest in money, invest in the pictures rather than the other words, I want to dive in.
I’m going to take the clip of short promo where you said, um, art directors are underpaid, copyright is are overpaid. And I’m going to put your address on it as well so a copyright owners can send you some incredibly well written. Well written.
Yeah, exactly. Abuse for us or some I get some sort of simple thumbs up from, uh, GIFs and pictures from from arthritis.
So I worked with a well-known High Street brand who make greetings cards. I can’t say who, but I worked for this company.
One of the things that struck me when in a meeting with them, they were talking about greetings cards and why people buy them. And their view on it was for their research. It showed them that the picture made you pick it up. The words on the inside made you buy it. So the pictures stopped you. You were like, oh, yeah, that looks great from my gran. But when you opened anyone happy Christmas, you old sod.
You want to give that to my nan and then you pick another one up. In the words would say, you are the light of my life and perfect and you buy it.
And I talk about when people say, oh, what about social media content? That is almost my advice. Now the picture will stop people. The words will make them buy. So when you’re scrolling, no one stops for the words. When this girl, like you said, the social media companies and people are measuring, scrolling in meters per day opposite.
And so you’re scrolling through and you go, oh, click the words. If the words aren’t there or the words of crap, you’re just not buying.
So, you know, I speak hyperbolically. I mean, I think because I think I think you’re right. I mean that, you know, you have to have something to sell. You know, the you know, your your your adverting people’s attention to something, you have to say, well, what is it? And the way you say it and the offer and the positioning is all tremendously important. But if anything, you know, if anything I’ve learned over the last seven years is that most people ignore most things.
Getting people you know to spend is quite an interesting language. They’re going to in English and we use a lot of economic metaphors for for attention. You spend time with people you you give them at your time. If you’re not if you’re not careful, you waste people’s attention.
Is this resource the first thing to do is to get people to stop and say, you know, we were talking about Bill Birnbach.
Yeah. You know, one of his Bill Birnbach famous phrase, famous quote, for bloody everything. He said, you can’t sell a man who wasn’t listening and what he means. Right. You have to get people to listen first and then you can sell.
And I think it’s that order you have to get people’s attention so that you can it so that you can, uh, do the, uh, do the sounds. But even within that, you have to be worth worth their time. You have to earn their attention. So this is why copywriting is so important, because you have to get people’s attention.
Yeah, because we have the people will give up as if it’s already like the copyright is not listening anymore.
They just kind of got into this. I am. Yeah. But you know that the the the subs in most relationships that they the doms, uh, the, the design and I’d be more scared of the designers to be honest and look for the promo anyway.
Yeah, they’re the exactly. The the copywriters are all mouth. Uh the um the you do have to earn people’s attention. And again, I think that’s the other big thing that we’ve learned, uh, from this.
No one has to look at any of this stuff when you make advertising or marketing or anything. You were very interested in it because either it’s your brand or. Your client, your mortgage depends on this, so of course, you read everything, you know, in an ad agencies, I can remember if if you made a typo in the in the ad, um, and the type it was bad enough to invalidate, the agency would have to pay pay for that media space.
We took it on as a always has, but with amazing attention to detail.
And because we’re professionals, you you want to take it seriously.
And I know that this is not how people look at ads. You know, you are not normal as a marketer.
You are weird and you sort of forget that your own experience and your experience with your advertising is not like how other people do. Most people are just skimming through Facebook. Um, and flip flip through. If you you know, back in the, um, in the in the 18th century, when you think I come from, you know, people read the newspaper, you know, people read the news, not the ads.
No, no one.
They used to be newspapers called the you know, the Leeds Advertiser or something like that because they were full of ads. But No. One, we have Google for that. So newspapers are for news. And, um, and that’s why. So you have to remember how unimportant advertising is.
And it’s because advertising is so unimportant that creativity is so important because people don’t have to look at is that’s why beautiful advertising, simple advertising, clever advertising, funny advertising is worth so much more than ugly, boring, you know, tedious ads.
