Monthly Archives: April 2011

Tackies – Self as Dimmer Switch

Nothing is more to me than myself – Stirner, “The Ego and His Own”

The strongest dimmer switch is the Other Guy’s self concept. Make the situation touch that and you’ll dial up the dimmer switch to a High WATT setting in preparation for Argument Search, Scrutiny, and Embellishment – in other words, the Central Route processing. But, when that self interest becomes overheated, we move from Objective Processing – following data to conclusions, specifics to generalizations, small to large – and into Biased Processing – trimming facts to fit a conclusion. Such Bias must occur when the situation defines an element of our self concept because of the difficulty we have in changing our fundamental sense of self; we can change our beliefs about evolution or eternity much more easily than we can change our beliefs about our selves.

A Kiss Is Just a Kiss, but a Sneeze Is a Pandemic

During the 2009 flu season Lee, Schwarz, Taubman, and Hou ran two Person-In-The-Street surveys with either UMichigan students (Study 1) or community adults at an Ann Arbor mall (Study 2) that asked for their risk perceptions regarding a series of health outcomes. In Study 1 just before the survey taker approached, a confederate passed by the participant and either Sneezed (Treatment) or did not (Control). In Study 2, the survey taker either Sneezed (Treatment) or did not (Control) at the beginning of the survey. All participants then responded to a one minute survey about perceptions of health risks. Here’s the table of results (click to enlarge).

The first column displays the risk perception and the next columns detail the obtained statistics for each group in each Study. Note in particular that last column with the d effect sizes which range from Medium (35/65) to Large (25/75). With all risk perceptions, participants exposed to a Sneeze Treatment expressed greater health risk compared to the No Sneeze Control. More interestingly, participants were debriefed after the study and asked about the sneezing and none expressed awareness of the manipulation; further most believed that the sneezing would only affect perceptions directly related to flu risks, but not to other health issues.

Let’s pull back from this and do a persuasion analysis. People are moving about in their normal life and approached by a stranger, clipboard in hand, who asks to conduct a one minute survey about health risk. This is an easy, familiar, and normal interaction. And, given that we know the results, it is wildly obvious that the participants were all ambling along the Peripheral Route, Cue-ing away the day. Merely a sneeze is enough persuasion stimulus to produce an obvious, practical, but certainly, ephemeral change in risk perception. And, when made to think about what just happened, participants thought logically enough to surmise that a sneeze might elicit more fear of flu, but certainly nothing else, despite the fact that everything else also changed with a sneeze.

Does this give you more insight into Low WATT processing?

This sweet little paper compactly demonstrates the persuasion psycho-logic of daily life. We move confidently through life thinking that we are thinking and we are thinking; just not thoughtful thinking. We are sailing on the surface of cognition, skipping over the sea, carried not by the force of our own motivation and ability, but by the Cue-y winds and currents in the world around us.

Now, before we go tripping all over ourselves with this nuanced insight into the foibles of human nature as revealed by the iron strength of persuasion science, realize how little change this Medium to Large Windowpane effect truly exposes. We cannot believe that the Sneezer participants beliefs endured more than moment after the survey ended. This is the Peripheral Route, pure and simple, which means a change that will not last. It is the One Night Stand and not Til Death Do Us Part.

Realize, too, that this effect is not constrained to sneezing and health. I would classify this as the Availability Cue, also known as Recency and as the Top of the Head. The trace of the sneeze is in active memory and thus easily available when the participant starts thinking about the survey questions related to health risk. Jeepers, there are sick people all around and sick people means risk, baby. Note how scientific this thinking is. Thoughtful. Empirical. Theory and research in an instant!

Yet, we see the Cue in the Low WATT light. Sneezer Participants merely respond to the last thought available in memory – AhhChoo! – and are off like a track dog chasing those fake rabbits.

Think about it next time you fear the Reaper (YouTube).

