Tablets and Smartphones–the New Babysitters?

Time magazine ran an article reporting on a recent study showing that children under the age of two have used smartphones and tablets. As the article notes, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes exposing infants under the age of two to any mediated content, a position it first took many years ago as parents starting parking their kids in front of TV sets to keep them occupied.

As Reeves and Nass point out in their book, The Media Equation, we all–not just children–interpret media characters as if they were people. Even to an adult, our response to Donald Duck is as real as if it were your next door neighbor. Especially worth noting, however, is that children that young have not formed the cognitive ability to judge the content they are exposed to, they just soak it up.

This then has the capability to affect cognition later in life, inasmuch as memory is associative and to the degree that a present stimulus brings to mind–consciously or unconsciously–some earlier, infantile media experience accepted at full face value, this puts one at a rational disadvantage in terms of sorting out fact and fiction.

Here’s the link:

Will we some day see the “Infantile Smartphone Usage Defense” in some criminal trial to come?

The Psychology of Being Put on Hold

Today’s TIME magazine reports on a recent study that showed people put on hold are LESS angry when finally connected to a live person, if they have been given pop music to listen to. So-called elevator music makes them angrier. And so does pop music with a pro-social bent. The authors speculate about the latter effect, wondering if being reminded about making good things happen just makes the caller madder, considering their initial state of mind.

What do you think? What’s going on here?

Here’s the article link:

Sex and Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s ads

Carl’s Jr. spots have been using sexy females to draw attention to their offerings for a number of years now. Here’s a link to an Ad Age article that discusses one of the company’s latest ads:

If that’s too long for you, try this Tinyurl instead:

The article reports independent research that seems to imply that this kind of advertising is not viewed very favorably by a lot of people. No doubt that is true. But it’s also completely beside the point.

If you don’t like the ad, realize that the ad is not aimed at YOU! It’s aimed at the kind of people who like that kind of advertising: Young, testosterone-enriched, girl-crazy males. Guys who like BIG burgers! Preferably real ones, not cereal-added, not turkey-based, not calorie-reduced. Nice, wet, juicy burgers. That’s the ticket! Crude? Of course. But satisfying.

Seinfeld, product placement and mediated desire

The Carnegie newsletter has a very interesting (and entertaining) post about product placement, in which it gives a lot of credit to “the show about nothing” as a leader in the product placement advertising milieu. The url was way too long, so here it is in Tinyurl form:

You must watch the clip from the Seinfeld show to get the full effect here. What I find most interesting is that research shows that the product placements have a very clear “priming” effect. And that made me recall Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman’s outstanding 2011 book on biases. Kahneman won the Nobel prize in economics for work on the subject of bias that he did with longtime friend and colleague, Amos Tversky. He points out quite rightly that if it had not been for Tversky’s untimely passing, he no doubt would have shared the award.

What I wonder is, do these media folks understand the underlying psychological principles involved, or are they just doing what works? And is there a point at which it stops working?

Kahneman points out that system 1 thinking (fast) and system 2 (slow) DO interact from time to time, and so automaticities may be overridden by a consciousness sufficiently grounded in the present to recognize the manipulation and guard against it. But this presupposes a state of mind and a strength of intellect sufficient to the task at hand. So, how often, truly, are we up to that task of self-aware “mindfulness”?

Goodbye to a wonderful advertising observer

Stuart Elliott, longtime advertising columnist for the New York Times, has announced he is taking advantage of a buy-out being tendered by Times management and leaving the paper. While I have never been a regular Times subscriber, I have in fact subscribed to various digital feeds from time to time and I have had occasion more than once to bring my students’ attention to the wit and wisdom of this sage and intrepid journalist covering the beat where I make so much of my living. I will miss you, Stuart.

Here is the link for the details:

The psychology of stupidity

Look at this YouTube video:

And these young people are allowed to vote. What the hell is happening throughout their K-12 “education” that allows them to be THIS ignorant??? But when it comes to Hollywood personalities, they get A plus. Sizzle has definitely eaten steak for lunch. What do you think is responsible for this kind of pitiful, pitiful display?

Let’s talk profit motive versus customer satisfaction

Media psychology is about a lot more than just how ads and people interact. It’s also about the whole marketing process and its impact on consumers in terms of the psychological toll that may be taken.

Recently Procter & Gamble decided to discontinue its spray-on laundry pre-wash treatment for stains, Tide Stain Release. I complained to P&G about it, saying that I had seen their once and now-again CEO A.G. Laffley at a Drucker Day event in which he proclaimed, “The customer is now in charge.” He sounded like he meant it. In my complaint I said this was clearly a good product that delivered on its promise. If P&G really cared about customers, it would bring it back. Well, I got their reply. Here it is, verbatim:

– – – – – – –

“Thanks for contacting Tide, Greg.

“I’m sorry that the Tide Stan (sic) Release Spray is no longer available.

“Generally, decisions to start or stop making products are based on consumer demand, so feedback like yours is extremely valuable. Please be assured I’m sharing your disappointment with the rest of our team.

“Since the product you loved is gone, you may want to try Tide Stain Release Pacs.  I think you’ll really like them. You may also want to check our brand websites for information about our current products – you might find a new favorite!

“Your satisfaction means a great deal to us so I am sending a money saving coupon for your next purchase.  It will arrive via postal mail in the next 2 to 3 weeks.

“Thanks again for writing.

“Tide Team

“Need to get back in touch?  Please do not change the subject line, just hit reply.  This makes sure we receive your message.”

– – – – – – –

I sent a reply. Here it is:

“Your reply is NOT helpful at all.

“You know darn well that your now-discontinued product was a good seller. You dumped it because your profit motive moved ahead of your customer-satisfaction motive. Clearly, the problem with Stain Release spray was that because it was used very sparingly on isolated spots, a bottle of it lasted too long. So instead of giving it to us in that form, you decided to give it to us in a form that got used up at several times the rate. If I were Laffley, I would fire the miserable bastard product manager in charge there.

“You guys have a lot of nerve, and I hope like hell it comes to hurt you where it counts—your bottom line!

“Gregory F. (Greg) Zerovnik, EMBA, PhD”

– – – – – – –

I am now trying to start a crusade that will embarrass P&G to the point that it PROVES the customer really is in charge and brings back Tide Stain Release. I hope anyone who reads this post will spread the word on social media and let’s see if we can make an impact.



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