ProcureCon Marketing — You’re Better Off Talking to the Goldfish!

At the recent ProcureCon Marketing event, a rather interesting and well delivered presentation came from Tim Duffy, Chairman, M&C Saatchi UK Group and Saatchi Institute, on the conflict between Art and Science in brand creativity, reach, and differentiation, which relationships to consider and how to track your performance.  

Did you know that according to a Microsoft research study humans now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish? Now what was I saying ... oh yes! A goldfish's attention span has gone up since the year 2000 to 9 seconds, while ours has gone down to 8 seconds. And the difference is, goldfish don't rely on or have an unhealthy addiction to digital (especially mobile) technology. So the important thing from the advertising side, is, what do you do with your 8 seconds. There's a battle going on between the 'artists' and the 'scientists' in the digital marketing age.

The artists say the scientists are destroyers of imagination and creativity, you can't create a masterpiece with paint by numbers, and the scientists say the artists trade in leaps of faith, relying on hope and intuition. While the battle rages, the digital world increases, and marketing must lose no opportunity to make a sale - the marketing director must today think like the sales director. And with the Internet of Things and 50 billion intelligent objects connected by 2050, it is the product that will play the active role, not the consumer -- the face of advertising will change. Then there's AI and the dawn of the virtual personal assistant that will buy everything for us, from understanding behavioural economics and nudging us to make certain choices. So the scientists exploit new techniques, while the artists speak to our sole. (The ceramic poppies at the Tower of London moved us --it was someone's idea, not a computer's.)

(A question from the floor asked whether he thought AI could ever replace creativity - to which the answer was, No - never. There is always a place for irrational thinking, AI can carry out more and more tasks, like replacing worn out components when it senses the need, but it can never take the leap of faith that a human can. A computer can analyse all the great paintings in the world, but it can't produce one, at least not a great one!)

The great long-running communications campaigns, like Coca Cola, the meerkats, Dove, came out of minds. But the tech firms think the creative agencies get in their way. It's a crisis for advertisers. The scientists think they can affect purchasing decisions by getting into minds and changing thought processes. The role of the artist is to maximise brand differentiation (this makes up a half of what the client is paying for) and the role of the scientist is to minimise deviation and waste. The point is, you need to be able to do both to be in the strongest position.

Saatchi came up with a formula (with the London Business School) to determine cause and effect in advertising. It divides a brand’s ability to maximise differentiation by its capacity to minimise deviation to get a measure of its share of the market. Its research shows the correlation between investments in the art and science of a brand and their financial impact.

maximise differentiation/minimise deviation = £ impact (results)

It tells you what relationships you need to consider and how you are performing on one or the other. They measured this in a number of organisations and concluded:

  • Division of labour - as true today as it's always been: the artists vs the scientists, they have specific roles; you don't get data-driven creative people, meaning the discipline of one should not pollute the other.
  • The long-running campaign is being revived - they have been deflated by the traditional media of late, and treated as old-fashioned. But their comeback is necessary to get us back to substance.
  • Targeting does not mean fragmentation -- every customer can have a different marketing strategy, so long as it is consistent across all touchpoints.

The approach could be used to determine how differentiated creative work is, and give a marketing director the knowledge of what effect there might be of a certain investment, and therefore knowledge of where to invest.

The message is: if you want to cater for us poor humans with our 8-second attention spans, invest in the big ideas and differentiate your brand over the long term.

First Voice

  1. Craig Knowles @ Market Dojo:

    Interesting article.

    However firstly isn’t our attention span dependent on the content itself? Content that is directed at the right demographic would generate greater interest and therefore exceed the ‘8 second attention span’. Doesn’t that mean we should use more data to analysis our target markets to ensure we are creating content specifically for them?

    Also our attention span is decreasing because of the volume of content that is out there. Within the last 16 years we have seen an increase in advertisement placements (especially smart ads) whether its in video games, browsing the web or walking down your local street. We tend to highlight creative adverts, but those adverts that are place which we find ‘useful’ are those that create the real value. E.g. Searching for a specific item on google and finding an advert to an alternative product that you hadn’t considered but has a greater value for money than your initial advert.

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