"I don't battle anymore! I uplift motherfuckers!" - GZA
Wednesday, April 16, 2008,5:02 AM
The Catch-22 of Buying Black Media
The Catch-22 of Buying Black Media
By Mya Frazier

The chief marketing officer dreads opening the survey request from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People each fall.
The request is always the same: Detailed data on where the brand this CMO manages spends its sizeable advertising budget-including black-owned media. And each year, the request for a breakdown of ad budget is politely declined by the marketing chief, who cites its proprietary nature.

And so each year, the brand winds up with an F in the area of marketing and communications-along with 16 others-in the NAACP annual Consumer Spending Guide. The stated goal is to measure corporate America's relationship with the African-American community-a consumer segment that represents 13% of the U.S. population with spending power of $845 billion in 2007-a figure expected to leap to more than $1.1 trillion by 2012, according to the University of Georgia's Selig Center for Economic Growth.

"All things being equal, we'd have no problem supporting" black-owned media, said the CMO, but "a lot of the true African-American owned media companies are small and very decentralized. That doesn't fit our strategy of needing to have a national reach. We have looked at some of the options, but the delivery is so small in relation to cost it doesn't fit our strategy."

The survey's goal is to urge the black community to buy from marketers that support black media and to boost media ownership within the community, according to Richard McIntire, a spokesman for the organization. "Brands have these huge budgets, and less than 1% is reinvested back into African-American media," Mr. McIntire said. "The black press does not see the advertising dollars coming from major corporations who will advertise in a market with two dailies but won't in the smaller community papers."

But some marketers argue that in an ever-more-complex media environment, it's not that simple. In a world of scale-and the benefits of lower ad pricing that come with it-there are few independent, black-owned media outlets left to support, and those that exist don't have the reach to offer competitive rates.

Some of the biggest names in black media today actually are owned by corporate titans. The most notable example is BET, which founder Bob Johnson sold to Viacom for $3 billion in 2000. Then there's Essence: Time Warner's publishing arm took full ownership of the legacy brand in January 2005.

But the most dismal rate of media ownership among African-Americans is in TV. Only five African-Americans own full-power commercial TV stations; they collectively own eight out of 1,379 commercials stations nationwide (see story above).

"It's not an impossible environment, but it's tough," said Lyle Banks, founder and CEO of Banks Broadcasting in Chicago, which owned two TV stations before selling KSCW-TV, Wichita, Ks., to Schurz Communications in August 2007. "It's not just minorities. For anyone coming in the last two years, it's difficult to raise enough money to buy into TV stations that are being sought by those who have scale and lower costs. You might have enough money to buy one TV station in a medium or a small market, but unless you plan to hold on to that station and grow it, it's going to be very difficult to buy more stations to survive in this competitive business."

The minority-ownership rate in TV has plummeted in recent years, falling nearly 70% in the past decade, according to a 2007 Free Press study.

Recent declines in TV ownership are attributed to the bankruptcy in May 2007 of a single company: New York-based Granite Broadcasting, which operated nine stations in seven states. That's not to say that TV ownership among African-Americans was ever strong.

In fact, it wasn't until 1975 that an African-American even owned a TV station. In 1978, among other new policies, the Federal Communications Commission tried to encourage minority ownership by giving tax deferrals on capital gains to radio or TV owners when they sold stations to minorities. Additionally, tax certificates were awarded to investors for giving start-up capital to minorities to buy radio or TV stations. Ownership rates peaked in the mid-1990s, according to the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, when African-Americans owned 23 TV stations and 240 radio stations. But after the Republican takeover of Congress in January 1995, Congress voted to eliminate the tax programs.

A year later, the 1996 Telecommunications Act relaxed ownership rules-prompting some of the most successful African-American TV owners to sell out to bigger players. "Some of them did very well, and most of them who cashed out did so because they figured they couldn't compete anymore," said Jim Winston, executive director of NABOB.

But TV is certainly not the only place where black-owned media outlets are in decline. Newspapers historically have been an area of strength for black ownership. Blacks published newspapers as early as the 1820s, and there were 250 newspapers operated by African-Americans by 1950, according to a report by the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council.

Yet today, there is no longer a daily black-owned newspaper. The last daily black newspaper, the Chicago Defender, cut back to a weekly schedule in February.

