Audio

Drawing a Crowd From Dynamic Creativity

trivargo.jpg

A Crwth is an ancient stringed instrument with it’s roots in early Anglo-Celtic culture, a predecessor of the modern guitar it was played by traveling musicians across Europe. My surname, Crowther, is derived from these musical storytellers who unlike me, had a fairly high social status. That’s because they were an influential alternative source of information from that of the Church. While both the Church and Crwth players used storytelling, music and performance to get their message across, the tone was very different between the two, the Church used authority and consistency, Crwth players were the entertainers, using more emotion through music, rhyme, drama and comedy to tell stories of battles and affairs of court. They became influential because of their popularity, the English word Crowd is derived from the large gatherings that resulted from a Crwth player arriving in a town with the latest ‘entertainment’ news. Information has always been power, the Church distributed theirs through scripture as they controlled the production of books. Before the invention of the printing press, books were expensive to produce, they took many man hours to produce but with monasteries across Europe, they had access to a dedicated workforce. Books ensured the distribution of a consistent message, where as word of mouth can get skewed to the priorities of the storyteller, where they are and the mood they’re in at the time the stories being retold.

So what does this have to do with modern day advertising? Media traditionally has been planned around frequency, repetition of a consistent brand message which creates familiarity and has the effect of psychologically conditioning consumers, making it easy to subconsciously select a brand from amongst the ‘noise’ of competing brands. Of course this can be amplified if you simply don’t allow or greatly restrict any competing noise, something the Church learnt thousands of years ago and is also being practiced in many London Tube stations by the Trivago poster campaign.

Some commentators haven’t minced their words on the subject, like this article in The Drum - Doing shit work is easy when nobody gives a fuck - I understand the frustration expressed by Dave in this article, however I doubt any of the people he chastises were even employed, it’s a cost efficiency driven econometric tested results driven campaign, globally planned and created in-house on a shoestring (shoot me if I write that sentence ever again). That’s my explanation of it, not excuse for it, because as with Dave it goes against all my creative instincts, media brawn over creative brains. I took the picture above at Westminster Station and you can’t ignore them but I would have loved it if the final poster in the line had the Trivago girl being caught with her feet up, cup of tea in hand and searching for a new more interesting job, quick Indeed/Monster get in there!

dog.jpg

The psychologist Ivan Pavlov with the help of his hungry dogs proved the concept of classical conditioning, however what is lesser known is that when he tried to repeat his experiments in front of guests the dogs didn’t respond as before. As well as identifying classical conditioning, Pavlov had identified something he termed the orienting response, which is a reaction to novel or significant stimuli. New people coming into the house are suddenly more interesting and overrides the conditioned response, humans like dogs are curious creatures. I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts that communication is a process of appealing to both our conscious and subconscious brain. What Crwth players and live performers of any kind have learnt, is that their performances have more impact the more emotional, dramatic, entertaining and tailored to the priorities of the audience they can make them. Due to the fact their method of delivery was live and dynamic by necessity, it lacked the consistency of written word being spread from the pulpit, but they used that to their advantage by reacting to significant stimuli all around them to tailor their storytelling.

Dynamic, personalised creative allows brands to reflect this human instinct and can either be used to elicit the subconscious conditioned response for brand building or provide the conscious significant stimuli of the orienting response for tactical messaging.

If you’d like to hear more about the power of personalised dynamic creative, please get in touch. I‘m perhaps an example of nominative determinism, travelling and presenting through sound, although I’ve ditched the Crwth for an iPod.

Now Pay Attention, I’m Talking Bull!

Fearless Girl, McCann New York for State Street Global Advisors

Fearless Girl, McCann New York for State Street Global Advisors

I usually wake early, but thanks to a transatlantic flight body clock I recently found myself up and out of my New York hotel for a run before 5am. Watching the sun rise behind Brooklyn Bridge was spectacular but my main aim was to visit a small four foot statue on Wall St… Fearless Girl. It was early but she was stilI attracting attention, the group visiting from Kansas in the picture above, were there to avoid the inevitable crowds later in the day. Fearless Girl is the idea of the ad agency, McCann New York, for their client State Street Global Advisers. It is a statement about the power of women in leadership. and has attracted a huge amount of global attention - it was awarded the Titanium Grand Prix at the recent Cannes Lions. It’s an idea that resonates with people who enthusiastically share it on social media perhaps because that idea is manifested in beautifully crafted art.

Art is an idea wrapped in sensorial persuasion
— Alain de Botton Author & Philosopher

What makes this communication so influential? Why did a young girl from Kansas get up so early to be pictured next to it in a ‘Girls are strong T-shirt? Is it a one off, or are there lessons for an industry that trades in sensorial persuasion? What is the relationship between attention and influence? Another piece of communication that did well at Cannes was this film, Evan.

