Not so Super Bowl

The one and only Super Bowl must be the most frustrating global sport event in the entire world. Not only because American football is certainly the most complicated sports to understand in the world, but also impossible to enjoy fully as you have to watch it at 4am if you’re located in Europe. But the main reason might be that this is the only sports event that people are watching for other reasons than sports. I know I’m exaggerating a little bit…not so much. Just ask anybody in the US who were the winners in the last 5 years, not sure anybody knows apart of the real fans.


Who are all the sports enthusiasts, who commit a good 5 hours of their life to sit in front of a TV, really paying attention to the game. The fact that the screen is showing the Super Bowl does not by any means imply that people actually care about the game itself. It seems that advertising and Pepsi half-time show raises more interest. That was a simple assumption but I was looking for proofs. I found this study from Claudia Perlich (data scientist working for Dstillery, a programmatic platform) and it says it all.

What do people do when they are getting bored? They start fiddling with their phones. And programmatic platform can definitely detect when things are moving because of the bidding systems and other data flows. It can tell when users turn to their apps because many of those are being ad supported. This means that Dstillery is receiving bid requests in real time asking me, whether I want to bid on the opportunity to show them ads. In fact, the company receives easily more than 70 Billion such bid requests from mobile devices on a regular Sunday. But what happens if everybody in the country is completely focused on the Super Bowl game, leaving their mobile on the table: a notable reduction in such ad requests from mobile devices. And this is exactly what is captured in the graph below: the reduction of mobile bid requests between 6 and 11 PM during the Super Bowl by the minute compared to the exact same time one week earlier on Sunday 1/31.Overall, the phone attention as measured in bid requests decreased on average by 15% during the 5 hours of the game relative to the week before. But that is hardly interesting. More interesting is the timing of major spikes of such decrease in phone activity b y up to 40% as shows below.

Super B1

There is an surprisingly strong correlation between high attention and important events. Nearly every peak in the above graph has a clear event associated with it. This suggests that our simple absence of mobile activity is indeed a great measure of attention. And as we were talking before, show times are beating game action. The clear highlight of the 5 hours was Pepsi half-time (this year was Beyonce stepping on stage during the show), we see a drop of nearly 40% in mobile bid requests. In fact, half of the top 10 moments for commanding viewer attention during the broadcast was non-football events. So, now, we have to check on the adverts that are so popular and crafted especially for the event: most dips in viewer attention seem to correlate perfectly with the commercial breaks. Also, viewers paid more attention to the early ads, and lost interest as the game went on. Well, you can blame it on the quality of the game that year, maybe.

In a nutshell, what can we say. The Super Bowl is obviously a weird event, it seems infatuated by the brands and the organization, but the attention of the people proves that it is far to be the big international event they would like us to believe it is. Entertainment is biased and driven by adverts, shows and music but by sports anymore. They fabricated a complete platform for advertising…fine but they lost the values that were making the event special: sport performance and thrill.




Sweating Luxury

Interesting to observe that fashion and luxury brands are investing more to be acquainted and develop activations with sport-related events and brands. The association of both universes is convergent in many ways, sharing obviously few values – perfection, accuracy, necessity, mastery and exclusivity. But so far, the association was narrowing around very specific sports like golf, horse riding, polo, dance and rugby to stretch it a bit. The current revolution comes from the fact the brands included into their creation, under the influence of the young generations and designers, specific codes coming from more popular activities – running, hiking, surfing, basket ball, hockey… This trend, already noticed in few niche brands (Philippe Lim, Sacai, Neil Barrett, Marni,…) extends easily to some more recognized brand like Chanel, Dior or Berlutti, using some masstige collections to get it through. And beyond the products and their designs, now, it’s not a deal anymore to see those codes in advertising, retail and merchandising, and of course the digital world.

Chanel Ski

We can talk about Wimbledon. Ralph Lauren has pulled off quite a coup in becoming so closely associated with the tournament itself for so long, compared to the sportswear brands that back players who must fade with time, no matter how successful they are. It helps that the fashion brand understands the tournament’s ethos, hence all the rules on how to wear the uniform properly.  Other brands that have realized the power of the tournament itself include champagne maker Lanson, which released a limited edition. Ralph Lauren isn’t the only brand playing on its sporting heritage, as fashion and sports have gone hand-in-hand for a while now. Moncler celebrated the anniversary of the ascent of K2. One brand impressed with its sports-related marketing is British tailor Hackett, which has teamed up this year with Formula 1 team Williams Martini Racing. A wide variety of brands have, over the years, attempted to attach themselves to the glamour and excitement of Formula 1, with Ferrari being the best known. Fashion brands also have an impressive precedent, though, after Benetton gained huge exposure from its multi colored cars in the mid-90s. Unlike the flamboyant Italians, Hackett’s sponsorship is more understated, with a simple decal on the front of the car. However, the brand has used Formula 1 and all of its connotations. Until this advertising, one of them features the Williams Martini team doing a routine pit stop, except that the team’s mechanics are all dressed in well-tailored Hackett suits, as well as their helmets and fire-proof shoes.