And since 2000, the industry's trade group, the Black Press of America, has seen its membership decline to 189 weekly newspapers from 300. National weekly circulation for its members has dropped to 250,000 from a high of 500,000 in 2000, according to John Smith Sr., chairman of the trade group. Mr. Smith, publisher of The Atlanta Inquirer, a weekly newspaper with a circulation of 42,000 (down from 60,000 two years ago), blames the internet for the circulation declines.

Indeed, with advertisers stampeding toward digital marketing, it's hard to overlook the fact that not a single legacy black media brand has made a successful transition to the online world. Consider EbonyJet.com: Its traffic is so small it doesn't register with ComScore or Nielsen. The website aggregating the biggest black audience online is Time Warner's Black Voices. The second-most popular is BlackPlanet.com-owned by five Asians.

But Eric Blankfein, senior VP-channel insights director at Horizon Media, New York, said advertisers should not just look at traffic figures, noting that there are opportunities to gain more credibility with the audience by buying in outlets owned by African-Americans.

"Our research shows that web environments, even those below the radar, so-called grass-roots websites that may not see a whole lot of ad support but have a high contextual relevance among consumers, can give marketers instant credibility," he said. "From an advertising standpoint, you need to be in media that is credible to your market. If it is credible and minority-owned, that's valuable to the advertiser."

In 2001, Black Press launched a national network and news portal, BlackPressUSA.com, "to bridge the gap as far as technology is concerned for member newspapers," Mr. Smith said. Despite the efforts, the site has garnered little traffic and has yet to register with ComScore and Nielsen/NetRatings. Mr. Smith said the site gets about 10,000 hits a week.

Yet prominent advertisers have bought ads on BlackPressUSA.com, including Home Depot, Microsoft, Sprint, Coca-Cola, General Motors and Comcast.

"All of us, in time, must find a way to have a combination of the two forms-both print and online," Mr. Smith said. "We must be able to face up to the challenge of new technology or we, too, will go by the wayside."

It's not limited to newspapers. The legacy magazine brands-Ebony, Jet, Essence and Black Enterprise, all black-owned except Essence-are struggling to gain new readers. Average circulation was essentially flat from 2006 to 2007 for all four, according to the Magazine Publishers of America (see chart, P. 28).

The low rate of media ownership in broadcast has been blamed by some on the policies of the FCC, including David Honig, executive director of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council. "The relative success of minorities in the weekly-newspaper industry was possible because no federal agency acted as the gatekeeper of newsprint and ink," Mr. Honig wrote in a recent report. "In broadcasting ... the FCC's regulatory policies ensured that media companies could not cross the line from print to broadcasting."

Indeed, it wasn't until 1949 that an African-American even owned a radio station, and by 1971, there were only six minority-owned stations.

That's not to say ownership rates in radio are stellar today, even if they do surpass that of TV; African-Americans own just 3.4% of the full-power commercial broadcast radio stations nationwide.

The largest black-owned radio company is Radio One, based in Lanham, Md. The company operates 53 radio stations in 17 urban markets but has been struggling of late. On March 23, it announced plans to sell KRBV-FM in Los Angeles for $137.5 million, using some of the proceeds to invest in its internet strategy, according to Chief Content Officer-Interactive Smokey Fontaine. "If we can reach more African-Americans than our competitors at the other big media companies online, we can then offer more reach to advertisers."

But to some, it's more than a question of reach. "Media targeted to African-Americans is not valued to the degree that other media is," said Earl Graves Jr., president-CEO of Black Enterprise, publisher of Black Enterprise magazine, which has a subscription base of 525,000 and an estimated 4 million readers.

Since 1970, the magazine has published an annual list of the top 100 black-owned businesses, including media companies (see chart, P. 29). After the takeover of Essence by Time, Mr. Graves removed the legacy media brand from the list. Despite the magazine's tough stance on what constitutes a black-media property, Mr. Graves questioned whether efforts such as the NAACP's survey does black-owned media any favors, especially in reshaping marketer misconceptions of the value of targeting black consumers.

"It's counterproductive when people feel they are filling it out under duress," he said, suggesting instead the argument for spending more on black media should be made on economic grounds. "Tell me how this makes sense: 15% to 20% of your business is coming from this market but you spend less than half to one-half percent of your marketing budget on it."

Linda Jefferson, senior VP-media at Burrell Communications, said for advertisers to capitalize on demographic trends, there needs to be not only better media-ownership rates in the black community but more content-creation opportunities as well. "It's not an either/or; they are both important," she said, adding: "When will there be a black Rupert Murdoch?"

