Kansas, Or A Seattle Suburb?
With the right spin-meister the most rotten of us can smell like a rose
He too believes it's no longer possible for corporate players to get by without the hottest spin doctor in town. "Without question the importance of good marketing has increased dramatically. I don't know about celebrities, but spin is particularly vital for companies, especially listed companies. Journos wield enormous power, and have to be engaged with professionally.
"High-level executives often lose objectivity about how a company is perceived. If you don't have good taste, it's sensible to hire an interior designer. Similarly, entrenched executives need to hire external communication advisers."
He says that Australia hasn't seen the extent of super spin doctors he encountered in Britain, the darkly charismatic control freaks who rule the world.
Coming to a marketer near you: Brain scanning
"We can't read your mind, I assure you," said A.K. Pradeep, chief executive of NeuroFocus. But his Berkeley firm can do the next best thing - scan your brain to map the electrochemical spikes thought to signify attention, emotion and memory.
"This is the next generation in market research," said Hans Lee, chief technology officer for EmSense Corp. The San Francisco startup also is using electro encephalograph, or EEG, technology to correlate brain activity with physiological cues such as skin temperature or eye movement to gauge how people react to ads, computer games, even presidential candidates.
EmSense and NeuroFocus are leaders in neuro-marketing, a field that aspires to create objective measures of the effectiveness of the $149 billion that U.S. firms spent last year on advertising, according to TNS Media Intelligence, to reach 300 million Americans.
UC Berkeley neuroscientist Robert Knight, a scientific adviser to NeuroFocus, said neuro-marketing has arisen at the confluence of three trends: a better understanding of the regions of the brain; precise sensors to measure when, say, the memory center is active; and software to infer from these telltale signs whether a given message resonated with men or women of different ages.
"Neuroscience today is where physics was at the turn of the last century," Knight said. "We've had the groundbreaking thoughts and theories. Now we are measuring and testing."
Science laid the foundation for neuro-marketing by studying conditions such as attention deficit disorder, which taught researchers how to recognize the electrical signals of alertness, and Alzheimer's disease, which required an understanding of how we form memories. Such studies have revealed which areas of the brain become active when we see a tiger leap across a screen or watch a baby smile - signals captured using instruments such as sensitive EEGs.
Mall of the mind
He understands that the unique contribution of TV to advertising is its prodigious ability to communicate not simply information about a product but also fantasies about consumers and how they choose to live. It's where so much of his comedy comes from, after all.