 
 

It cleverly uses the inherent weakness of human attention to make its point, principles highlighted in the famous invisible gorilla experiment, a psychological demonstration of the selective nature of human attention. The fact we say ‘pay’ attention is a big clue to its nature, because attention has a cost. By focusing on something we are blinkered to much of what else is going on around us.

I was in New York at the invitation of our friends at Pandora to speak on a Psychology of Personalised Sound panel at the One Club Creative Summit. The subject of human attention was a central part of that discussion but sonic and visual cues have very different effects on attention. We see far less than our brain cleverly makes us believe we’re seeing. I’ve ridden motorbikes since I was eighteen, when I was learning I had a conversation with an RAF Harrier pilot, a veteran of the Falklands War. He taught me what they teach fighter pilots. To look and see you have to look twice, only then do you see the movement of an object in your peripheral vision be it a car or an aircraft, otherwise you can be completely blind to it.

In our evolution hearing and listening performed a different function. It allowed us to survey our environment 360 degrees, over a decent range, 24 hours a day. To do this consciously would have been utterly draining so we do it subconsciously. Anything that is then a potential threat to us, or personally relevant, attracts our conscious attention. This evolved a process commonly known as selective attention - The Cocktail Party Effect.

 
 

Advertising occasionally uses the threat response of selective attention but self relevance is far more acceptable. The relevance of anything is how it personally makes us feel. Our emotions, or more specifically our emotional memories, are key and as discussed in earlier blog posts, sound and emotion are intrinsically linked. Fearless Girl and Evan like most powerful communications are emotional stories in different forms. They are powerful discursive tools that make it easy for people to share and comment on issues as important as gender equality or as vital as missing the social clues to gun violence. They make these issues accessible as the attention that they garner becomes self-relevant leading to shares on social media. The strength or value of any story is in it’s ability to form or change perception. As Rory Sutherland regularly argues, all value is a matter of perception with context and self relevance being crucial in how we experience the world. The girl is only fearless in the context of standing up to the Bull of Wall St.  

Tell me the facts and I’ll learn.
Tell me the truth and I’ll believe.
But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever,
— (Ancient Proverb)

At A Million Ads we believe the value of dynamic personalisation in advertising is in its ability to attract attention by being more self relevant and contextually aware. Creating methods of communication that can positively shift brand perception.

We are applying this thinking to Deliveroo’s current dynamic digital audio campaign, which changes by timebands through the working week to suggest an appropriate service and then purely by weather at the weekends.

This means that at Tuesday breakfast time in Brighton someone will hear this message:

While someone in Manchester on a weekday evening will hear this:

...And if you're in London and it’s sunny this then be sure to listen out for this:

Partnership between RMS and A Million Ads announced

Hamburg, 25th April 2017

RMS partners with A Million Ads to deliver personalised audio advertising. The audio sales house RMS and UK start-up A Million Ads are bringing Dynamic Creative to the German audio market.

 
 

RMS, the leading German audio sales house, and A Million Ads, a global leader in data­-driven audio marketing, announced their cooperation on the German market today. A Million Ads specialises in the delivery of dynamic content and personalised adverts for online audio. It is the UK company's first partnership in Germany. This shows the continuing growth of Programmatic Audio. 


Thanks to the partnership, RMS now has access to the technology and creative approach developed by A Million Ads for the marketing of its online audio portfolio and can link them with its own adserver. Based on the known user information, advertisers can mix dynamically generated elements within a campaign, and thereby create personalised audio spots with a vast amount of possible combinations. The data which A Million Ads can access from the outset includes the location, time, weather and user device as well as the sequence of hearing the ad. In the next stage, first party data will become available, e.g. from login or usage. 


Frank Bacher, Head of Digital Media at RMS: "We are delighted to have gained A Million Ads, an experienced expert in personalised, data-powered online audio advertising, as a partner. This will give advertisers the chance, for the first time, to adjust and place advertising spots in real time for individual target groups. Thanks to this precise transmission, we can gain maximum attention in relevant situations. That is a real ground-breaking innovation for the audio advertising market. Dynamic Creatives emphasises the high quality of the online audio format. Together with A Million Ads and the campaigns of the first selected advertising partners, we will drive forward new developments in the German audio market."


Steve Dunlop, Founder and CEO at A Million Ads: "RMS are the obvious partner for us in the German market. Their scale and capability offers advertisers the chance to reach millions of consumers. Now, with A Million Ads, those moments can be personalised to each individual listener, capturing more attention and driving ROI for advertisers."


