Visualization Skills vs Modern Media – Who’s Winning?


Do you see it?
I see a herd of beautiful wild ponies.
Thanks, Daria.

Visualization is the process of creating your own visions. It’s complex. It’s also hard to learn if you don’t read and don’t have to turn things in to actual thoughts to visualize. Modern media, rather annoyingly, isn’t helping much.

No, this isn’t going to be a series of easy cheap shots at media imagery.  The very obvious doesn’t need elaboration. The stories might be crap, but some of the visual stuff is pretty good, particularly in gaming media.

The problem is that the stories are trying to be visual, not stories. If you remember being read kid’s stories, and having to fill in the gaps when there were no pictures to look at, trying to follow the storyline, it’s as basic as that.

It’s one of the most valuable skills any human being can have, and it’s being suffocated by this damn spoon feeding media. You don’t have to visualize, to the point you lose the skill.

Visualization – The “advertising effect”

Arguably worse is the “advertising effect”. This is the bit where the brain ignores most of what it sees as irrelevant. The absurd overload of imagery drowns out personal visualization. People don’t even get enough time to really take in an image before it’s replaced with another, or more likely a lot of other images.

This is the epitome of unfocused. While your brain is rummaging around in this visual confetti, exactly how much visualization can you do?

The “illiteracy effect” on visualization

What do you see, what don’t you see? What do you WANT to see, or not see? Is visualization sometimes more than visual?

Since most people don’t read anything which requires visualization, the ability to associate ideas, even in the same sentence (Ahem? I hope not) is pretty lousy. The famous, and dull, “What are we talking about now?” is the illiteracy effect in full swing. They aren’t stupid; they literally can’t make the mental associations between two statements put together.

Literature makes readers make associations, of actions, ideas, mental images, and, well, everything involved in what you’re reading. It’s a unique effect. Only music really goes as far in to “figure it out yourself” as literature.

Good visual art creates associations, even the really advanced type of associations, but how much current visual art is really much more than a “Postcard from Whatever” or “Another Endless Pic of Me, This Second in Time” ? The fantastic things that visual art can do are crowded out by the truly banal, most of the time.

So it’s no wonder that people’s visualization skills are pretty shaky. Ask them to visualize a better world, and you’re going to get a rather uncertain response. Ask them to visualize a better life for themselves, which is what they’re supposed to be doing, aspirations and all, and the response will actually get lost in trying to picture itself as anything more than a shopping list, if that. How good would you say people are likely to be in visualizing issues, given this total incompetence in very basic visualizations?’

Visualization? What visualization?

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

Isn’t creativity all about visualization? Has to be.

The inability to visualize mentally is as handicapping as blindness. If you can’t even visualize your own existence, maybe it’s even worse. On a global scale, it’s catastrophic.

If the entire human race doesn’t even have the skills to visualize a sane society, how likely is a sane society? How mindless is mindless enough? Living in a junk shop of a world, being sold crap and crime every 5 seconds, and why would you want a mind? What possible use could it be?

The problem, of course, is that if you can’t visualize a solution to a problem, you’re going to be stuck with that problem for a very long time. Just think how many problems there are in everyone’s lives.

So maybe being mindless isn’t such a good idea. Maybe not being able to visualize is dangerous. The one place people never look for answers is in their own minds. The place is usually a mess, cluttered with “life’s little packaging”. Usually hasn’t been dusted much, either, this place, and there’s often a distinct impression of mouldiness.

The pity of it is that somewhere in that mess is a way to visualize, or at least the remains of the nearly forgotten skills. People may never have visualized at all after childhood. After all, to “live”, all you need to do is recycle whatever you’ve been taught or told, right?

This book is called humor. Humor IS logic. Logic is used for visualization, in many ways. Coincidence?

No thinking at all required. No use of intelligence, either. Any idiot can simply recite information and agree with anything. You could be totally stagnant by 22, and a fossil by 30, and it would make no difference at all in that undemanding little mindset. Life is one big set of quotes from other people.

Of course, you wouldn’t be able to solve problems, either. You can’t visualize solutions outside the information you’re given. Nor can you have the choice or (even the right) to distrust anything you’re told, but that’s OK, too, isn’t it? So the solution is always going to be based on what you’re told, whether it’s right or wrong. You have no options.