I mean, you talking about the research thing and digital advertising. I think one of the things that digital advertising has helped us understand, I think now because of lots of fraud and the value, this is going away. But one of the things is to talk about the value of the media. You know, I have delivered at ads to this and also of targeting not only have I delivered 18 ads, but they are two dog owners in South Wales, you know, who are and are they really isn’t.
But anyway, you know, that’s you know, and with GDP, all of that’s going away anyway.
But anyway, it’s all about the media and the targeting. But what we always forget is that you have you have, you know, tons of ads to the right person.
But if the ads are crap, then it doesn’t really matter. You know, you it doesn’t really matter how many impressions you buy. It’s the impression you make that counts. Um, and that’s the only thing that really matters, uh, at the end of the day.
So we’ve become obsessed by the media and by the targeting. But attention is a function of media and targeting and creative, and it’s those three things working together that lead people to pay attention, to remember stuff and then to buy it later.
Yeah, the media and the messaging working together. Right. So I want to talk about attention and the attention economy. I think you mentioned about how a lot of these words and I borrowed from economics, whether it’s Nojin of friction and things like that. So, you know, we drag all these terms in. What are you seeing? You said you work with Facebook and people. What are the what’s the focus what’s the drive in those products at the moment?
What are they looking at with this idea of the attention economy has risen in the last couple of years or so?
I think it’s off the back of some were used. You think quite a negative way. And and the thing is, it comes from a chap called Tristan Harris with Tristan Harris. That’s how the Americans pronounce it. Um, and, uh, an academic at Harvard called Susannah Zubov, um, um, uh, made a lot of money working for Google.
And then, uh, he banked all the money, um, and then had, uh, a road to Damascus experience where he realized that Google via YouTube was funding hate, um, because it would promote videos that, uh, you demanded your attention. So and the more extreme the videos were, the more attention you gave. And therefore, you you, uh, you watch the ads and next to these increasingly horrible videos and people go down the Google hole there.
And I think this is probably true. Um, and he’s now dedicated his life to resolving this. He hasn’t given the money back so, uh, that he made from Google.
So he’s, uh, I wonder quite how how how how morally pure this man is. Um, and then Suzanna Zubov, who’s an academic at Harvard, wrote a book called, uh, the Surveillance State of South Africa.
It’s just, uh, I mean, philosophically quite naive, I think. Um, and then she has said the same thing.
Would you have this that this algorithmic approach to Facebook that sucks people in and, uh, makes people, uh, shows people videos and content that they think they really, really like so that you can show ads that you can learn more about people and and be better about targeted and that this is the sort of thing that is um. Uh uh. You know, leading to the extreme, you know, extremism online that you you go where do you get your news from your Facebook?
And suddenly you get down this sort of weird anti vacc, sort of Froch sort of whole or you go into, you know you know, I suppose lots of other people go that lots of things that I see is, uh, a similarly, um, extreme, but perhaps from a left wing point of view.
And so that’s the idea of this attention economy that that that, you know, these companies are incentivized to show more and more extreme things and more and parcel people into smaller, smaller groups of highly targeted individuals so they can sell more advertising against it.
What we I think we take a slightly broader view of things.
Those things may well be true for YouTube and, uh, and Instagram and Facebook, I, I don’t I don’t know enough about it. And there may well be if that is the case, they can be resolved by either legislation or by policies that Facebook and Google and I think both Facebook and Google are taking steps to to address those sorts of things.
I take a slightly broader view, which is not necessarily a pejorative idea of the attention economy. You know what Hunton and Zubov are talking about? They use it in a very narrow sense. I think you can take this analogy at the attention economy much further. Attention is a finite resource.
You’re either looking here or you’re looking there, or I suppose when it comes to a podcast, you are listening to one thing here or you’re not, um, it’s not quite binary, you know, but it’s pretty bloody by binary, to be honest.
