Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hanging Out in the New Lab

Photo by Melissa Frazier, College of Mass Communications.

We're having fun on the South Plains. Stop by and see us some time.

P.S. Congratulations to Dr. Seungjo Lee, Indiana University's newest Ph.D.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Fingers Crossed: Physiology Data Rolling

Things were looking good about two and a half hours ago. Data were rolling in. The very first psychophysiological experiment was running in the college of mass communications at Texas Tech University.

It gets pretty boring watching what the participants are watching, so I decided to fire up the laptop and write a post similar to this.

But then Murphy's Law -- or as I like to call it, Sam's Law -- kicked in.

Literally as I was typing my login, the stimulus computer crashed.

It's still crash-friendly, and I cannot figure out why. Arrrrgh. Thanks, MediaLab!

The second participant is running, and hopefully I will actually be able to use her/his data.

My fingers are crossed. Luckily the SNAFU happened to me, as all of the graduate students are in class.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sundays in the Lab

To really succeed in an academic career, you begin working when everyone else goes home. To climb above the average, you do everything that you are supposed to do, and then you roll up your sleeves and get to work.

This often means working on the weekend. This weekend was no different.

The best part is the company that you keep on the weekend. It's inspiring to be among to motivated.

It's great to see this effort among graduate students. It means they "get it."

I remember many Sunday afternoons on the 6th floor of Eigenmann Hall. The hardest workers were always there.

If you're a graduate student studying mass communications -- or you are thinking of becoming one -- let me offer a word of advice. There's a lot to do during the day. Likely you'll be taking classes and writing more literature reviews than you dreamed possible.

You're probably financing your graduate education by working as a teaching assistant or research assistant. That takes up a lot of time -- sometimes more than the 20 hours for which you are paid.

And you need to have a life on top of all of that.

Many weeks it will seem impossible just to get it all done.

But you cannot stop there.

When all is said and done, you will be judged almost exclusively on what you did above and beyond what is required.

And Sunday afternoons are a good time to do this.

As a professor -- and as a graduate student trying to encourage new graduate students -- it is an interesting position in which to be. You have no real leverage to motivate graduate students to always do more. As a junior scholar you are not likely to have grant funds. You have only advice to give. You say, "this is the way it should be done." And you hope they listen.

And the good ones always do.

So this afternoon, Nikki, Wendy, Wes, and I were in the lab trying to get an experiment ready to go.

Tomorrow morning there will be classes to teach, office hours to hold, and phones to answer. Today was the day to try to brush up on electrode placement, pretest MediaLab experiments, and debug VPM code.

Tomorrow night should mark the final pretest. That is, unless, I get to use the "Murphy's law" label on tomorrow's post.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Indiana, Texas Tech Student Politics

Yesterday I wrote about how I believe the political orientation of my subject pool may be affecting our studies on social reality perception. I wanted to provide a visual aid to demonstrate this.

I borrowed this measure of political orientation from Indiana University professor Erik Bucy, Ph.D. In addition to the measure, he sent me a pie chart with political orientation frequencies taken at IU this spring (2007).

Keep in mind that Indiana is a red state through-and-through, although IU is the more liberal of the major state universities (Purdue students tend to be more conservative).

Indiana University Students 2007

Texas Tech University Students 2007

These pie charts support my contention that Texas Tech students in 2007 are far different than Rutgers (the state university of New Jersey) students in the the late 1990s in terms of political orientation.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Political Orientation Predicts Crime Estimates

There were 266 murders in New York City during 2006, according to the FBI.

We asked Texas Tech students to estimate how many murders there are on the NYC subways each year. The median number was 56. However, more than 8% of our participants estimated more than one murder per day on the subways alone.

What makes some people think that crime is so prevalent? And how does that happen in the brain?

The data are in for my most recent foray into the world of social reality. And I must admit that I am fascinated.

Last fall we ran a study to try to answer this question.

We have known for a long time that television viewing correlates with fear of crime. The more people view, the more fearful they are.

Shrum (2001) showed that if you tell people to try hard when making decisions about crime, then the relationship between TV and crime estimates drops out.

We thought that we could extend that by illustrating the role of a good memory.

But the data did not work. I had some vague idea why the study might have failed, but I was not sure. The thing that kept jumping out at me was that the original study was performed at Rutgers (a blue state), and we're here in West Texas (red-ville).