So what’s the solution? As an author, saying “read” seems a bit self-serving, but you could do worse. You could try doing something for yourself, too, like doing your own thinking, if only to see if you really can escape from the no options mode.

There is one possible out. Visualization is based on some sort of need, in many cases. You may not even know why you need whatever it is, but it’s a sort of visualization. That pesky need to see clearly is more useful than it looks. If the mind can see, it can think about what it sees. Better option? Better than lost forever in an ocean of bullshit, for sure.

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books

Client knows best? Not in advertising


Ads_Cover_for_Kindle, advertising, online advertising

A tale of advertising, fun, and love.

It constantly fascinates me that people who aren’t in advertising consider themselves experts, particularly online. In online advertising, you’re not working with a “turnstile” audience.

This audience goes where it wants to go, watches what it wants to watch, and reads what it wants to read. (Forget FOMO, that’s for people who have no lives. Imagine not missing out on the latest Direct Marketing light opera.) Compulsory, whole page pop-ups simply annoy them. This is about as close as online advertising can get to old-style, compulsory TV commercials, which appears to be the point at which everybody stopped thinking about audience access.

It’s also obsolete. Modern audiences also only pay attention to ads which are of value to them. Like Claude Hopkins said in Scientific Advertising all those years ago, advertising is about customer values. It’s ironic, in the days of SEO as a science, that advertising is still a lumbering plodder in a highly specialized range of market segments. See also “YouTube couldn’t hit a keyword with a dictionary”, a slightly less than idealistic view of ad targeting.

It’s a matter of opinion whether any otherwise normal, rational, client really gets it about advertising realities. They’re experts in their own fields, know their markets, etc., and still miss the obvious. Online advertising is where the wheels fall off.

The immortal Celts in EnglandDealing with a discretionary audience is a very different business. Many people complain bitterly that their expensive online advertising isn’t delivering for them. Despite ridiculously complex algorithms, bizarre bidding rituals, pubescent fantasies about Facebook likes, and other fascinating dalliances with the futile, they don’t get conversions.

A dismal dribble is the usual result. It’s predictable, it’s expensive, and it doesn’t really achieve very much. Clients, bless their masochistic tendencies, understandably think that because they know what they want they therefore know what the audience wants.

It doesn’t work that way.

Let’s start with a very basic bit of LEGO-level psychology thoughtfully glued to a marketing no-brainer in shopping list form:

  • It is better for the market if motivated buyers can get to their goals ASAP.
  • Motivated buyers do not need to be told to buy products or services.
  • They need information confirming the value of their decisions.
  • They need hyperlinks, content, and straightforward purchasing options.
  • Anything outside this very simple, effective dynamic probably won’t work, simply because it distracts buyers from purchasing.
  • If you’re given 100 million alternatives when you only need two or three, your decision making process is not going to be very efficient, is it?

American Valhalla page 26… All of which calls into question the multilayer song and dance act which basic “get sales” advertising has become. Add to this the fizzy excitement which accompanies anything going viral, which is a synonym for thousands of times more information on anybody actually needs, and the process is truly stuffed. This is taxidermy, not advertising.

If you’re thinking that the fact is that competition naturally creates lots of alternatives, think again. In practice, the consumer is not going to go outside their comfort zone unless absolutely necessary.

The logic is straightforward, and irrefutable:

  1. For the consumer, simpler is better, cheaper in time and effort, and more convenient.
  2. The consumer will naturally gravitate to a simple answer unless there is a compelling reason to do something different.
  3. The whole process of marketing behavioural psychology is based on verifiable, measurable behaviours, not a lottery system of “Now I get to guess where I buy my groceries next”.

For online advertising to have any impact at all, it has to deliver clear values related to consumer needs and preferences. An online ad may attract some attention, but that’s back in the lottery zone. Even a cheap Google classified ad can have the same impact as a full page ad, in this environment.

… Which brings us back to the issue of your long-suffering, verbiage-besieged, client knowing best.

Let’s ask a few questions:

Didn't know that, eh?

Didn’t know that, eh?

Do you know why a potential customer will read an article containing a backlink? The actual backlink is usually just one link in a 500 word article. Why will that link get clicked, when thousands of online ads are simply ignored?

Why is an image considered high value, when a “spell it out” and is barely noticed?

What level of expertise does your client audience have?

