Deep Learning Aims to Upgrade Your Smartphone’s Brain

The advertising world loves big, shiny, techy things. Agency and client ears perk right up when they hear about virtual reality kiosks, gadget-filled activations and holograms of dead rock stars. But then there are the tech innovations that sound a bit, or a lot, less sexy. Things like deep learning.

Deep learning is a subset of machine learning that essentially teaches computers to find patterns in sounds, images and other data. And while that may not seem like much fun to your average social marketer or copywriter, the tech giantsthe Facebooks, Apples, Googles, Netflixes, Microsofts and Baidus of the worldare investing massive sums of money in it. For instance, Google reportedly spent more than $500 million to acquire deep learning firm DeepMind in 2014. Baidu, the Chinese smartphone giant, runs deep learning and artificial intelligence-centric R&D centers in Silicon Valley and Beijing. Apple hires deep learning experts at fever pitch.

Why the frenzy? Deep learning technology lets you unlock your phone with your thumbprint. It enables Facebook and government agencies to identify your face in pictures. And it helps Siri and Alexa understand just what the hell you’re saying. Advertisers are experimenting with using deep learning to count how many passersby stare at billboards. The self-driving cars that we’re told are just around the corner rely on deep learning to avoid hitting other cars. Or people.

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A Week In Advertising’s Double-Edge Sword Of Gender Equality

The brand and ad work around International Women’s Day and an industry confronting its own demons.

The newest ad in The New York Times‘ award-winning “The Truth is Hard” campaign launched this week, featuring headlines from global women’s rights stories, and in its own description, “elevating women’s voices and exposing those who would otherwise silence them.” It’s another powerful spot from a pretty flawless campaign. And yet, it was created by agency Droga5, which in February was forced to fire its longtime chief creative officer Ted Royer, citing the need for a “safe and inclusive work environment.”

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Why have Facebook CPMs increased by 110%?

As it stands, Facebook’s ad supply is outweighing the demand, impacting advertising costs as well as user behaviour on the platform.

In other words, while ad spend is increasing rapidly (spend more than doubled in the first half of 2017 alone according to Adstage data), the number of ad impressions available remains level.  This means that advertisers are currently paying more for the same number of impressions.  So what’s actually been happening to prices on the platform?

Research by Adstage analysing more than 1.7 billion ad impressions across Facebook, Instagram and the Audience Network has shown the average cost per thousand (CPM) increased by 110% in 2017.  The average cost per click (CPC) also increased 109% to $0.54.

While CPMs and CPCs are on the rise, click-through rate (CTR) is flat, so it’s costing marketers more to maintain the same CTR month-on-month.

The main factors causing higher Facebook CPMs are:

  • The number of advertisers on Facebook, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, is growing rapidly based on Adstage data.
  • Advertisers are increasing social media budgets to remain competitive. In 2017, 73% of advertisers increased spend on Facebook according to a survey carried out by Hanapin Marketing.

Other factors which may be playing a part in boosting advertising prices:

  • The growing popularity of video ads combined with the fact that advertisers are willing to pay more for these types of ads. In fact, video is taking over across the board with IAB’s latest report showing online video spend has overtaken spend on banner ads for the first time!
  • Algorithm changes impacting user behaviour has led to people spending less time on the platform. 2017 saw a 5% drop in the number of time users spent on Facebook, according to Adstage data.
  • The first-ever decline in Facebook daily users of 1 million was seen last year in the US and Canada.

Adstage also revealed that the number of advertisers active on Facebook reached more than 6 million by the end of 2017, gaining two million within one year.  This growth is showing no signs of slowing, as this is only 9% of the 65 million businesses on Facebook.

Interestingly, it’s particularly smaller brands turning to the platform.  Perhaps because Facebook is so accessible, cost-effective and straightforward to set up.  In other words, many businesses will be able to use current assets on the platform and already be very familiar with it (seriously, who isn’t?).

Touching on the changes in user behaviour mentioned earlier, it’s also recently come to light that websites have seen a significant fall in traffic from Facebook.  Statista shared the below based on Shareaholics’ report:

Over the past ten years or more, Facebook has become one of the main sources of traffic for many websites and even been a bigger driver of traffic than Google for some, as pointed out by Statista.

However, Facebook referrals as a percentage of overall traffic fell 12.7% in 2017.  This trend is likely to be due to changes in the way users behave on the platform with them posting less as well as spending less time on Facebook.

This, together with the most recent news feed changes pushing content from friends and family, as opposed to brands and businesses, means the decline in Facebook traffic to sites may well continue.  Although, a decline for Facebook sees a rise for Pinterest and Instagram…watch this space!

So as Facebook’s ad auction remains very competitive, it’s suspected that more and more advertisers will turn to Instagram to drive conversions and even Messenger ads too.  Nevertheless, one thing’s for sure, the growing number of Facebook’s advertisers and ad costs is not slowing down yet!

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Google is selling Zagat to a restaurant review company

The search giant bought Zagat seven years ago for $151 million. Since then it’s integrated Zagat’s listings and ratings into Google Maps, while letting Zagat’s website and publications be outdone by other restaurant review companies. Now, Google thinks it has gotten all the use out of Zagat it can and is selling the brand to …

The search giant bought Zagat seven years ago for $151 million. Since then it’s integrated Zagat’s listings and ratings into Google Maps, while letting Zagat’s website and publications be outdone by other restaurant review companies. Now, Google thinks it has gotten all the use out of Zagat it can and is selling the brand to The Infatuation, a nine-year-old restaurant review company, reports the New York Times. In a statement, Jen Fitzpatrick, a vice president of product and engineering at Google, said:

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Luxury brands or luxury blands?

Something very disturbing happened last week. I was in a dentist’s waiting room flicking through a copy of Vogue. Without thinking I put it back on the table and started reading Golf Digest instead, but this type of behaviour is very unusual for me. So why did this happen?

The immediately obvious answer: Vogue is boring. Or, at least the first twenty pages are. As the clearly labelled tin suggests, Vogue simply presents the current prevailing styles and fashion. It is not a literary classic. But I am someone who loves fashion, and I am eminently stylish (winky face in tow). So Vogue, and for that matter any other vehicle for advertising luxury brands like it, should appeal to me. I therefore decided to undertake a little research project to explore this incident in more detail. Here’s what I found.

Question 1: why are luxury brand advertising campaigns (LBACs) currently so lifeless?

Same-same, but not different. LBACs have become indistinguishable and entirely interchangeable. Some of the most revered establishments – the Guccis, Pradas, and Diors – no longer have clearly identifiable brands. In fact, if you were to replace the logo on almost any one of the current LBACs with that of a competing brand, it would require a very discerning eye (perhaps the sort that gets paid to authenticate artwork) to notice that something was out of place.

The human clothes horse project. Models are simply being used by luxury brands to hang their products off. The mannequin model method (or as I like to call it, ‘mmm’) of advertising is monotonous.

The superiority complex. Luxury brands are, to my mind, overly fixated on a sterile suavity and sophistication they think their high-society clients embody. But – and it is an important ‘but’, much more so than those of our mannequin models – it must be remembered that consumers at the very top of the ‘spending’ spectrum (and all of us, for that matter) are human and subject to everything that comes with it. For richer or poorer, the consumer is an emotional beast.

The emotional void. And this is the point. LBACs are not establishing an emotional connection with the consumer. It seems to me that they are giving very little consideration to the power of meaningful messaging. There are some people that would find this argument astonishing. They would say to me that luxury brands trade only in the purely superficial and it is unrealistic for me to expect something deeper than that. But, those of us who know and love the industry understand that it can and should mean much more.

A useful illustration of this argument is Dior’s campaign with Jennifer Lawrence. Search ‘Jennifer Lawrence – Dior’ in Google Images and then search ‘Jennifer Lawrence – emotions’. The contrast is staggering. The latter shows her to be, as if we didn’t already know, an utterly compelling character stuffed to the hilt with emotional possibilities. But, she has been presented by Dior, as far as I can see, like all other models. She has been dulled to the extreme and drained of her clearly abundant feeling.

Question 2: how can LBACs reinvigorate themselves?

Break the… in fact, forget moulds entirely. When I say forget the mould, don’t forget your brand’s raison d’être or product. That would be disastrous. What I mean is that you should not take your lead from other sterile LBACs. This seems to be the convention at present. Of course you will be aware of others’ campaigns, but when you start the creative process, don’t let this be your benchmark. Dig deep – very deep if need be – for novel, different, inspiring ideas; wrapping the product in emotional values. If your own brand identity is clear and simple, the scope for creativity arising out of it should be limitless.

The hidden depths. Luxury brands are in the luxurious position, inevitably, of being able to work with celebrities who have done and achieved wonderful things in their careers. Jennifer Lawrence, to use the same example, is an Academy Award-winning actress and now counted amongst Time’s 100 most influential people. Aside from her beauty, these are obviously reasons why she was chosen by Dior, but does that richness of her character and her almost iconic status come out in the campaign? Sadly for me it does not. Luxury brands must do their utmost, without being too brazen, to make sure the depth of their campaigns are fully understood by the consumer.

Make me feel. “Emotion drives most, if not all, our decisions”¹. LBACs must therefore at least try to make an emotional connection with the consumer. This doesn’t require over-sentimentality. Far from it. To be effective it simply requires the campaign to convey something which is human and meaningful. And far from being something to fear, the genuine exploration of an emotional angle (albeit not a very British behaviour) is likely to open up even more creative opportunities.