But also, history has proved that athletes can sell products and, perhaps even more important, create the connections between brand and consumer that contemporary companies consider key to success. It’s quite a story when Tommy Hilfiger, which signed Rafa Nadal, tailoring and TH Bold fragrance. Apparently, sales of the underwear doubled year-over-year and saw sales of men’s accessories, including underwear, rise 50 percent during the same period. She directly attributes both to Mr. Nadal’s involvement. These brands aren’t alone in tapping major sports stars. While Nike, Adidas and Under Armour feature heavily, so do numerous luxury houses. Belstaff works with David Beckham, Ralph Lauren has long had a deal with the polo player Nacho Figueras, and the luggage company Tumi last year signed the Formula 1 driver Nico Rosberg. Watch brands also dominate: Roger Federer and Tiger Woods both work with Rolex; Lionel Messi and Serena Williams with Audemars Piguet; Rory McIlroy with Omega; Usain Bolt, Jérôme Boateng of Bayern Munich, and Pelé with Hublot; and Cristiano Ronaldo and Tom Brady with Tag Heuer (there also are big risks: Nike, TAG Heuer and Porsche are just some of the brands that suspended their contracts with the tennis star Maria Sharapova after she announced she had failed a drug test during the Australian Open a while ago).

“For years luxury brands took out a print ad and that was enough, but now influence is a much more complex process,” said Tom Goodwin, senior vice president of strategy and innovation at Havas Media. “Working with sport is just part of a broader move to modernize.” Many brands are targeting mass-market sports to access a broader set of consumers — soccer, with its estimated 3.5 billion global fans, is one of them. “You wouldn’t traditionally associate football fans with luxury,” said Misha Sher, head of sport at the media agency MediaCom. “But rather than focusing on existing niche audiences that can already afford luxury product, these brands are now aligning with sports that can help them target the next generation of consumers.” Jean-Claude Biver, chief executive of TAG Heuer and Hublot and president of the LVMH watch division, said soccer simultaneously reaches existing customers, future customers and the customers that will never buy from you, he said. “It’s really important to talk to all three. Everyone knows Ferrari, but how many people buy one each year? That is what we want to achieve,” he explained. “We want someone to say ‘Ahh, you have a Hublot, that is what I am dreaming of.” Reaching ever larger communities also is part of the aim, Mr. Sher said. “There are huge opportunities with the rising middle classes in developing markets with tens of millions of potential new customers ready to be engaged.” If a brand can count on a soccer personality like the Brazilian phenomenon Neymar, “who they already associate with, then you’re well on your way to landing a customer in the future,” he said. Neymar, with his distinctive hairstyles, is one of the few athletes who has managed to command media attention beyond his sport, Mr. Sher added. Another is David Beckham. “We weren’t attracted to the footballer but the man David Beckham and what he stood for,” said Gavin Haig, chief executive of the British fashion brand Belstaff. “These partnerships have got to be done with integrity,” Mr. Haig said. “You’ve got to have shared values; that’s the beginning of an authentic relationship.” The partnership with Mr. Beckham also extended into two capsule collections.

Consumers are obviously looking for brands that are integrated more in their lifestyles and their cultural references, enhancing transgression values to be highly desirable. We can talk about the renewal of luxury, a luxury that is closer to you, more approachable, more integrated in our daily lives and even understood as more practical – that’s a big deal for what we know.

Blockbuster and AI

The most notable aspect of the film Sunsprising involves its creation: an artificial-intelligence bot wrote the screenplay. Of course, it raises some interrogations about the capabilities of machine learning in artistry. But we understand quickly that the dialogue often sounds like a random series of strange sentences. Do we really think machines can replace writers – or maybe just assist them? As always and still for a while, human storytellers would be the brains creating a screenplay with clever plot twists and breakthrough dialogue. AI would enhance their work by providing insights that increase a story’s emotional pull—for instance, identifying a musical score or visual image that helps engender feelings of hope. This breakthrough technology would supercharge storytellers, helping them thrive in a world of seemingly infinite audience demand.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab recently investigated the potential for such machine–human collaboration in video storytelling. Was it possible that machines could identify common emotional arcs in video stories—the typical swings of fortune that have characters struggling through difficult times, triumphing over hardship, falling from grace, or declaring victory over evil? If so, could storytellers use this information to predict how audiences might respond?

