Archive for January, 2008

Who else watched this insane, inane show? me. myself and I.  Why? because I love watching people.  also, i’m also a sometimes consultant to producers of game television.

Beyond the obvious hook to this show (jerry springer meets deal or no deal), this show is a perfectly crafted behavior experiment.  This thing works on so many levels.

The Set Up

Gameplay is simple.  A set of questions is worth a certain dollar amount.  Answering a set of 6,5,4,3… questions earns you an ever larger amount of money.  Truth is determined by comparing your “live” answers to answers done under a polygraph situation. e.g. You can fail the polygraph without knowing it and then answer the same answer in the live show and not be telling the truth.  or you can attempt to lie or switch your answer from polygraph if you knew you were lying during the lie detector test.

There are 3 friends/family members in the studio often asked for responses.

The host cleverly (perhaps not so cleverly) asks leading questions that frame up the truth question.

The questions get progressively more damaging – the truth could hurt a close relationship, hose a job, lead to distrust, etc. etc.

There’s ambient music with a “heartbeat” and an ominous female MC voice.

The family and friends can end it at any time.

Payout amounts

First 6 questions are worth $10,000

Next 5 are worth $25,000

Behavior Groups

The Studio Audience

The questions early on get the audience going.  Lots of typical white lies, religious and sexual overtones.  Raises the stakes while the money is low.

The Contestant

The first part of the show eases the contestant into the game.  6 questions remove the fear of telling the truth and get you to lose any “real life” risk aversion you may have.

The Television Audience

TV audience is draw immediately in with a quick launch into questions and personality reveals throughout the gameplay.  Lots of questions come early, before the first commercial.  Early questions are very good “conversation starters” for a roomful of people watching on television.

Lots of up close facial shots.  Shots of nervous ticks.  Audio track includes heartbeats.


The money, audience and “ease” of early questions provide positive reinforcement to keep going early, at least through $10,000.

At $25,ooo, contestants claim “i’ve revealed too much to stop.”

Family members want contestants to continue because “they are curious.”  “They want to know.”

$25,000 doesn’t seem to matter much to people. (need more data)

Audience reaction doesn’t matter much to contestant as answers have been given.   However, audience reaction seems to affect the family member.


When will most family members make it stop?  why? how can we measure discomfort?

What types of family members/friends/relationships are most disrupted?

Are the contestants coached to add dramatic pauses and misdirection to their responses? I mean, they already took a polygraph…

how did they screen for contestants?  You need risky people to make this work.  And you need clean cut people that seem like the “truth” could be damaging.

What’s the dollar figure that matters?

Notes and Observations

There is a point/threshold at which this is no longer a “game” for people.  The questions stop being cute or easy or “party” like.  A series of questionable answers may have the same effect.

There are tons of very nervous humor that only comes out when people are asked to explain their answers.

The host raises the stakes a lot.  Increasing the interaction between family and contestant has a very interesting effect.

The “stop” button near the family is just far enough out of reach to put up a physical barrier.

Need to see the ratings on this.

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Quick hit here…

Companies are finally aggressively marketing alternatives to TV and using the writer’s strike as user chum.

This is an economic problem for TV that will not be evident for many months.  Here’s why:

Ad rates online are at least 1/3rd lower than TV/Print rates.  Migrating the same viewership online cuts your revenue by 2/3rds at minimum.  Even if the writers get back to work, a good chunk of viewership has been lost for a long time.  That is, that viewership will take months to come back and the TV rates will drop as a result (no reach, no high CPM).  With less money at the studios and internet companies already on the cheap for original content development, writers will lose money.  networks will lose money.

where does all that money go then that would have gone to TV ads?

utilities:  search, email, social networks.  new site development.

in otherwords, it will be spread way out between 1000s of media properties and technologies.

in fact, like global warming, it’s already happening and any change now will simply lessen the damage.

Writers – just go work on the internet now.  get in before the rush of all the underpaid writers comes in late 08/09.

Studios –  better figure out this online, iptv, and mobile thing quickly.  Expect to need alternatives (subscriptions, itunes, huge archived downloads, live programming, more hd, straight to tv movies, etc. etc.) to overpriced tv spotsto subsidize underperforming concepts, shows and departments.

users/viewers – better learn to write and produce.  UGC stinks now and the quality of entertainment – in terms of excellent creative output relative to noise – is very low.

anyone read brave new world recently?



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This is a hot buzzphrase and has been for 5 or 6 years in online advertising.

As one company puts it:

“Behavioral targeting allows marketers to respond to identified consumer behaviors and gives them the ability to deliver “timely” messaging in an environment outside of where the behavior was captured.