"Given our contribution to the overall economy," she said, "it is absolutely an abysmal statement that we don't own more and aren't in control of our story and of where it's told and when it's told."

Michelle Ebanks, president and publisher of Essence since 2005, when Time Inc. acquired full ownership of the magazine from its founders, said the focus on ownership often overshadows the rights of African-American business owners. "I respect the pride of black ownership and the critical importance it is to our community. I also respect the right of individuals to then sell their business to a public entity if they believe that is in their best interests," Ms. Ebanks said.

For marketers, she said, the question of ownership also fails to address the lack of content created for the market. "The audience is underserved by content across all the media platforms, and the audience is under-targeted by marketers. As such, there is an opportunity to create more content that is speaking directly to African-Americans," she said.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University and editor in chief of the Washington Post Co.'s The Root, a site intended to be a "black version of Slate," dismisses the notion that ownership is the crucial factor. "There's a romantic, black-nationalist ideal that it's great if everything is all-black-owned. But what's all-black-owned? We are living in an era of a multinational, multicultural environment. Diversity is the rule. Interrelationships are the rule."

Not so, said Leonard M. Baynes, professor of law and director of the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development. "Owning the media channel is the only way to be assured you can have a voice."

Said Black Enterprise's Mr. Graves: "If all ethnically owned media goes away and the people who control the channels say, `That African-American voice is too angry or too controversial; I'm just not going to have you on the air anymore,' it would be a disaster for people of color in this country."


A service of YellowBrix, Inc.

Labels: ,

posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Friday, April 04, 2008,7:23 PM
A Downtown Impresario’s New Uptown Canvas

Between sets backstage at Joe’s Pub one evening recently, the crew was busy carrying out a menagerie of African drums for one act and carefully loading in a piano for the comedy-cabaret group coming up next. Inches away, fans crowded the merchandise table while the artists squeezed through to their dressing rooms, and patrons from a play down the hall rushed to the restrooms at intermission.

Cross-cultural juxtapositions like these are part of the plan at Joe’s Pub, the tiny, upscale club at the Public Theater that for nine years has served as a center of downtown eclecticism, presenting a nightly travelogue of world music, jazz, singer-songwriters and genres in between, from unknowns to superstars like Elvis Costello and Norah Jones.

Its philosophy is largely the work of Bill Bragin, a 40-year-old music obsessive from Long Island who has become one of the most influential figures in the New York live-music business, wooed by talent agents and record company executives eager for the endorsement of a prominent booking.

But in an unusual move, Mr. Bragin left Joe’s Pub for Lincoln Center at the beginning of this year, where he will oversee two summer series, Midsummer Night Swing and Lincoln Center Out of Doors. Many in the industry are now waiting to see if he can bring his golden touch to such a large and rigid uptown institution.

“Bill had a vision,” said David Bither, senior vice president of Nonesuch Records. One of that label’s stars, Audra McDonald, was the club’s first booking when it opened in 1998, and Mr. Bither said he had discovered one of his newest artists there, the singer Christina Courtin. “It’s not a jazz club, it’s not a cabaret, it’s not a poetry club,” he added, “but it is all of those things.”

The Public has appointed Shanta Thake, Mr. Bragin’s second-in-command for five years, as his successor. And Mr. Bragin’s move comes just as one of his signature achievements, the rock musical “Passing Strange,” transfers to Broadway, opening Thursday at the Belasco Theater. As with “Passing Strange,” by the acid-tongued indie songwriter Stew — a show he helped shepherd in its earliest stages at the Public Theater — Mr. Bragin’s own uptown transfer is a natural and carefully thought-out move, he said.

“The way I define myself and my work is as an arts presenter, not a nightclub booker,” Mr. Bragin said in an interview. “This was exactly the right move. It’s multidisciplinary, it’s multiethnic. I have always been a generalist working in those boundaries between popular art and high art.”

With curls of jet-black hair and a boyish excitement in his voice, Mr. Bragin is known as a musical omnivore who is often several steps ahead of the hype. He got his start promoting concerts at Haverford College outside Philadelphia, and while still a student there, began working at Festival Productions, which presents JVC Jazz and other major festivals.

He booked five seasons of Central Park SummerStage, beginning in 1994, and then went to Symphony Space before starting at Joe’s Pub shortly before Sept. 11, 2001. Operating under the aegis of a nonprofit arts institution, the club was ailing financially when Mr. Bragin took it over, and his first job was to bring accounts into the black.