At the moment, the preparations for the first test campaigns are ongoing in cooperation with a large agency network. 

About A Million Ads
A Million Ads delivers personalised audio creative on-the-fly and at scale. driving higher brand engagement and greater media effectiveness. We make this possible by combining cutting-edge technology with innovation in the creative process to deliver relevant and personalised digital audio ads in real time. 
Contact: press(at)amillionads.com


About RMS
As the leading audio sales house in the German audio marketing market, RMS helps its clients to get closer to their target groups and their purchasing decisions, both in terms of location, time and topic. To do this, RMS offers services from the whole audio spectrum; advert times and formats as well as online offers from 165 private radio stations nationwide. On top of that, they are also leading the market in web radio and mobile apps. The marketing offer is supplemented by further services for market research, media planning and creation. In 2016, the revenue of the RMS partner stations was 1,270 billion Euros, according to Nielsen Media Research. The Chairman of the Board is Florian Ruckert. RMS has offices in all large German agency cities. The company's headquarters are in Hamburg Together with RMS Austria, RMS is the biggest audio sales house in Europe.

Contact: Kirsten Schade, Company Communication Press spokesperson, RMS Radio Marketing Service GmbH & Co KG
T. +49 (0) 40. 23890-153 M. 0175 8346079 E. schade@rms.de

Dreams and Strange Sonic Fruits

Dreams and Strange Sonic Fruits
“If facts don’t work, sing to them”
— Advertising Adage

In the post 1985, The Year I Started Listening we explored the two core aspects of sonic communication. The passive process of hearing and the active process of listening. In the post Why It’s Good To Talk, Trust, Think And Feel we explored the role of spoken language in sonic communication and particularly why - It’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it - is considered a universal truth. I began that with the inspiration of Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech which has influenced people ever since and was studied by Barack Obama before the creation of his Yes we can anthem. Why do certain speeches and phrases resonate so much? Simplistically it’s the emotion behind the words, but linguistically it’s how that emotion manifests itself through the way we change volume, pitch, intonation and rhythm. The more emotional we say something, the more musical it sounds. It is this link between voice and music we’re going to explore, voice is music and music is voice.

From 1982 until 1987 every Monday to Friday school term evening I sang evensong in Tewkesbury Abbey. We would also rehearse for an hour in the morning. Music played a big part in my life and education. There are three musical elements to an evensong, the Psalms, the Magnificat / Nunc Dimittis, and the Anthem. The Psalms were tedious, they were chants sung back and forth between Decani and Cantoris, the two sides of the choir. They were often long, boring and hypnotic to sing as a young boy, but relaxing to listen to now. The Magnificat / Nunc Dimittis are canticles and were more interesting to sing, basically they were the same lyrics each night but to different melodies. The part we always enjoyed singing was the Anthem, these would sometimes include such classics as Zadok the Priest... No... Think Champions League, and would also mark the end of the service, Hallelujah! That’s how we felt as young choristers and I suspect the release of endorphins was the intention for congregations over the many centuries.

 
While technology creates opportunities, it’s creativity that creates value
— Sir John Hegarty
 

Sound is difficult to ignore, it’s immersive, affects us regardless of where attention is focused and is able to manipulate a group of peoples’ collective emotions. The church, being perhaps the oldest organised communication experts out there, understood life was hard beyond their gilded walls, so designed services to stimulate the senses to generate emotional elation, from the mundane to joy, from the drudgery of daily life to beauty and splendour, from chants to champions league, from godlessness to godliness.

We instinctively and subconsciously add musical elements to our voices because we’ve implicitly learnt the tiny changes in volume, pitch, intonation and rhythm that enable us to understand the emotional state of the person in front of us, and convey our emotional state to them. However, I hadn’t heard a demonstration of quite how musical we sound when we speak, until I heard ‘sometimes behave so strangely’, the Speech to Song Illusion from the perceptual and cognitive psychologist, Diana Deutsch. I first came across it in this excellent Radio Lab Podcast.

The importance of sound in communicating emotions is perhaps why music and storytelling are so fundamental to human culture. Speech and song are so intrinsically linked because what is story telling if it isn’t adding emotional context to a set of actions and outcomes, more emotion, more musical it sounds. The greatest storytellers from Shakespeare to the Beatles have focused on the pillars of human emotion - love, power, fate, revenge, society, dreams. Legendary adman, Sir John Hegarty was recently quoted as stating, ‘While technology creates opportunities, it’s creativity that creates value’, and creativity in advertising is all about emotional storytelling. Interestingly this idea has been elegantly demonstrated in Google’s Oscar nominated virtual reality short film ‘Pearl’, a story that uses music as it’s central theme.