So we tried a more complete replication of the original study, and I tacked on some political and religious leaning questions at the end. They were the very last questions on the questionnaire so that they could not affect other answers.

Once again we have failed to replicate the original study. But now I just might know why. Political leaning appears to play a prominent role in estimating crime. Our data show that for conservatives, it is a mean world.

Recall that these new experiments were trying to explain why telling people to be "accurate" negated the effects to TV viewing. That is, when people in New Jersey were told to be accurate, they gave lower estimates of crime.

But accurate is relative. Just how likely is a crime if you walk through a New York City park every night for a month? There is some probability tied to this, but we could not likely every know it.

So, if you have a lot of fear, then what do you do when you are told to try really hard to be accurate?

You become more afraid.

For conservatives, the accurate world is a world with more crime. For liberals, the accurate world is a world with less crime.

Replicating Shrum's data depended on accurate becoming less crime-filled for those who watched a lot of TV. This simply did not happen for our conservative West Texas students.

The New Jersey sample surely had a minority of conservatives. These data are for 86 students who identified themselves as "strong conservative" or "conservative," 75 students who identified themselves as "center," and just 41 who identified themselves as "liberal" or "strong liberal."

These data add an interesting new piece to the puzzle.

I cannot, as a scientist, help but ponder the relationship to the current debate surrounding the war in Iraq. If the world is meaner to you, then Iraq represents a bigger threat. Admittedly this is speculative, but interesting to ponder.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Experiments Seem to Control Me

One of the primary advantages of experimental design, I told my undergraduate research methods class yesterday, is control. We can control almost everything (as in hold the same, not in the authoritarian kind of way).

The problem for the scientist, then, is that you have to control everything. I am in the midst of a two-week run to get two experiments ready to go. The details are tedious, unending, and not of interest to anyone but me.

The project is all consuming, so I have been unable to muster anything remotely interesting to say here. When the experiments are done, however, there should be many interesting things to say.

Until then, my life is a blur of Adobe Audition, MediaLab, and Macromedia (Adobe) Dreamweaver.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tampa on My Mind

I spend most of my working hours trying to figure out who is going to remember what and under what circumstances. We make some progress, but there is no shortcut to unlocking the human mind.

Life ticks by at a pace of 365 days a year. I've lived well over 10,000 of them by now. Most are lost within my neural network. Some stand out with amazing clarity: the days my kids were born, my wedding, my Ph.D. graduation, and the horrible hangover the day after my Ph.D. graduation.

Those are obvious candidates to recall. Yet others are not -- at least not to the degree to which I continue to think of them.

In the spring of 1997 (eee gads, a decade ago), we were busy working in the student newspaper at New Mexico State. Someone got the idea to go to Florida for spring break, and our friend D's father, Jake, lived in Tampa.

Off we went. Emily, D, Angie, and I.

The trip was great, and I remember a great many things: Ybor City, Busch Gardens, Paradise Island, Emily's misfortune on the Interstate. What I remember most was Jake's condo.

As condos go, it was not extravagant by any means. But it was moderately high up, located on the intracostal waterway, and it had two wonderful patio doors to let in all of that tropical air.

The Gulf of Mexico was only a few hundred yards to the west, and you could hear the waves at night.

The tropical air and the sun were so incredibly peaceful.

I think about the condo a lot. It's my happy place, so to speak.

Jake has long since sold it. Emily, D, Angie, and I have fled New Mexico for Texas, Illinois, and California. Yet that Tampa tropical air remains indelibly stained upon my mind.

On stressful days in stressful weeks in stressful months, I can close my eyes and still smell that air and see the boats travelling back and forth on the intracoastal waterway. It's a rare moment of peace for an otherwise frenzied mind.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Yes, No, Audition, and the Human Brain

First, let me offer "mad props" to Adobe for their wonderful software, Audition. My copy arrived Friday, and I already love it.

I spent Saturday in the lab editing audio instructions generously recorded by my colleague, Todd Chambers, Ph.D. I was trimming the edges of the files and getting rid of breathing pauses.

As I have mentioned before, I grew up around a family advertising agency, and I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent in a recording studio. I still get a special nostalgic feel when I hear the high pitched "chirp" of video tape getting up-to-speed or slowing down.

Along the way, I also learned some things. Before his advertising career, my dad (also named Sam Bradley) was a radio man. So I have heard great stories about his radio career. Enough so that I began my career as a broadcast journalism major at New Mexico State.

