Posts tagged with advertising

andrewmaclean says the “Spotify Model”—which we could also call the "newspaper model"—where "consumers" get something they want for free, but are really the product which media outlets are selling to advertisers—is “inevitable”.


Why would this be a more logical way for the world to run than just paying for movies, music, television, journalism, comics, and T-shirts? I’m going to spitball together a slapdash explanation and ask if you can improve on it. Here’s my model:

  1. Three car dealerships each have a big marketing budget. (Why? See 4.)
  2. The only newspaper in town, by charging $2/paper, was accessing 10% of the town—that’s the demand level to just buy the paper.
  3. 999/1000 newspaper readers are not interested in buying a car. But the 1/1000 who has been thinking about buying one, hasn’t decided which dealership to go to.
  4. Each car dealership stands to gain $20,000 from making the sale—and furthermore they’re in competition with each other. If the car-purchaser can be swayed to my dealership instead of yours, once they walk on the lot we have a 90% chance of selling them a car that day.
  5. So it’s worth spending quite a lot of money on ads to win that selling opportunity. At some level the monetary value of influencing 1-in-1000 customers to be more likely to walk onto my lot instead of yours, outweighs the revenue the newspaper was making from $2/pop reader payments.
  6. But why not take the money from both sides? Surely it’s better to have two revenue streams (advertisers + readers) than one? But not if by selling the newspaper for $0 or negative, you can double, triple, dectuple the circulation. If you can stuff the ads down people’s throats by slashing the price or equivalently finding people and putting it in their hands, then you can double, triple, dectuple the advertising revenue (so long as the car dealerships are willing to keep paying for more exposure, even if it’s crappier exposure).
  7. So in this story it all comes down to the fact that people don’t want to pay a lot for newspaper but they will pay a lot for cars. So much more, in fact, that subscription revenue is dwarfed by even 0.1% of the value of influencing the big-ticket purchase decision.
  8. In other words it’s because the demand for big-ticket items is not just one or two orders of magnitude higher than the demand for comics, movies, television episodes, songs, albums, and so on. It’s many orders of magnitude higher. Enough more orders of magnitude to that demand that it more than makes up for the low fraction of interested buyers and the fact that your ad can only influence the customer, not control them.

That’s my half-baked story. Care to critique or improve on it?

Added later: this.


In The Geometry and Topology of 3-ManifoldsThurston speaks of the “extrinsic” vs “intrinsic” view of {the 3-sphere − a knot}.


I like learning words for something that’s been kicking the walls of my head trying to get out. Sometimes I can look at the world in an objective way, and sometimes everything centres on me.

  • Extrinsic I and you and they are cerebral plains-apes, doing all of the things one would expect such to do. Chasing after money, status, sex, it’s all pretty simple when you see things this way.
  • Extrinsic your exotic mind-expanding holiday is just a status signal.
  • Extrinsic the hobby or job you hang your identity on tells me that you’re bourgeois and therefore define yourself through your activities or achievements.
  • Intrinsic reinterprets monkeys’ “social grooming” as an activity that actually feels like something.
  • Intrinsic is being in love.
  • Extrinsic is love as a neurochemical sequence—dopamine, adrenaline, vasopressin, norepinephrine, oxytocin—generated by chance mutations and selective reproduction in response to an evolutionary problem.
  • Extrinsic is 5,000 applicants for 5 jobs = 1‰ chance of getting it.
  • Intrinsic my application was rejected so I’m a failure.
  • Extrinsic is the pale blue dot, spaceship Earth, a wet rock bearing eukaryotes.
  • Extrinsic I’m one of 10000 options s/he has on this dating site.
  • Intrinsic is me; my likes, my interests; the homunculus behind the camera, 我, my life. Extrinsic this display is again an outgrowth of my bourgeois background.
  • Intrinsic is exotic Peshawar, a world away and uncomfortably hot.
    • image
      File:Old Peshawar.jpg

