Okay. I’m going to say something that will likely have ol’ Bill Bernbach rolling in his grave. I’m going to back him up with science. And Bill hated science. At least the growing reliance on it in advertising. (I can only imagine what he’d think today.) So, Bill, I’m sorry. I’m only doing this in the hopes that the goofy, the crazy, the mad and the different ideas might find a little defense to live another day.
Long before neuroscientists started peering through MRIs into the brain, Bernbach talked about advertising as “… a subtle, ever-changing art, defying formulization, flowering on freshness, and withering on imitation; where what was effective one day, for that very reason will not be effective the next, because it has lost the maximum impact of originality.”
Back in the “Ad Men” days, if a guy like Bill Bernbach blurted out; “the maximum impact of originality,” people on the whole listened. These days, it’s different. And the very intuitive thought of such a thing would have to be processed by a firmly bolted marketing research machine. So, maybe, just maybe, here’s one wrench we could throw in that machine: Researchers today are finding that “the maximum impact of originality” is more than a nice thing. In fact, if something we come across in life doesn’t have it, our minds miss it entirely. In other words, if we’ve seen it before, we don’t really see it. Really.
In his recent book, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, David Eagleman uncovers some pretty interesting stuff about how our brains work, and don’t. More neurologists today know that there’s a rich marketplace of dynamics chatting back and forth in the brain to actually change the story of what we perceive. This also is called “loopiness,” and the result puts our brain on autopilot most of our conscious lives. (Like when you drive to work and can’t remember most of the journey? Kinda like that, but it happens a lot more than you think.)
As Eagleman puts it, “Awareness of your surroundings occurs only when sensory inputs violate expectations. When the world is successfully predicted away, awareness is not needed because the brain is doing its job well.” He goes on to say, “The brain refines its model of the world by paying attention to its mistakes.” That’s right. The things that break the pattern. Like adding an IKEA showroom to your Facebook page where most people have their personal pics. Or starting a spot with “Look at your man. Now back to me. Now back at your man. Now back to me.” Or just floating a giant stalk of broccoli in the sky that people can only see with their smartphones.
It’s a scientific fact. If it’s different, our brains take notice.
Wired Magazine had a great article a few years back that touched on this same theme. It was titled: “Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up.” (So, what is it about science writers that like colons in the title?) Anyway, according to Jonah Lehrer who wrote the article, no matter how smart we are, we don’t truly think till someone or something different “shocks us out of our cognitive box.” That’s because there’s a part of our brain, which, even when it does stop and see something, quickly edits it out if deemed as something that’s already known, or doesn’t square with our preconceptions.
Just tell the science types in your next meeting that it’s all thanks to our energy-saving dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, or DLPFC. (They’ll like the acronym.) But there’s another part of the brain that notices errors, contradictions and crazy things that make us stop, listen and take notice. It’s mainly there for survival, but it’s just as handy for noticing an effective piece of communication. And that’s your anterior cingulate cortex. Or as Lehrer calls it; your “Oh shit!” circuit. It’s kind of ironic that the part of our brain that actually notices something is the one most testing tends to ignore.
Are you still reading? Really?? Wow. Maybe your “Oh shit” circuit is saying “Oh shit, I never heard this before!” And that might compel you to drop “anterior cingulate cortex” into the conversation at the next Ad Club meeting. Which will undoubtedly be deleted by everyone else’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and be quickly forgotten along with your name. Still, it’s cool that there really is something strategic, even scientific about just being different. And that Bill Bernbach’s gut still trumps some of the finest advertising minds today.
-- Bryan DeYoung, writer/helper
Lucky 13 summer intern Mark Manalaysay grew up in Philadelphia and returns this fall to study at the Savannah College of Art and Design, majoring in Advertising with a concentration in Art Direction; and minoring in Photography. While at Campbell Mithun, he worked on Syngenta, United Way, Land O’Lakes, Frontier Communications and new business. Here’s what he has to say:
"The Lucky 13 internship was an amazing introduction to Advertising; immediately I was treated as an equal in Creative and was contributing big ideas alongside Creative Directors and bouncing ideas off of EVPs and the CCO. It's both an amazing and scary feeling being around all this talent: I have some great people to work with but I also need to accept the fact that I am the least qualified on the team. I took that in stride though and was inspired to work harder because of this fact."
All that hard work inspired him to put together this insider’s peek into a “day in the life” of an art director. Ah, the creative process.
As I prepare to put my Blackberry out to pasture and ponder either an iPhone or Android app-future, I think I’ve reached my tech ceiling. And no member of Congress is going to be able to raise it (at least without major concessions on my part). One thing is clear, though: no matter which smartphone I choose, I expect to save time, especially when getting a haircut – and yes “there’s an app for that.”
This is not the haircutting app that my colleague Chris Wexler wants to bring to market, one that actually cuts your hair to exacting specifications. However, having just opened its 3000th salon (in Minnesota’s own Albert Lea no less), Great Clips is poised to continue to grow market share with Online Check-In, a step that gives them an edge in the ultra-competitive, no-appointment, walk-in, discount-hair-salon business.
Our Compass Point Media team is currently promoting the new app in national and local media, along with the requisite Back to School haircut. The app allows iPhone or Droid users to check the wait time of nearby Great Clips, choose the optimum location and enter into the queue for the next-available stylist. As one Illinois user recently told a Great Clips manager (as quoted in the New York Times), “Thanks for giving me 10 minutes back to my life.”
Indeed, 10 more minutes to figure out which phone to get.
-- Pete Engebretson, Compass Point Media client services director, haircut-line jumper
MINNEAPOLIS – Campbell Mithun has tapped 11-year veteran Lynn Franz to lead planning for the agency, naming her senior vice president, director of strategic planning. Franz joined Campbell Mithun in 2001 and established herself as a driver both of processes and technologies that pinpoint consumer insights to drive brand strategy.
“Lynn has been one of our strongest strategic leaders, instrumental in several recent new business wins, such as Frontier Communications and Mayo, and in guiding work for key clients like Syngenta, Frontier and Toro.” said Steve Wehrenberg, CEO of Campbell Mithun. “Not only is she a great partner and contributor to communications-planning process, she’s also a passionate advocate for our creative work.”
To fuel the agency’s Everything Talks communications philosophy, Franz grounds the strategic-planning process in deep listening to both consumers and brands. She pioneered the agency’s use of tools such as Semiotics to identify inherent yet subtle brand truths, uses online message testing and social-listening tools to tap real-time consumer sentiment, and also leverages resources such as Iconoculture and Brand Index to quantify insights.
“No one is better at taking data and turning it into the kind of motivating insight that drives creative imagination and communication effectiveness,” continued Wehrenberg. “Like only the best of brand planners, Lynn can access her right brain and left brain at will to find motivating, persuasive insights.”
Franz earned the national Jay Chiat Planning Award for her work on H&R Block in 2008. Prior to joining Campbell Mithun, she served as director of market research at Warner Bros.; she holds English Literature and graduate MBA degrees. Franz fills the vacancy left by former planning director Lance Saunders, who departed in October 2010 to become managing director of DDB Canada’s office in Vancouver.