Although that career did not last long, I did gain experience editing analog recordings (although I had nothing that could be called skill), and I even actually taped some audio tape together.

Over the years, I actually learned a thing or two. I can recall dad talking about how much easier it is to remove pauses and breaths in the digital world. And it was this that led me to cleaning up Todd's recording in Audition.

As perhaps only a hopeless academic is apt to do, I noticed something scientific while I was editing. Admittedly it is only a tangential little linguistic phenomenon of interest to scientists, but pretty darned cool to me nonetheless.

Permit me one more digression, and I will explain.

When I first arrived in Bloomington in January 2002, I happened across an article by world-famous IU psychologist, Richard M. Shiffrin (see full citation below). In that study, they used audio to record answers to memory questions. Participants either were to acknowledge "yes" they had seen the material or "no" they had not.

They used a computer to record response times, or how fast it took people to say "yes" or "no." And when you're keeping track of time, you need things to be on an even playing field. And it seems that all things are not equal with "yes" and "no."

In order to make them equal, they had participants say the letter "P" first. So they said "P-yes" and "P-no" instead of "yes" and "no."

Nobel and Shiffrin (2001) wrote, "The 'P' sound was inserted at the beginning of the verbal response to equate the onset times for different phonemes. Differences as large as 150 ms in initial phonemes have been reported (see, e.g., Pechmann, Reetz, & Zerbst, 1989)."

For some reason likely due to me being a nerd, this stuck with me.

While editing Todd's recordings Saturday, I noticed a difference between "yes" and "no" that illustrated the very reasoning behind "P-yes" and "P-no."

It takes "no" longer to get up to full volume than "yes."

Too cool!!!!

I do not have copies of Todd's recording here, so I quickly recorded myself saying "Yes" and "No" and imported those into Audition. With roughly equal onset times, you can see that "Yes" (above) ramps up much more quickly than "no" (below).

To me, this is very, very cool. First, the cognitive processing of phonemes is of great interest. This difference suggests that humans are able to understand the word "yes" more quickly than "no." Interesting, perhaps.

But also cool is that is was quicker to record and edit these audio clips than it was to write this posting. Some days, I hate technology. But most days it is pretty damned cool!

Nobel, P. A., & Shiffrin, R. M. (2001). Retrieval processes in recognition and cued recall. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 27, 384-413.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Shake That Content Analysis

Today it came time to teach content analysis in the undergraduate research methods class.

Talk about a party on a Friday afternoon.

A colleague suggested playing an Eminem song and having the students code it for sexual references.

A great idea.

I toyed with the idea for more than an hour, settling on his Shake that song (read the quite controversial lyrics here).

We talked about defining sexual references and obscenity and indecency, as this is a current topic of concern.

I also tried to make sure that any student who wanted to could leave before we played the song.

The educational exercise worked quite well as the students struggled with the definitions.

"This is hard," one said.

Another fell back on Potter Stewart's "I'll know it when I see it."

After the song, the counts for sexual references ranged from 6 to almost 60. Exactly the point! Content analysis based coding is quite difficult.

In the end, I hope no one was needlessly offended.

Perhaps most interestingly, almost the entire class agreed that the printed lyrics (which we did not look at) would be more offensive than the song.

Hmmm. Context can make something less offensive. I think that means something.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

If the TV Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

Lab setup continues, although today I almost took a hammer to it all.

Traditionally, I have used a 19-inch flat panel display to show stimulus materials, such as television programs.

Then someone (I forget who, sorry) told me that my old mentors at Indiana were buying a 32-inch flat panel television to make the experience more realistic. Aha, I thought! What a great idea! As an aside, it also would display a wicked robot.

So I am (by proxy of the state of Texas) now the proud owner of a 37-inch Magnavox.

We don't use the TV as a TV. Instead, we feed it digital video from a Dell computer. In order to have our TV content look real on the big screen, picture quality is a must. So we had to buy an expensive high definition digital video (DMI) splitter and gold plated DVI to HDMI cable.

Add to that the fact that we need the experimenter to have a small monitor show the exact same stimulus that the participants see.

This all might be simple if it were not for plug-and-play. The technology keeps trying to outsmart you.

So I got it all hooked up around noon today, and voila! It worked. I changed one setting on the resolution, and both were DVI beautiful.

There was just one problem. If you turned off the TV, the computer monitor went blank, too. Thanks, plug-and-play. And I didn't exactly want to burn out the TV having it on for no reason while we programmed the experiment, backed up data, etc.

