Truth In Advertising aka Conversations are actually just collections of internal monologues

Pretty sure I first saw The Truth in Advertising in 2001. Or some clips of it at least. They went viral via email, way before ‘going viral’ was a thing. Everyone had experienced similar meetings or professional conversations, so it resonated and stuck with me ever since. I’ve sought it down many times since then, when the memory was nudged, or a particular meeting felt comically familiar, but this recent memory reoccurrence came from a different source.

This time it’s off the back of two more months teaching broad UX practices at Kingston and Epsom. I’ve focused more heavily this year on the user first approach, which I’ve pushed under the requirement for students to empathise with their target audiences, and to write personas for them. The more I’ve pushed it, the more I’ve found myself describing and theorising about the hidden motives or feelings that influence the way that someone might act. I’ve explained that ‘A Student’ isn’t a persona. One could be nervous, another could be excited. One could be lazy and unengaged, another could be eager and over achieving.

‘You have to dig into the personalities, the motives, and the drives of an individual to properly understand them for insightful purposes’ I’ve said (heavily paraphrasing myself here!). And when students have, they’ve invariably ended up with properly delightful solutions. Some of which I’m hoping to share on here another time.

Anyway, all this deep diving into nuanced motives nudged The Truth of Advertising once again. It’s dated more since I last watched, but still it’s an enjoyable short, and insightful for forcing the idea that target audiences contain broad collections or personalities.


The Great Silence

In a galaxy as old and vast as the Milky Way, the probability of two civilisations stumbling upon one another by briefly screaming in random directions… is not great.

I love science videos like this on YouTube. Also, the above excerpt feels very Douglas Adams in nature. Like my favourite description of all time, from when the Vogons first appear around the Earth, in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy:

The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.

When you invent the plane you also invent the plane crash

When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck; when you invent the plane you also invent the plane crash; and when you invent electricity, you invent electrocution. Every technology carries its own negativity, which is invented at the same time as technical progress.

Paul Virilio

Thanks, Ben Terrett for introducing me to this perspective. And congratulations to Ben for becoming the first Royal for Industry for Service Design. Read more about that here.

The surprising science of happiness

The previous post on prevalence induced concept change reminded me of this old 2004 TED talk from Dan Gilbert. An effective ode to the pre-frontal cortex:

…one of the most important things [the pre-frontal cortex] does is an experience simulator… Human beings have this marvellous adaptation that they can actually have experiences in their heads before they try them out in real life.

For example:

Ben and Jerry’s doesn’t have liver-and-onion ice cream, and it’s not because they whipped some up, tried it and went, “Yuck.” It’s because, without leaving your armchair, you can simulate that flavor and say “yuck” before you make it.

A key take away from the talk, that I often find myself thinking back to is this:

Here’s two different futures that I invite you to contemplate. You can try to simulate them and tell me which one you think you might prefer. One of them is winning the lottery. This is about 314 million dollars. And the other is becoming paraplegic… the fact is that a year after losing the use of their legs, and a year after winning the lotto, lottery winners and paraplegics are equally happy with their lives.

Watch the talk. It’s better in context.





Why solving problems can make those problems seem impossible to solve

Another insightful instalment of the You Are Not So Smart podcast. This Why solving problems can make those problems seem impossible to solve episode resonated with me particularly at the moment, in the proposition that “the more you consume social media, the worse the world seems”. 100% why I’m on a break from it (and most media) myself.

The main concept from the episode is ‘prevalence induced concept change’:

…when the “signal” a person is searching for becomes rare, the person naturally responds by broadening his or her definition of the signal—and therefore continues to find it even when it is not there. 

This concise definition form this study.

Concept two, a version of the first: Mean World Syndrome.

…a phenomenon whereby violence-related content of mass media makes viewers believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is

See also: Chicken Licken.