Asia Media wins BrandLaureate Award

•January 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Kuala Lumpur, January 9, 2010:  Asia Media has been named the winner of The BrandLaureate – SMEs Chapter Award. The award recognizes the best of brands from small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and is based on a 300-point selection criteria consisting of brand strategy, brand culture, integrated brand communications, brand equity and brand performance.

According to the CEO of BrandLaureate, Dr. K.K Johan, the special award recognizes businesses that have stamped their mark in the country through their contributions and expertise which have had profound impact on the economic, social and civil growth of the nation.  “Asia Media has demonstrated tremendous growth in the past three years and exemplifies The BrandLaureate Awards” he added.

Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, former international trade and industry minister who won the Brandlaureate Signature Award said “Asia Media has become synonymous with outdoor digital advertising and is a deserving winner of the award”.

The BrandLaureate Awards are spearheaded by the Asia Pacific Brand Foundation (APBF), a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and improvement of branding standards in Malaysia and the Asia-Pacific.

Dato’ Ricky Wong, CEO of Asia Media was quoted as saying “We are honored to receive the award and dedicate this to our advertisers and marketers. The strength of our brand name lies in our ability to deliver unrivaled quality of service and coverage for our advertisers”.

Meanwhile, Naza Group of Companies joint group executive chairman and group CEO SM Faisal Tan Sri SM Nasimuddin was conferred The BrandLaureate-SMEs Entrepreneur of the Year Award and Munchy’s Group CEO C.K. Tan The BrandLaureate-SMEs CEO of the Year Award.
The winners of The BrandLaureate SMEs Brand Personalities Awards 2009 were WOFS.com founder and chairman Lillian Too, Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd managing director Datuk Ameer Ali Mydin and Eversendai Corporation group managing director Datuk A.K. Nathan.

Asia Media, the largest Transit-TV company in Malaysia, has picked up a string of prestigious awards including the “best start-up” company, SME 100 Fast Moving Company and SME Rising Star Award.

About Asia Media Sdn. Bhd.

Asia Media is the market leader in the digital media and out of home advertising. The company operates the largest Transit-TV network in Malaysia (Certified by Malaysian Book of Records). Asia Media TV (AMTV)® is the company’s flagship channel that uses LCD screens to display infotainment programmes, advertisements, community driven messages and public service bulletins.

Asia Media’s products and services consist of four primary divisions: – AMTV® KL, AMTV® JB, AMTV® Ex and the Creative Department. Collectively, AMTV® operates a network of 3000 Transit-TVs through the company’s exclusive network partners: – RapidKL, Handal Indah, Plusliner, Konsortium Bas Ekspres Semenanjung and Triton Express.

Asia Media’s Creative Department is a ‘one stop centre’ that caters for all advertising and marketing needs. Services provided include conceptualization, design, pre and post-production.

Free news vs Paid news (with a Twist)

•November 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Question: What happens when an industry is losing revenue and two giant companies are trying to outdo each other?

Answer: The consumer suffers and ends up paying for it.

The digital news landscape is changing fast, with Rupert Murdoch now deciding to charge for online news content. The media mogul’s News Corporation, the firm behind papers from the Wall Street Journal to the Sun (UK), is planning to stop Google from indexing its news websites.  

You may ask, “What’s the problem?”  The newspaper industry is suffering from declining print and advertising revenues as increasing media consumption is taking place over various mediums such as the internet and Outdoor digital media, so certainly it makes sense for newspapers to charge for their content.

Problem is – like with everything else in life, nothing is ever so cut and dried. Throw Microsoft in the equation and things become interesting. The software giant’s search engine Bing has been playing catch up to Google ever since… god knows when.

Microsoft has been having discussions with News Corp where the software firm will pay the news company to stop from Google searching and indexing its news website. The desired outcome would be that Microsoft’s search engine Bing would be the place users will turn to for news – and if Google wanted to retain that kind of news content, it would have to start paying. It seems clear that Microsoft’s interest will also hurt Google’s margin.

This suspicion is confirmed when the Financial Times reported that Microsoft has approached other big online publishers to persuade them to remove their sites from Google’s search engine.  

What is clear is that Microsoft and News Corp are united against the idea that internet news should be free. Microsoft is willing to offer money to publishers to switch allegiance and New Corp is prepared to use legal means to prevent Google ‘stealing’ news.

Problem is, if internet users decide that Microsoft Bing’s results are biased because of alliance with news providers, they will be more reluctant to switch from Google and the plan could backfire.

In the words of James Harding, editor of the Financial Times, “We are setting out to rewrite the economics of gathering and delivering news…”

Harding likens the culture of free (news) to that of the music industry which (according to him) has been all but destroyed (by P2P/piracy). Well, if the music industry is any indication of where the news industry is heading, then I am sure Harding himself would realise the concept of ‘free’ will never be completely stamped out. Just take a look at the amount of internet traffic that is generated from P2P downloading. The ‘culture of free’ is still rife and there is nothing the media companies can do about it.

Nevertheless, I have always subscribed to the notion that whatever that has value is worth paying for (This includes good quality news and information). But I cannot help but feel, we, as consumers/users are being seriously short-changed here.

Before: We had good ‘unbiased’ search results from Google and we had free news
After: We have ‘biased’ search results from Microsoft, and we pay for the news.

Go figure!

AMTV says: Competitive advantage is never sustainable. Rival companies will always find ways to chip away at your success. Google’s USP of being able to deliver accurate unbiased search results will be undermined if Microsoft was to have its ways. Do not be surprise if we one day see ‘pay per search’ on Google.

Why you are paying more than you should

•November 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

How long will it take for consumers to realize that we are paying for the same thing over and over again? For those of you who have an Ipod or Iphone and use Itunes, you will be able to relate to this pretty well. Picture this, you heard a song that you liked on the radio, then you decide to buy that song and download it from Itunes for $0.99. After enjoying the music which you have paid for, you decide that it would be cool to have that song as a ring tone. But Apple does not allow you to do that (there are ways around this which we will not cover), to have a portion of the same song as a ringtone, you have buy it for $2.49. That’s right, you already paid one buck to own that song, now, to use snippets of that songs as your ringtone, you have to pay another two fifty! What in the world?

Now if you happen to want to use that song as a ringback tone (a song or sound heard by the calling party after dialling your number and prior to you answering) you have to pay another $1.99!!! FOR THE SAME SONG! Which you already legally paid for and own! on top of the $2.49 you paid again for a 30 second snippet as ring tone!