Sneezing in times of a flu pandemic: Public sneezing increases perception of unrelated risks and shifts preferences for federal spending. By Lee, Spike W.S.; Schwarz, Norbert; Taubman, Danielle; Mengyuan Hou. Psychological Science, Vol 21(3), Mar 2010, 375-377.

doi: 10.1177/0956797609359876

Rethinking the UnThinkable

I have posted before on the Orwellian dangers of the web.  Combine an always on communication network that observes and monitors everyone’s twitch, tweet, and tap with a massive and living database, scoured instantly with self-learning algorithms, and, finally, mix in a nefarious source aimed at bad politics and you’ve got the UnThinkable:  1984.

Yet, being the facile persuasion maven who thinks through all angles and speaks from all sides, I have also posted on the limitations of Web 2.0, especially for making money or making behavior change.  Too shallow, too facile, too abstract.  No impact.

So which is it?

Recall my Rule:  If You Cannot Count It, You Cannot Change It.

Count, now, the recurring financial stories about the Web 2.0 giants like Facebook, twitter, or Foursquare.  You read stories that each is valued in the billions and that they are seeking new vehicles to get investors.  Facebook has been talking about some kind of IPO for a year.  Others have been talking about deals where one of Your Father’s Oldsmobile Websters, like Microsoft, will buy them out for billions.  And, here’s only this instant’s example:

In the latest sign of the Internet gold rush, location-based service Foursquare Labs Inc. is looking to raise fresh funds at a price that would value the three-year-old start-up at as much as $500 million, people familiar with the matter said.

But, here’s the twist.

That valuation could be a stretch for Foursquare, which gives users the ability to get deals or connect with friends by “checking in” wherever they are, but so far pulls in little revenue, the people said.

Always with these fabulous deals you always encounter the ugly fact that kills the beautiful theory: there’s no money in it.  They are not going public, even after several years of tremendous buzz.  All of these Killer App 2.0 transformational platforms float on venture capital and a meager income stream.  As long as somebody like Marc Andreessen is behind you, the venture floats.

If Web 2.0 is the Future and the Future is Here, then where’s the money?  I cite as an illustration a baroque infomatics study (pdf) linking tweets with the daily Dow Jones Industrial Average that claims to find a statistical relationship that is 87.6% accurate – SIX DAYS IN ADVANCE!  That is exactly what the Queen of Tomorrow knows about the Future which is why She controls the world.  If anyone has a math model that is 87.6% accurate at predicting the stock market, you don’t publish it; you corner the market, own the world, and then confront immortal combat with the Queen Herself.

These daily inconsistencies between the buzz and the cut, the propaganda and the persuasion, augur against the UnThinkable.  Orwell remains fiction.

We are left with the wisdom of Smith Barney.  You must make money or behavior change the old fashioned way:  You earn it.

P.S.  You remember Marc Andreessen.  He invented the first and best web browser, Netscape, while an undergrad of UIllinois.  He famously fought the Law, aka Microsoft, and lost the browser battle but won the wealth war.  If you look closely, you see Andreesen as a major player behind all the famous Web 2.0 ideas.  It appears that Andreesen is the ultimate marketing and financing source and without him, it collapses.  Web 2.0 can be seen simply as Marc’s vision of the Queen of Tomorrow.  Just Marc, Marc’s money, and Marc’s marketing skill.  Occam’s Razor, baby.

P.P.S.  You remember Smith Barney.  Once a great Wall Street investment house, it ran a fab ad campaign featuring the redoubtable John Houseman (cf. The Paper Chase, YouTube clip) with the memorable line:  they make money the old fashioned way; they earn it.  Smith Barney disappeared in the 2008 collapse.  Mr. Houseman passed away in 1988.

The Great Gatsby by the Persuasion Rules

Jay Gatsby is the fictionalized embodiment of my Persuasion Rules as applied to relationships in everyday life. F. Scott Fitzgerald shows in the novel that Gatsby may also use the Rules in his work, but his Rule actions more clearly illuminate how he begins and develops relationships. Consider a summary of Gatsby.

