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

Newsweek Ends Printing. And What Was A Battle of Resources Is Now A Battle of Pure Imagination.

“We are announcing this morning an important development at Newsweek and The Daily Beast. Newsweek will transition to an all-digital format in early 2013. As part of this transition, the last print edition in the United States will be our Dec. 31 issue.”  

Tina Brown, Editor-In-Chief, The Daily Beast & Newsweek

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonI like Newsweek. But the last time I read it was the last time I was at my dentist’s office. And that pretty much sums up their problems right there.

My changing media habits–my daily use of cnn.com and Yahoo! and The Daily Beast, along with more embarrassing habits like The Superficial and Agency Spy–mirror the media disruption that spelled the end for newsweeklies in general. Newsweek’s circulation dropped fifty one percent in five years. U.S. News and World Report has already gone under. In 2013, only Time will remain in print (note: all titles have digital versions).

The problem is, paper and journalists are expensive. Magazine economics are nigh impossible to manage. Tina Brown says it costs $42 million to print and distribute Newsweek, which aligns dangerously with their $40 million in annual losses. Worse, the magazine’s circulation peaked in 1991 at 3.3 million but fell to 1.5 million by June of 2012.

The explosive tablet adoption has hastened print’s demise. Tablets provide a superb platform for fast, award-winning journalism and by year’s end, they will exceed 70 million users in the US alone, up from 13 million just two years ago.

All of which spells the end of the era. Appearing in print once afforded people a shot at immortality, a chance to live on as a fading but tangible byline clipped to a wall. But today, that feels rather quaint. Google’s total index of web pages equals 23,633,010,000.  Who will notice you there? Unless of course you are porn, memes or cat videos. People who surf rarely choose what they should see; instead, they choose what would be fun to see.

Which puts a lot of pressure on anyone who needs to drive traffic. You have to earn it each and every moment as the notion of a retained subscription audience grows increasingly quaint. Today, the playing field between professional and amateur has been levelled. All that matters is providing popular content and driving traffic–how do you do that in this lolscat era?

That is the battle of the new year. Sad as that may be.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Well That Was The Perfect Internet Story…

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonAs humanity awoke this morning to find itself still standing despite all the yap for the past year and a half, a bit more sobriety entered the collective water cooler conversation. The Mayan Apocalypse was essentially the perfect internet story; hugely dramatic and just plausible enough given its grounding in a little understood but widely recognized ancient culture. It didn’t require intelligence to discuss; just a facile glibness or quick punchline. And while it centered on Doomsday, it wasn’t nearly as scary as the far more uncertain society that fills our newsfeeds and can break our hearts ten new ways each and every day. And so despite the spate of debunking articles that have circulated for months, we willfully kept it alive, enjoying its a frisky, puppy-like distraction.

Frivolities like this pass for journalism these days. Television was once considered the most voracious maw for content consumption but it is nothing compared to the infinite pages and constant, mind-spinningly fast turning of the web (Google just returned about 309,000,000 results in 0.17 seconds for “Mayan Apocalypse”). Meme sharing, sex scandals, horrific acts of violence; all of this is fodder for the fast turn and quick commentary and so extremely useful for filling web pages. And if the focus on speed and sensation sometimes leads to linking the wrong person’s Facebook page photo to the name of the most vicious killer in recent memory, well, whoops. We’ll be moving on in a fifteen hours or so.

Come to think about it, I’m going to miss this Mayan calendar distraction. So many of our other stories seem so small and dull in comparison.

Happy Friday, glad we’re still talking.

 

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

 

Poetry Made Immediate And Accessible, Thanks to Google

I have a confession: though I graduated as an English major, I never found poetry particularly moving. Song lyrics? Sure (Josh Pyke’s “Middle of the Hill” anyone?), but classic poetry? The kind set in oddly-cadenced type bound in slim leather volumes?  Nah, not so much.

Which is why I was more than a little surprised by how fascinating I found the website Google Poetics. The notion is disarmingly simple: a sort of poem appears when you begin typing a phrase into Google’s search bar. Their algorithms create verses from predictive autocomplete suggestions based on previous searches by real people around the world. Because of this, the resulting lists of lines frequently resonate with more impact than you might expect from a clever parlor trick. After all, Google is the oracle most of us turn to when something consumes our attention. So their autocomplete suggestions spring from a deeply human repository of questions and doubts.

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, Olson

Go there. Try it. See if some accidental adjacency of inputs doesn’t spark new ideas for you. It ain’t Whitman, but that might be why I actually stayed with it.

