Another week, another defeat for justice in this country. The US had a chance to show that they hold police officers accountable for their mistakes. The chance was missed. This sent the message that justice works differently depending on your skin color, which is profoundly sad and unjust. I'm afraid we will see the repercussions of this for years to come.
On a lighter note, we've officially entered fall. Do you remember the 21st night of September?
What you'll find this week:
- Why conspiracy theories work like alternate-reality games, and the role social networks play,
- How David Lynch gets ideas,
- How to engage with consumers online according to one of the largest, on-going neuroscience studies in the world.
- A photographer peeking at phones, a disturbing Czech children movie, creative work from Mercedes and IKEA, and an app that lets you explore the universe.
🧠 Brain Food
If you're going to read one thing this week, I highly recommend it being this awesome piece by Julian Lehr. It expands on a topic I deeply care about and have written previously, the crisis of trust.
6 minute read | Julian Lehr
In his bestselling book Sapiens, Yuval Harari argues that humans became the dominating species of planet earth because we are the only animal that can cooperate in large numbers. This, he claims, is due to humans’ ability to believe in purely imaginative things and concepts.
What Harari doesn’t discuss in his book is the extreme other end of this cognitive ability: Conspiracy theories.
Julian references an essay on QAnon by Jon Glover, which argues that conspiracy theories work the same way as alternate-reality games. Participating in QAnon conspiracies, he says, feels like playing a real-life multiplayer game based on secret insider knowledge.
What's interesting is that he describes those groups as cults with dogmatic beliefs, just like a religion - which is why, I believe, fact-checking and fake news labels are completely useless.
Think about it: Science (which, you could argue, is also a form of fact checking) has been around for centuries trying to debunk most religious beliefs – and yet religion still plays a major role in Western society. If entire education systems teaching millions of people about science haven’t worked, why do you think adding a small fact check disclaimer below a YouTube video would?
This might sound bonkers, but at the end of the day we (non-conspiracists) are not so different. Many of us, me included, don't know shit about science. We just trust the people who tell us it's true (and for good reasons).
It’s worth pointing out that science is also just another belief system. We laugh about flat earthers, but how many people can actually explain why the world is round in a scientifically correct way? Most of us don’t know science, we believe in science.
Still, multiple realities can co-exist even when they are at odds with each other. Many people believe in both science and religion.
Social networks gave us tools to construct alternate identities and realities. They will soon need to introduce ways to make sure they remain grounded in truth.
🏊 Deeper dive: The Supply of Disinformation Will Soon Be Infinite (Disinformation campaigns used to require a lot of human effort, but artificial intelligence will take them to a whole new level.)
9 minute watch | YouTube
David Lynch is one of my favorite directors/people I would get a beer with. His ability to build worlds and confuse your sense of reality is absolutely unique. In this video (rightfully titled "David Lynch being a madman for a relentless 8 minutes and 30 seconds"), he shares some great insights about getting ideas, comparing them to seeds:
Ideas are so beautiful and they’re so abstract. And they do exist someplace. I don’t know if there’s a name for it. And I think they exist, like fish. And I believe that if you sit quietly, like you’re fishing, you will catch ideas. The real, you know, beautiful, big ones swim kinda deep down there so you have to be very quiet, and you know, wait for them to come along…
If you catch an idea, you know, any idea, it wasn’t there and then it’s there! It might just be a small fragment, of, like I say, a feature film or a song of a lyric or whatever, but you gotta write that idea down right away. And as you’re writing, sometimes it’s amazing how much comes out, you know, from that one flash…
So, you get an idea and it is like a seed. And in your mind the idea is seen and felt and it explodes like it’s got electricity and light connected to it. And it has all the images and the feeling. And it’s like in an instant you know the idea, in an instant…
Then, the thing is translating that to some medium. It could be a film idea or a painting idea or a furniture idea. It doesn’t matter. It wants to be something. It’s a seed for something. So, the whole thing is translating that idea to a medium. And in the case of film, it takes a long time and you always need to go back and stay true to that idea…
7 minute read | The Drum
Mars shares key findings from one of the largest, on-going neuroscience studies in the world. According to the study, digital ads are now the equivalent of a print or out-of-home ad:
The number one thing Mars realized is that it's very difficult to elicit emotions in short form. The creative moves into a very tactical, rational space because of the short duration. A Facebook ad on newsfeed is seen for two seconds and a YouTube skippable ad is skipped as soon as possible. “So, we front load our creative. And this creates a little bit of tension with our belief that ads require emotional messages," says Patilinet. "The ads that we tested have lower levels of emotion. Our conclusion was that it's probably because we've moved from 30 seconds to now six seconds, that it’s difficult to elicit emotions. And because we need our logo and we need our brand [in those six seconds], it's hard to make the ad emotional without a story."
The solution lies in not forgetting the art component of ads, which should be a mix of art and science.
We're trying as much as possible to push the science. But you can only push it up to a certain level because there's the art that your agency will come up with. We don't want to become overly technical.
Creativity will always be the differentiator between effective and not effective ads. The M&M’s ad below, which scored high on attention and emotion, is a great example. According to a YouTube commenter, "Not many ads on YouTube can make me hesitate hitting the skip button and question my sanity."
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🎁 Box Of Random
Photographer Jeff Mermelstein published a series of iPhone photographs that he took over the course of two and a half years, capturing the quotidian dramas taking place on the phone screens of unsuspecting strangers (via The New Yorker).
Another clever campaign from Ikea, poking fun at fad products like energy drinks, anti-aging creams and vitamin supplements to argue that there really are no shortcuts to the physical benefits of a good night's sleep (via B&T):
How do you advertise an important and innovative feature of a car that is also invisible? This new Mercedes spot from director trio Pantera has the answer. (via shots.net)
A mind-blowing ad by Henry Scholfield showcasing the Vietnamese ride-hailing and food delivery service in action:
As a reward for sticking till the end, here's the most disturbing thing you'll see this week (or month, or life, maybe):
And if you come across anything interesting this week, send it my way. If there's something I like more than beer, it's finding new things to read through members of this newsletter.