    Extrinsic is more primates with a different culture-function applied to them. Going through the same life-stages, wearing different customs. Instead of going to a pub they do some sober, Pakistani alternative—but it’s all the same, all human stuff just expressed differently.
  • Extrinsic when Parisians kiss each other on the cheek it’s not romantic, it’s just like a handshake.
  • Intrinsic it’s gross that my parents have sex.
  • Intrinsic I hate this town I hate the football games I hate the fakeness I hate the parochial small-mindedness there’s something better in store for me I need to get out of here I will get out of here
  • Extrinsic is a visitor look how excited these people are about their quaint sports and amusements! That’s so nice.
  • Intrinsic is being engrossed in reading.
  • Extrinsic is seeing someone sitting still looking at paper with glyphs on it.
  • Intrinsic is noticing how Thomas Piketty’s lower teeth are not-at-all straight like George Clooney’s, and being taken back a bit. Extrinsic is knowing that Piketty earns his stature from books and papers (arrayed behind him) whereas Clooney earns based on his looks.
  • Intrinsic is waking up in the morning driven by the will to understand pseudo-Riemannian metrics and thereby, the Universe.
    Chanting “sheaf cohomology" like a shamanic totem, carving it into my forehead my topknot my yarmulke my niqab, showing the world what’s inside my head and wishing they love me for it.
    Math Geek Tattoo On Back Shoulder
  • Extrinsic I’m yet another plains-ape distracted by ego, status-signalling, and a scientific religion, cultured by stimuli that practically guaranteed I would behave this way.
  • Intrinsic my new friend is so cool! She is friends with someone famous!
  • Extrinsic of course she leads with her connection to the desirable; it’s all part of her personal branding scheme.
  • Intrinsic is the many self-serious songs about my chain, my ding-a-ling, whatever.
  • extrinsic is a boy in love with his homeostatic skin flap.
  • Intrinsic is watching an ad targeted at you, and just reacting.
  • Extrinsic is watching an ad that makes no sense to you, and thinking about the ad on a higher level.
  • Intrinsic is appetite; craving; addiction.
  • Extrinsic is flavourful sustenance.
  • Extrinsic is asthexia; cachenia; syncope; renal failure.
  • Intrinsic is the only death that matters (mine).
  • Intrinsic is write drunk.
  • Extrinsic is revise sober.

Beware of the pursuit of the Superhuman: it leads to an indiscriminate contempt for the Human. —George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

Advertising rises and falls with the economy, though how much is a matter of debate. Randall Rothenberg … points to the remarkable stability of advertising at about 2% of GDP since 1919, when the data began to be collected.


Albert Wenger, one of the owners of tumblr

At minute 31:

  • Google did not invent keyword advertising
  • GoTo, later renamed Overture, out of IdeaLab, invented it
  • and were acquired by Yahoo
  • Google improved upon the keyword search idea, turning keyword search into a viable business model
  • They realised there needs to be such a thing as a quality score—i.e., you don’t myopically give the ad space to the highest bidder. Long-term revenue maximisation required asking what the users want, and not p***ing them off.

Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline. Maybe the second line has to be sung in such a sweet voice because the underlying consumerist message is so ugly. The first line is whispered, like gossip, something women are known to do all the time; it’s actually genetically selected for by evolution. Maybe she’s born with that butt. Maybe it’s plastic surgery.

My father used to tell me that when people complimented him on his tie, it was never because of the tie—it was because of the suit. If he wore his expensive suit, people would say “Nice tie!” But they were just mis-identifying what it was that they thought was nice. Similarly if you’re interviewing candidates and accidentally doing your part to perpetuate the beauty premium to salaries, you aren’t going to think “She was really beautiful, therefore she must be more competent”. You might just notate that she was a more effective communicator, got her point across better, seemed like more of a team player, something like that.


Achen (2002) proposes that regression in the social sciences should stick to at most three independent variables. Schrodt (2009) uses the phrase “nibbled to death by dummies”.

