Today was an insane day.

Today wasn’t really about learning new stuff, but more about everything you knew was probably right being confirmed by someone with a PhD. Like common sense on steroids!

First session was a panel discussing cognitive science in advertising, behavioral science and something called consumer neuroscience! One for Jacs Bennett for sure! Basically people studying the human brain to understand the effectiveness of advertising. They do this as ultimately focus groups are scientifically useless as the responses are driven by emotions rather than cognitive thought.

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The first speaker talked about how unified creative across all platforms enhanced memory, and recall, and therefore brand preference. Basically, if you want to sell more stuff ensure all your ads look, feel and sound the same across all channels and devices. The other big revelation is that by watching people watch TV in natural settings, they have discovered that people watch TV with their head down (mostly on a device, occasionally asleep!)  65% of the time, and only 35% actually looking at the screen. And here’s the common sense on steroids bit – your eyes might be diverted from the screen, but your ears are always on, so if you want impact (or indeed if you want people to even watch your ad) think about the sound on your ads – start with a bang, or just think about how to raise attention. Genius. Obvious, but genius.

The panel also discussed what a bad job we are, and publishers especially are doing in digital. And I couldn’t agree more. Ad blocking is an issue we need to tackle head on – we’re seeing a 50% global growth in adoption but publishers are still creating pop ups, interstitial ads, etc which the consumers hate! We know this, publishers know this, brands know this, but publishers are still selling them despite knowing that they are a terrible consumer experience.

Another interesting stat that was discussed was that by using TV creative on a mobile device reduces effectiveness by over 50%.

In a nutshell, and I hasten to add that I’ve been banging this drum for years; optimize your creative for channel and device, as if you don’t you are quite literally wasting your money!

The second speaker had spent the last three years looking at the science of video virality. He basically was looking to be able to scientifically predict if your video had the ability to go viral. He talked about the Budweiser “Born the Hard Way” ad that got 21.1 million video views in less than 24 hours.

So they took the video into the lab, and with a series of tests including facial coding (measuring expressions when watching the ad), eye tracking, body language, and brain function they could measure the emotional impact of the ad. Amazing stuff, and important to say they don’t have a secret recipe on what makes a video viral but if one of their clients has an ad that they think is amazing, they’ll test to measure the true emotional impact. Really cool stuff!

The final speaker was another neuroscientist who studies the emotional impact advertising has on our brains. He showed two Birds Eye ads, one for peas, one for fish, and went through the incredible process that helped determine for the client why one was incredibly successful and one was a flop. They were able to identify the exact moment that lost the audience, help re-cut that scene and get it back out to market.

One other fact that came out of this session was that in all their research the most effective combination to drive emotional response, is by releasing an ad on Facebook first, quickly followed by TV.

The second talk of the day was on the growing importance of messaging apps. In this session the world of emojis, branded keyboards, native distribution and conversational UI were discussed. The panel consisted of the CDO of Mindshare, Head of Marketing for Dunkin Donuts, and the Head of Marketing from Nike. Yep, pretty impressive!

This session was really a eureka moment – and a space we need to understand quickly. They discussed that although in the West, messaging for brands is still a fledgling industry but in Asia it is massive – you can rent a car using we-chat, buy a pizza using Facebook messenger, check your bank balance using iMessage and much more. The most interesting thing for me was the fact that messaging was blurring the lines between commerce, customer service and brand experience and for that reason if brands want to get into the messaging space then they need to get it right. And the penalty for getting it wrong will be massive.

I went to a a third session on behavioral impact n consumers of cookies, which sounded interesting, but was in fact really dull. Nothing new here folks, except for the fact that one of the researchers had developed an algorithm that could better diagnose the likely hood of a woman getting post-partum depression through the tweets a pregnant woman sent than a doctor.

The last talk of the day was from a guy called Casey Neistat who went from a You Tube star to one of the most powerful media people in the US. Below is the video he is most famous for – basically Nike gave him a bunch of cash (like ten years ago) and he shot the below. 25m vies on YouTube!

The coolest thing about his talk was his philosophy on life which is what he calls the “Tarzan Method” which is basically, grab a vine, see where it takes you, and get on with it!

This post is getting rather long, so to wrap things up, after the keynote I met Tom Bates for a few beers, went to a fantastic dinner with Optimizely, where I met some fascinating people including a girl who designs toilet paper for Kimberley Clark for a living. After that I met up with a bunch of people at the Pandora House where Gucci Mane was playing.

Thanks to James Butcher from Pandora NZ I was on the VIP list and avoided the hour queue in the rain! Thanks! Gucci Mane was amazing! Then on to a party at 90 Seconds, and then finally got to bed at 12. But not before bumping into literally my favorite American Author ever, Po Bronson in the lift of my hotel. I’ve honestly never been so star stuck!

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