Set in the American 1920s at the height of a stock market boom in the Roaring Twenties, this novel is narrated by Nick Carraway, a wealthy, young Ivy League graduate who’s learning the bond business on Wall Street. Nick tells us about his life at the time as it connects with a second cousin, Daisy Buchanan, from Louisville, who is married to the fabulously and formidably wealthy Tom Buchanan. Tom and Nick schooled together at Yale where Nick had an uneasy relationship with the larger, wealthier, and crueler Tom Buchanan. The story unfolds with Nick, Daisy, Tom, and an attractive female golf pro, Jordan Baker, out on the glistening lawns of the wealthy sections of Long Island. Fold in Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson and her clueless, but devoted husband, George, and we have a strong story, but nothing about this Gatsby guy. Only when we are well into the story do we hear about the title character, Jay Gatsby, and he is slowly brought into plot and character development. Gatsby has been driving this novel from the beginning, but we don’t know that. We learn in subtle, indirect fashion that Daisy and Gatsby have a mutual past that neither our narrator, Nick, nor her husband, Tom, discern or know. And in that past connection we grasp the proximate, animating force of the novel: Gatsby loved Daisy then and loves her now. The novel unfolds as Daisy learns that Gatsby owns a mansion across the bay from her estate. The old lovers cross paths again – one forcing the reunion, the other gliding into it – and we have all the action that will drive the remainder of the novel. I reveal nothing more and observe: The novel is simple and obvious, a story of wealthy, sophisticated people in boom times, with a narrator watching a married couple that has romantic rivals.

As briefly as possible: Gatsby will do anything for Daisy’s love.

Now, the Rules.

It’s about the Other Guy, Stupid.

She was the first “nice” girl he had ever known. In various unrevealed capacities he had come in contact with such people, but always with indiscernible barbed wire between. He found her excitingly desirable. He went to her house, at first with other officers from Camp Taylor, then alone. It amazed him–he had never been in such a beautiful house before, but what gave it an air of breathless intensity, was that Daisy lived there . . . It excited him, too, that many men had already loved Daisy–it increased her value in his eyes. He felt their presence all about the house, pervading the air with the shades and echoes of still vibrant emotions.

Daisy Buchanan is the Other Guy for Jay Gatsby. Gatsby’s love for her is so intense that he will change himself and become the man a woman like Daisy will desire. And what is his key to Daisy?

“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly.

That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money–that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it. . . . high in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl. . . .

That voice guides Gatsby’s life. Gatsby pursues money, then, both acquiring it and demonstrating it, all to please the Other Guy, Daisy. The life of money unfolds in particular places, speaks with a dialect and accent, gestures in unique ways. Gatsby changes himself to demonstrate that he lives in the culture of money.

All Bad Persuasion Is Sincere.

Everything that Jay Gatsby does in his quest for Daisy is insincere and inauthentic. The Jay Gatsby of Daisy is not the James Gatz of his family and background. Jay Gatsby wraps his true self in the appearance and style of another man, a wealthy and powerful man, a man of money. He does not let other people see the true self and hides details of his past that might clue others into his authentic self.

But he knew that he was in Daisy’s house by a colossal accident. However glorious might be his future as Jay Gatsby, he was at present a penniless young man without a past, and at any moment the invisible cloak of his uniform might slip from his shoulders. So he made the most of his time. He took what he could get, ravenously and unscrupulously– eventually he took Daisy one still October night, took her because he had no real right to touch her hand.

He might have despised himself, for he had certainly taken her under false pretenses. I don’t mean that he had traded on his phantom millions, but he had deliberately given Daisy a sense of security; he let her believe that he was a person from much the same stratum as herself–that he was fully able to take care of her. As a matter of fact, he had no such facilities–he had no comfortable family standing behind him, and he was liable at the whim of an impersonal government to be blown anywhere about the world.

Persuasion Is Strategic or It Is Not.