If you’re focusing on one thing, you’re probably not focused and you know, you can have all the distracted attention, I suppose, which is a bad thing. But in general, you know, you’re either looking at one thing or another, and that means you can start using the language of classical economics to out what makes people look at one thing rather than rather another. And at Lehman, we do an awful lot of that sort of measurement. We work out well, what is it that that people look at?
You have selective attention.
So what do you select to look at? And we find that people know look at stuff. Um, advertising is just one of the things that they could look at, never trees, there are houses there, there’s the newspaper, there’s other stuff on on Facebook that they can look at. So they’re constantly making a calculation about whether or not to look at them. Is this worth my time? Is this worthwhile? Advertising almost invariably fails that test. Um, because it’s not very it’s not a beautiful it’s not very interesting.
It’s not very valuable.
Um, and so so this is why, uh, you have to, you know, do stuff that’s worth looking at and, you know, you have to you have to employ the art directors, but also, I suppose probably give some money to the copywriters as well, you know, to, uh, to generate something that’s worth that’s worth, um, uh, looking at because no one has to look at this stuff.
Now, I think that is quite a big shift in in people’s understanding, marketers understanding of, uh, um, of what their job is.
If you think that your job is to deliver a message almost like a war, you know, like a missile, like a warhead going a then then, um, you say, well, you know, use these military like penetration and bombarding and, you know, the you have objectives and strategy and stuff like that. You sort of think that you’re in charge sending these messages out.
But that’s it’s not like that at all. It’s the way round. It’s much more like seduction. You as a marketer have to, uh, appear interesting and beautiful and and you have to seduce your audience, you know, to please look over here. We’re much more like flowers trying to attract bees or think than, uh, the general’s trying to, uh, achieve our sort of military objectives.
And I think that that’s really, really important because you realize that in this attention economy that we’re competing for attention against loads of other more interesting stuff.
And when you understand that you end up producing totally different marketing instead of obsessing about that fourth bullet point, you go, uh, is that the sort of thing that’s going to get people to pay any attention at all? And quickly, the calculus changes.
You need a bit of humility, I think, in advertising, which isn’t necessarily a quality that you would associate with kind of the art director, creative director parody in your mind.
But I think in my experience, it is rapidly increasing and not because once you understand that nobody really cares about what you. It does bring you at this from a different angle: how do we make them care? Instead of let’s tell them all these wonderful things about you? It becomes much more of a two way street, really? Oh, absolutely.
No, I totally agree with you. And I think one of the people I think – Mark Ritson, the academic, now a consultant and trainer. One of the things he talks about all the time is that you are not your target audience. They’re busy mums, they are distracted lads. They’ve got other things going on in their lives.
So how do you fit into their lives rather than how do they fit into your business plan?
Um, that’s the question that we should we should be asking. And I think that this language you used to have a bit of humility.
I think, again, that’s it’s a hard word to say I’m not a professional.
I’ve been to university. I don’t need any humility.
I just want to be, um, in actual fact, if you realize what the the true task is, then that can be a spur to amazing creativity.
It helps, uh, you know, it helps you understand what the task, just as I was saying beforehand, Facebook ads are not videos. They’re posters. Ads are not, uh, messages going out there, invitations to come in. And if you think of it like that, then you produce totally different ads and you always have totally different arguments with your clients or with your agency.
Instead of saying, why haven’t you delivered bullet point for you, you have a joint conversation about how can we earn people’s attention?
How can make this worthwhile to go back to to Lumin and what you do as an organization? Do you have any plans to get earlier into the creative process and you may already do this? Excuse my ignorance if you do, but you talk about testing and so it’s almost as if this has been made. It comes to you, you test it and then send it back for improvement. But actually, all of this insight is needed earlier in that process and they need it before they start.
Do you do you do that in the I hate the word ideation.
It makes me feel bad.