Before getting into the research, let’s talk about emotional arcs. Great storytellers —from Sendak to Spielberg to Proust to Pixar—are skilled at exciting our emotions. With an instinctive read of our pulse, they tune their story to provoke joy, sadness, and anger at crucial moments. But even the best storytellers can deliver uneven results. What accounts for this variability? We theorize that a story’s emotional arc largely explains why some movies earn accolades and others fall flat. The idea of emotional arcs isn’t new. Every storytelling master is familiar with them, and some have tried to identify the most common patterns. The most popular arc follows the pattern found in Cinderella. As the story begins, the main character is in a desperate situation. That’s followed by a sudden improvement in fortune—in Cinderella’s case provided by a fairy godmother—before further troubles ensue. No matter what happens, Cinderella-type stories end on a triumphant note, with the hero or heroine living happily ever after.

Robot Writer

There’s evidence that a story’s emotional arc can influence audience engagement—how much people comment on a video on social media, for example, or praise it to their friends. In an University of Pennsylvania study, researchers reviewed New York Times articles to see if particular types were more likely to make the publication’s most emailed list. They found that readers most commonly shared stories that elicited a strong emotional response, especially those that encouraged positive feelings. It’s logical to think that moviegoers might respond the same way.

Some researchers have already used machine learning to identify emotional arcs in stories. One method, developed at the University of Vermont, involved having computers scan text—video scripts or book content—to construct arcs.

These models consider all aspects of a video—not just the plot, characters, and dialogue but also more subtle touches, like a close-up of a person’s face or a snippet of music that plays during a car-chase scene. When the content of each slice is considered in total, the story’s emotional arc emerges.

Valence Storytelling

You can see the high and low points of the montage in the graph. The x-axis is time, measured in minutes, and the y-axis is visual valence, or the extent to which images elicit positive or negative emotions at that particular time, as scored by the machine. The higher the score, the more positive the emotion. As with all our analyses, we also created similar graphs for a machine’s responses to audio and to the video as a whole. We’re focusing on the visual graphs, here and elsewhere, since that was the focus of our later analyses of emotional engagement.

MIT’s machine-learning models have already reviewed thousands of videos and constructed emotional arcs for each one. To measure their accuracy, we asked volunteers to annotate movie clips with various emotional labels. What’s more, the volunteers had to identify which video element—such as dialogue, music, or images—triggered their response. Most stories could be classified into a relatively small number of groups, just as Vonnegut and other storytellers suspected. Exhibit 2 shows that the arcs that emerge with the videos in the Vimeo data set are clustered into five families.

Seeing how stories take shape is interesting, but it’s more important to understand how we can use these findings. Does a story’s arc, or the family of arcs to which it belongs, determine how audiences will respond to a video? Do stories with certain arcs predictably stimulate greater engagement? There is still a lot of questions to unveil in this quest for the perfect story.

(Adaptation from the article ‘Ai and storytelling: machines as co-creators’ from Jonathan Dunn, Geoffrey Sands, Eric Chu, Deb Roy and Russel Stevens for McKinsey studies)

Culture Must Remain

We might have been disappointed by the post-Weinstein Golden Globes ceremony last Sunday for its lack of self-awareness in these changing times. We may consider this award show as a possible total disaster or a shameful event, but we have to understand that it is just a reflection of the Hollywood value, putting entertainment before anything else.

Nevermind the movies, the theatricality and demand for applause at the Golden Globe awards in Los Angeles at the weekend took place on the red carpet. Actors wore black outfits to signal their solidarity with victims of the sexual harassment scandals that have consumed Hollywood. It’s hard to recall a more egregious display of vanity signaling than the black dress protest. It was “please snap me while I pose in my conscience”. Shortly before the awards there was a major crisis. So many Hollywood consciences needed to be on display that designers and stylists were reportedly running out of black attire and having to rush in more from their fashion bases in New York.

This year’s Golden Globes were meant to be a defiant, vibrant celebration of a post-Weinstein industry, an awards ceremony about so much more than meaningless awards. We were promised a reckoning, the leveling of a male-dominated industry that institutionalized the rape, abuse and harassment of women for decades. Like so much Hollywood product, advance buzz was greatly exaggerated. Not one actor or actress made direct reference to their industry’s greatest monster — the one they boast of slaying yet still want to appease. Host Seth Meyers, in his opening monologue, was the only person in the room to mention him by name (but it was just the objective of making things clear, attractive and buried from the beginning of the ceremony – nothing more).