Consider the following table taken from the book Television Disrupted by Shelly Palmer

Download the song on iTunes $0.99
Download a portion of the same song to use as a ring tone $2.49
Use a portion of the song as a ringback tone $1.99
Purchase a download of the video of the song on Itunes $1.99
Purchase a still image of the artist of the song to use as a wallpaper $1.49
Purchase the DVD of the movie featuring the song $14.99
Purchase the CD which includes the song $19.99
Watch PPV (pay per view) or VOD (video on-demand) of the movie featuring the song $3.95
Watch the HD version of the VOD oncert featuring the song $6.95
Total revenue from a SINGLE content source $54.83!

 How many times can you sell the same ‘master file’? well, it seems like sky’s the limit as long as people don’t realise they are paying for the same thing over and over again.

As Palmer noted, any time a consumer wants to move their files top a new device, the media company wants to charge another fee. For example, when you subscribe to some mobile phone games and you change to a new phone, you have to subscribe again.

You see, piracy and P2P downloading is taking a significant chunk out of the profits of those media companies. So they have to make up for it by repeatedly charging an obscene amount for what is essentially the same product. Problem is, like with everything else, 20% of the people are doing 80% of the illegal downloading. Now that 80/20 figure is just my two cents, but the 80/20 rule tends to hold up pretty well most of the time. Similarly, it can be argued that 20% of consumers are the ones buying and paying for 80% of the stuff on iTunes.

So I guess in a way, it is fair play for the media companies. Capitalism has a way of finding a balance, it is just that the distribution is not always fair. In terms of media consumption, those who should be paying a lot aren’t, and those who shouldn’t be paying that much, are paying a lot.

AMTV says – Unless we consumers ‘wise’ up and demand that we truly own the media that we purchased and insist on the portability of the media we own, some media companies will continue to ‘rip’ us off.

The Facebook Juggernaut

•November 8, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook debuted on the Forbes billionaire list with a $1.5b networth, then dropped off when the economy turned sour.

Was quickly dubbed the next Bill Gates. Apart from the obvious similarities that they both dropped out of Harvard, they both are in the tech sector and they both had been accused of gaining success from software codes written by someone else (Microsoft with BASIC, and FACEBOOK with ConnectU), they both share a lot more less obvious similarities.

Both Gates & Zuckerberg enjoyed creating computer programs and playing computer games. Both Gates & Zuckerberg had professional parents (Gates’ father is a lawyer; Zuckerberg’s father is a dentist). And, Both Gates & Zuckerberg attended exclusive, private secondary schools.

Now he’s back on the Forbes list with a $2 billion valuation with his 20% stake of Facebook as the company he founded accepts $200m from a Russian investment group.

With 300 million registered users (and adding millions every month), and the countless hours we spend on the site everday, Facebook’s monetization program might just prove highly successful.

Facebook has already overtaken YouTube as the 3rd most popular site on the web. It hit all the important milestones faster than any company before it. Facebook also launched a new real-time search engine, a clear jab at Google.

Facebook has always been in a position to take a lead in real-time and social search because of the sheer amount of data the site has collected about what people are doing, the things they’re interested in, and what their social graph looks like. Paul Buchheit, the founder of FriendFeed said the human link data at sites like Facebook “could ultimately be more valuable than the link data from the web” that Google’s search engine is based on – someone just needs to mine it.

Zuckerberg, an uber-geek has been described as being ‘oblivious’  and a ‘boy in the bubble’ by the Rolling Stones magazine. Regardless of what has been said, anyone who has met Venture Capitalists luminaries in pyjamas just because he could, and had “I’m CEO, B!tch” written on his business card, commands respects.

One thing that bugs me is the question of “how did Google let this happen (Facebook get away with it)?”. Google a company with the keys to the “library of Alexandria” and the ability to technically render “two Sat-Nav companies worthless” by providing their services FOR FREE. 

If Google couldn’t stop Facebook, who can?

The smart money is already betting that he is the next Bill Gates. History will look back and say: Gates and Microsoft revolutionized the way we use computers whilst Zuckerberg and Facebook revolutionized the way we social network. When Facebook goes public, it will be a big pay day for a lot of Facebook employees.

Can Facebook unseat Google as the new darling of Silicon Valley?

Perception, Persuasion, and Promotions in Media (Part 2): An inside look at how advertisers affect your buying decisions through media manipulation

•November 4, 2009 • 2 Comments

“Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they don’t need”

Will Rogers

The Case Study

The 1970s was host to a showdown. One with no romanticised Wild West connotations, but a competitive rivalry in the world of business. The participants were legendary direct marketer Lester Wunderman and Madison Avenue[1] firm McCann Erickson, and the reason was the Columbia Record Club account. Wunderman is widely considered the creator of modern-day direct marketing, and amongst his list of credentials are the advent of the magazine subscription card, the toll-free number and loyalty rewards. McCann Erickson has offices in over 130 countries and was named “Global Agency of the Year” in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Amongst its achievements is the now-famous Mastercard slogan “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s Mastercard”.

In the 1970s, as now, Columbia was one of the largest mail order clubs in the world, and from its inception in the 1950s to the showdown in the 1970s Wunderman presided over the advertising. This was set to change though, as Columbia decided to hire McCann to devise a series of television commercials to support the direct-marketing print ads that Wunderman was creating. While the idea itself was clearly beneficial, Wunderman took exception because he resented losing even a small part of the business to a competitior; understandable considering he had been in charge for twenty years. He also lacked the belief that McCann’s advertising would be productive and increase sales revenue, so to bring the issue to a head to proposed a test: Columbia should run his adverts in TV Guide and Parade magazine in twenty-six separate media markets across the USA, McCann would run its ‘awareness’ television commercials in thirteen of those while Wunderman ran his television commercials in the other thirteen. Whoever’s television appeals generated most awareness in response to the magazine adverts would be awarded the entire Columbia account – meaning if Wunderman lost, he would sacrifice not just the small percentage he was fighting for, but his entire stake. The results were tabulated a month later, and while McCann’s markets rose 19.5 per cent, Wunderman’s rocketed by eighty per cent. It was a landslide victory for the experienced advertiser.

Wunderman’s success was not merely because his adverts were better – in fact, they may not have been better at all. McCann took the usual routes of advertising and employed them well; he even outspent Wunderman four-to-one to ensure his commercials reached the widest possible audience. Wunderman, on the other hand, was aware that successful marketing is not just telling lots of people about your product, nor is it just making them want it: it is making them believe they need it. And so Wunderman devised his advertising campaign to exploit this and focused on reeling in consumers rather than offering them the product.