So I shut everything off and plugged the monitor into splitter port "1" and plugged the TV into splitter port "2."

I'll spare you the details, but it took me and the IT guy more than 3 hours to undo that little switch. We had to pull the video card, install a VGA monitor, uninstall all of the drivers associated with the card, reinstall the card, plug a monitor directly into the card, reinstall all of the drivers, and then plug the splitter back into the video card (with the TV in its rightful and proper spot as No. 1).

So now I have to use the fool remote control to change the TV's input settings to keep it from being "on" all of the time.

Everything else, however, is working wonderfully.

And yes, I crossed my fingers as I typed that.

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Watching Your Own Hand

When building a lab, it's about the little things.

In part due to the worst winter in forever, the lab was empty on Wednesday afternoon. Nonetheless, I was still trying to get things to work. The oscilloscope was my current dilemma.

I'm not an engineer, and the fool thing has approximately 100 settings. So with some settings e-mailed from Indiana (thanks, James), I sat there tinkering with things.

Finally it looked right, but I needed to see some actual EMG activity (i.e., the electrical signals created by muscle fibers contracting).

We usually get this from facial muscles, but it's kind of difficult to put electrodes on one's own face. So I gelled up two electrodes and stuck them on the back of my hand.

Through the bioamplifier and onto the screen of the scope and ... magically ... beautiful little EMG waves appeared on the screen when I squeezed my hand.

If you've never been through the tedium of setting up a lab, you likely cannot appreciate how great this baby step felt.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Lab Building Necessitates Goo Cleanup Plan

Putting together a psychophysiology lab is not altogether unlike raising a child. It's a long, arduous task that is nonetheless extremely rewarding.

The big parts are expensive but simple and quick to buy.

But all of that money gets you nothing more than a lab full of expensive toys that do not play nicely together. The art -- and fun -- come in the little, $6 parts that make everything "go."

We invested the afternoon shopping at Lowe's and RadioShack.

First, there was the matter of cleaning electrodes. Frankly, we're sick of cleaning electrodes in the palaces of filth and stench known as the public restroom. This was fine at Ohio State, where we had a sink in the lab.

At Tech, we had to solve the problem anew.

In addition, in checking with one of the world's experts in startle probe methodology, it's bad to be running those expensive electrodes under tap water. Seems that those little silver/silver chloride babies are reserved for only distilled water from a nalgene squeeze bottle.

So the communication and cognition lab is implementing a new system.

Master's student Wes Wise suggested a utility sink with a catch bucket.

This is a great plan ... except ... someone has to empty the bucket containing distilled water, electrolyte gel, and participant, err ..., juice.

To whom should this job fall?

The inventor, of course.

So, according to lab minutes, and I am quoting here, Wes's new title is, "master goo disposer."

Above is a picture of the exact sink we bought today at Lowe's.

Lucky Wes.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Sequential MPEGs Lead to Flashing Woes

Update: This single line of code makes the flash much briefer!


A small copper wire comes in the back of my house. Through that small, little copper wire comes myriad cable television channels, digital cable (and dozens of channels of digital music), broadband Internet, and my landline (which we never use and need to get rid of).

That's an amazing damned wire. One stupid wire.

This week I am trying to get an experiment ready to run. For that experiment, I need to show multiple video clips in a sequence. They're chopped up in a particular order for very particular reasons.

I would like for those clips to go together seamlessly. However, this seems impossible. The MediaLab software we use goes to a blank screen between clips, which results in a flash between clips.

I hate this flash. I have spent days trying to get rid of this flash. Finally I resorted to programming myself in Java. I spent much of the day today trying to get the code right. I'm a hack as a programmer, so I have to beg, borrow, and steal code.

Finally, at 8:30 p.m. tonight, after my kids went to bed, I got two clips to play back-to-back in Java.

And guess what?

Flash! That's what!

My laptop is new and pretty darned fast. Millions or billions of calculations per second.

Showing two MPEG clips back-to-back without a flash? Priceless, apparently.

Lest you think that I'm simply being obsessive about the flash (admittedly probable), there is a scientific reason that I hate the flash.

We study the orienting reflex, a preattentive reflex in response to novelty in the environment. Something so simple as a scene change in a television program reliable elicits an orienting reflex (see the work of Annie Lang).

So I know that a huge flash between clips will sure as heck elicit an OR.

