The Automation Touch

A lot of people understand the brand building value of the human touch; how refreshing it is to talk to a real person, how nice it is when a service employee goes above and beyond to help you with your situation, how human it feels to be addressed by your first name.

But hiring people is expensive. People can’t consistently work twenty four hour days. They require things like clean restrooms and medical plans. And so management searches out automated solutions to drive costs down. And we lose the human touch.

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

Unfortunately, few people talk about the Automation Touch. The Automation Touch can be hamfistedly clunky. In trying to be personal, it can come off as transparently cloying. And sometimes, the Automation Touch can be just as costly. That’s probably what the management at this erstwhile-global outfit are feeling about now…

Happy Friday.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Google’s Own Search Results: Book Smart ≠ Job Smart

This morning, my LinkedIn feed presented a condensed version of an interview with Google’s Laszlo Bock, their SVP of People Operations.  Among other topics like  big data and predictability, Laszlo dropped this little mind bomb:

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising“One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all…Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore… We found that they don’t predict anything. What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college.”

He goes on to talk about the artificial academic environment:

“One of my own frustrations when I was in college and grad school is that you knew the professor was looking for a specific answer. You could figure that out, but it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer. You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.”

Boy is that the truth–the most valuable people in any advertising agency are those who love figuring things out when there are no obvious answers. And anymore, there are no obvious answers though some like to pretend there are, mostly to hold on to their hard earned profit structures.

Life isn’t true or false, it’s multiple choice. Actually, it’s nearly infinite choice. And in this modern era, when those choices have expanded exponentially and more critically, when the exponential multitude of those choices is more palpable than ever, we can become paralyzed, or at least insecure. The annoying but accurate acronym FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is a very real, social media-fueled phenomenon that most of us have felt at least a twinge of at one time or another.

But that is the world we live in. Which despite the skyrocketing cost of college tuition, is one reason why a soft, unsaleable liberal arts education may be the best gift to young minds. It won’t promise answers, but it should help teach you to think. And that’s a start.

You can find Adam Bryant’s full Interview here.

 By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Um, Men’s Wearhouse? You Just Fired Your Only Asset

Not being one to wear tone on tone ties or burgundy shirts with black suits, I don’t spend a lot of time in Men’s Wearhouse. But I had a last minute need out of town once and was pretty impressed by their service. That said, yesterday’s news that they fired their founder and spokesman George Zimmer is astounding.

Apparently, despite a recent company announcement that profits were up an incredible 23%, the board recognized George’s audacious continuation to age. And at sixty four years old, their infinite wisdom deemed him irrelevant in their pursuit of young Millennials. One pundit claimed “An old guy with a gray beard may not provide credibility to the product in the eyes of a 22 or 24 year old.”Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

Indeed. That could never work to drive a brand to relevance and interest, right Dos Equis?

On the upside, this could be an opportunity to energize the brand with aggressive and compelling new advertising… It could be a time to create new relevance with a new voice and look… This could unshackle the brand and allows it to soar to new, unimagined heights for men’s retail…

So why does it feel so inevitable that we’ll soon be seeing some pretty forgettable men’s fashion advertising?

Goodbye George, it was nice knowing you. Say, would you be open to voiceover work?

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


“Rectal Hyperthermia”? What Are You Trying To Tell Me, Facebook?

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, Olson

About a month ago, a survey fielded by those nonstop pollsters at YouGov, revealed that in the past twelve months, usage of Facebook by Britain’s online audience has dropped a full 9%. Advertisers play a considerable role in that, with a full 23% citing ‘fed up with social marketing promotions’ as their reason for cutting back. The social network peaked in the UK with 30 million visitors in October 2012, dropping to 27 million this past March. Those have to be worrisome numbers, even to the notoriously cavalier Mark Zuckerberg…

This morning, I had one of those ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ moments of my own, courtesy of Facebook and their “Sponsored” posts. To the left, you’ll see a remarkable product that apparently middle-aged men really need for this constipation and ‘hemroids’ (sic): the Rectal Hyperthermia. Despite its stated aim of ‘enhanced natural healing’ for those suffering from problems with their back end, this is a truly terrifying product. Oh sure, they claim it also provides “pain relief in the back, shoulder, knees and other joints and muscles.  It also provides fast relief from stomach ache, menstrual cramps (usually in less than an hour almost always), tooth pain and migraine” but you don’t name a product “Rectal Hyperthermia” then expect to use it to treat knee pain.

Clearly, this must some bogus, offshore snake oil scam (Notice the syntax of the parenthetical above where they claim both to ‘usually’ and ‘almost always’ treat cramps in less than an hour? That’s classic ‘English-as-a-second-language’ writing.). And yet Facebook considered this advertiser worthy of highlighting in my wall with their increasingly omnipresent Sponsored Posts, clearly believing I represent the perfect demographic for this portable, carbon fiber far-infrared technology. And all for just $350.