The real key to his success was a subtle form of persuasion to entice the public to put confidence in his advertising. The proverbial trick-up-the-sleeve, referred to by Wunderman as the “treasure hunt”, was a gold box. More specifically, every TV Guide and Parade advert contained a small gold box in the corner of the order coupon, and his firm followed this with a series of television commercials explaining the “secret of the Gold Box”: if viewers could find the gold box in their issues then they could write in the name of any record on the Columbia list and receive it for free. The fact that every issue had the gold box is irrelevant because the readers were not being cheated, they really did receive the records. Wunderman’s long time objective quelled any anxiety of taking an initial loss. By giving readers something for nothing, they jumped at the chance and made Wunderman’s campaign a success. As he put it himself, the gold box “made the reader/viewer part of an interactive advertising system. Viewers were not just an audience but had become participants. It was like playing a game. The effectiveness of the campaign was startling. In 1977, none of Columbia’s ads in its extensive magazine schedule had been profitable. In 1978, with Gold Box television support, every magazine on the schedule made a profit, an unprecedented turnaround.”

What the competition really shows is that the power of suggestion and persuasion is far superior to other methods. McCann, for instance, is a firm renowned for its creativity and it spent four times as much money on media time as Wunderman did – their adverts were on prime-time television, while Wunderman’s were on at times when most people were sleeping. McCann knew that a huge part of advertising was making your message reach as many people as possible and focused the campaign accordingly. Undeniably, their strategy far outdid that of Wunderman. Yet they lost spectacularly, because Wunderman’s campaign went beyond reaching a certain number of people – he made sure that the ones it did reach acted upon it. McCann made the message widely known, but that does not guarantee people will like it. Wunderman opted for the ‘quality over quantity’ technique; he was aware that reaching a million people will be useless and wasted money if only one per cent acted upon it, but reaching 100,000 people with an advert that will make the majority react will be far more successful.

The Takeaway

Reaching consumers is not the hard part for advertisers; even a small budget will allow the product or message to reach some degree of the population. The truly difficult part is creating an advert that will grab the attention of the potential consumer, and provide a message that they will remember and act upon. It is precisely for this reason that marketing strategists conduct mini-experiments with a test panel to determine what ideas resonate with the target market, although there are of course preconceived ideas about what makes a successful advert: humour, advanced graphics and/or celebrity endorsement.

As mentioned at the start of this article, a key part of advertising is the power of persuasion. A researcher’s ability to tap into the potential consumer’s psyche – without them being aware – can be the difference between success and failure. Proof of this is all around us, from how we respond to subconscious body language to the impact of campaigns. A prime example of this can be found in media moral panics, or warnings of an epidemic. The elements that make these things successful can be just as apparently trivial as Wunderman’s gold box. The psychologist Howard Levanthal conducted an experiment in the 1960s to see if he could persuade a group of college seniors of Yale University to voluntarily receive a tetanus vaccination. As John Hallward explains in his book Gimmel!: the human nature of successful marketing, ‘Levanthal wanted to study the effects of “high fear” versus “low fear” messages.’ The students were separated into two groups and each was given a booklet explaining the dangers of tetanus, how vaccination was important, and that free inoculations were being offered at the university’s health centre. The booklets were slightly different, with the ‘high fear’ one containing graphic images – including a child having a tetanus-induced seizure and victims with urinary catheters and nasal tubes – and highly-descriptive language to present tetanus in a very negative light, while the ‘low fear’ one lacked the pictures and descriptive language. Group one received the ‘high fear’ booklet while group two received the ‘low fear’ one. The aim of the study was simply to see whether the different presentations of the booklets impacted the students’ attitudes differently i.e. whether the ‘high fear’ message scared the students into getting vaccinated more than the ‘low fear’ one.

Predictably, the ‘high fear’ group one were much more convinced of the dangers tetanus presented and were accordingly more convinced of the necessity of vaccination. Despite this, however, just three per cent of the ‘high fear’ group were actually motivated enough to get an inoculation. This is the same figure as the ‘low fear’ group, showing no difference in the campaigns in terms of actual success, even though the ‘high fear’ group had higher awareness of the perils of tetanus than the ‘low fear’ group. So, then, for ninety-seven per cent of both groups the lessons (or fear) did not translate into action. For some reason, the contents of the experiment did not stick with the students.

In the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, the author describes the ‘Stickiness Factor’ as a thoroughly imperative factor for any successful campaign, and were we ignorant to its existence it would be all too easy to conclude that Levanthal’s booklet was not explaining tetanus properly. For instance, one might wonder whether attempting to scare the students was the appropriate course of action, whether there was a social stigma surrounding tetanus that persuaded the students to admit they were at risk, or maybe that the idea of an injection was scary. Whatever the reason may be, it would be a certain universal agreement that with only three per cent of each group receiving vaccinations there was a long way to go to increase the numbers.

Yet the ‘Stickiness Factor’ does offer an explanation quite different. This offering is that the booklet and experiment had nothing wrong with it per se, but rather it was just lacking its own gold box; the small feature that would take it from somewhat effective to totally successful. Indeed, when Levanthal repeated the experiment he included a small change: an inclusion of a map of the campus which clearly showed the health building circled, with a list of vaccination times. Levanthal’s own gold box increased the vaccination rate to a sizeable twenty-eight per cent. This small detail eradicated the possibility of students not getting vaccinated because they didn’t know where and when they could get inoculated.

Interestingly, the number of students who opted for a vaccination was equal in both the high and low fear groups, meaning that the differences in presentation of the booklets were irrelevant. The students, as seniors, were old enough to know the dangers of tetanus and that a vaccine existed; they did not need graphic pictures to encourage them to protect themselves. Moreover, they would have been at the university long enough to know where the health centre was located and most probably did not even use the included map. Therefore, the real reason for its success is most likely the simple fact that it was more personal. The fear and graphic imagery was fruitless, what the students really responded to was the knowledge of what time they could go to get a vaccination at a time suitable for them.  The addition of the map and timetable helped the students to plan their day, akin to a secretary handing the boss his daily schedule. Because we are bombarded daily with an onslaught of advertising messages we learn to filter them out, so the new presentation of the booklet made the students accept it as something to slot into their timetable. In this way, they were no longer feeling forced to visit the health centre, but made the choice to do so. Making them feel like they had the choice of whether or not to receive a vaccination made the booklet memorable, and that made it successful.