That’s the idea phase that it’s not it’s better copywriting, doesn’t it, than just one of those awful idea issues that even a word, um, it’s that Americans use normalcy. Like what? Normal. Yes.
Ideation does the same to me. It makes me, um.
But, you know, are you doing work to get your insight into that that idea stage or are you just sort of a testing that they present to you?
Well, we do two big things, so. Yeah. So the first thing is, yes, absolutely. And what we what we tend to do is start the process by doing to try and download what little wisdom we have ahead of time. There’s no point in us testing negative ads and us coming back to go to go. Would you spent all this money testing the ads?
And as we would have told you, anyway, these are far too long or um, but I still want paying so much better is to to run some workshops beforehand and say things like think like a poster or, you know, earn attention or, you know, the sort of two second rule of like have we just given away all of your training?
Oh no, no, no. I think it’s important to to try and I know I’m on a mission to try and make, um, marketing more effective. So the more people notice up front, the better. Um, so, yes, we try and sit down and have sort of workshops and and training sessions, which almost always go the same way.
You know, the initial 20 minutes is really awkward when you go, who the hell is this coming in to tell me that? Um, I kept her and he said, yeah, with straggly beard.
And he was a planner, uh, rather as a strategist rather than a creative.
And he keeps on saying the art directors are overpaid and copywriters are underpaid, you know, so there’s always an awkward 20 minutes at the front where you go, who the bloody hell are you?
And then you talk through some of the principals and some people that know it’s sort of resistant.
But but what we said at the start, creatives know their staff.
You know, we as, uh, we pay these people because they have skills and a way of thinking that that the rest of us do not have. They are they think in a different way. And their intuitions are largely right.
You know, the reason why you want to make your ads beautiful. And it is because no one has to look at these things.
It’s not precious creatives being you know, I want to be an art school rather than, you know, they’re not it’s not that creative is a failed artist.
It’s because they know that beauty is is this is an essential part of getting attention in the first place. Um, when you say try and keep, uh, your your headline short, like up like a haiku, that’s not because, uh, art directors are precious and they’ve got to be poets, but instead they ended up it’s because they know that quicker is better.
You have to find the right words in the right order um uh and elegance and really do make a make a difference.
So these people are right. The evidence, though, helps them make that argument instead of just saying, I’m right because I, um, uh, you know, I went to Luton or Falmouth because I am rich, because I am a man and because I’m an art, instead of sort of leaning on their authority.
You can have some actual evidence to today.
So hopefully start off by that sort of stuff and then people go away and, uh, um, uh, hopefully, you know, come up with lots of different ways of doing it. Uh, and we can help and support there. We have a whole load of people who we call attention consultants that work with agencies and clients do that and then testing and improving and learning on the creative side.
But that’s only half that half the story, because the other half the story is the media itself. You know, like I said before, attention is a function of, uh, of the media, the targeting and the creative. We often forget about the creative and digital marketing, um, but we sometimes forget about the media as well. Uh, perhaps I think the other the other big failing in digital marketing recently has just been assumption, the assumption that so long as you put the ad in front of the right person at the right time, they will buy the product.
And they’ll say so because my attribution model, actress model say so, and therefore GDP is making all that go away and not a moment too soon because that is largely bollocks.
Um, in actual fact, of the quote, uh, um, you see, words are quite important, aren’t they?
I mean, perhaps somewhere in copyrighter here. I mean, certainly if you look at me in this video, I’m not my own art director, I assure you.
Um, but the, uh, that that the.
Digital marketing has been obsessed by targeting, um, and that has led to all of this last click attribution with all these digital marketers claiming, you know, oh, it’s me. I was I was the one that won it, you know, and all of that sort of trying to be the last possible ad before the clerk would say this made and then claiming that, um, claiming that sale of, uh, for yourselves.
That is why digital advertising doesn’t work.