And since I am studying cardiac response, I would strongly prefer not to artificially elicit a massive OR.

One little cable can carry as much information at the Library of Congress, but playing two clips in serial eludes modern computation.

Go figure!

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

If You're in Vermont, Stop By, See Research

Texas Tech University
College of Mass Communications
Accepted Presentations
American Academy of Advertising
Annual Meeting
Burlington, Vermont
April 12-15, 2007

Bradley, S. D. (2007, April). The roles and misdeeds of peer review in advertising. Special topics session to be conducted at the meeting of the American Academy of Advertising, Burlington, VT.

Bradley, S. D., Maxian, W., Laubacher, T. C., & Baker, M. (2007, April). In search of Lovemarks: The semantic structure of brands. Paper to be presented at the meeting of the American Academy of Advertising, Burlington, VT.

Callison, C., & Mohammed-Basin, S. (2007, April). Hey ya-shake it like a Polaroid picture: Product mention in popular music genres. Paper to be presented at the meeting of the American Academy of Advertising, Burlington, VT.

Daugherty, T., Gangadharbatla, H., Kim, Y. J., & Logan, K. (2007, April). Assessing the value of product placement from the consumer’s perspective. Paper to be presented at the meeting of the American Academy of Advertising, Burlington, VT.

Gangadharbatla, H. (2007, April). Active versus passive gamers: A comparison Of recall, attitudes and purchase intentions of brands placed in video games. Paper to be presented at the meeting of the American Academy of Advertising, Burlington, VT.

Gangadharbatla, H., & Smith, J. (2007, April). eWOM: The effect of individual level factors on viral consumers' email pass along behavior. Paper to be presented at the meeting of the American Academy of Advertising, Burlington, VT.

To give credit where credit is due, I borrowed this idea from colleague Robert F. Potter, Ph.D., in the department of telecommunications at Indiana University.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Health Care on the U.S.-Mexico Border

Decisions have never come easy for me. I have trouble letting go of the road not taken.

There was, however, one decision that was amazingly easy for me.

When I started college, it was my goal to become a physician. I was -- and am -- fascinated with human physiology and the brain. When you're a pre-med student, they urge you not to focus upon a specialty before you get to medical school, but I was interested in the brain. I was thinking psychiatry, but I'm betting that I would have ended up in neurology.

All was going well. I was checking things off the pre-med checksheet.

Until one day my wife was sick. A routine cold, I think. Perhaps a flu. We went to see her primary care physician.

As she was called back to see the physician, I sat there for a moment looking around the room. There were people of all shapes and sizes -- and degrees of cleanliness. They coughed, sneezed, and generally were sick.

And that it hit me.


My would-be career in medicine died that moment. And I have never looked back.

Yet sometimes I am fascinated by how the turns of life bring us back again to where we once were.

Sometime about three years after that fateful day in the waiting room, I was hired to cover education and health care for the Las Cruces Sun-News. It was now my job to explain medicine although I had no formal training in it.

I liked this job. I care about sick people. I care about making it better. I just don't want to actually touch the sick people (my friends and family are laughing as they read this).

A promotion and then a bigger circulation paper took me away from that job.

Six years or so later, I found myself in Annie Lang's lab at Indiana University studying cognitive science and performing funded research on health communication.

That scratched my brain itch.

Now a few years later I'm sitting in West Texas increasingly thinking about health communication. Texas Tech is aggressively seeking full funding for a new 4-year medical school in El Paso, which borders Mexico.

And the more that I think about it, the more that I realize how much I care about border health. Perhaps it's the old health care reporter in me.

In the TTU Health Sciences Center's institutional goals, they say, "we must position our new four-year medical school in El Paso as the national leader in border health. No other medical school in the nation is as well-positioned or ideally suited to impact border health, which is quickly becoming a health disparity issue with enormous national implication."

I left medicine behind in that waiting room more than a decade ago. Somehow, however, medicine keeps finding me.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Hispanic Buying Power Impressive

Today Felipe Korzenny presented a lecture on Hispanic marketing at the College of Mass Communications. Korzenny is a great speaker, and I learned a lot.

By 2010, the economic impact of U.S. Hispanics is estimated to be well over $1 trillion, or approximately 10% of the entire U.S. economy.

To put this in context, the buying power of Hispanics in this country would, if separated, become one of the 10 largest economies in the world.

America has a larger Hispanic economy than any other country but Mexico.