Yet another relevant example comes from the work of Dan Ariely, a visiting professor at MIT. An advert for subscription to The Economist offered three options: 1) a one-year subscription to all online content as far back as 1997, for $59; 2) a one year subscription to the print edition of The Economist for $125; and 3) a one-year subscription to both the print version and all online articles of The Economist as far back as 1997 for $125 – the same price as option two. When this was shown to 100 people, the majority wanted option three, the combo deal, and nobody wanted option two. So with that knowledge, option two was removed as it was considered pointless keeping it if no one wanted it. The adjusted offer was sent out to a further 100 students and this time the results differed: whereas previously option three was most popular and option one least popular, this time around the results reversed. So we can see, therefore, that option two did actually serve a purpose after all. The premise is that we are not fully aware of our preferences or what we want and as such are easily influenced. When the advert was sent out with only two options, people saw a cheap option and an expensive option. When all three options were offered, however, they saw a cheap option, an expensive option, and what they considered a bargain. Option two encouraged people to buy the combined subscription. This subtle difference accounted for thirty per cent in sales revenue, which means that advertisers can influence their revenue by clever marketing. In essence, then, what has been shown is that we are not totally in control of our opinions, but are very impressionable by external factors i.e. how something is presented drastically alters how we perceive it.

The lesson from these examples is universal to all advertising, and indeed all campaigns. That lesson is simple: it is not the amount of exposure a campaign or advert receives but how well it relates to its target audience. Nowadays, almost forty years on from Wunderman’s advertising campaign in question, we can see proof of this every day. The content of adverts are moving increasingly further away from the product they are trying to sell, instead using the principle of relating to something they feel is important to the target audience. This causes the advert to be memorable to the consumer, which in turn prompts them to buy the product. One example is how the adverts for facial products focus on the confidence levels of those who need them by saying those with clear skin are more confident and will be successful with the opposite sex. To the self-conscious adolescent, this will encourage them to buy the product.

Our capitalist society has reached such proportions that we are bombarded constantly by people or companies trying to convince us to spend our money on their product, be it a book or the latest technological innovation. The scale is so large that the past decade alone has seen a rise in television adverts from six to nine minutes, and continues to grow annually. The New York-based consultancy company Media Dynamics now estimates that the average American is exposed to 254 different commercial messages each and every day – a bombardment of various companies and individuals attempting to convince us we need their product. More alarming is the fact that this figure is a twenty-five per cent increase from the mid-1970s. This is easily fathomable though, because in the mid-1970s the primary mediums for advertising were magazines, television and radio. In the twenty-first century we now have literally millions of websites hosting adverts or producing pop-ups, cable systems offering over fifty channels of programming, the aforementioned increase in television advertising, and an almost overwhelming number of magazines – the numbers of which are increasing rapidly – each full of adverts and promotional information.

All of this increased advertising produces a problem for businesses; it is known as the ‘clutter problem’. This problem has, inevitably, made it increasingly hard for any single message to stand out amongst the others. With a seemingly infinite amount of adverts being thrown at us each and every day we are bound to switch off and it takes something very special to grab our attention. Coca-cola paid thirty-three million dollars to sponsor the 1992 Olympic games, yet only twelve per cent of television viewers were aware that they were the official Olympic soft drink. A further five per cent thought it was Pepsi who was sponsoring. In fact, one advertising research firm produced a study which discovered that when there are four or more different fifteen-second commercials in a two-and-a-half-minute timeframe, the effectiveness of any one of those commercials sinks to almost zero – making the time and money invested in it borderline wasted.

Yet the work of Levanthal and Wunderman has shown there are simple, cost-effective ways to enhance the effectiveness of adverts. This has been reinforced in another study, which took a large group of students for what they were told was a market research study by a company making high-tech headphones. Each student was given a pair of headphones and told the company merely wanted to test how well the headphones performed when in motion. Accordingly, one group was told to nod their heads vigorously, the second group was told to shake their heads, and the third group was told to remain still. Each group listened to songs by Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles followed by a radio editorial arguing that their university tuition fees should increase from $587 to $750. When this part of the experiment was complete, the students had to answer a short questionnaire. The questionnaire masked the true purpose of the study by asking questions about the sound quality of the songs and the effect the shaking had, if any. Tucked away innocently at the end of the questionnaire was the question the researchers were most interested in: ‘What do you feel would be an appropriate dollar amount for undergraduate tuition per year?’ Incredibly, the group who remained motionless felt that $582 was about right – a figure almost identical to the rate they currently paid, highlighting their neutrality. The group who had to shake their head vehemently disagreed with a proposed increase and felt it should fall to about $467 a year, while the group who nodded their head found the editorial proposing an increase very persuasive and wanted it to rise to an average of $646.

What the study shows clearly is that the subtle tactic of making the students move their heads – or remain still – triggered their response to the proposed tuition fee increase. The reason for this is very simple: we associate nodding our head with agreement and our tacit approval of something, while shaking our head shows discontent. Remaining still shows our opinion is rather flexible and we do not have strong opinions either in agreement or disagreement. Thus, the study proves once again that subtle persuasion is unsurpassable as a means of influencing behaviour.

According to Gladwell, another example of advertising prowess can be seen in ‘Market Mavens’. The word itself, Maven, derives from the Yiddish and describes a person who accumulates knowledge. Economists have spent much time in the past ten years studying Market Mavens for the obvious reason that the people with most information are most important to a marketplace. One example of this is supermarkets, or more specifically how supermarkets trick the buying public into thinking they have reduced their prices by advertising ‘Low Prices In Store’ when really the prices have not been adjusted at all. The only difference is that the featured product will appear more prominently within the shop, thus attracting more people’s attention to it. Research has shown that when supermarkets employ this technique the product sales increase drastically, in a similar scale to if they were genuinely on sale. The cleverness lies in the deception: whilst the product has not adjusted in price, the store has not explicitly said that it has either; rather, they merely advertised it was a low price. The public, however, invariably interpret this to mean lower price. Despite there being no outright lie involved, it is disturbing because the supermarkets are directly targeting our line of reasoning in that they know we, the buying public, are attracted to what we consider bargains. In this way, the supermarkets appeal to our materialistic side by indirectly tricking us. The disturbing part is that if we really fall for this as intended, there is no reason for supermarkets to ever lower their prices because the public will increase their profit margins by being lured by a sign declaring low prices. Of course, supermarkets, like most stores, do lower their prices and offer sale periods. One reason for this is undoubtedly because management does not want to take the risk that a customer will notice the prices have not been lowered and promptly tell all family and friends to avoid the store. These people are known as ‘price vigilantes’ or ‘Market Mavens’ and they are responsible for keeping the marketplace honest. Despite their existence, we can still see how the subtle persuasion techniques of an advert impacts on potential consumers: by offering us one thing but making us believe it is something else, we compliantly purchase. 

