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.
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.
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: