Tag Archives: Extremism

Can We Sense The Extremisms In Our Own Culture?

We are what we become used to. Having become used to something, it is taken for granted. Then we don’t notice it any more.

All cultures have extremisms; that’s what makes them cultures*. A perfectly balanced culture would be, by definition, boring. There could be no drama. Who would caonvene such a culture? Not human beings, certainly.

In the Cheyenne culture, courage and leadership are cultivated to the point that the individual is expected to stand against authority. This is their rite of passage. What is ours?

In what way is our culture extreme?


This is interactive; you can answer the question for yourself.

Rather than tell you what my view is, let me give you a clue. See if you can guess it – or better yet, see what you get when you cogitate the following riddle.

When and why did it become acceptable for there to be a ‘bug” – the channel’s logo – and sometimes text promoting other programs – over our TV shows?

What does that tell you about what (one of) our culture’s extremism(s) is?

What I get is that ours is such a mercantile culture, everything has to have a brand on it. We get branded as if with an iron when we pay to buy clothing that advertises some brand we may or may not care about. We should charge on a CPM basis. Finally we had to put the brand on the TV screen to stay there forever and only be relieved by commercials. This may increase commercial effectiveness and reduce program effectiveness accordingly.

Seriously, would Hollywood put a bug over their movies? Even in this mercantile culture, cinema remembers its roots, that in drama one wants to immerse and suspend disbelief, become the protagonist. The bug is a rude interruption to the self-pretend and that bubble bursts or never forms. So we watch to some measurable degree less immersed than we would have been years ago.

For non-drama programming, the bug is to some extent less intrusive.

Biometrics should be easily able to detect this difference.

First Neuroscience Research Company to Submit Validation to BillHarveyBlog.com:


What makes N-I different from all other suppliers is SST: Steady State Topography, the company’s own method being used worldwide today in cognitive neuroscience but in advertising research only by N-I. SST is a measure of neural processing speed at specific sites corresponding to parts of the brain, and metrics are calculated by indexing certain key relationships across sites – such as the SST relationship between left and right prefrontal cortexes, revealing approach-avoidance.

Because commercials involve split-second action, the otherwise superb fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery – similar to the MRIs we get taken of us for medical purposes) technique is too slow to capture changes occurring in response to these fast-changing stimuli, leaving as choices only EEG and SST. EEG uses electrodes the same as SST but is capturing different information – not neural processing speed but the size or magnitude of various EEG components such as alpha activity. These give different information.

For one thing, EEG is a noisy signal. Its low signal-to-noise ratio requires testing by repeating the commercial and then averaging results, ignoring the fact that what one then has is no longer the effect of one exposure. Surprise is no longer present in the repetitions. In Herb Krugman’s terms (Herb is a researcher famed for his work in advertising frequency), the subject after the first exposure is no longer asking What is that, but is now asking, What of it?

SST has a far higher signal-to-noise ratio than EEG so one picture is all the researchers need. The high resolution low noise signal is also obviously ideal in terms of research accuracy while remaining insensitive to factors that can affect EEG such as head movements, muscle tension, blinks and eye movements.

At last year’s ARF Audience Measurement Symposium 5.0, I was serving on the ARF Program Committee and was selected to chair the session on Neuroscience.  Burt Manning, former Chairman/CEO of J. Walter Thompson and one of the industry’s great copywriters and thinkers, had introduced me to Dr. Richard Silberstein, founder/CEO of Neuro-Insight and Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Swinburne University in Melbourne. I invited Dr. Silberstein along with Innerscope’s Carl Marci, Sands Research’s Steve Sands, and CBS’s David Poltrack to become the neuroscience plenary panel for that symposium, moderated by Ameritest’s Chuck Young.

During that lively panel the neuroscientists all presented slides and Dr. Silberstein showed three case studies validating SST against sales, online traffic and correct product recall (financial services) respectively. In the most relevant sales case (Bird’s Eye frozen fish), the SST research suggested that a split-second change at a single point during the commercial caused a 130% increase in actual sales ROI.

Based on the extensive scientific validation evidence sent to me by N-I, and the cases shared at ARF last year, I would be interested as a researcher in using SST to help refine nearly-finished commercials before using them on air.

I hope more copy testers will come forward and send me your piles of evidence too, which I will give equal space here.

Best to all,


*Here’s one definition of “cultures” from Wikipedia: the distinct ways that people living in different parts of the world classified and represented their experiences, and acted creatively. I am characterizing “distinct” as “extreme”.