The common factor amongst the four examples in this study is that the success depended on subtle persuasion of the audience. Firstly, the audience was defined. Secondly, the message applied to them directly. The headphone study is perhaps most alarming however, as it shows that our decision making can be manipulated purely by how we connote things i.e. shaking our head during an advertisement makes us think of ‘no’ and thus our opinion is negative. There are clear implications of this for advertisers in that they now have field-tested evidence of how to improve their campaigns and drive up sales. The dream scenario has now been placed in front of marketers: they have direct knowledge of how to minimise expenditure while simultaneously maximising sales and profits.

Wunderman demonstrated that consumers like participation, while Levanthal showed they like a personal touch and clear instructions on how, where and when they can get the product in question. The supermarket sale offers highlight that we believe what we see – even though prices haven’t been lowered, we believe they have because we are told as much. Ariely’s work showed that presentation matters; our decision to buy or not buy can be essentially made for us depending on how the offer is presented. Finally, the headphone study showed our opinions can be moulded by merely associating positive, negative or neutral movements with an advert. Therefore, advertisers can limit advertising to their target audience and improve the odds of success by being as clear as possible to how the product is obtained and why they need it. They can also see that by offering participation success can be heightened further, and if they are able to create a situation like the headphone study whereby they have contact with their consumers then they can subconsciously persuade a sale.

In almost every industry there are accepted truths, or conventional wisdom that guide decisions and actions. And in almost every industry, including advertising, many practitioners and marketers are unwilling or unable to observe the world systematically because they are trapped by their beliefs. For example the gaming or casino industry is rife with conventional wisdom, some so widespread that it is known outside the industry as well. The common misconception is: casinos have to build ‘Las Vegas style’ theme parks filled with restaurants and entertainments in order to attract high rollers and punters. Data driven research has shown that it is simply not the case and profit margins can be maintained or even increased without such ‘lavish’ enticements.

In management, managers tend to espouse the virtue of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Research has shown that highly rated managers treat their subordinates individually and “do unto others as how they would like it” instead. To quote the author, “Everyone is an individual, and how I’d like to be treated or managed may not necessarily be the same for you or anyone else”

One deeply held belief in the advertising industry is that adverts have to be highly graphical in order to be visually engaging and effective. The findings from the Levanthal experiment proved that whatever extra persuasive muscle of high graphic adverts can be rendered virtually ineffective when other factors are taken into considerations. Another belief is that advertising on radio and television is among the best ways to build customer traffic and revenue, which often overlook other more effective methods such as digital signage and Transit-TV.

What has been demonstrated repeatedly is that ‘consumer/audience management’ is of paramount importance to advertisers. Evidently, such management of consumers is very easy and very effective, a seemingly foolproof measure to achieve success (if you know what you are doing). To paraphrase Professor Ariely, “…we wake up in the morning and we feel we make decisions, we decide what to wear, when we go shopping we think we decide what to do, when we see an advert we think we decide what to buy, in fact much of these decisions are not residing within us, they are residing in the person who designed the advert the person who designs the advert will have a huge influence on what we end up doing.”

Perhaps if Will Rogers was alive today he would have said “advertising is the science of convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they don’t need.”


[1] The term “Madison Avenue” is often used metonymically for advertising. The north-south avenue in the borough of Manhattan in NYC became identified with the advertising industry after the explosive growth in this area in the 1920s. Madison Avenue is the “Wall Street” of advertising.

An Open Letter from Asia Media

•October 18, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Dear Viewers,

Five years ago, two small businesses began trading. They were very much alike, these two businesses. Both became profitable, both offered quality products and both – as start-ups – were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.

Recently, these two businesses became aware of each other’s existence.

They were very remarkably similar. Both were operating in the same industry. Both had the same profit margins. And both, it turned out, offered an almost identical range of products and services.

But there was a difference. One of the companies had mediocre sales figures. The other was the market leader.

What Made The Difference

Have you ever wondered, as I have, what makes this kind of difference for businesses? It isn’t always management, leadership or customer service. It isn’t that one company wants success and the other doesn’t.

The difference lies in what each business knows and how it makes use of that knowledge.

And that is why I am writing to you and to businesses like yours about Asia Media TV. For that is the whole purpose of Asia Media TV: To give its viewers knowledge – knowledge that they can use in their buying decisions.

A Medium Unlike Any Other

You see, Asia Media TV is a unique medium. It’s the country’s largest and only Transit-TV available on most major transportion network. Each business day, it is viewed by thousands of your customers.

Each business day, Asia Media TV includes a broad range of information of interest and significance to business-minded people, no matter where it comes from. Not just entertainment and lifestyle, but anything and everything in the whole, fast-moving world of consumerism… Asia Media TV gives you all the publicity you need when you need it.

Knowledge is Power

Right now, I am watching Asia Media TV. It is shown in high quality audio-visual format in a captive environment onboard our public transportation system which gives the added benefit of close proximity to the market. Asia Media TV has the highest recall rate of any medium and combines mass market reach with cost effectiveness for any campaign.

Every category of TV is covered, from documentary, news, science to lifestyle, entertainment and comedy. 

Asia Media TV’s 3 Es – Educate, Entertain and Enrich

And there is programme after programme shown on Asia Media TV filled with fascinating and significant information that’s useful to you. A clip on best bargains in town helps you get the biggest bang for every buck. Promotions that help you become a smarter saver, and wiser spender. There are weekly programmes on sales, marketing, technology, regional developments. If you have never watched Asia Media TV, you cannot imagine how relevant it can be to you.

Much of the information that appears on Asia Media TV appears nowhere else. Asia Media TV is shown on thousands of screens across Malaysia, so that you reach out to the mass market.

Put our statements to the proof by promoting your company on Asia Media TV for 4 weeks. This is the shortest campaign term we recommend – and a perfect way to be seen by your customers. Or you may prefer to take advantage of a longer advertising campaign for greater savings: a six-month campaign

Simply email info(at)asiamedia.net.my and we will contact you and take care of the rest. Asia Media’s guarantee: Should Asia Media TV not measure up to your expectations, you may cancel this arrangement at any point with a 7-day notice and receive a refund for the unaired portion of your campaign.

If you feel as we do that this is a fair and reasonable proposition, then you will want to find out without delay if Asia Media TV can do for you what it has done for millions of our viewers and hundreds of our clients. So please register your interest now so we can begin serving you immediately.

About those two businesses I mentioned in the beginning of the letter: They started trading at the same time, operated in the same industry and together offered the same products and services. So what made the difference?

Sales and Brand Awareness. The knowledge and its application to achieve both…

An Investment in Success

I cannot promise you that success will be instantly yours if you start advertising on Asia Media TV. But I can guarantee that you will find Asia Media TV always interesting, always relevant, and always useful plus it will help raise your brand awareness and sales.

Sincerely yours,

Dato’ Ricky Wong

CEO

Asia Media Sdn Bhd

P.S. It’s important to note that your message on Asia Media TV is watched by over 500,000 viewers daily.”

Perception, Persuasion, and Politics in Media (Part 1): An inside look at how politicians can legally ‘rig’ elections through media manipulation

•October 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

It’s amazing I won. I was running against peace, prosperity, and incumbency.

George W. Bush, June 14, 2001,
speaking to Swedish Prime Minister Goran Perrson,
 unaware that a live television camera was still rolling

 

The Case Study

Making someone, or indeed something, persuasive is much more complex than it may initially seem. We know what appeals to us to make us align with someone, but we are not always aware what the ‘x factor’ they possess really is; in other words, we can warm to someone without fully understanding why. The following example, from psychological literature, sheds some light on the matter. During the American 1984 Presidential campaign between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale an experiment took place for eight days.  Lead researcher Brian Mullen, of Syracuse University, videotaped three national, nightly news broadcasts featuring news anchors Peter Jennings of ABC, Tom Brokaw of NBC and Dan Rather of CBS. Mullen viewed the tapes and excerpted every reference to both candidates, leaving him with thirty-seven segments of roughly two and a half seconds in length. A group of randomly selected participants then viewed the tapes with the volume muted so they were unaware of what the broadcast pertained, removing the chance of political bias. The participants were asked to rate the facial expressions of each news anchor on a 21-point scale, with the lowest number being “extremely negative” and the highest being “extremely positive”.

 The outcome proved enlightening. Dan Rather of CBS scored 10.46 and 10.37 when talking about Mondale and Reagan respectively, meaning his expression was perfectly neutral, offering no advocacy over one candidate or the other. Tom Brokaw of NBC scored 11.21 for Mondale and 11.50 for Reagan, making him slightly more positive for both than Rather but still remaining balanced for both. The enlightening part came when analysing the results of ABC’s Peter Jennings. His results showed him speaking more positively about Mondale than both his counterparts, at 13.38, but for Reagan he became so enthusiastic he scored a very high 17.44 – less than four points off the maximum. The study’s researcher Mullen acted in accordance with his scientific duty and tried to determine if there was an explanation for this beyond candidate bias, such as the possibility that he was just more animated and expressive than the other broadcasters. To conclude whether or not this was the case, the same participants were shown control segments from the same broadcasters as they spoke about a happy topic and a sad topic (namely, a medical breakthrough in treating a congenital disease and Indira Gandhi’s funeral respectively). Of Jennings, Brokaw and Rather, Jennings not only failed to score higher, but appeared to be the least expressive and by no means had a happy expression as his usual one. So much so that he scored only 14.13 for the story of the medical breakthrough, which was considerably lower than both other newscasters. Therefore, Mullen had no choice but to conclude that Jennings did, in fact, have “significant and noticeable bias in facial expression” when talking about Ronald Reagan.

 Of course, this information is useless by itself and so Mullen, along with his colleagues, needed to find a way to determine whether or not this facial bias actually impacted voting choices. Their method to do this was to phone people who regularly watched the evening news, in various cities all across the country, and enquire who they voted for. The results were quite remarkable: in every phone survey ABC viewers voted Reagan much more than those who watched CBS or NBC. For example, a full three-quarters of the Cleveland ABC watchers voted Reagan, compared to 61.9 per cent of CBS or NBC viewers; over 71 per cent of ABC viewers in Williamstown, Massachusetts, voted Reagan compared to just half of the other two networks; and in Erie, Pennsylvania, it was 73.7 per cent for Reagan and 50 per cent for Mondale. So not only did Jennings subtly influence voting behavior across the nation, but also in staggeringly similar numbers.

 Somewhat predictably, and no doubt but for the sake of its public image, ABC vehemently disputed the study, indeed the study researcher Mullen is quoted as saying “It’s my understanding that I’m the only social scientist to have the dubious distinction of being called a ‘jackass’ by Peter Jennings”. It is possible that Mullen’s conclusion got the cart before the horse, that rather than Jennings influencing viewers it is simply that Republicans watch a station that is more sympathetic to their party of choice, and rather than Jennings tempting over 70 per cent of viewers to vote a particular candidate, those 70+ per cent watch Jennings because they like his stance. Yet, as obviously plausible as this is, Mullen argued – with no short supply of likelihood – that it simply was not the case. To validate his claim, he referred to the fact that ABC was actually more hostile to Reagan than Mondale and so cannot be considered necessarily a pro-Republican station. Not leaving the issue there, four years later he proved his initial findings were not merely flukes, because when Bush was competing against Dukakis for Presidency Mullen repeated the experiment – with the same outcome. He said of this second experiment that “Jennings showed more smiles when referring to the Republican candidate than the Democrat” and that in another phone survey like before “viewers who watch Jennings were more likely to have voted for Bush”

Source: Adapted from: The Psychology of Consumer Behavior & The Tipping Point

The Takeaway

It is common knowledge that the media has a profound effect in shaping elections and some would argue it is a useful tool for social engineering. Yet despite knowing the effect exists, few know exactly how it works, except those with esoteric knowledge on the subject – and they are probably exploiting it already.  This research has direct implications on how a politician can leverage his position by specific manipulation of the media which can, in turn, have a profound subconscious effect on the choice of voters. Implicit in the above study is the view that if all newscasters covering politics just so much as only exude a positive expression regardless of what is being said when covering or discussing certain politicians, the perception will have a measurable effect come election time. This is subliminal persuasion to say the least, as what is being said is not as important as how it is being said – from a visual perspective that is. A positive slant can be obtained from a neutral or mildly negative story if it is delivered with enthusiasm or positivity, without viewers even consciously comprehending the effect.