I understand the gripes. These two men are talking about political analysis, where the “macro” variables are shaky to begin with. What does it mean that the Heritage Foundation rated two countries 7 versus 9 points apart on corruption or freedom? Acts of corruption are individual and localised to a geography. Even “ethnofract”, which seems like a valid integral, still maps ∼10⁷ individual variation down to 10⁰. But this is statistics with fraught macro measures trying to answer questions that are hard to quantify in the first place—like the Kantian peace or center–periphery theories of global political structure.

What about regressions on complexes in more modest settings with more definitive data measurements? Let’s say my client is a grocery store. I want to answer for them how changing the first thing you see in the store will affect the amount purchased of the other items. (In general trying to answer how store layout affects purchases of all items … this being a “first bite”.) Imagine for my benefit also that I’m assisted or directed by someone with domain knowledge: someone who understands the mechanisms that make X cause Y—whether it’s walking, smelling, typical thought patterns or reaction paths, typical goals when entering the store, whatever it is.

I swear by my very strong personal intuition that complexes are everywhere. By complexes I mean highly interdependent cause & effect entanglements. Intrafamily violence, development of sexual preference, popularity of a given song, career choice, are explained not by one variable but by a network of causes.  You can’t just possess an engineering degree to make a lot of money in oil & gas. You also need to move to certain locations, give your best effort, network, not make obvious faux pax on your CV, not seduce your boss’ son, and on and on. In a broad macro picture we pick up that wealth goes up with higher degrees in the USA. Going from G.E.D. to Bachelor is associated with tripling ± 1 wealth.

I think this statistical path is worth exploring for application in any retail store. Or e-store or vending machine (both of which have a 2-D arrangement). Here as the prep are some photos of 3-D stores:

And for the 2-D case (vending machine or e-store) here are some screen shots from Modcloth, marked up with potential “interaction arrows” that I speculated.




Again, I don’t have a great understanding of how item placement or characteristics really work so I am just making up some possible connections with these arrows here. Think of them as question marks.

  • purse, shoes, dress. Do you lead the (potential) customer up the path to a particular combination that looks so perfect? (As in a fashion ad—showing several pieces in combination, in context, rather than a “wide array” of the shirts she could be wearing in this scene.)
  • colours. Is it better to put matching colours next to each other? Or does that push customers in one direction when we’d prefer them to spread out over the products?
  • variety versus contrastability. Is it better to show “We have a marmalade orange and a Kelly green and a sky blue party dress—so much variety!” or to put three versions of the “little black dress” so the consumer can tightly specify her preferences on it?
    Shop Window Design

    And if you are going to put a purse or shoes along with it (now in 3-ary relations) again the same question arises. Is it better to put gold shoes and black shoes next to the “cocktail dress” to show its versatility? Or to keep it simple—just a standard shoe so you can think “Yes” or “No” and insert your own creativity independently, for example “In contrast to the black shoes they are showing me, I can visualise how my gold sparkly shoes would look in their place”? More and more issues of independence, contrast, context, and interdependence the more I think about the design challenge here.

  • "random" or "space" or "comparison". You put the flowers next to the shelves to make the shelves look less industrial, more rather part of a “beautiful home”. Strew “interesting books” that display some kind of character and give the shopper the good feelings of intellect or sophistication or depth.
    Or, what if you just leave a blank space in the e-store array? Does it waste more time by making the shopper scroll down more? or does it create “breathing room” the way an expensive clothing store stocks few items?
  • price comparisons. You stock the really really expensive pantsuit next to the expensive pantsuit not to sell the really-really-expensive one, but to justify the price or lend even more glamour to the expensive one.

  • more obvious, direct complements like put carrots and pitas next to hummous so both the hummous looks better and you will enjoy it more. Nothing sneaky in that case.

Did you ever have the experience that you buy something in the store and it read so differently in the store and when you were caught up in the magic of the lifestyle they were trying to present to you, but now it’s hanging up with your stuff it reads so different and doesn’t actually say what you thought it said at the time?

For me if I’m clothes shopping I’m thinking back on what else I own, what outfits I could make with this, how this is going to look on me, how its message fits in with my own personal style. And at the same time, the store is fighting me to define the context.