 

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

 

You Can Waste A Ton of Time In Sixty Seconds…

On Monday, MSNBC’s Technolog posted the graphic below which outlines exactly what happens out there on that World Wide Web every blessed minute of the day…on average of course.  Even a casual perusal can be kind of mind blowing: Google answers nearly 700,000 search queries, which is roughly the same number of status updates posted on Facebook each minute.  Over 168 million emails are sent, 20,000 new posts go up on Tumblr and over 13,000 hours of music stream over Pandora.  And beyond the limits of minutes, over 110 new pictures posted to Flickr every second!

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

Of course, things really get crazy when you convert these minutes to full days.  Or god forbid, actual years.  Do the math on YouTube video uploads: if there are over twenty-five hours of video added every minute, that means there are over 1,500 hours each hour and a whopping 36,000 hours every day, which equates to well over four years worth of video. Every day.  Good luck keeping up with that.

Thanks to the ease of content generation, the explosion of social sharing and the basic premise of Web 2.0, content isn’t just King, it’s exponentially ubiquitous.  Or some other expression that means really, really freaking massive.

Damn internet, you scary big!

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Yes, You Can Be a Historical Figure and a Bad Ass

Case in point: Teddy Roosevelt.

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OLSON

These posters are part of a series called “Historically Hardcore” by Jenny Burrows (AD) and Matt Kappler (CW) who created it as a spec campaign when they were ad students at Creative Circus.

The fact that so many of us have enjoyedt Matt and Jenny’s old classwork these past two weeks speaks to one of the web’s peculiarities: the ability to confer a certain type of immortality on ideas.

Despite being well over a year old, these posters have captured public attention through the type of key blog and twitter mentions that drive an idea viral. If you go to Jenny’s Behance page, she writes about how the phenomenon caught her by surprise.

But there’s another side to all this attention. Despite creating the precise sort of message any museum should crave–that history is cool, relevant and real–the august group at the Smithsonian, under advice of counsel no doubt, sent Jenny a warning to remove their name from her work. They have a logomark to protect–if they don’t, what’s to stop some unscrupulous upstart from naming their paperclip collection “The Smithsonian”? And so Jenny changed the layouts.

But again, the web bestows a certain immortality. So despite the best efforts of the Smithsonian’s lawyers, I was able to find the original above. And if you Google “viral Smithsonian posters,” you’ll find a URL that reads: http://www.behance.net/gallery/Smithsonian/376305/. Of course, if you follow the link, you’ll find a blank page with this message: “Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.”

But even the attorney’s have to admit that’s not entirely right. It should read “Sorry, no posts match your criteria anymore.”

.OLSON, OLSON, OLSON, OLSON, OLSNO, OLSON, OLSON..

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, OLSON

.OLSON, OLSON, OLSON, OLSON, OLSNO, OLSON, OLSON..

Web? Mob? Sometimes It’s Hard to Differentiate

Three items popped up yesterday that while initially disparate, actually spring from the same foundation.

First, my friend Paul Meyer sent me a clip from this New York Times article which outlines the impact Google marketer Wael Ghonim had in galvanizing the youth movement protesting Egyptian police brutality and eventually, all of Mubarak’s regime.  After police beat a young Egyptian to death, Wael created a very active Facebook group “We Are All Khalid Said” and filled it with pro-democracy, anti-government propaganda articles and editorials from around the world.  Ultimately, this culminated in the January 25th Police Day revolt, an event they hoped would gather 50,000 protesters that ultimately drew twice that.  Ghonim used modern media outlets to communicate that the regime in power neither understood nor respected, and ultimately unseated them.  Yeah peaceful mob action!

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79

Then there was the viral clip featuring CBS LA TV reporter Serene Branson stumbling through a live post-Grammy piece.  For nearly ten long seconds, she says gibberish and looks panicked before the cameras cut away.  The garbled clip went viral for its ‘hey, laugh at the blonde bubblehead’ hilarity…until unsubstantiated reports arose that she had actually suffered a stroke on air.  Suddenly, it wasn’t so funny.  This morning, CBS doesn’t confirm the stroke rumor, but the uncertainty killed the joke.  Boo sickening mob action!

And then there’s the Daily Online Examiner’s story about the people trying to make a buck selling appliances online at Full House Appliances.  In a bit of understandable but ill-directed policy, they banned “negative feedback” while threatening “criminal libel” against anyone who posts bad reviews of their company.  In a long section of eight point type that follows up their ‘Click to Agree’ box which most of us check with knee-jerk disregard, they explain their motivation this way: “While there are ample consumer protections, the inconvenient truth is that seller (the good ones to be precise) protections are severely lacking.” Lawyers doubt those threats would hold up in court.