And talk to lesbian and talk to, um, you know, Margarets and talk to to to Biron shop to the returns on digital marketing are visible in comparison to the bigger, you know, um, the, you know, the talk about the long and the short of it. The long is more important than that than the short of it.
Um, I’m working on a presentation for a conference which the title of the working title is Performance. Marketing is not the same as marketing performance.
Well, and I think it’s copywriting.
It’s for, um, it’s for a PC conference. So I’m expecting to get heckled and tomatoes thrown at me.
And, uh, but but that’s the point is, I mean, look at the last click.
Attribution is becoming less and less popular. The reason it’s still there is that nobody really knows what to replace it with.
Oh, well, I think you should stick to the old ways of marketing where there is a better way, but it just costs an awful lot of money to do. Whereas we can do like Lustick contribution, like there you go, as you figure so.
And I think. Yeah, I mean, so I think what you should be looking at is incremental, little incremental, incremental sales. So what I have been getting anyway, and then I did this ad campaign and how many more sales like a from the base rate. And what we find is that attention data that we produce at Luman predicts incremental sales so that, you know, like I say, creative, superimportant targeting is important, but it’s going away.
So what have you got left? You’ve got media and it turns out that. The size of your head, the shape of your and the position on the screen and the domain upon which it’s served makes a massive difference.
Ads on, uh, The Times or The Guardian or, um, uh, the, uh, the Mirror get tons more attention than the same ads on eBay or whether dot com where you place your ads has a massive effect on whether or not anyone notices them.
Because when people are reading the newspaper or the, you know, watching a video saying know they’re prepared, uh, to look at ads or, you know, they suddenly glance at them necessarily.
But when you’re on when you’re when you’re on national reliquaries, which is one of the biggest sites for what used to be before it got there, you know, when you’re on eBay or when you’re on eBay, you’re looking for a pair of trainers and you have very focused vision and everything else around.
It’s a bit like advertising inside Sainsbury’s or inside Tesco. Why you don’t put posters there? Because people are shopping. You know, when you’re on national reliquaries, you’re trying to work out how to get to Milton Keynes and the last thing you want is to be told about something new and exciting offer from Apple or whatever.
Yeah. Whereas other other websites you’re in a far more receptive mood. So what we also do, it isn’t just optimize the creative retention, but optimize your media planning for attention, helping you buy big enough ads that are going to get noticed in the right location. Um, and that is another way digital marketers can get this sort of incremental sales. Anyone can basically buy you a load of clicks through fraud or just through these, you know, clever targeting technique technologies to make sure that you were the last one there.
That isn’t marketing.
That is just I think that’s probably value dilutive. You’re paying a marketing agency.
Ta ta ta ta ta. Make you less money than you would anyway. Instead, what you need is value accretive marketing stuff that helps you get sales that you wouldn’t have got already. There’s no point in doing marketing if you’re just going to get the sounds of what you want is more sales from people that are strangers or from people you don’t know, you know, people who are not retargeting. Now, that’s what you want. Attention is the way to get it.
There’s two questions. And I want to just quickly ask one about the ad placement that you mentioned. But then I want to come back to talk about getting new customers and that incrementalism.
Have you looked at the impact of the brand of the domain? So you mentioned Bogarde in the mirror as opposed to fluffy puppy dog walking dotcom or whatever. Does that have you sort of been able to test for that as part of it? So it’s not just what they’re reading, it’s the brand and the trust factor they put into it.
Yeah, there’s some things that we have done quite a lot of what we did of work with the magazine, uh, marketing body called Magnetic. And we’ve done some stuff. News works.
Um, the benefit of putting your ads on big well-known sites is in part down to the fact the big one. It’s a very well laid out, lots of white space around the ads. You read with words and then there’s a massive great space and then you add pops out and see and there’s nothing else there. The worst thing you can ever do, by the way, is put your ads on a page where there’s two other ads.
You know, you know, um, have although I’m going to sing a theme tune and you can give us that, but again, it’s time for a team LPT IP go.