 
 

So when you have something to say, think about the way you say it, think about the emotion you want to convey and the way it comes across musically and if that fails to make an impression, sing. Some phrases just stick and you can’t read them without hearing the specifics of volume, pitch, intonation and rhythm in the way they they were originally delivered, from ‘I have a dream’ to ‘you talking to me?’ or ‘show me the money!’ or even, ‘I’m luv’in It’. The American Film Institute’s 100 years, one hundred movies quotes has ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’ from Gone with the Wind in the number one spot, a film with a link to perhaps the greatest example of music storytelling of all time and significantly predates Dr King’s speech. I’ll let a far more accomplished writer than me explain the story of Billie Holiday's Strange Fruit, I recommend you listen to the song while you read. A brilliant example of cognitive dissonance through music’s ability to subconsciously seduce while simultaneously, consciously shock and persuade.

 
 

Why It’s Good To Talk, Trust, Think And Feel

Why it's Important.jpg

During the first week of my first proper job at Capital Radio in 1997, something happened that caused a shiver down my spine, a feeling I can vividly remember to this day. I was played some audio I’d already heard countless times before, a clip of Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. What had changed was the context, the induction group I was part of was asked to read the phrase just before listening to it and asked what the difference was. It was so obvious, hearing the audio contains all the emotion. Something that we instinctively knew but had never consciously considered before then. A very simple but hugely effective way of demonstrating the power of sound and thus the power of radio. I mentioned this process in my first post, it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it, a universal truth, but why?

To answer that we first have to ask why do we say anything, as a species why do we talk?

A clue to that might be heard on the scrublands of southern and East Africa. Vervet monkeys have three main predators, leopards, eagles and pythons. As a consequence they have evolved different, distinctive alarm calls for each that elicit different responses within a group. 

 
 

On hearing the leopard call the vervet monkeys run up the closest, highest tree, on the eagle alarm call they look up and run for low cover and on the snake call they stand up high and look down into the grass. Research has shown that the same responses occur when just audio recordings of the calls are played back, discounting the possibility the calls are general warnings and the presence of the predator is eliciting the response. Vervet monkeys are clearly communicating with sounds that have distinctive meaning, the starting point for words and language.

 
It’s hardly surprising that the ultimate threat of death could be the source of a profound, evolutionary leap like this...
 

It’s hardly surprising that the ultimate threat of death could be the source of a profound, evolutionary leap like this. However, the evolution of language itself has been considered the ‘hardest problem in science’ to solve, there isn’t a consensus as to why and how it happened. We believe it evolved rapidly in only the last 100,000 years and potentially had profound implications on the development of communal living, memory, the role of emotions in behaviour and the development of intelligence.

Our most primal instinct is for survival, through personal threat/response - fight or flight - and ensuring the continuation of our genes through procreation, which are also the sources of our deepest emotions. Our ability to communicate meaning through sound, and it’s association with these deep emotions, is perhaps why as language developed so did the areas of our brains associated with emotion and memory. After smell, sound is the closest sense linked to memory. Smell almost certainly has it roots in the process of bonding through grooming that is displayed in all the great ape family groups. However, our ability to simultaneously convey our feelings with actions allowed us to build trust through language as well and sound grew in importance. Trust is what humans had to develop to be able to co-ordinate and innovate for the good of wider communities as well as trade between communities. The association of sound and emotion also had a potentially profound effect on how we think. Can you imagine thinking without an inner voice? We can think about actions, visualising processes but language gives a whole new dimension for problem solving and the expression of concepts. This idea of the inner voice and thinking is explored in this fascinating RadioLab podcast.

 
Just as amino acids can be called the building blocks of life, associations can be called the building blocks of thought
— Dr Robert Cialdini
 

One of my favourite quotes from Dr Robert Cialdini’s new book Pre-suasion is “Just as amino acids can be called the building blocks of life, associations can be called the building blocks of thought” and the association of sound with the expression of human emotion is at the core of the importance in the way we say things. Regardless of how and why language evolved, influencing other human beings is a fundamental tenet of all the languages we have ended up with and is now at the forefront of our interaction with artificial intelligence like this year’s must have technology gift.

 
 

Realistic, believable, trustworthy speech synthesis is a fascinating field at the moment and the work of Amazon and Google’s Deep Mind, are certainly leading the way.

While text to speech and speech synthesis have fascinating potential, particularly for application with A Million Ads, they have a long, long way to go to capture the simple beauty and emotion of this classic radio ad… It’s the way you say it or as Bob says, it’s good to talk… 

Sam Crowther, Head of Creative Development