Why are they interested in a particular piece of information, when you have a LEGO-like, dumbed down How To birthday card-type ad which tells them everything they need to know?

Short answer – You don’t really know what they need to know. You can’t. In keeping with the greatest traditions of lazy marketing, the assumption that the audience is comprised entirely of idiots is a massive own goal.

Freelance_writing-_C_Cover_for_KindleThe irony is that the online environment, with its endlessly irritating search capabilities has created another unequivocal demand – The demand for better value information. This is critical, and it is also a major driver for sales. This information creates motivation. It’s the exact opposite of the “People only want to read for 20 seconds” mythology.

When you buy a fridge, a TV, or any other major appliance, you won’t just swallow any old bit of information trying to sell you one of those items. You don’t have to. Quite rightly, you will take your time, look at your options, and get a better deal.

One thing I find hilarious with tech advertising is the assumption that adding bullet points regarding technology people have never heard of will sell that technology. The people who have never heard of it will simply skim over that information. People generally don’t do PhDs simply so that they can read an ad.

Anything may have meaning. Here's a meaningful question - Does reality have to spoon feed people and explain itself, like a lecture? Does it? There's a meaning there.

Anything may have meaning. Here’s a meaningful question – Does reality have to spoon feed people and explain itself, like a lecture? Does it? There’s a meaning there.

People who have heard of the technology tend to be experts, and are therefore much more critical of information of this kind. Ironically, they are more likely to be swayed by old-style price/value advertising than trying to tell them something they already know more about than the copywriter.

This is a classic case of “know your market”, and it is one of the primary factors behind functional online advertising copy.

From the copy and content creator/writer’s perspective, the most basic, and in this case the most ethical, thing to do for a client is to find the strongest selling points. I’ve had many incredibly productive conversations with clients about their business, products, and aspirations.

You can learn more from a client in five minutes on the subject of their business than you could in a 10 day workshop.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the client is an expert on getting hits on a webpage. This is the bottom line requirement, and it will not go away, however bureaucratic, pedantic and culture-driven a company may be.

Advertising psychology

Generally speaking, another type of psychology applies:

American ValhallaPeople are driven by an image of what their content is “supposed to” look like, usually a mediocre, “industry standard” which is simply an average. Average content tends to get average results at best, and to be completely ignored at worst.

Even corporate marketers, who know much better, tend to lean to a minimal image of their content. Standout material is a second thought, rather than the first priority.

I could literally write a book on this, but let’s keep it simple:

  1. Your logo tells people everything they need to know about who the company is.
  2. From that point onward, the client is looking for information.
  3. That information has to be useful, has to provide a valuable perspective, and has to make sense in terms of client needs.
  4. Explanatory information is far more valuable, and certainly far more functional, than “exciting” babble, which is classified as meaningless by default.

OK, now a practical exercise – Try to sell yourself some clothes pegs, in 500 words. Try to make this information interesting, something worth considering. You can use images, videos, and its many hyperlinks as you like.

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas.

Next, try to make the content enjoyable and as painless as possible for the customer, preferably a lot of fun to read and watch.

Now try to get somebody else to pay attention to all the content, and actually agree that they would like to buy the product.

(Yes, the clothes pegs can be worn on the nose but be careful- You don’t want too many deaths from your product, and it is just a bit predictable.)

The reason for choosing the clothes pegs is that this particular type of product is considered so banal, and so unworthy of attention that there is almost no commercial advertising. Clothes pegs, in fact, are theoretically obsolete. It is a fairly tough sell.

…But it can be done, and relatively easily- If you know how to do that sort of content and copy.

So here’s the question folks – Do you know best?

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books



The Four Ts of Advertising, and why it doesn’t work


Wasp2If marketing has the “Four Ps”, advertising in its current form has the “Four Ts”- Turgid, tragic, tired, and terminal. Advertising is trying to be an end in itself, and it’s blowing it, badly.

Saturation advertising only makes real sense if you’re trying to get a campaign across. Even then, you don’t need to eat up air time. 90% of the audience won’t be interested after the second ad. Those interested don’t really need to be told the same thing endlessly.

Yet, in the “turgid” category, that’s what happens. Enormous sums are spent to tell people something they already know, and more to the point, know what they think about it. Even direct marketing doesn’t sink to these depths. Continue reading