75th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Show

So, again, a multi-billion closed society could not afford to mention grandly the issue, did not forget to gently clean up the room but carefully and attentively avoided to be too serious about it. Oprah Winfrey said few inspirational words to make sure everybody was clear on the subject. It was moving…up to the next step now. It shows that a lot is still to be done and it’s easy to turn the darkest pages of your history in the name of what you stand for – make the people dream and have a good time. We could see the issue with numerous companies like Hugo Boss or Volkswagen with the WWII implication. As the other guy said, the show must go on. And even if the show definitely tasted slightly different, Hollywood has to stay Hollywood even if it hurts or scratches here and there. We’ve been through hundreds of scandals in the last 80 years – too long to mention but you know them. The cinema industry will continue to entertain…until something else will pop up and we will make a happening out of it.

How Many Years More…

Transhumanism is an international cultural and intellectual movement that aims to transform the human conditions by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance and transform human intellect and physiology. The most common transhumanist thesis is that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into different beings with abilities so greatly expanded from the current condition as to merit the label of post human beings. Julian Huxley came up with this word, animated by a family tendency to reinvent the future, with his brother Aldous. That may lead us to be defeating the odds of life for sure from now on, to beat death in the next steps. The human desire to acquire new capacities is as ancient as our species itself. We have always sought to expand the boundaries of our existence, be it socially, geographically or mentally. There is a tendency in at least some individuals always to search for a way around every obstacle and limitation to human life and happiness. We don’t even talk about all the eminent people that approached this theory through the centuries: Sumerians, Taoists, Greeks, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Isaac Newton, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, the Marquis de Condorcet and more recently Elon Musk, Dmitry Itskov, Ray Kurzweil and his boss Larry Page in the company Calico.


Let’s be honest, the process is definitely in process, and limited only by the primitive nature of our existing interface tools – our body capabilities for instance. We already carry around devices that collect and store all the information we need, supplement whatever lacks we may have and provide us with access to information sources from around the world in a snap. Quite naturally, this has raised the question of whether or not increasing reliance on such devices and applications is affecting our natural intelligence. A recent study at Columbia University demonstrated that subjects were significantly less likely to remember information that they knew they could easily access again using a search engine. Is this proof of diminishing mental capacity? Why commit to memory something you can easily access otherwise? Engineers and scientists may no longer be able to regurgitate many of the formulae they use on a regular basis, but they don’t have to. Not if they understand what the results mean and how to apply them. Using media to amplify our capabilities has been going on ever since our distant ancestors. And certain skills may indeed be diminished when a new medium emerges to serve the same function with greater efficiency, much in the way that written histories supplanted the oral traditions of earlier cultures. Whether or not increasing reliance on digital media and mobile devices compromises our innate capabilities is a question no one can answer. Some people have a natural sense of direction; their capabilities may well be enhanced by the access to additional information.

What ‘singularity’ speaks to is bypassing the sensory interface tools we now employ in favor of direct access between the mind and digital media and possibilities. It’s pointless to grieve over the loss of learned skills once they have limited relevance. Infinitely more important is the potential impact that new and enhanced human capabilities will have on society. The most apparent of these will be the difference in ability between those with the desire and financial strength to embrace the new technology and those who do not. This divide will very likely be manifest along socioeconomic, religious and generational lines. Will those who refuse or lack the resources to take advantage of neural augmentation be able to coexist, let alone compete, with those who embrace it?

Are we prepared to address the conflicts certain to arise when some members of society share this digital version of opportunities while others do not? What about the ability to perform complex calculations in seconds, or retrieve information instantaneously? Neural augmentation promises to level the playing field among those who accept it by compensating for individual cognitive deficits. Ironically, it also has the potential of creating an immense rift between those who enjoy its advantages and those who do not.

As far as marketing fields is concerned, it is impossible to predict what effects singularity might have on advertising. The first thing we understand is that ‘immortality’ sells. The numerous companies created so far, all in different aspects of the evolution, are aiming to make incredible business along the way. But we need to admit that marketing is again slightly behind when you see all the evolution done so far. At its most basic level, marketers and advertisers concern themselves with instilling a particular message in the heads of people to whom it has relevance. We achieve this through the use of engagement and entertainment, and frequent exposure through a variety of media. How will ‘singularity’ affect the way marketing agencies use media? Will it alter the ways in which advertisements are integrated with people’s existing information-gathering habits? With enhanced mental capacity and capability, and instantaneous access to global networks, will the concept of entertainment for those so enhanced change radically? Will mass media and digital advertising continue to be relevant for those with neural augmentation? Marketing and advertising will certainly continue to exist, but we will face larger issues to find the formats they take social and psychological change that result from the singularity.