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79

Today, everyone of us must learn to adapt to a world where people–even name-calling, libel-spewing trolls–have access to powerful media tools.  We have to deal with this new reality.  Whether the revolution breaks our way or not.

.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

.

That Sound You Heard Last Night Was My Arteries Occluding

In the 50’s, Jack LaLanne brought fitness awareness to mainstream America via television. In the 60’s, Julia Child brought French cooking to mainstream America via television and a best selling cook book. And in December, 2008, the BBQ Addicts blog brought the Bacon Explosion to mainstream America via the virality of the nutritionally unthinkable.

If you like bacon, the Bacon Explosion is magic. If you like pork, it’s super magic. And if you like them rolled together in an unholy protein mash up even Robert Atkins might consider excessive, this is your holy grail. Of course, if you’re vegetarian, some well-meaning fella did create one out of tempeh but that’s just kind of depressing…

The sheer surprise and audacity of this recipe idea made it a natural pass along on the forward-friendly web, quickly leading this monstrous concoction to widespread awareness and ultimately, my plate during last night’s game.  And I’m more than just okay with that…

A quick Google search turns up nearly 1.7 million results, including step-by-step how-to’s and video cooking demonstrations.  And one of those seemingly endless posts inspired my brother-in-law Chris to create one. Of course, now that the Pack proved triumphant, I can pretty much expect this for every Green Bay post-season game: Christopher has his superstitions.

Anyway, this is what glory looks like in photographs. Enjoy…

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising

.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

.

Let’s Call It Like It Is: Groupon = Crack

Yesterday, Advertising Age posted an item where SymphonyIRI states the obvious: Groupon and the emerging raft of social deal sites don’t provide any lasting lift for packaged goods brands. And what lift they do provide is shrinking.  So while industry-wide, the volume sold on price promotion is way up again for the second year in a row, the average volume lift per promotion fell.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago Advertising

These findings feel a bit late since they seem so intuitive to anyone who thinks it through, but I’m still grateful that someone finally said it. With this type of promotion, the lead brand in consumers’ minds will always be Groupon while whatever brand that’s on-deal is transient, and thus secondary. Worse, a Rice University study conducted on 150 companies that ran Groupon deals between June 2009 and August 2010, found that only two thirds of them found the investment profitable.  Still worse, less than 60% of restaurants made money off Groupon promotions. Frustrated restaurateurs reported Groupon users only spent the face value, didn’t tip and didn’t return.  And worst of all, later users of Groupon were more likely to find it unprofitable than earlier ones. The truth behind all of this is that social deals may make a lot of sense for consumers, but they make increasingly less for brands.

The King of all packaged goods sellers has already walked away from promotional dependency. Last year, Walmart made a lot of news with their self-funded ‘rollbacks’ but when that didn’t jumpstart sales, they quickly returned to Sam Walton’s time-proven, everyday-low-pricing strategy.

So is Groupon still worth billions of dollars?  Probably.  To somebody.  And if you love a deal, it’s definitely worth signing up.  But given these research results, those young Turks might want to think twice before rejecting the next big dollar bid that comes their way.

Because they themselves might just be the next drastic markdown.

.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

.

Even the Most Modern Brands Should Not Make Digital Tools A Default Setting

Groupon is a modern brand. In two short years, they’ve burst upon the marketing landscape with staggering impact.  The mighty Google bid six billion to buy them a month ago. And was rebuffed.

But today, Ad Age reports that this brand has chosen a shocking media vehicle to build awareness quickly–

Super Bowl TV ads.

Everyone realizes the marketing world has changed. The deep consumer engagement that digital channels make possible are definitely a powerful asset. But all of that engagement is meaningless when your brand’s growth challenge is awareness.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingThat is why Groupon’s media investment in high-profile TV advertising makes so much sense.  And yet this kind of wise, strategic thinking flies in the face of the prevailing conventional wisdom as spouted by the web’s loudest ad pundits, many of whom earn attention by loudly and repeatedly tap dancing on the grave of TV.

TV is far from dead; it remains the single most dependable medium for generating broad awareness.  Writing it off may be fashionable, but it’s also irresponsible. Because for every task, there is a right tool.

Despite what some other tools may claim.
.
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
.