(Quick review of this must read new book by By Professor Shoshana Zuboff)

You are living through a new type of capitalism – Surveillance Capitalism- that changes the rules of the game, needs to be understood in its own terms and controlled before it controls us.

Our “Data signals” (from services we choose to use like Google search, Google Maps and Facebook) will be just the tip of the iceberg. Surveillance Capitalists (SCs) will hoover up growing volumes of data from multiple sources: automated data embedded in the environment  and  things we own  like cars, home energy systems, mobiles devices and much more.

SCs will be powered by a confluence of technologies – cheaper and increased data storage, faster computer processing, ultra- fast 5 g networks (to link all those data signals from things together) and AI. If this seems alarmist, just think how fast the likes of Google, Facebook and WeChat have grown from being scrappy start-ups to corporate behemoths.

How to spot Surveillance Capitalists (SCs)

SCs “unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data which …are fabricated into prediction products that anticipates what you will do now, soon or later”

SCs revive “Karl Marx’s old image of capitalism as a vampire that feeds on labour, but with an unexpected turn, Instead of labour SCs feed on every aspect of human experience”

SCs are protected by “the inherent illegibility of the automated processes that they rule, the ignorance that they breed and the sense of inevitability that they foster “

SCs services do not “establish constructive producer consumer reciprocities. Instead they are ‘hooks’ that lure users into their extractive relations in which our personal experiences are scraped and packaged as the means to others ends”

SC’s know “everything about us, whereas their operations are designed to be unknowable to us. The accumulate vast domains of new knowledge from us, but not for us. They predict our futures for the sake of others gain, not ours.”

Which is quite a charge sheet. Add to this that SC’s pay as little tax as possible, whilst presenting themselves as brands that seek to “do well by doing good “(wearing a mask of Californian hippy idealism) and you have a toxic mix. Plus, recent PR has been terrible.

Zuboff’s book is the best so far about the real agenda of Big Tech. It provides an intellectual framework to develop well thought through regulation and is a call to arms to do so urgently.

also reviewed in The Guardian here

Scandal ! ( click/share), Shock ! (click/share), Outrage !!( click/share), Anger !**! (click/Share)

This is how Facebook grew its audience very fast and sold lots of ads over the past few years. It became, as the jargon has it, ” a publishing platform” and exercised the minimum possible control on what got posted lest it cool down all that profitable posting. I expect that Zuckerberg will still try to pull off this strategy in regions of the world where regulators & policymakers are not sharpening their pencils ( i.e. most of the world outside of USA and Europe). It is easy money.

Zuckerberg wanted all the revenue but little of the responsibility that came with being a publisher. Facebook now employs armies of people to check what goes up on its platform because, as we now know, he got into a lot of trouble for being so lax. But it won’t work: Facebook is now so huge this effort resembles the fabled king Cnut who went down to the beach and instructed the tide not to come it.

Facebook will continue to get into trouble

Facebook will continue to get into trouble, no matter how much tech’ and how many people are monitoring content. Zuckerberg will be dragged blinking into the spotlight and will look bad under scrutiny. High minded platitudes about “connectivity”, “community” and “free speech”, that play well in California, will look increasing empty.

Go WeChat

Facebook will shift focus from social networking amongst large groups of people to private messaging between individuals and small groups ( like Messenger, which it owns, and WeChat in China) for two big reasons

  1. Avoiding responsibility. Facebook cannot be held responsible for what is posted, (especially if it is encrypted and they cannot see it), just as BT cannot be held responsible for people making abusive phone calls to each other or scamming.
  2. Generational change. My children rarely use Facebook and prefer messaging between small groups and individuals. It is the way things are going

How will Facebook make money ? 

Private messaging is largely incompatible with being interrupted by ads. So, expect Facebook to evolve into a kind of all purpose utility – making money from e-commerce and financial services. Facebook will innovate and buy up companies in these areas.