I think the Brits are on to something…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Indignant, Appalled, and Pig Biting Mad

Anger is an ugly emotion. Even when it’s totally justified, it’s naked expression can be repelling, or at least highly off-putting. Moments of my own unrestrained anger make me cringe at their recollection…

Which is why I wouldn’t think I’d find this clip so compelling, but I definitely do. This is Lieutenant General David Morrison, Chief of the Australian Army. He is outraged. And it is beautiful to see.

Morrison is furious about a scandal involving seventeen army men, some officers of considerable rank, who are being investigated for creating and sharing “explicit and profane” emails that are demeaning to women. These allegations center around the kind of behavior that begins to form a culture of intimidation–nothing anywhere nearly as serious as the endless string of assaults and systemic cultures of rape that have festered in a few ugly corners of our military. Yet he doesn’t softpedal or downplay the charges. He resets expectations, then demands they be met. “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” That’s so true it hurts.

Morrison’s unblinking, clenched-teeth delivery sounds nothing like our endless stream of prevaricating American political weasels or PR spindoctors–it sounds more like Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan.

And in times of great moral crisis, that’s beautiful.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


They Can’t Be Loving This…

I like art. I don’t pretend to always understand it, but it’s fun to experience something that changes the way you view the world…or even think of it.

And then there’s these guys: British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman who are staging their first show in Hong Kong with their hyper detailed sculptural piece de resistance “The Sum of all Evil.”

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

I wasn’t familiar with their previous work but apparently “Hell” is a big theme with them. This is only the latest in a series of massive dioramas they have painstakingly created: a vision of violence, war, the holocaust and–eye-catchingly–Ronald McDonald. Find more happy, feel-good imagery at the gallery’s website here.

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

I’m sure this is a metaphor about mass consumerism; all that death and destruction staged with tiny Nazi, skeleton and corpse models. If you look closely, you can even see the Hamburglar amidst all the crucified Ronalds and mass graves. Everyone needs a hobby, but man, this is nothing so much as a testament to the power of caffeine and keenly-focused rage. Personally, I have a hard time summoning such anger over a Filet-o-Fish, but then, I’m not an artist. I’m in advertising. Which I guess makes me a target of the Chapman brothers.

The irony of course is that these YBA’s–Young British Artists–were discovered seven years ago by none other than Charles Saatchi. Yes, of this Saatchi.  Lovely job there Chuck. Nice work.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

As A Diabetic, Can’t I Sue Someone Over This?

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonSo apparently, anyone lucky enough to have attended the San Diego County Fair this past weekend experienced the latest breakthrough from the food development team at Krispy Kreme. At least I think they are food scientists: from the look of their latest creation, they well may be pulmonary assassins on some corporate mission to eradicate non-clogged auricles and ventricles.

Whatever their mission, they introduced a deep-fried beef ball at the Chicken Charlie’s food stand this past Saturday. Their innovation amounted to a glazed donut bun filled with Sloppy Joe meat and cheddar cheese. You read that right. And yes, I can hear you occluding just reading that past sentence.

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, Olson

And yet, this is a classic case of ‘give the people what they want.’ Last year, Chicken Charlie’s served up fried cereal.  This year, in addition to this Krispy Kreme abomination, they also have a bacon-wrapped pickle and fried Kool-Aid, along with more prosaic fair fare like fried avocados and fried Klondike bars. It’s almost as if they heard the American public yell a collective ‘Uncle!’ before they entered the fairgrounds, surrendering all dignity, self-respect, and standards of decency before the altar of kill devil culinary consumerism. This is reminiscent of nothing so much as dining on a bet.

A few years ago, our society deemed it just to ban Captain Crunch from kid advertising due to it’s thin nutritive value. And yet a seamy, Summertime underbelly of America welcomes this kind of sensationalistic disregard for dietetic decency as totally acceptable. Pardon me if I seemed confused…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

This Could Be Your Next Social Media Tool

Dennis Ryan Olson, AdvertisingAccording to the good people at Curalate, creators of software that provides analytics on Pinterest and Instagram trends, the most repinned images feature rich details and luminous color.

Apparently, this software analyzed nearly a half million Pinterest posts made by advertisers for things like saturation, texture, brightness and hue. And the finding? People like color. Particularly what they call “multiple dominant colors” which get repinned 3.25 times more than those with only one dominant color. Additionally, if the image is blown out or very dim, its repinning numbers drop.

Other odd color-based fun facts brands might enjoy?

  • Predominantly red images get more repins than blue ones
  • Images in autumnal hues of red, orange and brown images receive about twice as many repins
  • Completely desaturated or saturated images have fewer repins than more moderately saturated images
  • Images with less white space get repinned more often
  • Brand images without faces receive more repins by nearly 23 percent
  • Images with a smoother texture are up to 17 times more repinned than images with a rough texture

So, much like the notion of writing web copy to optimize search, brands may soon be tweaking their color wheels to optimize sharing as visual-based communication grows increasingly important. But despite this science, brands should probably avoid carving these findings in stone. Most people recognize color goes through cycles of popularity. At least most people who have ever dealt with an apartment that features a refrigerator enameled in ‘avocado.’

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson