Insights, Meditations and Just Pure Happiness

I spent part of my week last week in the happiest place in the world – Disney in Orlando. I was not exactly in the Disney theme parks though. I was at the annual CTAM Insights Conference. Although no theme park, this year’s conference had a compelling theme – embracing change in research approach, methodology, marketing and even personal growth. 

In Sunday’s opening night dinner, Nat Geo Brain Games host Jason Silva rapped poetic about “Radical Openess.” Alternately described as a futurist, filmmaker, epiphany addict, ecstatic truth lover, techno optimist and performance philosopher, Jason is an evangelist of technology as a form of enlightenment.

According to his website, Jason believes that “the rapid, exponential growth rate of technological development is transforming our world, disrupting established industries and leading us towards a radical transformation in many key areas. There are three overlapping revolutions occurring in biotechnology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, all of which game-changers.” I see all three areas impacting how we conduct, analyze and receive research in the coming years. 

Jason’s frenetic talk on the subject set the stage for this year’s CTAM conference where speakers on neuroscience discussed how we can use bio metrics and eye tracking to monitor and gauge content.
Monday’s opening speaker, Shawn Achor from Good Think Inc, took us further along the path of corporate enlightenment. He spoke of a Happiness Advantage which is a modern take on the power of positive thinking. The basic premise is that “75% of our job success is predicted not by intelligence, but by your optimism, social support network and the ability to manage energy and stress in a positive way.” He offered daily exercises to raise our positive thinking for those of us who get bogged down in the stressful minutia of daily living. 

From there, much of the conference helped frame innovative ways to conduct and present research. ESPN’s Barry Blyn gave a welcomed presentation on the value of “research to know not research to show” which points out the intrinsic value of less-than-stellar research results as improvement tools. Negative research results from a study have enormous value – it highlights where things can be improved. Unfortunately there are some executives who only want to hear the good news so it is refreshing to hear that, at ESPN, “research to know” is treated as an opportunity and not as a report card.

A session on neuroscience, which included demonstration on biometric and eye tracking testing, demonstrated how the brain responds to content and how we can interpret these responses to form a more engaging viewer experience.  It could be the next step in content measurement. According to Laurie Kaman from EyeTrackShop,  “Eye tracking and other forms of biometric research will grow increasingly more important to advertisers as they seek to learn more about what consumers are actually seeing, how they are reacting to those stimuli and what they are taking away from those experiences.” 

So where do we think TV and research are headed in the next three years? What are the challenges / changes? I asked a group of attendees and their video’d responses are: 

Kaman believes that “the greatest challenge to television is and will continue to be finding creative, new ways to deliver integrated content that will be relevant to a variety of groups of consumers and that will work together across the multiple screens to further engage those audiences. It's going to become increasingly more important that consumers are able to interact in a meaningful way with that content and with the advertisers that are attached to the content.”

In looking at the industry environment, Cathy Hetzel of Rentrak summed it up: “I think the greatest challenge and also the greatest opportunity for television is ‘change’.  We are moving to a world of accountability and performance based metrics, including advanced demographics about the products that consumer use and the cars they drive.  The opportunity is to target and sell advertising in brand new ways, including branded entertainment, which for the first time can now be measured, but the industry has to embrace the change in order to capitalize on it!”

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