Saturday, September 29, 2007

Growing Voting Power of U.S. Hispanics

From article titled, Inside the Hispanic vote: Growing in numbers, growing in diversity:
(CNN) -- As Democratic and Republican presidential candidates scour the country for votes during the 2008 campaign, they'll inevitably court the Hispanic community, a voting group growing rapidly in number and diversity.

The Hispanic vote is neither homogenous nor loyal to one party. Though the current political moment seems to favor the Democratic Party, experts say that affinity should not be taken for granted.

The Hispanic community is the fastest-growing minority group in the United States, according to the U.S. census.

But its percentage of the electorate is lower than its numbers as a whole because of lower citizenship rates, less voter participation and a youthful demographic. Of the nation's more than 44 million people of Hispanic origin, about a third are too young to vote.

But all that's changing.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Going Technorati

I Really Want to Believe Context Matters

This article in MediaWeek makes my cognitive heart sad.
New research casts doubt on the long-held belief that advertising is most effective when placed near content related to the product.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Signs That Your Kids Watch Too Much TV

Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

Last night my 9-year-old daughter was literally in tears because we would not buy her a Burger King BK Triple Stacker for dinner.

800 calories and 54 grams of fat!


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Friday, September 21, 2007

Images from the College of Mass Comm

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Same Technology that Offers Me A&M Gear?

From the New York Times.

Members of the booming social network Web sites treat their individual profile pages as a creative canvas for personal expression.

The social networking companies see those pages as a lush target for advertisers — if only they could customize the ads. Although Internet companies have talked about specifically aiming their ads since the inception of the Web, so far advertising on social networks has been characterized by mass-marketed pitches for mortgages and online dating sites.

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Vote on Future of Bonds' Record 756 Ball

Vote here.

Read about Barry Bonds' delusion here.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tech Admissions Offers Cool Blog Opportunity

The Office of Admissions is looking for student bloggers to chronicle their
experiences in 2007 - 2008 for our Web site; a blog is a Web site for journal

This year is the launch of our blog site, which is meant to give prospective
students an authentic feel for life as a Texas Tech student. Colleges and
universities with blog sites have received significant attention from students
for the unique nature of blogs—¬namely that blogs are unedited and feature
multi-media postings.

Read more here.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Advertisers: Trust Scientists, not Their Toys

A photo illustration of our lab at Texas Tech University.

Thanks to the many colleagues who pointed out the recent Ad Age article titled, "Hidden Persuasion or Junk Science?"

In the article, Mya Frazier outlines recent techniques by marketing consultants to use the tools of neuroscience and psychophysiology to better understand consumers.

There are a lot of great points in the article, but to me the most important point is about motivation. To dredge up the cliche Watergate-era quotation, "Follow the money."

People such as A.K. Pradeep, founder of Neurofocus, are in business to make money. That's fine. I am all about capitalism. But they are not scientists. The do not follow the facts for the facts' sake. They follow the money. And the money wants a quick solution. And there is no quick solution.

For years, I have been advocating the use of psychophysiological measures. I have attempted to argue against self-report measures. To shorten the case, I have reduced it to, "People lie." This idea is hardly mine alone. It's one that was cultivated in me by a group of like minded scientists.

According to Ad Age, consultants agree with the basic tenet:

"Amid the many vagaries of marketing research, one thing is clear: Consumers lie. About what they want. About what they need. Sometimes they do it purposely. Most often they simply don't seem to realize what they're doing at all. Mr. Pradeep and his peers in the field of neuromarketing say they have the solution."

If people lie, then consultants lie. It logically follows. Trust me.

Although they agree with the basic tenet, they do not agree that it applies to them.

I'm not calling Mr. Pradeep a snake oil salesman. I don't know the man. I have no reason to believe that he's not the most well intentioned consultant ever. But if consumers can lie because "they simply don't seem to realize that they're doing at all," then I see no reason why the same must not be true of marketing consultants, too.

As a scientist, I took entire courses trying to alert me to my biases. I've sat in coffeehouses with colleagues debating the nature of evidence. I really care about how I know what I know.

I know, for example, that it's in my nature to look for evidence that confirms my suspicions. So instead I look for negative evidence, or evidence that shows that I am wrong. This idea dates back hundreds of years and is common to science. It is far less common to industry.

Even looking for negative evidence is not enough. Even then, I am somewhat imprisoned by my own biases. We all are. That's why scientists publish their work in academic journals. To be published in a journal, a piece must be blind peer reviewed by others in the field. That is, our names are stripped off, and similarly trained peers dissect the work. Only then do the ideas see the light of day.

The process has its flaws, sure. But at least our ideas receive some sort of scrutiny. This idea was not lost in the Ad Age article.

"I don't want to trash people doing it, I'm just saying the incentives are such that there's no quality control because none of this data is published in peer-reviewed journals," said Paul J. Zak, the founding Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and a professor of economics at Claremont Graduate University. "I think the payoff is pretty low for marketers."

Here's the threat. I know a good deal about advertising. I also know a good deal about cognitive science. I certainly know more about the latter than the average marketing director. And I know that if you hook people up to any of the devices mentioned in the article, you're going to see differences.

The logic is simple:
  1. If you can perceive a difference in two stimuli, then that had to be a psychological event. That is, you psychologically perceived a difference.
  2. Psychological events tend to "live" in the brain.
  3. Finally, if you know there was a difference in the brain, and you go looking for a difference in the brain (or downstream peripheral nervous system), then you will find one.
And if you know something about advertising, you can interpret that difference in a logically consistent way.

But this is nothing more than a glorified focus group. Finding differences is child's play. The hard work is theorizing about the nature of those differences. That's very hard work. Trust me. And I see no incentive for consultants to do the hard work.

There is every incentive to look for any (likely) spurious correlation between data and sales. But there is much less incentive -- especially in the short-term -- to look for reasons why your relationship with an advertised brand might manifest itself in a particular way.

Allow me to give an example. More than two years ago, my lab set about investigating emotional psychophysiological responses to advertised brands. We were inspired by Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts' ideas about Lovemarks.

We could have taken our show on the road after that initial idea. But we did not. We're scientists. We collected data. We tested some assumptions to try to ensure that we were not just seeing what we wanted to see. Those first data were recently published in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Advertising.

Before those ideas saw the light of day, three advertising scholars had to sign off on them. Now more than two years later, we are submitting the second round of data to the American Academy of Advertising for consideration.

It takes time to get it right. It's much easier to play a hunch. And if you have any idea what you are doing, then hunches often sound correct.

Most of the people mentioned in the article are thinking the right kinds of thoughts. They're doing the right kinds of things. They are just not doing them in the right kind of way. They are not giving the facts due diligence. It is this seemingly fast and loose treatment that makes terms such as "junk science" show up in headlines.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

No Labor Day Plans? Choose Hatch, N.M.

Photo by Wendy Maxian.

I want to provide some free advertising for the annual Hatch (New Mexico) Chile Festival, which I got to attend for the second time this Labor Day.

Good times. And where else will you see a roof o' chiles?

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Cool Video on the Future of Advertising

From the Weblog Bring the Love Back.

Thanks to Glenn Cummins for pointing this out.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Two New "Preps" Consume 24 Hours Daily

The headline will say it all to members of the professorial trade.

It means that I am teaching two new courses that I have not taught before. They take a lot of time to prepare, especially my elective on sex and violence in the media, which is an entirely new course.

I'll try to update here as regularly as possible.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Thanks, Elvis, for Banana Reese's

Not my cup of tea.

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