Zuckerberg does not have to imagine what this will look like, as WeChat got there a few years ago – this vid, which is worth a view, explains how. Posted in 2016 it is probably already out of date

 

 

 

A show all marketers should see is Martin Parr’s photos at the National Portrait Gallery

If only to see the original artwork for the excellent “Oneness” idents for BBC 1, a  fine example of that classic thing – a great creative idea executed in a fresh way.

The idea – like the best ideas – is uplifting and inspiring. “Oneness” is about the joy of  getting together with like minded souls who share the same passions,  and how this dissolves differences between people through shared experiences and common humanity. It is also an timely idea- a big spirited riposte to the narrow mindedness engendered by Brexit

But there is another lesson. It is difficult to create something fresh and distinctive by sitting in your London office and just doing data analytics.  Martin Parr travels all round Britain looking, really looking hard, and capturing the sheer diversity and quirkiness of people.

We used to call this “insight”. A vital stimulus to ideas that I fear might not come from staring at a screen.

Don’t get me wrong. I used to work at Google and I know how rich data analytics can be. But if everyone is using the same data to “optimise their message” then all the work will start to look similar.

Parr’s work for BBC 1 is a reminder of what you have to do to be fresh and different.

Get out of the office and look really hard at people and how they live

 

What do all the following have in common ?

Love it or hate it (Marmite)

Probably the best lager in the world (Carlsberg)

and this famous ad for VW:

download

They are all highly successful examples of the pratfall effect   

which is this:-

Displaying weakness increases empathy and like-ability.

Imperfection and making mistakes are the stuff of our daily lives – and so we are more likely to identify with the person or brand that says, well, I am prone to error too.

The real-life sense of contingency in the word “probably” makes Carlsberg’s line effective. If the line had been -” The best lager in the world” that would be  merely boastful and unrealistic – the sort of thing that a pompous corporation might say rather than  tongue in cheek line that you might hear in a bar

Perhaps some errors are too big to admit, which might explain why Tony Blair won’t do so about WMD and the Iraq war. His god complex stops him from doing so. He is never never wrong. (Nor is Jeremy Corbyn – another man with a god complex)

But it might also explain why people are not prepared to listen to Blair about Brexit – even though he is the most coherent politician on the topic I have heard so far.

 

 

 

I have spent about a decade working on the application of BE to behaviour change/running courses on it ( since doing work for UK govt via the late lamented COI). This piece (published first in Aurora) offers a basic briefing on its application to communications.

Key thought in a 100 words or less: we delude ourselves, because we are able to develop verbal arguments, that we are mainly rational/considered in our decision making. Yet much of our thinking is fast, instinctive and informed by visuals rather than words. You can see the results everywhere- not least in the high value that brands place on developing instantly recognisable visuals (The insurance market is probably the most extreme example).

For practitioners (rather than academics) I have two must read book recommendations :- 1) Decoded by Phil Barden and 2) The Choice Factory by Richard Shotton ( the first of these has the best summary I have read of Daniel Kahneman great book Thinking Fast and Slow

page 36page 37

 

 

Programatic trading of media is clever automated technology that is spawning (AI enabled) services which will automate the creation of ad messages as well – more efficiency and cost reduction then. (This does not matter a lot as most ads- online- are fairly formulaic response/offer type stuff already)

But Programatic also attacks one of our most important beliefs in brand building – that it matters where you are seen not just what you have to say.

Stripping communication of its context is not good from a psychological point of view – we know that the human brain has evolved to notice context ( see Kahneman et al). Indeed all judgements that we make about people and brands are contextual.

Brands are now being drawn (by the lure of cost effective sales) into an online version selling out of the back of  a van on a rainy trading estate. What to do ?

Well two answers

-When buying programmatic, cost effectiveness can’t be the only metric – a smarter programmatic is needed that controls for quality too. Brands need to demand this – and not merely the reassurance that they will not appear in some tawdry click baity site ( or worse)

-Control your own context by becoming a publisher online. This difficult for brands and not for everyone. This piece (just published  in Aurora) explores how, why it is difficult and some of the insights into how to do it well from a really useful new book by Laz Dzamic ( declaration of interest- i worked with him at Google)

 

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