Jay’s first meeting with Daisy sets his life course. Whatever he was or could have been before he met her, Gatsby puts aside to get Daisy. Everything that then follows, answers one question: Will this get me closer to Daisy? If Gatsby judges a future action as one that will move Daisy closer to him, he follows it. If not, then not. And, see that this goal would not be obvious to those around him. His criminal and quasi-criminal friends never suspect that Gatsby ran as a bootlegger to get Daisy Buchanan.

Great Persuaders Don’t Need Rich Uncles, Kindness from Strangers, or Third Party Vote Splitters.

Gatsby came from simple beginnings. He was not born on third base believing he’d hit a triple. He was born on deck, waiting for his chance. He had only himself. He constructed an ideal image of himself as reflected in Daisy’s laugh, then devoted himself to realizing that ideal. Along the way he acquired instruction and assistance, but only in the pursuit of money. No one helped him get Daisy.

There’s a Difference between Persuasion, and Smoke and Mirrors; With Persuasion the Illusion Lingers.

The novel turns on the distinction this Rule illuminates. Successful persuasion maintains the change in the Other Guy. When the change fails and Daisy sees Gatsby for who he truly is, the illusions of the past seem like a trick from smoke and mirrors. When Gatsby persuades, Daisy loves him. When he stops persuading, Daisy sees through what is now smoke and mirrors and the persuasion of Jay Gatsby ends.

In the climatic exchange in the stifling heat of a room in the Plaza Hotel, as Daisy, Nick, and Jordan observe in fascinated horror, as Tom Buchanan declares to Gatsby,

“I found out what your ‘drug-stores’ were.” He turned to us and spoke rapidly. “He and this Wolfshiem bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn’t far wrong.”

Smoke and mirrors fill the room as Gatsby earnestly tries to maintain the illusions of persuasion.

“. . . he began to talk excitedly to Daisy, denying everything, defending his name against accusations that had not been made. But with every word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave that up, and only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, toward that lost voice across the room.”

And, finally.

If You Can’t Succeed, Don’t Try.

No Reported Exposure as the Control Group

When I was working in the CDC I encountered a practice I’d never seen as a professor whether as a teacher or a researcher. Often the CDC ran communication interventions that were aimed at everybody in the US. The CDC would conduct pre-post assessments on randomly selected respondents to measure any change. Thus, there was no control group as in the sense that some citizens were randomly assigned to the message (treatment) while others (control) were not. However, and this is the big idea I’d never encountered, the CDC argued that people who reported that they had not received an intervention message should be considered as a No Message Control Group, as if for them the intervention did not exist. Problem solved!

At some level of thinking, this sounds reasonable. Hey, if a tree falls in the forest and you don’t hear it, then functionally for you the tree didn’t fall. You didn’t know you got the Treatment and are thus unTreated which means Controlled.

At another level of thinking, this is crazy.

1. Hey, if you’re running a communication intervention that’s aimed at a population then part of your job is to deliver that intervention to all of the population. When people are telling you that they didn’t hear the falling trees, you failed at your intervention and at a fundamental element. Another way to phrase this is, if you’re cutting trees in the forest and no one hears them fall, did you really cut down trees or are you just another Beltway Bandit charging for services you never performed?

It is a sweet verbal trick to take folks who say they didn’t get your message and call them a No Message Control Group when more correctly they are people you failed to reach with your expertise and message. You cannot possibly run a communication intervention that misses enough folks to form a Group, Controlled or Otherwise, and call yourself expert or competent or talented or credentialed or whatever.

2. Hey, what about selective exposure to information? One of the oldest and best known effects about humans is that they tend to avoid things they don’t want to hear. Leon Festinger’s 1957 work on Dissonance provided a great theoretical explanation of this effect – we avoid information because it might trigger inconsistencies we’d rather not face because we’d have to go down the Dissonance Path and that’s not fun. Thus, we selectively exposure ourselves and deliberately avoid information that might challenge us. A recent meta analysis from William Hart and colleagues found an average d of .36, a Small plus effect or a Windowpane of 41/59. This is a noticeable effect. It is not a huge and obvious effect, but certainly larger than the Buxom Blonde with Big Tips effect or the Run Or Die effect.