Mike, the worst thing you can do is put your ad on a page and there’s two other ads, um, because you need one at a time. You need fewer, better ads. And it’s worthwhile paying a lot more for sort of soulless positioning than because people can’t see the wood for the trees. So all these things look cheap. You go, oh well, I’ve got the CPMs are fantastic, but then you can use six ads appearing at the same time.
So they’re all shouting for your attention. And remember, you have to compete for attention, not just it’s hard enough competing for attention against the news. If you have to compete for attention, it’s five other brands and the news.
Bloody hell is it any wonder none of this stuff works so much, much better is to. So but but in addition to that sort of soulless factor, which really is worth paying for, I do think there’s a, uh, a factor about how engaged people are with the content. So I personally, I haven’t seen the evidence. Well, I think the maybe the only people who have got the evidence. So no one has seen it.
So. Okay. Right. Um, well, I haven’t seen that. And so nobody’s seen it.
I don’t know if there’s an awful lot of value to the to the trust factor myself. Probably a bit of it. But what there definitely is, is committed readers of a site engage much more with the content, and because they engage with the content, they engage much more with the ads.
So what you want to do so fluffy dog dot blogspot, dot com may be, um, maybe sounds like a sort of a Russian fraud, doesn’t it?
But, um, you know, it may be an absolutely fantastic blog that has a small but amazingly committed audience. That and the content is written by some genius. And he or she writes really well and because they write really well. So it’s.
You know that blogs might get as much dial tone that might get as much attention as ads on the Times or the Telegraph or with paid properly paid journalists who are generating content, that’s really worth reading. So it’s so does answer your question.
And it’s absolutely it’s not that small websites are invariably crap. It’s that really good content. Leads to really high engagement with ads. Now, I don’t know what good content is and it’s different for different people.
So individual, you know, I you know. You know, I quite like rugby union, other people like rugby league, you know, rugby league website, rugby league, some people are wrong.
Exactly. So the rugby, you know, you have two blokes and they’re both they’re both good for their audience. And then both blokes will be completely irrelevant to other people, you know. But, um, it’s not for me to say, you know, that’s why I know I’m quite a left wing sort of person. So I think, you know, I used The Guardian as a as a as a as an example.
But The Times and The Telegraph, whose politics I probably don’t agree with, are still astonishingly good places to eat. And the sun for their audience is a really good place to put the ads, uh, as well as a mode on this podcast.
But as a as a savvy marketer, what you want to do is go and where you place your hands is super important, but you need to place right next to interesting content. And this, I suppose, is where Tristan Hunt and Zubov have a point about the attention economy, because the more you engage with the content, the more you do engage with the ads. And we have a and there is an ethical dilemma here, because who are we to say what’s good content or what’s bad content?
Um, and it might be I know that you and I think that, you know, quality journalism is the thing or or movies made.
But, you know, um, you know, and videos made by, uh, talented artists or whatever or or stories about my family, um, or, you know, Christmas dinners or whatever, you know.
But equally, other people might think that, um, horrible anthrax content or, you know, uh, you know, conspiracy theories that directly harm society is now it’s hard for an advertiser to, um, to say therefore.
Well, I shouldn’t advertise next to that horrible content. Um, it’s hard, but it’s not impossible because as an advertiser, you just have to make an ethical decision. The sad fact is that your ads probably will get quite a lot of attention when served next to, um, uh, sort of a conspiracy theory stuff. Yeah.
And there probably is some negativity about, um, uh, having your ad next to some horrible Russian propaganda, you know, but let’s just be honest. It’s probably going to get some attention. That means it’s on you to make, uh, not a business decision, but an ethical decision and go, yes, I could make money out of this, but there’s more to life than money. You know, could I put my children in the eye and say that I helped destroy democracy just to sell small cat food?
Um, and that’s an easy call to make cat food all the way.