“There was a managerial statement to Joe’s Pub: basically, you figure out how to pay for yourself, and you can keep going,” said Oskar Eustis, who took over as artistic director of the Public Theater in 2004. “Bragin did that brilliantly.”

He did it by tripling the number of presentations to more than 700 a year, which increased revenue, and expanded its musical reach. Its diversity has limits, though. An intimate room with red, romantic lighting; pricey drinks; and a capacity of 150, Joe’s Pub specializes in mellow music — very little hip-hop and rock — that appeals to upmarket adults.

The annual operating budget of the Public Theater is $19.5 million. A spokeswoman declined to break down what portion of that is for Joe’s Pub, which has fund-raising money specifically earmarked for its programming and also takes a portion of the profits from the independently owned company that operates the food and beverage service at Joe’s.

By embracing Mr. Bragin, whose new title is director of public programming, Lincoln Center is aiming to capitalize on the Joe’s Pub cool factor and further its slow and sometimes fitful effort to attract younger audiences. Jane S. Moss, the vice president for programming at Lincoln Center, who hired Mr. Bragin, said it was also a chance to give greater credibility to two outdoor series that have often been perceived as lightweight.

“We are eager that they not be perceived simply as a kind of community-outreach audience access point but as significant artistic entities in their own right,” she said.

Mr. Bragin says the substance of his presentations will not change with the move uptown, only the scale. “The metaphor I’ve been using,” he said, “is that you’re painting watercolor miniatures on the one hand, and you’re painting murals on the other.”

Some in the live-music business note that the freedom Mr. Bragin enjoyed at Joe’s Pub might be curtailed on a bigger and more public stage.

“Because Joe’s is so small, you can take a lot of risks,” said Danny Melnick, the president of Absolutely Live and the former artistic director of Festival Productions. “You could do a lot for 100-odd people that you can’t do for 2,000 or 3,000 people.”

Mr. Bragin said the opportunities on a big stage could be even more extensive, and his influence could also widen the range of summer concert offerings in the city, which have already expanded significantly in recent years, with series like the River to River Festival downtown and the indie-rock concerts at McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn.

The success of his tenure at Lincoln Center — and of any concert, uptown or downtown — is ultimately in the hands and dancing feet of the audience, Mr. Bragin said.

“It’s about putting artists together in combinations that might not be the most expected,” he added. “But it’s also about the community that’s being built in that period of time. You get people dancing together on the plaza. The next song comes up, and you grab a partner. You build bridges.”


posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤ 0 comments
,7:09 PM
how to sell music to advertising agencies
posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤ 0 comments
,7:02 PM
The Body Politic
-By David Wallis

In a recent skit on YouTube, Hillary Clinton impersonator Rosemary Watson portrays the presidential hopeful alone in an Iowa hotel room, rehearsing an upcoming speech. "New hand gestures, Iowa. Take one," announces faux Hillary, dressed in a white terry cloth robe.

"Helloooo pig farmers," she bellows in a nasal Midwestern accent, before verbally and visually running through a gamut of gestures. "And I begin to hammer on healthcare," she says, pummeling the air with clenched fists.

"I do a smoothing motion on middle class taxes, palms down," she says, while looking like she's practicing the breaststroke. "I enumerate the flaws of my opponent with a crooked finger," she concludes, turning her body sideways to face an invisible rival while repeating an admonitory gesture.

Though the real Clinton has studied stagecraft with a high-priced media coach -- as have many current and former candidates -- and often animates speeches with an array of nods, waves and karate chops, she probably does not choreograph every move she makes. Yet, like most successful politicians, Clinton understands the power of body language: Hand motions, facial gestures and posture all can enhance or undermine a campaign's message, shape public perception of a politician and profoundly influence an audience of voters -- whether the voters know it or not. In today's media marketplace, the practiced smile and the sly smirk, the hearty salute and the triumphant double thumbs-up are the political equivalent of product packaging.

"The visual image impacts more than the words," says Democratic Party strategist Celinda Lake, president of the Washington, D.C-based Lake Research Partners, whose clients include Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano and Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. To gauge whether her clients' body language will appeal to or annoy potential voters, Lake first shows focus groups video of candidates with the audio turned off.