So, when you’ve got people telling you they didn’t see your message, guess what you’ve got? Right. People who were avoiding your message, not simply missing it. And, guess who is more likely to avoid your messages? Right. The people you really want to change. Thus, you are building a biased Control Group that is overfilled with people who are resisting you and avoiding you. Worse still, you are creating an artificially lower comparison for your Treatment Group. You have slipped all those genuine intervention failures from the Treatment category to the Control category, making your Treatment look better by comparison.

Yeah, my Rule: If You Can’t Count It, You Can’t Change It.

But!

Just Because You Can Count It, Doesn’t Mean You’ve Changed It.

Hart, W., Albarracín, D., Eagly, A. H., Brechan, I., Lindberg, M. J., & Merrill, L. (2009). Feeling validated versus being correct: A meta-analysis of selective exposure to information. Psychological Bulletin, 135(4), 555-588. doi:10.1037/a0015701

Time and Money as Sequential Requests

If you are running a charitable outfit and you want to maximize financial contributions, which request sequence will produce the most money?

Time, then money.

Or.

Money, then time.

According to a series of studies Liu and Aaker present in a 2009 JCR paper, ask for time, then money, and you get more money.  (And, more time, too!)

In experiment One (yes, experiment with random assignment to controlled conditions with comparison and counting!), participants who got the Time-Money sequence offered $36.44 of contributions versus those in the Money-Time sequence offering $24.26 for a Small Windowpane effect of 45/55, or d = .30.  In experiment Two, the outcome for Time-Money was $5.85 versus a Money-Time of $3.07 with a d of .59 or another Medium Windowpane of 35/65.  And, finally in experiment Three, the Time-Money participants offered $11.50 versus the Money-Time offer of $6.65 for a d of .73, a near Large Windowpane at 25/75.  Of course, all of these results were Statistically Significant so those of you who think alpha means something scientific can now draw a breath of relief.  Here’s a table to help organize all this information.

 

T then M M then T d effect Windowpane
Exp 1 $36.44 $24.26 0.30 45/55
Exp 2 $05.85 $03.07 0.59 35/65
Exp 3 $11.50 $06.65 0.73 26/74

 

How about that?

Sequencing the request of two elements, Time and Money, produces more favorable outcomes for money.  Of course, you already knew that, didn’t you?  I didn’t, but then I’m not running a charitable organization seeking financial support from people.  As a persuasion maven, I could have seen either sequence working and explained either eventuality (as all good consultants and mavens can do).  But, I’d be wrong half the time, right?

Liu and Aaker offer a mediational analysis that suggests the Time-Money sequence activates a kind of relationship happiness whereby people who get Time-Money first think about all the people they would help with their Time and that happiness then motivates the Money bonus.  Thus, this sequential tactic works through an emotional Cue.  And, this does operate as a Cue and not the Long Conversation in the Head down the Central Route.  And that Cue works like a Sequential Message Request.

Now, my persuasion analysis here is quite different from Liu and Aaker’s.  They focus on that emotional mediator whereby the Time request generates positive relational feelings that then motivates more giving.  I’m twisting things and looking at the results through the lens of Sequential Requests, a Peripheral Route process that strings together two requests and in combination producing better outcomes than either request alone.

The most famous examples of Sequential Requests are Foot in the Door (FITD) and Door in the Face (DITF).  FITD designs two messages so that the first request gains an easy affirmative reply followed by the second request (the true target of the play) which is now easier to accept given the first agreement.  DITF starts with a request that earns a negative reply followed then by the second and true request that is now more likely to be accepted because of the earlier turn down.  And, if you’d like to Read More About It, try this Primer chapter.

We clearly see the same design characteristics in the Time then Money (TtM) play.  TtM strings together two requests in quick sequence.  In this instance, merely asking about Time – regardless of the response – stimulates the giving of more Money.  Furthermore, it is interesting that TtM shares another commonality with Sequential Messages – they work best on prosocial, charitable situations.