One such luxury brand which has been successful in making an emotional connection is Patek Philippe. Their campaigns heavily feature the image of two generations within a family alongside the brand’s well-known tagline: “you never actually own a Patek Phillipe, you merely look after it for the next generation”. This is effective because:

  1. It is different to competing companies who invariably opt for the simple watch-wearing celebrity campaign
  2. It implies that owning this extraordinarily expensive watch is not about vanity; it is about heritage. You have become a custodian of a special tradition
  3. It resonates with people’s family values
  4. It still oozes the sophistication that is a prerequisite for all those who can afford a Patek Philippe

And so, to draw my thoughts to an end, it is obvious that luxury brands have to maintain extremely high levels of refinement and elegance in all that they say and do. That is the nature of their industry, but the basic principles of advertising apply universally. And the fundamental rule that at the heart of advertising lies the heart of the consumer is one that luxury brands must not forget.

That is not to say that the task of achieving (or balancing) both sophistication and a meaningful emotional connection is an easy one. Quite the opposite. It is an unenviable task. But it’s not an impossible one. And in the current saturated luxury marketplace it is a critical one. Not least because, if undertaken successfully, it will happily mark the end of the era for the luxury blands.

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[1] Scott Badbury, Nike and Starbucks. ‘What great brands do

Is the right side of our brain really more creative than the left?

Be it through linguistic exploration, visual interpretation, the usage of differing media, or a combination of these approaches. This got us thinking about how the brain processes these differing influences, and spurred by a conversation at BEAR HQ about the notion of left-brain and right-brain dominance and its relationship to creativity, we did some research into whether this concept stands up under scrutiny…

Like the study of physiognomy in the Renaissance and its evolution into phrenology and various sub-branches of comparative anthropology, scientists, writers, sociologists, and even lawmakers have sought to equate and predict our personality traits based upon our physical appearance. Though not as immediately observable as the shape of your nose or the distance between your eyes, the notion of a left-brain or right-brain dominance in people as indicative of personality traits, skills, and differences of interaction within the world could be seen to follow this historic line of thinking.

How did scientists first learn of this supposed propensity for the hemispheres of the brain to process information in differing ways?

Discovered during the 1970s in the treatment of severe epileptics, neurobiologist Roger Sperry, who, in cutting the neural pathways between the left and right sides of the brain effectively split the brain of his patients into two. The goal of this pretty absolute and severe treatment was to quell the excess of electrical activity that triggers the seizures.

line drawing of human brain on yellow background

Through the conducting of various experiments that relied on both lingual and spatial cues, he discovered the brain’s hemispheres operate with a separate consciousness and can process information independently of each other, even when there are no neural connections between the two hemispheres. His ‘split brain’ subjects’ results showed that the ability to process language resides in the left hemisphere, and spatial in the right.

From Sperry’s initial findings, a type of pop-psychology grew… (what some scientists would refer to as ‘woo’) ascribing the differing and opposing traits to the left and right brains – a dichotomy. The left was considered the seat of critical thinking, fine mathematical skills, language, and reason. Whereas, the right was the seat of visual-spatial processing, facial recognition, music, the recognition of emotions, and intuitive reason.

That is why it was assumed that left-handed people (and thereby right-brain dominant) are more inclined to be creative, more empathetic, and have a propensity to learning problems like dyscalculia and dyslexia. Whereas, someone who is right-handed and left-brain dominant would be logical, critical, and have better literacy and numeracy skills. However, it cannot be as simple as this, as traits such as creativity are found in both left- and right-handers.

Much like phrenology before it, the left-brain/right-brain dominance concept has been almost entirely discredited.

Our left and right brains work together complementing the processing of information, best explained by Carl Zimmer in Discover magazine, May 2009.

”No matter how lateralised the brain can get though, the two sides still work together. The pop psychology notion of a left brain and a right brain doesn’t capture their intimate working relationship. The left hemisphere specialises in picking out the sounds that form words and working out the syntax of the words, for example, but it does not have a monopoly on language processing. The right hemisphere is actually more sensitive to the emotional features of language, tuning in to the slow rhythms of speech that carry intonation and stress.”

Our brain’s hemispheres have the ability to independently and concurrently process information, and Zimmer outlines in his article that perhaps this dominance can switch – much like how breathing through our nostrils alternates between left and right.

Every time anyone takes this online test, for example, we get a differing result stating the particular dominance of either our left or right brain. It is not that our brains have fundamentally changed, but it is the way we perceive the information that is changing, and this can be influenced by many external and internal factors – for example: is the room noisy, are we hungry or tired, have we just been involved in an activity that requires mathematical skills?

It takes both the left and right sides of the brain to process the information that we get from the world, solve a problem, draw a picture, and understand language.

A person’s handedness isn’t necessarily going to automatically denote them more creative than someone who has the opposite handedness. However, this concept does make for neat shorthand and has helped to sell countless self-help books, online courses, and brain-training apps. Even here at BEAR our creative team regularly has a ‘right-brain breakfast’ to discuss and explore cultural and creative concepts outside the bounds of client briefs and current live projects.

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