What this means to advertisers is that they now have the ability to deliver a message in a non-automotive research environment to a consumer who has been identified as “in-market” for a particular vehicle segment based on a previous behavior they had captured on a 3rd party automotive research site.

This level of laser-precision targeting was previously unheard of. Think about it. Imagine for a moment the total U.S. population. Then assume for the purpose of illustration that 2% are in-market at any given time. Of that 2%, the audience becomes even more fragmented across every possible vehicle category from SUVs to Luxury Vehicles to Sedans, etc. As you can see, tracking down in-market car shoppers can be very difficult, and looking for specific category intenders is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Outside of search marketing, contextual advertising and behavioral targeting, every other form of media is likely to have considerable waste, or, in other words, deliver messaging to people who would not consider the respective vehicle in the first place.”

Pretty marketing heavy and pretty light on “behavior” other than identifying content, keywords and the sites users look at. Here they post info that goes a little deeper.  That’s better.

So what’s missing? the same thing that’s usually missing from campaigns and most online analytics, about 99% of behavior.  Really.  It’s good to track the clicks, the content affinities, personnas, and some “heat tracking”, but really no one is going to do much better than keyword targeting until they really analyze people’s behavior (schedules of reinforcement, consequences, histories, values).   Not all of this can be done online.  It must be observed.  It must be experimental.

I’m not suggesting these advertising systems don’t do better than just display ads with no targeting.  I am saying that behavioral targeting isn’t nearly as effective as people claim nor is it all that behavioral, beyond a very limited set of web page tracked behaviors.  I am also not suggesting the industry can’t do better.  it can.

I would not, as an advertiser, yet throw tons of money at BT as it rarely outperforms a well designed search keyword program.  Why?

The cost!  The amount of work it takes to run a BT program (asset creation, algos to retarget, spend management, etc. etc.) adds up quickly.  Search marketing has far fewer of these complexities for the end advertiser.

Consider that BT companies are aggregating data across an infinitely varied set of contexts (lots of sites) vs. just Google, Yahoo, and MSN for Search marketing.  That alone, increases the complexity by many orders of magnitudes.  Keyword searches also are wonderfully simple behaviors and the results and resulting clicks are easily tracked feedback mechanisms.  BT doesn’t have any of this, and certainly in a simple form.

So how will BT ever get there?

  • Standardization – publishers and advertisers are going to have to agree on creative types, behavior metrics, etc.
  • Transparency – users, publishers and advertisers are going to have to be far more open with data.  only by very open access to data can everyone do their part in reporting and responding to behavior
  • Offline data tie ins – BT companies need offline data or at least, off site, data to tie back all these ad implementations.  Without knowing all the schedules and consequences inbetween, you can’t really be sure you’ve targeted anymore effectively than just running a demographically targeted ad

In a follow up I will post my outline for my vision for a Behavioral Targeting Tracking and Advertising Company.

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Economic Help?

I can’t say I’m surprised by media and governments narrow-minded approach to re-energizing the economy.

Normally, I wouldn’t post on this subject, except that I think media plays a big part in reinforcing attitudes the public carries about our economic situation.

We never seem to get beyond the basic economic indicators to explain the situation in government nor the media.  It’s pretty inaccurate to report only on and issue policies on employment numbers, consumer sentiment, consumer product spending and sub prime housing.  Worse, if you are basing any of your personnel micro economic decisions on those metrics, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

let’s consider:

  • the largest expense in a person’s budget is HOUSING (whether renting or mortgage paying)
  • the second largest expense in a family budget and elderly budget is HEALTH CARE
  • the third largest expense in working family budgets is CHILD CARE (it becomes education for college people and post graduates)

Food, transportation, entertainment, and connectivity are all distant runner ups.  Thus most of our analysis and policy deals with our least costly expenses.  Really, think about it.

So now the economic stimulus package is going to give us $1600 back.  As if that makes EVEN A DENT in any of our major expenses.  Spare us the paper work and IRS work of issuing credits.  Fix Health Care costs via transparency or single payer or vouchers or tougher enforcement of fair practices.  Allow the importing of pharmaceuticals to reduce costs of medicine. Raise minimum wages and provide better laws for maternity/paternity leave to reduce dependence on child care. Don’t reduce school budgets for afterschool programs and more teachers as all it does it put pressure on the family to make up the difference. Stop nailing people on property taxes (which forces landlords to jack up rents and homeowners to not save) – yes we can replace those taxes with other taxes that don’t have such trickle down consequences.

and so on.

I don’t have the answers, no one does.  Neither the media nor policy makers are asking the right questions, so there’s no chance to find good solutions.