It is also important to think about the Persuasion Box.  What are the Local Conditions in these studies?  People know they are in an experiment, manipulated and maybe deceived, and observed.  They are paid for participation and use that payment as the measure of outcome.  Thus, these are not customers walking in a mall, approached by a friendly stranger, and asked to contribute Time then Money.  This is not a mailing or a phone call.

One great difficulty with experiments is understanding just how important the cover story and research elements are for the operation of all the variables.  There is a psychology going on each study that can lead to self deception – hey, it’s just the research and it doesn’t affect anything.  What happens if a charitable operation hires a firm to call a list of clients and hit them up for contributions using TtM over the phone?  It’s possible TtM would have no effect at all or that it could run pretty much as advertised.

I’ve seen no following information about how these experiments generalize (the external validity problem from Research Methods 101).  If you’ve got any experience here, I’d like to hear about it.

Grand Piano Persuasion

The grand manner is, very simply – a grand manner. A manner of playing which forms itself upon grand concepts, makes such concepts personal by grand enthusiasms, and paints its pianistic pictures in bold, brilliant, grand strokes.

After the Golden Age – Romantic Pianism and Modern Performance
Kenneth Hamilton, Location 93-94, Kindle Edition

Metaphors bridge concepts, revealing similarities and differences for our consideration. Too, metaphors can be tunnels that force us in one direction and leave us unaware of other possibilities. Metaphors contain an inherent dynamic tension between insight versus concentration.

With that tension in mind, consider the grand manner as the way one might perform persuasion plays.

Tackies – Pellucidity Nietzsche

Nietzsche’s writing reminds me of my trouble remembering the definition of the word, “pellucid.” Pellucid is a great sounding word, romantic, unique, precise, but how many people know what it means?

pellucidity – clarity: free from obscurity and easy to understand; the comprehensibility of clear expression.

In the field of optics, transparency (also called pellucidity or diaphaneity) is the physical property of allowing light to pass through a material; translucency (also called translucence or translucidity) only allows light to pass through diffusely. The opposite property is opacity.

Thus a word that means transparent hits me like a fog, a pretty fog on little cat’s feet, but a fog nonetheless. So, too, Nietzsche. He is pellucid.

limpid: (of language) transparently clear; easily understandable; “writes in a limpid style”; “lucid directions”; “a luculent oration”- Robert Burton; “pellucid prose”; “a crystal clear explanation”; “a perspicuous argument”

Modeling at the Hirshhorn

The Hirshhorn Museum on the National Mall In Washington DC currently features the classic 1977 performance video, Light/Dark, by Marina Abramović and Ulay.  Shot in black and white, the video features a male and female, kneeling opposite one another, taking turns slapping each other on the face.  The tempo of the event escalates until it concludes in a vigorous slapfest that tests the speed and coordination of each partner.  I am not sure that this is art, but it is persuasive.

 

 

While watching Light/Dark at distance, Melanie and I observed a small group of teen-agers watching the video, and, wouldn’t you know it, they were slapping each other on the face just like Abramović and Ulay.  Beavis and Butthead, avant garde!  Three Stooges, touché!  Regretfully I have no pictures since I would have been obligated to have gotten release signatures from the kids and they looked like they were having too much fun.

Many years ago the Hirshhorn offered another compelling performance art video entitled, Clown Torture, which featured a clown in whiteface, red nose, and fright wig, weeping and shouting like the last survivor of a Genghis Khan raid.  We observed no modeling effects from this performance.  Perhaps, the clown appears too dissimilar to teen (and perhaps adults – we didn’t stay that long) viewers and thus garners no imitators.   Abramović and Ulay appear without makeup and in normal dress.  While some of you may think I’m pulling your leg about these details, the modeling literature demonstrates that similarity between model and imitator is crucial for modeling effects.  Perhaps, if we ran Light/Dark with two slapping clowns, my teen exemplars would disappoint?