"You can't absorb someone's policy position in two seconds, but you can get your instinctual reaction to them," says Dan Hill, an expert on "facial coding" and president of Sensory Logic, a consumer research firm in Minneapolis. "And you can get that on a non-conscious, nonverbal basis."

Undebatable truths

There's no better critical forum for candidates to sway the all-important undecided voter than "unscripted" presidential debates. But when they turn to the intricacies of healthcare mandates, audiences tend to tune out. "As auditory attention wanes, visual subtexts become even more important," write the authors of "The Visual Byte: Bill Clinton and His Town Hall Meeting Style," published in The Journal of Communication in 2007.

The authors scrutinized the 1992 and 1996 presidential debates and concluded that Bill Clinton, through his strategic use of body language, was the most persuasive candidate on stage. For instance, during 1992's town hall-style debate, Clinton came across as respectful when Ross Perot -- whose independent voters Clinton wanted to lure -- spoke to the crowd and cameras. Clinton "sat on his stool, placed his hands between his knees and tilted his head towards Perot, as if Clinton were listening to each word Perot said," write authors Mark Goldman, Mark Gring and Brian Anderson.

However, when George H.W. Bush spoke, Clinton's nonverbal cues challenged the incumbent president's talking points. Clinton created motion to attract the TV camera, standing up, jutting out his chin and smirking or shaking his head. "Clinton sold his own message with visual as well as verbal elements, and he transformed opponents' message opportunities into scenarios where Clinton was actually doing the selling," they concluded.

A longtime Clinton advisor, who requested anonymity, admitted, "We practiced reaction shots extensively [because that's where] 15 to 20 percent of your face time goes."

Al Gore could have used a lesson in body language from his old boss. During the first debate with George W. Bush in 2000, Gore loudly sighed when Bush held the floor. Whereas Clinton came across as strong in his debates, Gore evoked a frustrated schoolboy who knows the answer, but can't get the teacher's attention.

"Do I believe that the fate of the world should have been decided on whether Al Gore sighed in the 2000 debates?" asks Robert Shrum, a top consultant for Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. "No. [But] he shouldn't have sighed. The safest thing for Gore, which he was told before the debates, was 'Don't react to Bush. When he's speaking, just take notes.'"

Gore sighed less in later debates, which is not surprising. Most media trainers and political consultants polled for this article say it's safer to wean candidates from distracting behaviors like deep sighs than to try to teach them new body language. Unlike quick-study actors, politicians can't always master a new repertoire of gestures, and so risk coming off as insincere.

"Voters want to vote for people; they don't want to vote for robots," says C. Jackson Bain, a former media trainer and NBC White House correspondent. "That's what these guys look like when they use inappropriate, ill-timed hand gestures."

Democratic pollster and consultant Mark Mellman, whose clients include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, remembers a female client who had a penchant for pointing: "People interpreted [the pointing] very negatively. Something had to change."

But suppressing ingrained body language is difficult, and Mellman's client couldn't kick her habit. Instead, Mellman said, he settled for editing out her chronic finger-wagging from campaign spots.

Republican pollster and consultant Dave Hill (no relation to Dan Hill) ran a gubernatorial campaign for a candidate with whirling dervish-like body language. "He would give the full body movement like he was speaking to 10,000 people when he was speaking to 10 people in the living room," recalls Hill. "I thought it was sometimes over the top." The candidate was advised to tone things down. "As we see candidates closer, with tighter shots on bigger screens, [they] must modulate some of their hand gestures to not seem quite so wild," says Hill, whose client lost the election. "Like most candidates, he was set in his ways and continued to do as he did."

Richard Greene, a public speaking coach who trained Princess Diana and California Governor Jerry Brown, among others, notes that candidates should confine gestures to "the power zone" inside the shoulders. "Gesture outside the power zone will not be seen as authoritative," he warns. "At every moment, [political leaders] need to look like they can carry the weight of our hopes and needs."

In an informal poll, several political consultants nominated Howard Dean as the candidate with the most unpresidential body language in recent years. After his disappointing third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses in 2004, Dean's red face and furious fist pumps accentuated his now infamous high-pitched yelp. What's known as the "I Have a Scream" speech damaged Dean's political brand because he came off as hotheaded, the very character flaw his opponents repeatedly drew attention to in the press when they tried to brand him as unstable.