In the Modcloth example I’m talking mostly about 2- or 3-way interactions between objects. In analogy to simplicial complexes these would be the 1-faces or 2-faces of a skeleton.

But in general in a branded store, the overall effect is closer to let’s say the N-cells or N−1-cells. Maybe it’s not as precise as the painting in or a perfectly crafted poem or TV advertisement, where one change would spoil the perfection.

But clothing stores are definitely holistic to a degree. By which I mean that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. It’s about how everything works together rather than any one thing. And a good brand develops its own je ne sais quoi which, more than the elements individually, evokes some ideal lifestyle.

Cafe Interior Design Best Interior Design Tips For Cafe Pictures
Cafe Shop Design Cafedesigns

Dior Balloon Ad

More on this topic after I finish my reading on Markov basis.

Girl in an expensive American city tells me to travel often and quit my job.

Chuck Palahniuk holds a gun to a man’s head and makes him promise to follow his dreams.

Paul Ryan Spending Final Day Of Campaign Reminding Homeless People They Did This To Themselves

(As I tried to submit this to @pastabagel, I saw an ad by an institute of higher learning suggesting that I further my career by giving them money. A nice coincidence made possible by the fact that ads for higher degrees are more ubiquitous than weight-loss ads.)

(Beware: some of the images beyond “Read More” are violent.)

Read More

The Nielsen PRIZM groups people into 66 “demographic and geographic market segments” for the purpose of advertising to them.

Each of the segments has a nice description to go along with it. It’s the kind of story you want to hear as a marketer: it uses relatively in-depth knowledge of Americans, plus stereotypes or shallow summaries, to draw a character with enough roundness that you could pitch to him/her. That is, you could write copy or film a creative spot that you believe could speak to members of this cohesive segment.

As I read more deeply into the Nielsen-Claritas PRIZM, however, the 66 segments started to sound like perhaps they were generated by a simple formula. From their slideshow I learned that they divide the US population by:

  • affluence
  • population density
  • kids/no kids + age

Rather than use continuous on the implied cube (3 dimensions above), they lump various ranges together. They also lump the interaction terms unevenly—for example, (suburban & income) is lumped more finely and (urban & income) is lumped more coarsely. Specifically,

  • 4 totally -ordered levels of urbanity (measured by population density per zip code) urban  suburban  second city  town & rural
  • 14 levels of Affluence Groups (so they consider finer gradations of wealth & income within suburban and low-density zip codes and coarser income gradations in cities and second-cities)
  • Three life-stage categories, accommodating both those who do and don’t raise children at some point. {youngish && no kids, kids, oldish && no kids at home}.

    Younger folks (this is under-35’s or under-45 DINKs) are less graduated by affluence than families or older folks (over-55’s or over-45 DINKs).

    By the way, over-65’s are outside PRIZM’s marketing groups. I guess it’s assumed that they won’t buy big-ticket items or change their ways much unless the Monday lima-bean special becomes 25cents cheaper at Lida’s Diner than Bill’s Diner. Then you’ll see the entire community switch to Lida’s.

Like the MBTI, it assumes that: People fit in rectangles.

Unlike the MBTI, rather than using four sliding scales [0,1]⁴, the PRIZM uses discrete, totally ordered sets—something you could build with the letters and combn functions in R.

I started to wonder: is it really true that members of segment 26 are “urbane” and “love the nightlife” — even the empty-nesters and older homeowners of the segment? Is there really a “laid-back atmosphere” to segment 25? Or are these merely colourful papier-mâché rudely draped over a box?

Mostly, of course, I’m concerned with segment 31, the well-known Urban Achievers:

And proud we are of all of them.


When I look at a painting, I’m tempted to glance quickly and pass on. In order to appreciate a piece, I imagine the strokes and colour choices that make up the painting. I imagine myself painting the same thing. What would it have felt like to be inside Cy Twombly's hand while he painted Apollo 17? That gives me a better feeling of the art.