It never ceases to amaze how we compartmentalize information. The burgeoning buying power and workforce should be the story, not illegal immigrants trying to get something for nothing. Hispanics appear to be driving this economy, not dragging it down.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Toddler Story Packs Powerfully Sad Media Effect

Today we finish data collection for a study investigating (the cognitive processes behind) how television colors your perception of social reality. I say this to illustrate that I study how the media make you think it is a "mean world," to use a term popular in the literature.

I just finished reading an absolutely horrific story on I'd link directly to the story, but that would mean I would have to go back and look at the page.

And I cannot.

The summary is that Pittsburgh police allege that a man left his 2-year-old toddler outside to die in the cold.

That's extremely sad.

But then I read the next part. The part about little footprints around the body, suggesting the toddler got up and wandered a bit before succumbing to the cold.

And then I lost it. I couldn't even look at the page.

If you don't have kids, you won't really get it. But if you have kids, you will understand how a story such as this reaches right into the core of your being and shakes something primeval. A whole new chamber opens in your heart when you have kids, so to speak.

I was raised a male in America, so I can pretty much witness any atrocity and not shed a tear. It's an adaptive thing, really. But if you start telling me a story about someone hurting kids -- and that almost always comes from the media -- I cannot take it. It's the worst kind of torture. You cannot hear that and not think of your own children.

The funny thing, to me, is that my knee-jerk reflex to this story is to want to go get my kids out of school and hug them. Because it's a sick *$&#ing world. And for that moment, I just want to know that they're safe.

Percentage-wise, it's a pretty safe world. But the fact that even one person might have specifically tried to freeze their kid makes for a pretty twisted world.

Sure, my kids have driven me to the brink of insanity. They can push every button that I have. But I cannot imagine ever wanting to seriously hurt any of them even for a moment.

Emotion drove me to click on the link to that story, and stronger emotion drove me to click away from it. That's why I study media psychology. But I sure wish I hadn't read that story.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Spring Weather Never Gets Old

It was 74 degrees today in Lubbock.

First week of February.


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Monday, February 05, 2007

Why You Spend $2.6 Million on Super Bowl Ad

Compare the blog buzz the day after the Super Bowl for frequent advertiser Bud Light (blue line with big spike) versus non-advertiser Miller Lite (red line that's flat).

Trend courtesy of

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Complete Thoughts on Super Bowl Ads

As always, I overestimated local journalism. Rather than post our actual thoughts, the A-J simply posted our top and bottom ads. As a moment of pride, fellow advertising professor Harsha Gangadharbatla and I both ranked the vile Snickers ad as the worst. The difference was that Harsha's picture was on the cover, while I made the jump. Pandering to diversity, I tell you (kidding).

Then I picked up USA Today to see that the Snickers ad made the top 10. It's the end of the world, people.

Since these thoughts got edited out of the A-J, here is what I thought. Feel free to pan me.

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Overall the Super Bowl ads were lackluster this year. Early reports suggested that humor was the dominant theme and that most of the ads fell short. That was the case. Several of the ads elicited a smile at best.

To me, Bud Light was the clear winner. All of their ads were funny and in keeping with their brand image. And Bud Light’s ads actually made me laugh. They had three really clever ads, and it was difficult for me not to name Bud Light ads as all of my favorites. So we will be talking about these ads Monday, and the ads might actually increase sales.

CBS was another huge winner that will not occur to most people. I counted dozens of promotions for CBS shows, many of which already top the ratings. The promotional spot with David Letterman and Oprah in Colts and Bears jerseys was among my favorite spots of the night. CBS promos were everywhere. CBS came out of the halftime show promoting 5 straight CBS programs and specials.

There is an old adage in advertising, “it isn’t creative unless it sells.” Too often Super Bowl ad producers forget this. Sure, you might have a clever idea, but if it has nothing to do with the brand, it will not affect sales. Being effective is the real goal.

The Pizza Hut ad with Jessica Simpson in the pre-game show will not top anyone’s list. But it may have been the most effective ad of the night. Just before kickoff is the perfect time to order pizza, and that ad likely both caught attention and led to sales. As an advertising professor, I like that.

Coca-Cola’s return to the Super Bowl was underwhelming. The Grand Theft Auto videogame takeoff was clever, but it’s been circulating on for weeks. So for much of the target audience, the GTA Coke ad was stale.

Ford also underwhelmed me. In truth, the locally placed Ford ad promoting Texas patriotism was the best automotive ad that I saw tonight. And this cost Ford far less than $2.6 million.