Something in the way she moves

It's unlikely that Hillary Clinton will follow in Dean's missteps, but her inconsistent body language could still hurt her candidacy. Clinton is saddled with a reputation for blind ambition, and her gestures may lend credence to the belief that she'll try almost anything to get elected. Clinton can seem at ease one day (her body relaxed, smile blinding), angry the next (fists curled, arms pounding the air) and practiced as a flight attendant prepping for takeoff the day after that.

Alan Siegel, CEO of New York-based branding consultancy Siegel+Gale, believes the problem lies in her candidacy losing its aura of inevitability. "Going from a lead brand to a challenger brand or a fighting brand is not comfortable for her," he suggests. "Her body language reflects that."

Which isn't to say Clinton can't enliven a speech or a debate with effective gesturing. Greene credits Clinton with delivering a body-language tour de force during the Feb. 21 debate in Austin, Texas. She used at least 16 different facial and hand gestures in roughly three minutes, while speaking with passion about meeting wounded soldiers. Her hand motions ranged from a light slap on the desk to emphasize her respect for Senator Barack Obama to a prayer-like pose while articulating concerns for the American people. Greene called it her namaste gesture and "one of the most heartfelt moments of her campaign."

Clinton's past, present and possibly future competitors for the presidency also exhibit fluency as well as flaws in their body language. Greene faults Obama for sometimes slouching. "Obama is [usually] Lincolnesque in his posture," which helps brand him as a vibrant and commanding figure. "When he leans," adds Greene, "he hurts his brand."

But Obama's signature gesture could complement his image as a conciliator: He routinely emphasizes points in stump speeches with what might be called the Obama OK, the formation of a circle with the tip of the index finger and thumb while the pinkie, ring and middle fingers curve together below the circle. "By putting the two fingers together you avoid having the jabbing finger," says body language expert Dan Hill.

Senator John McCain suffered debilitating shoulder injuries during the Vietnam War, which limits his range of motion and likely explains his occasionally awkward hand movements. During debates, he seems most comfortable when he stabs the air or pounds the podium with his index finger. Those forceful gestures may prove to be a double-edged nonverbal sword. On the one hand, an economically troubled nation mired in an unpopular war might not be in the market for a military man. "McCain looks like a general, not a CEO," says Caroline Keating, professor of psychology at Colgate University. "If the economy is the main issue, then he faces difficulty."

On the other hand, the 71-year-old Arizona senator conveys vigor and authority, roaring, in the opinion of one media trainer, "I'm a military guy . . . and if we have to kick ass and take names, I'll kick ass and take names."

His arsenal of gestures contrasts with that of his vanquished foe Mitt Romney, says Keating: "When Mitt Romney was attacked during Republican debates . . . he would defend himself [verbally]. You know what he would do with his hands? They were folded together on the table, and it did not appear that he was really defending himself. Why wasn't he pointing? Why wasn't he gesturing? His words were strong and his body language was not."

You get the point

Research supports the premise that our leaders' movements can move voters.

Albert Mehrabian, professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA and a renowned scholar of gestures, found that we derive nearly eight times more meaning from nonverbal cues than we do from words alone.

Another prominent scholar, Geoffrey Beattie, dean of psychological sciences at the University of Manchester in England, conducted a 2005 study comparing two television commercials for a fictitious fruit-flavored soft drink. One ad featured a voiceover and imagery. The second relied on visuals of the product and an actor using iconic hand gestures.

The spots were intended to impart the product's three key attributes, as detailed in the British Journal of Psychology: "The gestures represented that the fruit used was 'fresh' (hands are together in front of chest, they move away from each other abruptly as fingers stretch and become wide apart), that 'everyone' was drinking it (right hand and arm move away from the body making a large sweeping movement) and the 'size' of the bottle (hands move towards each other until they represent the size of the bottle)."

Viewers of the commercial with hand gestures remembered the three core attributes of the product far more easily than viewers of the voiceover commercial. Beattie hypothesizes that the same dynamic works in the political arena: "Because you are accompanying speech with an image, it helps you remember the political message much more effectively. If you just have speech alone, your memory decays considerably over a three-month period."

None of this surprises neuroscientist Spencer Kelly of Colgate University, who believes that gestures likely activate the brain's mirror neuron system that causes us to actually feel emotions that others act out. "When you see someone fist pump, you almost simulate the fist pump yourself," Kelly says. "That kind of emotional contagion is fast, automatic, unconscious and politicians are exploiting it. I don't know if they know the science, but it's smart because it works. We might distrust political words, but we're wired to connect to their actions."


posted by R J Noriega
Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Oriental Trading Company