When I look at the Nielsen Prizm the same way — try to get inside the heads of its creators — I sense that they adopted the [0,1]⁸ rectangular structure simply because they’re not aware of alternatives. MBA’s do plenty of mathematics, but I’ve never seen any business mathematics cross over into CW-complexes, 3-tori, arborescences, or Lobachefskyan geometries. It could be that the people who designed the Prizm simply didn’t have anyone on their team who had heard of this stuff. All the quants were working on Wall Street rather than Madison Avenue. (Wacker Drive rather than Michigan Ave.)

The ribbon-farm guy (Venkatesh Rao) is a rocket scientist who crossed over into marketing, but so far I haven’t read enough of his stuff to say if he dove into algebraic geometry—it seems he did more functional analysis, optimisation / control theory, and differential geometry. Which is what I would expect rocket science consists of.

I will admit that the PRIZM’s use of two “matrix” presentations with colour-coding, pictures, defined ranges, and toss-away combinations is quite clear. Probably works better than when I tell clients “Just picture a 5-dimensional manifold, I won’t say the norm because I think it’s spaced differently in the center than the edges—and let’s not get into the interaction terms yet”. But—the bones of their model are really just [0,1]³. They’ve dressed it up and they’ve done more than that (segmenting and dropping). But a cube is the underlying architecture.

Is the Prizm simple or oversimplified? I feel it’s the latter. Not that I object to mathematical models of behaviour, emotions, or any human thing—but the hypercube metaphor just doesn’t fit my presumption of the shape of the space.

  • Does consumer space have 8 corners to it?
  • What’s the best interpretation of “distance” in the consumer space?
  • Do all of the lines really cross at right angles, in a hyper-grid? Was that supposed to be implied?


I don’t want to carp about somebody else’s work without at least offering constructive criticism. What are some potentially better ways to think about the space of all consumers—potential buyers of houses, cars, vacations, DVD’s, washers, ‘n’all that?

Mathworld’s picture of a few topological objects gives one starting point:

One thing I noticed pretty quickly: you remember playing Star Fox battle mode? Or any video game where there is a lower-right thumbnail of you on a limited square map—such that when you go leftwards off the map you appear on the right, and when you go upwards off the map you appear on the bottom? As a kid I thought I was flying on the surface of a planet, but in fact it was the surface of a torus. (Why? If you go up to the top of the North Pole you don’t come out again at the South Pole. See the picture of the sphere with B ≠ C, i.e. N ≠ S.)

In other words, a torus (donut) is the product of a_loop × a_loop. Whereas a sphere (ball) is the product of a_loop (east/west) × a_line_segment (north/south).


Following from this short lesson in topology, one alternative to multiplying only “linear” dimensions of characteristic attributes would be to multiply lines with loops. For example a_loop × a_loop × a_line_segment. I’m not sure what the name for that shape is, but you can imagine it — like a cylindrical torus. And it’s logically possible that there are two circle-like dimensions in marketing. Something like, as politics goes further and further left, it starts to resemble the far right more than the middle. But relevant to marketing.

A second alternative then might be to consider, like in the image above, the endpoints of some line segments from the 3 dimensions of Nielsen. What if some of them were identified rather than left distinct? What kind of shapes could you create with that and would that resemble the consumer space more than a rectangle?

Some other ideas of things to question:

  • How do angles meet up? (inner product)
  • How do distances work? (norms)
  • Look through an algebraic geometry book, or Solid Shape. Are there any shapes—umbilics, furrows, biflecnodes, dimples, trumpets—that have an analogue in the space of all consumers?
  • Is backwards just the opposite of forwards? Or does that wrongly assume commutativity?

I don’t know if that would result in a better model. I don’t know if thinking about things this way would reduce wasteful ad spending. I don’t have data to test these ideas on. I just wanted to share this thought.

Nice internet things don’t come for free.

What’s said here of cable television is true as well of newspapers and any website that doesn’t charge you through a paywall. If you’re not paying, someone else is. They’re paying for your headspace, which they want because they’re going to convince you to give your IOU’s to them.

via static-void

(Source: some-velvet-morning)