There were several contests this year inviting the audience to submit ads. I think this “category” was won by the Chevrolet HHR car wash ad created by University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee student Katie Crabb.

Both academic research and sales data show that sex for sex’s sake does not sell (e.g., Paris Hilton for Carl's Jr.). fell short to me. Although sex ties back to the name, it has nothing to do with the company’s business.

Conversely, beer, Coca-Cola, and snacks are exactly what the Super Bowl is about. That’s why these products are a natural tie in.

I awoke to these words this morning from my dad and advertising industry executive, Sam Bradley version 2.0:

"I didn't see a single commercial that made we want to remember to try their product. I thought a couple were entertaining -- not brilliantly so."

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Watching Super Bowl Ads 'On Duty'

I watched the Super Bowl as an ad critic today. On Friday, a reporter from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal called and asked whether I would watch and give them a top 3, worst 3, and overall remarks. After getting over the shame of being their second choice, I agreed.

So I logged every ad. I paid attention to which ads made me laugh and which ads made my wife, Emily, laugh. She here are my Top 3 and Bottom 3.

Top 3
1. Bud Light: Rock, Paper, Scissors
2. Bud Light: Fist Bump
3. T Mobile: Charles Barkley as Dwayne Wade’s "dad"

Honorable Mention
CBS: David Letterman and Oprah

Bottom 3
1. Snickers: Two mechanics kissing
2. Sierra Mist Free: Beard comb over
3. Garmin Navigation: Maposaurus

Here are my concluding thoughts, which were primed by a great Super Bowl TV network post by my colleague Rob Potter:

CBS was another huge winner that will not occur to most people. I counted dozens of promotions for CBS shows, many of which already top the ratings. The promotional spot with David Letterman and Oprah in Colts and Bears jerseys was among my favorite spots of the night. CBS promos were everywhere. CBS came out of the halftime show promoting 5 straight CBS programs and specials.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Drinking, Getting Drunk on 'Our' Brand

I am working on a independent study with an undergraduate advertising student at Tech. For our meeting Friday, he brought in a bunch of alcohol ads. We began to talk about them: what they were trying to say, their positioning, etc.

Of course I'm eccentric, but I have always found alcohol promotion fascinating. It's as if "getting drunk" is the elephant in the corner that no one talks about.

Last night watching the local news, they were interviewing a motley looking crew of West Texans at area sports bars about their Super Bowl plans. More than one mentioned drinking "a lot."

I'm no hypocrite. We're hosting a lab party tonight. I have a cooler full of beer in the kitchen. But what exactly is the point of alcohol? For most people, that is.

Social lubricant? Stress suppressor?

Walking into the liquor store today (which is in the next county due to archaic blue laws), I was reminded of the now-defunct Desert Sun liquor store in Las Cruces, N.M. It was one of the many bad jobs that funded my undergraduate education.

I started working their on my 21st birthday, and I lasted about a year. It was a long year. I am sure that working in any liquor store, you do not exactly see the best side of people. But the Desert Sun was adjacent to a poor part of town, so I saw a lot of people down on their luck.

We sold half pints of Importer's vodka for $2. This was the alcoholic's drink of choice. And every time I sold one, I felt like some cheap smack peddler. These were not bad men. Most of them were homeless. For them, Importer's was the elixir to make the troubles go away.

Others preferred "fortified" Thunderbird wine. Some would buy both. I always felt bad selling them.

Saturdays were hell, as New Mexico did not allow Sunday sales at the time. I carried a lot of cases of Budweiser on those Saturdays. There was one gentleman from north of Las Cruces that surely "resold" those cases illegally on Sunday. He drove a very nice tan Chevrolet crew cab pickup, and he always bought about 30 cases of beer.

There was some kind of restriction on how much beer you could buy (memory fails me), so he had enough people with him to stay legal. I never heard him speak English, and he never spoke to me. And he seemed to have enough money not to fool with reselling.

In addition to the arbitrary life lessons I learned selling America's only legal drug, I learned a lot about brands and buying power. I learned that putting "5.5%" alcohol on the side of a 12-pack of "ice" beer is enough to catch the eye of many a college student.

I also learned that Americans are fiercely brand loyal when it comes to beer. The regulars always bought their regular. No amount of alcohol advertising would have changed their minds.