Bloggers, News outlets, papers, magazines – report on the big economic factors in our lives, not the mice nuts.  The price of consumer gas is a mice nut. the unemployment rate is a mice nut.  Consumer sentiment and spending is a super mice nut.

Actually, there’s no point in moralizing.  I’m trying more to deliver analysis.  Media, government, the public, academic instuitions, corps all reinforce each other.  if we want the behavior of the economic “system” to change, we have to change the reinforcers.  Our economy is in trouble because non of us have enough money to spend? or we’re just spending it on things that don’t give back? (health care! over priced housing! replacement child care! expensive secondary education)

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It’s very evident to me that businesses, organizations and individuals who don’t handle data well (i’ll define that shortly) don’t end up making any difference (traffic, profit, buzz…).

yeah, that’s probably not intellectual news to anyone.   really, though, how many people really handle data well?

Here are some common samples bad analysis, bad data, bad labeling, bad process:

  • VCs seriously consider 3 year pro-formas on businesses that have yet to produce or sell a single unit
  • Ad Agencies blatantly ignore sources of traffic when reporting to their clients
  • The whole media world pays attention to comscore, nielsen (and some even alexa!)
  • Product managers never track down baselines and expectations
  • Ad sales teams routinely ignore inventory levels
  • Marketers talk about “brand value”
  • dotcoms install 5 or 6 tracking mechanisms and never sync them
  • analysts/bi people start analysis with false assumptions or no assumptions
  • home buyers don’t calculate property taxes or relative market value of their home
  • employees generally don’t consider all implications of FSA and 401k contributions when consider real take home pay
  • employers evaluate employees on qualities and skills not results
  • traditional resumes feature dates and objectives not results and plans
  • dow = market to general public
  • subprime is word of the year
  • “backing into” a model is a well honed practice in most executive offices
  • Music labels pay attention to “money lost to piracy”

There are an infinite number of anecdotes on fishy data analysis.

For those that want actual facts – here’s how I know data analysis is a problem in industry and society:

Ok, ok.  I’ve done a good job of pointing out horrible data analysis and lots of fun factoids but I haven’t demonstrated why poor analysis diminishes opportunities.

First, let me explain my qualifications for “good analysis”:

  • data should be collected and analyzed in an appropriate timeframe (don’t take 10 years to graduate!)
  • Make a clear statement of analytic objective and methods is a must
  • The accuracy and depth of data and analysis should be relative to the importance of the subject matter
  • prediction of human behavior is impossible, avoid absolutists statements
  • explain relationships between variables, avoid overbearing causation arguments
  • check and recheck (1 set of eyes is not enough)
  • qualitative research should always accompany quantitative, vice versa
  • ask more questions

With some of those key statements established, i can now draw out why people and orgs miss out or flat out make huge mistakes so often.

[I will do so in a forthcoming post!]

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  • 37,000 participants on Facebook during the live debates last night.
  • live polling
  • live blogging
  • email direct to campaign advisors
  • immediate reactions
  • raw videos from the event
  • videos from the location

The debates were lively and alive.  Interactive and immersive.  Ok, ok, so some of the political banter during the debate itself was the same ol’ schtick but this time we get to tell these campaign managers what we need NOW.

Pretty amazing that we, the people, received 4 hours of coverage with all the candidates and had accessible and usable interactive tools to discuss.

The YouTube – CNN debate format was exceptionally cool too.  Imagine if Facebook and YouTube joined up to bring the audience, media tools, and interactive experiences all together.  Man, what a tool for democratic discussion!

Perhaps there’s a downside to this… the American Public.  The online / social network crowd is NOT representative of the American public.  Facebook and YouTube are not the tools of most people in the country.  It’s going to get easier and cheaper for campaigns and media outlets to use the online tools to reach people and they may leave out the non-tech-savvy crowd for sometime.

There has to be some way to bring the interactivity to the masses.

Can YouTube and Facebook use their considerable creativity and investments to “get local” and “get offline” to reach people?  These tools are bigger than online advertising vehicles.  They are platforms for national discussion, for democracy and for transparency.  As such, they need to grow into their bigger roles (heck, the consumers and media companies demand it!).

If you haven’t looked at the YouTube archives, MySpace Impact site, Facebook US Politics application nor many of the GREAT online politics sites… you need to do it.  Really, you do.  If you value your vote, your rights in this country, and the strength of the democracy.

Here are some book marks for you:

New Hampshire Primary Channel on YouTube 

Citizine Tube – YouTube Politics Vlog 

YouChoose 08 

Facebook US Politics Application

Impact on MySpace 

Politics Sites linked from Google… 

For fun, but actually a great Futures Market tool… Fantasy Congress 


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