Disappointing too, if you search the Hirshhorn website they do not list Light/Dark as an asset in their search function!  You can find this excellent 140 character tweet on it, though.  And, here’s a Hirshhorn link to a lecture about Marina Abramović that mentions Light/Dark.  Finally, if you’d like to view a video fragment of the work, here’s your source.  Sadly, I cannot find the entire 20 minute feature, so you’ll just have to imagine it.

How ephemeral is performance art!

How eternal are the principles of persuasion!

Crying clowns weep alone, but slapping people starts a style!

P.S.  What’s wrong at the Hirshhorn?  In the past five years when we’ve visited there the place has had fewer pieces on display, provided abundant space for sparse exhibitions (Blinky Palermo needs an entire floor?), and shown visible signs of aging.  Other Smithsonian Museums, by contrast, continue to sparkle, shine, and innovate.  Did someone at the Hirshhorn offend every member of Congress?

Lost in DeeSea with Oceana

Advocacy ads dominate the print landscape on the DC Metro System. Each car has a unique set of ads so that as you travel across DC, you’ll encounter a variety of print posters on your trips (ding-ding, door closing, please step inside). On one trip I noticed a weird and confusing ad from the advocacy group, Oceana. The ad also featured a web page at StopTheDrill.org so I didn’t take a picture of the poster. That inference made this post a bit more difficult, since I went to the website and, wouldn’t you know it, the ad was not to be found. (Think a minute about that. You’re running posters in the real world with your website address plastered prominently on them and you don’t include the poster on your website. Maven?) I did a Google image search using a wild variety of terms with no luck and then tried a web search and lo and behold, I found the poster at the Mother Jones website. Hmmmmm. Here it is.

Sit next to me now on a speeding and crowded Metro train in Washington DC.

Look up at a large colorful poster that has a picture of New York City and what seems to be the burning WTC buildings. Ask yourself then, What If It Happened Here?

I did not even see the BP oil rig disaster in the image and saw only the burning WTC towers.

What if It happened Here?

To me, the It, without question, doubt, or qualm, pointed to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Thus, It did happen Here in Washington DC, I thought. You fools, ever hear about a building called the Pentagon?

And, why for the love of Mike, are you running an ad that features the Manhattan land- and sea- scape in Washington DC?

Now, of course, I completely missed the point of the poster. Oceana wants you to imagine an oil spill near you, so they create a dramatic scene with fire and spill images from the BP Oil Rig Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and drop them in scenes you know and cherish. It’s really quite simple and Oceana completely goofed it up.

1. Running NYC scenes in DC!

2. Bad, I mean really bad, photoshopping.

3. Conflicted, confusing mashup between image and text.

Goodness.

But, wait, Steve, Oceana does run a DC Special on the same theme and this time all the photoshop elements feature familiar landmarks. What about this?

Can you believe this lame execution? Where’s the oil spill? Where’s the tar balls on the Potomac shores? Why not a Reflecting Pool filled with flaming jets of natural gas?

Double Dukes.

If you go to Oceana’s website, you see another mark of the Beast. The actor, Ted Danson, is all over the website. Like this.

Attention! Whether Mr. Danson truly believes in everything Oceana proclaims is irrelevant. Danson appeared on the Larry David HBO comedy series, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and regularly allowed himself to be seen as a shallow, trendy Hollywood star doing his bit to Save the World with various causes. Danson is as deadly a marker for advocacy as is the ubiquitous Ashton Kutcher.  You might remember this photo.

As I noted in a much earlier post, sometimes this kind of Sincerely Bad Persuasion actually disguises the Truly Good Persuasion, the inSincere Persuasion.  Tax breaks.  Fawning, uncritical press coverage.  Burnished public image.

Those DC posters from Oceana will not Change the Other Guys at Big Oil or Big Government and hence fail through Sincerity there.  But, want a great expense paid, tax deductible photo op? How about sucker donations that fund the mechanics of the organization? Want volunteers to do the grubby work?

You just have to understand who’s the Other Guy and it makes perfect persuasion sense.