Well, no, but I think it means that you just you know, I’d love it for the data just to be unambiguous, to say always advertise in good places, because. That’s right. But it isn’t. That’s why there’s a question. And then those moments of ambiguity, that’s when, you know, morality comes in and you go, what sort of person are you? And I think your listeners should look themselves in the mirror because you go as marketers.
You know, I don’t know if you read Bob Hoffman’s, um, uh, ad contrarian blog, uh, um, but there’s a lot of, you know, ad tech is in part responsible for the the the destruction of, uh, of trust and the erosion of trust within society because of all of the attention economy stuff that I was just talking about negatively, you know, um, uh, descried. So we have to make a choice. Do we want to be part of that or not?
And, you know, some people will we’ll make the wrong choice, um, and we should judge them for that. No, I like that, I like that look, I’m just aware of the time, so I want to ask you a couple of questions at the end. I ask everybody about books. Talk to me about what books do you read? You mentioned Bob Hoffman’s odd contrarian blog.
You mentioned Margarets and not a book, but we’ll get a link to his column up there as well. Where else are you reading now going for your information?
Well, look, Diane was quite good because I got to actually, I don’t know about you what your house is like, but my house is like a an interesting and well stocked bookshop full of full of books I haven’t read. So I, I read I actually read a load of the books that I bought and I this summer was quite good.
I. Um, so if you’re really interested in attention, uh, there’s, uh, historian and uh, legal scholar called Tim Wu.
Uh, you, you, you I suppose, um, uh and he wrote a book called Attention Merchants, uh, which is sort of a history of, uh, of how newspapers and TV stations have been sort of selling eyeballs for the last hundred years, which I thought was really, really good.
Um, Chekhov Faris Yakob, um, uh, has written a really interesting year, 2015, but it sort of really coming ahead of its time.
And he and his book is called Paid Attention, and that talks about attention not just to things like ads and stuff, but about how we use our time, attention in the broadest possible sense about how we as individuals, you know, choose to look at things and choose to spend our time not just on ads, but on anything. But I think that’s very good.
And then the last thing on the on the if you’re really interested in attention, it is worthwhile is that this is sort of a pelican sort of popular history.
It’s a popular science book, um, by a chap called Ah, Al Gregory, who was professor of um, uh, psychology at Bristol University. And it’s a sort of introduction to these. It’s called Eye and Brain. Um, but what’s interesting about that is it does teach you all about the eye and the brain, uh, strangely, such as you’d imagine.
But it ends with, uh, quite an interesting discussion about the nature of perception. You know, what is actually happening when we’re looking at things?
You know, are we he talks about what sort of Escher like sort of visual, um, and anomalies, you know, the sort of visual tricks, you know, that teaches you something about how we look at the world, um, and how we actually construct meaning. So I found that’s what I read over the summer.
Um, and, uh, all of the all through these books made you think, oh, I wish I had read this years ago.
Any great book.
I however, uh, I’ve wasted so much time, uh, I should have read this book and on all new books that we haven’t been recommended before. So there’ll be links to them in the show notes.
Um, I actually promised I was going to ask you a quick question about incrementalists, if we’ve got time to ask it before you have to go, if you like, and be very incremental to your to your podcast.
There was an element, um, when it comes to incrementalists, there was a study out a couple of years ago about eBay and how their digital advertising was a complete waste of money. Yeah. Which then made it recently the Freakonomics podcast about why advertising doesn’t work. And I listen to it, um, I find it quite difficult. Listen, but I was pulling what little hair I had about listening to it.
I remember when that eBay study was released to anybody I know in the performance marketing community. And it’s not that I don’t like them, I just have issues with the way the major things. But, you know, eBay’s the punch lines are not particularly funny joke about how not to do digital advertising. Yeah.