 Assumptions

As Mullen showed, the independent variable is the facial expression of the newscaster, while the dependent variable is the perceived emotional content of expression i.e. positive or negative. The key word here is ‘perceived’.

Assumptions made in this study are therefore:

  1. Newscaster’s preference for a politician is positively correlated with his facial expression
  2. Viewers have not misread his expression i.e. if he came across as positive, that is because he is feeling positive, as opposed to appearing positive because his job essentially demands as much.
  3. Viewers who were exposed to positive facial expression of a newsreader covering a certain politician are much more likely to view that politician in the same light.
  4. Viewers who perceive a politician in a positive light are therefore more likely to vote for the same candidate come election time.

Each assumption is the sine qua non for the next (i.e. for b to be true a has to be true, for c to be true, b has to be true (so a has to be true as well) and so on)

Mullen et al. were careful to draw any conclusion as noted in their statement: “Jennings exhibited a significant and noticeable bias in facial expression toward Reagan” which neither gives away nor explicitly implies Jennings’s political preference.

Perhaps there is really only one way to confirm the above study and put it beyond any reasonable doubt: to look at Peter Jennings’ voting ballot. Since that is illegal, it seems that the only person that will ever know for sure is Peter Jennings himself.  However, t is unlikely for Jennings to ever reveal who he voted for for two reasons; a) this is a powerful knowledge to have (if confirmed) and b) the backlash for ABC and Jennings is unthinkable.

Implications

Mullen et al. found that people who watch Jennings were more likely to vote for Regan than people who watched Brokaw or Rather. Newscasters can have much more influence than they either believe or admit. Such findings are disturbing to say the least, for they purport that we are effectively governed by what we see. In everyday life, political discussions rarely lead to a changed opinion, and yet tacit, subconscious influences can have profound effects. To quote Mullen once more: “When people watch the news, they don’t intentionally filter biases out, or feel they have to argue against the expression of the newscaster…it’s much more subtle and for that reason much more insidious, and that much harder to insulate ourselves against.”

A second implication of these findings is that visual, nonverbal cues are equally, or more, important than verbal ones. As validated countless times by body language experts, how we conduct ourselves matters. This is further proven when we simply consider that Jennings did not litter his newscasts with pro-Reagan speeches – in fact, as mentioned previously, ABC was openly more hostile to the Republican party than NBC and CBS.

The third, final and arguably most important implication is that persuasion works in ways we often do not appreciate, or even understand. For instance, visual expressions of happiness such as smiles and nods are not subliminal, they are visible and apparent. However, they are very subtle and the way in which they are used gets processed in our subconscious and then relayed in our conscious with a message that such-and-such is good. In this instance, Jennings smiling each time he mentioned Reagan subtly influenced viewers to believe Reagan was a good choice to vote for. Yet, despite this link, no viewer would ever accept it is the reason they voted for Reagan; no, they would argue that they liked Reagan’s policies, or thought he was doing well so far or even his charisma, but never that they were influenced by a newsreaders smile. Yet it is very apparent that persuasiveness works beyond eloquence and choice of words; it works very well with subtle, nonverbal communication too.

 Recommendations

  • A politician seeking power will benefit from newsreaders displaying positive expressions when covering news pieces that relate to him or her.
  • To avoid accusations of a biased media, this strategy can be undertaken covertly (e.g. the director of the news company can encourage the ‘right’ newscaster to smile more often when covering a certain subject. That way, the newscaster does not even need to be aware of their own effect on viewers/voters). This will reduce any likelihood of the newscaster exposing the tactic at a later date.
  • When times are good, a politician in power can use this knowledge as a tool for gaining public approval for his agenda or pushing through his policies.
  • When times are bad, it can help with PR or falling popularity.

Discussion

A politician’s winning smile is often mentioned. The above study is clearly consistent with the disturbing possibility that a smile might be able to elect a president! Granted, that is farfetched even for the most naive wannabe believers. ‘Smiling’ alone may not elect a president, but when used in conjunction with many other media manipulation techniques, the outcome of an election can be all but certain.  

Below is just one of many examples on how clever media manipulation can be used for political gains. White (1972) described how Franklin Roosevelt cleverly removed Thomas E. Dewey from the stimulus situation for an evening during the 1944 presidential campaign. Roosevelt had reserved a fifteen-minute segment on NBC radio and Dewey subsequently reserved the following  fifteen-minute segment in order to capitalise on Roosevelt’s audience. However Roosevelt spoke only for fourteen of his allocated fifteen minutes and left the last minute completely silent. Reportedly, listeners across the country believed that the NBC network has gone off the air after the president’s speech and all of those listeners began scanning for other stations. As a result, the millions who had listened to Roosevelt a minute before were not listening when Dewey came on the air.

Although Roosevelt’s action had less to do with persuasion and more to do with underhand tactics, the results are equally profound as the public/voters were not aware that they were being ‘manipulated’.

For a more recent example on perception, persuasion and politics in media, consider Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. We have the benefit of a retrospective view on Obama as a politician, therefore it is vital to consider the following scenario from its given time frame of prior to the election. In October 2008, Wall Street Journal Online reported that Obama had made a decision not to sport an American flag pin on his lapel. When asked in an interview with KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Illinois senator said he stopped wearing the pin shortly after the attacks and instead hoped to show his patriotism by explaining his ideas to citizens:

The truth is that right after 9/11 I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security. I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest,  instead, I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testament to my patriotism. (Taranto WSJO)

During the campaign trail, Obama’s pastor, Rev Jeremiah Wright, gave a speech (later referred to as “God Damn America”) that was racially polarising and could easily spell the death blow for Obama’s White House aspirations. Rev Wright was alienating white voters (amongst many other anti-patriotic criticisms) with his rhetoric, and to the viewers and voters, Obama was guilty by association.  

This prompted Obama to issue a TV ad denouncing Wright’s statements. His “major speech on race” was also necessitated by the revelation that his “spiritual mentor” had among other things called on God to damn America. Critics noted that Obama “did the right thing”, that his TV ad statement and speech were well crafted and “did the job” considering the extent of the case, and the campaign’s aim of damage control.

Most people may not realise that Obama’s TV ad has the American flag carefully placed in shot, and he gave his “major speech on race” amid a row of eight American flags! They were placed directly behind him as he stood at the lectern. (This is perhaps the most liberal use of subtle tactics uncovered by Mullen.)