It would be interesting to sell liquor today, in an environment where hard liquor is increasingly competitive. Not enough to actually do it mind you, but it would be interesting to watch the choices people make.

How many casual scotch drinkers know what "single malt" really means? They know it is a good thing, but what does it really mean. In Las Cruces and West Texas, we know an "anejo" from a "reposado," but do these terms mean anything in New Jersey?

Time for a Shiner. It's a Texas thing. And, when in Rome ...

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Good People, K-Y Jokes Fill Lab

This world contains a lot of great people. If you read the news a lot, cynicism might color your perception. But great people dominate.

In my lab, we measure psychophysiological responses to media. One of the responses we measure is skin conductance. This indexes activity in the sympathetic nervous system, as this activates the eccrine sweat glands in the palms.

Since salt affects conductivity, we need a saline free gel for those sensors. You can buy expensive electrode gel online, but you can also just use K-Y Jelly. When experiments are running, we use a lot, so we buy it in bulk.

And perhaps it is a sign of our sophomoric senses of humor, but buying K-Y Jelly in bulk is always funny. It is especially funny because we usually also buy medical tape (for holding down sensor wires) and paper towels in bulk. It's just an odd combination.

I've known the order was coming for many months, and Wednesday I finally provided my shopping list to the college's executive assistant. This is, perhaps, the nicest woman whom I have ever met, and I felt bad sending her out on the errand. But it's a government procurement card, and I cannot use it.

In a line for the ages, this poor woman was beginning to get a weird look from the cashier as she rang up 7 ... 8 ... 9 ... 10 ... 11 ... 12 tubes of K-Y. A final awkward glace from the cashier led our crack staffer to deadpan, "We're planning a big Super Bowl party."

Truly a line for the ages.

A couple of hours later we're sitting in lab meeting recounting this story with great hysterics, and I look at the people there, and I see a great group of people.

I didn't say anything at the time, but I felt damned lucky. I bolted halfway across the country for this job at Texas Tech, and here I have an amazing lab 6 months later. My doctoral student is as good as any I have met, three master's students are working in the lab, and I have a great undergraduate working in the lab (and another one studying abroad in Italy this semester).

I have no idea how I managed to find 6 great people in just 6 months, but man are we having fun in the lab. The K-Y tale led to many bad jokes, and I think everyone was smiling most of the time.

Our first psychophysiology experiment participant should run in about two weeks. You might here the champagne pop all the way from Lubbock.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Lite Brite Is Not a Bomb

Sorry. I just don't get it. Much ado about nothing, I say.

The Boston guerrilla marketing campaign gone wrong falls upon the perceivers rather than the stimulus. When I saw the thing, I thought, "it's a bleepin' Lite Brite." Then I read this quotation on

"It's so not threatening -- it's a Lite Brite," said twenty-two-year-old Todd Venderlin, a design student at the Parsons School of Design in New York City, saw one of the devices two weeks ago as he left a lounge in south Boston, according to The Boston Globe.

Seriously, the whole terror threat thing is absolutely out-of-control. I tried pretty hard not to think about this whole deal, but two e-mails from my dad forced it into my conscious perception.

My dad, Samuel D. Bradley version 2.0, wrote: "During the golden years of local radio (1950 to 1975), hiding things for the public to find was a widespread promotion practice. In 1954 or 1955, WHB radio in Kansas City held a "Treasure Hunt", with a paltry first prize of $1,000. They broadcast clues to where the prize was hidden. Huge traffic jams blocked major streets leading to the hiding place. But no one thought of a law suit. It was all great fun for everyone but those of us working for competitor stations -- we kicked ourselves for not thinking of the idea first.

"In 1963, the station where I worked increased transmitter power from 1,000 to 5,000 watts. As part of our promotional efforts, we acquired dozens of little battery operated, transistor clock radios. We turned each one on, tuned to our station, put them in plastic bags and 'hid' them all over the city. Imagine walking through a park, hearing music coming out of a tree, and finding a plastic bag sitting in a fork of the tree. People picked them up, saw what they were, and stole them.

"Boston says they spent a half million dollars trying to solve the problem of the little blinking thing. The mayor is demanding stiff penalties, lawyers are talking about class action lawsuits, competitors of Turner Broadcasting are dancing in the streets and some of us are shedding a tear for what we have lost in America."
If the first amendment protects flag burning and the Klan, surely a Lite Brite is protected speech. A hidden Lite Brite is not quite shouting "fire" in movie theatre.

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