You know, it’s like they were talking about, you know, for every dollar they spend, they hope they make one dollar, thirty bucks. And every ad company I know would be going, well, why would you even bother talking to companies that don’t know, you give us a dollar, we’ll give you eleven buck. That’s the sort of metrics they’re looking at. And, you know, it’s like, oh, how do you know nobody would ever stand up and go?
We do eBay’s advertising because we’re embarrassingly bad.
So to use that one study as an extrapolation that advertising doesn’t work, I thought was quite poorly done. But what I think it does come down to what my question is about is about brand, about paid advertising on your own brand. It’s kind of most agencies will be saying, look, you’ve got to be that brand protection. You’ve got to pay to be there. But all you’re doing is paying to attract clicks for people who are already looking for your brand.
Do you have any sort of evidence on that or any opinions on that in terms like you say, look, if you measure it incrementally, that’s a sale you probably going to get anyway?
Well, I think the first thing to say is that advertising definitely works. Um, it really does.
Freakonomics did a two say, yeah, I know.
And I go and I just think I listen to that as well. And you go have very clever. And he goes, if they’ve got this much this wrong, then perhaps they’ve got everything else wrong. It really eroded my trust in them.
Rather, but some advertising does it probably just doesn’t work in the way that we think it works. I think most ads probably work in terms of just building salience and mental availability. Um, they’re not selling through the page. They’re not selling to the ads. They’re just reminding you that Coca-Cola is existing exists. You know, that, um, ximo marketing exists. And then having established sort of this, uh, you know, renting some space in your in your brain so it even becomes an option.
Then when people are in a more lean forward work, they go to Google that you branded search or they do that, or when when your brand comes up in a price comparison website, you’re more likely to to to click on the fourth one down rather than the cheapest thing. That’s the power of brand. So it’s about mental availability rather than selling off the page. I think in general and the reason why you can see this is in the incremental mentality studies that we do, we see that the ads that get even two or three seconds of attention, just two or three seconds of attention, generate significant amounts of sales.
You don’t need to to to persuade anyone of this thing. What you need to do in a numbers game like advertising is simply raise awareness. Uh, so I do think that peak marketing works.
But it probably works in a way that’s different from the way they think it works, what it’s probably doing is being there at the right time, at the right place, just to tell the customer that this is you know, this is a product.
This is, uh, a service. So I think probably most people say advertising is working like brand advertising. It just just bad brand.
And I think, um, and and and that is the the and if you look at look at the numbers from the I mean, when we when we do lots of integrations with DSP to allow people to buy digital advertising, you know, on the basis of how long it’s going to get, uh, looked at or not, we see that attention is the thing that predicts sales and that even a very short amount of attention sales still go up.
Brilliant, brilliant stuff. Well, last question then. I have promised last question several times. Third last question, but it will be the last one. No, it’s not actually the last one. It’s the penultimate question. What question were you expecting me to ask about?
I haven’t. Um, I am I am really, really glad you didn’t ask. I’m really glad it is about how much Kovik changed everything. And do people does do people look in in different ways because of of the pandemic?
The answer is probably not. Um, not really, no. I mean, people are obviously on their phones more than ever before. But what Kevin’s probably done is sort of accelerate trends that were probably there already. But the reason I’m being very happy about that is that, um, the broadest thing that I’ve learned in the last few years is that, uh, people don’t change very much and certainly people in but people in general aren’t very interested in that in general.
And people look at them for very long. That’s a big, deep learning that is going to be has always, I assume, has always been this place and will always be the case. And these little minor blips of coded and Brexit and I think a multi whopper on. I’ve got to remember that last year, you know, these things are are small fry in comparison to the big and eternal truth. Thank you for asking that. No problem at all.
Look, my very last question. How do people get hold of you if they want to contact you.
Go to our website, uh, hyphen research dot com, uh, and get in touch. My my email address is email@example.com and we are we are very much looking forward to helping anyone and everyone about optimizing their creative work and and optimizing their media spend.
Mike, thank you very much for your time today.
Thanks very much, Andi.