Critics were quick to notice it, with James Taranto of the WSJ noting:

…in light of his October comment, what are we to make of his extravagant use of the Stars and Stripes on Tuesday (Major Speech on Race)? If a flag pin on a lapel is “a substitute for true patriotism,” is that not also true of eight flags on a stage as a backdrop to a political speech? Obama proclaimed himself too good for cheap symbolism, but resorted to it the first time he faced a real crisis. Is he really any different from the run-of-the-mill politician?

In the context of this paper, a critical reader will not ask “what the flag symbolises” but rather “how such symbolism and visual aids can be used in media for the attainment of specific purposes”.

This is not to take anything away from Obama as a politician. But to ignore the impact of carefully crafted media images (i.e. images of Obama eloquently denouncing Wright against a backdrop of American flags beamed to millions of American voters) will be blatantly taking credit away from the media’s contribution to Obama’s campaign.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is no surprise that Obama’s campaign has successfully leveraged the power of media. It is also no secret that his campaign’s online media strategies – his personal website, Youtube channel and social networking site – were well crafted and credited for Obama’s election success. For further insurance, Obama’s camp had hired Facebook’s co-founder Chris Hughes to coordinate their online efforts.

This does not mean people such as Jennings, and the media as a collective, are unwitting tools in the political game. At least, not explicitly; they can be with the right circumstances. If a US politician aspiring to the highest office goes on national television and fails to name a Supreme Court case other than Roe v Wade, no amount of media persuasion or manipulation can save their political campaign. In fact, it will further speed up their political demise. Consider the following example: In the run up to the 2008 US presidential election, Republican vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin was ridiculed after her interviews with CBS’s Katie Couric.  In the interviews, the then Governor of Alaska appeared stumped by relatively easy questions regarding Supreme Court rulings and foreign policies. At one point, in response to Couric’s question: “…when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read..?”  Palin could not, or at least did not, even name one newspaper that she read.   

As one can imagine, when the interviews aired, the media had a field day at Palin’s expense. The key point here is not how Sarah Palin carved her own downfall by appearing incompetent or how Palin jokes making the rounds among newscasters and late night talk-show hosts were making her look bad; but rather the ‘message’ the newscasters have imprinted on their viewers.  A newscaster may be presenting news on the Grand Old Party as professionally as he possibly can, but his personal sense of disbelief, whilst irrelevant to the news, is somehow transported into the mind of viewers through the subtle, the hidden and the unspoken.

The fact that such a seemingly incompetent woman could one day be President of America should the Republicans win the election and anything happen to John McCain hit home to viewers, without the newscaster intending as much. Accordingly, Palin suddenly became the talking point of citizens who up until that point had little to no interest in politics. The ‘Jennings effect’ therefore can also work the other way round: negativity from a newsreader can cause disillusion with the party. 

A politician with such knowledge and the right skills can theoretically push the right buttons, tick the right boxes and win our votes. Isn’t that what a politician is supposed to do anyway? Isn’t that his job, to use the media and any available tool at his disposal to convince us? Yes, it is, just like it is a magician’s  job to convince us of the seemingly impossible.  It is one thing watching a magician perform and applauding him, but another to reveal the secrets to his tricks. In some ways, a politician is similar to a magician as they both have to perform in public, they both have to gain our approval to win us over, they both use perception and persuasion techniques and they both have to sometimes convince us against overwhelming odds.  The only difference is that when it is all said and done, when the performance is over a magician has no say over the forces that influence of our lives and country.

To take this crude analogy further, a street magician can use all the tricks up his sleeves to manipulate members of the public for good or bad intentions.  Moreover, there is absolutely nothing to stop these people using it for their own personal gains. We, the public, are aware of this and call them ‘conmen’ or ‘scam artists’. This is not to say that all street magicians are scam artists or that politicians have their own agendas; an overwhelming majority of them have good intentions and politicians are there to serve the public trust.

The premise of this paper is not to identify politicians with street magicians. Any criticism directed at such comparison is missing the point. It is one thing to watch a magician manipulate an audience, it is another to reveal the tricks, and yet entirely another to replicate it (perform it). Similarly it is one thing to watch Jennings on ABC news, another to be able to link viewers voting preference with his facial expressions, and yet entirely another to be able to methodise it and incorporate such methods to affect the outcome of an election.

Perhaps knowledge really is power. But the great Napoleon Hill once wrote that “Knowledge is only potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organised into definite plans of action and directed to a definite end.” [p 75 (2004) Think and Grow Rich]

And so, with the above information in mind, I propose the following questions to the reader:

As a voter,

  • How would you view the next political message you come across?
  • How would you analyse it or read into it?

As a politician,

  • How would you devise your next campaign?
  • How are you utilising the media to maximise the effectiveness of your message?

More importantly, what would one do with knowledge that can shape the outcome of an election? Is such knowledge applicable elsewhere? Is it already in use? Have I been affected by it? These are the questions that are central to the premise of this paper.

The methods discussed so far represent only the tip of the iceberg, the size of which remains undetermined. Therefore, in future, if a reader watches a political campaign and recalls the discussion and questions set forth earlier then, suffice to say, the author has achieved his original aim when he set out to write this article.

  Conclusion

In conclusion, consider the following fictional work by suspense author Robert Bloch. The story presents a nameless professor who has arranged a secret meeting with the head of the nation’s largest advertising firm.  The reason for the meeting is to propose a means of developing the most effective type of politician.

When I began to study these things you’ve mentioned – how people from the entertainment would have gradually infiltrated politics as advisors, producers, technicians; how they’ve tried to train our politicians and office holders to become like actors. And it occurred to me then- why not use actors?… You said yourself that almost any man who starts with a clean record and a noncommittal attitude can be built into a political figure by means of present-day psychological techniques. The trick is to teach him to speak, to handle himself properly when on public display. So why waste time on tired old men or egotistical prima donnas who can’t cope with their roles? If politics is show business, why not put the right actors into the parts to begin with? (Bloch, 1959, Show Biz p.66)

The notion is probably somewhat fanciful, but certainly interesting – that an effective politician could be produced merely by using an existing actor who knows how to “play to an audience”, as evidenced perhaps by Clint Eastwood becoming Mayor of Carmel in the 1980s. Or, maybe even Ronald Reagan’s rise to presidency.

As Bloch’s writing shows, it seems that reality can sometimes draw inspiration from fiction. Or is it the other way around?