And we tend to forget about the brands themselves in this new paradigm that will definitely shape the next generation’s behaviors and beliefs. The brands will have to adapt to a new world, not only in the way they talk to people and deliver their messages but also in product development – corporations will have to create new offers to match the new people’s expectations, we will have to dig deeper in micro-tribes depending on their new capabilities and advancements, the brands will have to change their promise to make sure their brands continue to be relevant to a new ‘enhanced’ world. And we don’t start to think now about the new brands or the new products that will have to address new needs, brands will have to adapt to this ‘superhuman’ world – and maybe one day, facing the possibility to never die.

Whether it happens soon or in hundreds years, the integration of enhanced human beings with marketing, advertising and media will clearly define the next stage in human evolution and establish the future direction of our socio-political and cultural systems.

BlockChain Culture

Blockchains and crypto-currencies intrigue, excite or frighten, it depends, but everything suggests that they are giving birth to a new economy, already called Token Economy, based on a myriad of currencies and / or electronic tokens that reinvent uses, decentralize value and jostle existing systems. Your lack of understanding or your biased perception on blockchains prevent you from understanding all the opportunities they can bring.

Space Hardrock

Access and distribution

Access to content was always an issue. When you buy a book, do you only buy the copy, or do you own the content you have bought? When you buy a track on a music platform, do you have the perpetual right to play that song or can you copy it in a different format? This becomes more challenging when you consider a subscription service, wherein you pay for access to the platform, but lose the ability to listen to the track elsewhere or outside of the platform. OPUS, a startup powered by the Ethereum blockchain is positioning itself as the world’s first decentralized music platform. The startup intends to address long-standing issues in the entertainment and streaming industry.   On a technical level, OPUS encrypts music tracks on the fly and stores these permanently through the IPFS swarm. Meanwhile, you can listen to music through smart contracts, which will contain the decryption keys and file hashes. These smart contracts also provide a way for end-users to compensate creators for their music. These technical gains are advantageous enough and can potentially improve how just about any multimedia content is distributed and enjoyed online. This also gives third-party developers the ability to build applications that can access rich content stored on the OPUS blockchain and swarm.

Wide-spread distribution

You would think that with cloud-based services, you could easily access multimedia content from anywhere. There are restrictions, and these are mostly geographical. Some tracks and video content, for instance, are not globally available due to copyright restrictions and other legal impediments that prevent a song’s publisher from distributing to certain countries. In some cases, censorship might prevent a creative work from being distributed in a certain country or region. The blockchain can potentially resolve this.

Being a decentralized, there can be no entity that can unilaterally block valid access to content. It does not only involve music, but potentially any kind of digital content

 Commercial viability

This can be particularly concerning for independent or small artists who do not have full control in managing their works. The copyright holders may be screwed in the process Big artists might have more clout, but losing a big part of their potential income to the platform can still hurt, considering the effort one puts into conceptualizing and executing their performance art. Here’s where blockchain tech can help – by enabling artists to connect directly with fans and earn from revenues without cuts. On the Web, monetizing texts has always been a problem.

Managing Assets

The multi-billion dollar movie industry is also rife for disruption by innovative technologies like the blockchain. It can be said that this industry is currently highly-centralized, with the real power residing in certain few. Movie production is often mired in legaiz, which sometimes results in people not getting their fair part. We have to aim to decentralize film creation, which in particular can enable sourcing of talent, locations, and crew from across the globe. Better transparency means everyone in the production outfit knows where exactly the production money and box office earnings go. In particular, some try to improve the way digital rights are managed, to ensure that creators will be properly compensated, all through smart contracts.

Fighting Piracy

As with music, film is also no stranger to piracy, and it is often a costly battle for movie studios, distributors, and even law enforcement agencies to fight against piracy. Essentially, a movie is a collection of copyrights and titles, which span across screenplays, derivative works from books, designs, technical works, licensing from other works, merchandize, and so forth. Piracy can be a big expense and headache for movie studios. But in the same light, studios can also exploit content creators who might not have enough clout to enforce their stake in a film’s revenue or production. Companies think of record of transactions on any asset, idea, creative work, and the like. These can be tracked throughout their lifetime, even when ownership is sold or otherwise transferred or assigned, even when these assets are assigned to players in other industries, such as music, television, and the like.

Dozens of projects based on crypto currencies and tokens show the way. Automation of copyright processing, intelligent and sustainable indexing of works, greater transparency, direct contact of artists / authors and their fans, partial or total cancellation of financial intermediaries and their commissions, reduction of the advertising model. We understand that blockchains have serious assets to disrupt the cultural industry.