S02E09 – Understanding The Meganet

Talking About Marketing Podcast by Steve Davis and David Olney

How much does AI really understand? How much have we made ourselves its slave through our social media usage? And what does this mean for our marketing efforts?

In this final episode of the second series of Talking About Marketing, we turn our attention to the endeavour of human craft as well as our proclivity for finding the laziest way possible to do things with AI.

David Auerbach is a writer, technologist, and software engineer, whose latest book has shone a light on the way our social media usage has helped the large language models that power Artificial Intelligence to have richer insights into how humans intone and communicate.

As we discuss, the current state of technology and social media is a double-edged sword for marketers.

Meanwhile, back in the "good ol' days", we catch a glimpse of all the background effort applied by Michelangelo to enable him to be the artist we admire. Yes, it's another case of an overnight success who put in thousands of invisible hours to make it all look so easy. There's something in this for all of us!!

And we close out with a tip about getting more views for your YouTube videos and why we don't really need to envy AI robots.

Talking About Marketing podcast episode notes with timecodes

01:36  Person  This segment focusses on you, the person, because we believe business is personal.

What Would Michelangeo Do?

In his book, Resilience, Eric Greitens, a Navy SEAL, shares a series of letters he'd written to another Navy SEAL who was hitting rock bottom and struggling to adapt to civilian life.

What separates this book from other books written by Alpha males, is that Eric is very well read and has a knack for weaving ancient writers, poets, and philisophers into his letters.

The book powers forward and is probably best consumed one letter/chapter at time rather than than being binged because it is dense with observations, suggestions, and lessons.

One that piqued Steve's interest was letter 8, where Eric is talking about the importance of honing our habits. One great insight was that the key to success is actually to train at enjoying training because once you enjoy training, the rest is easy.

But by way of example, he shares some thoughts from the master artist, Michelangelo, who had detailed notes on things to practice and consider when painting. The end result being that when it was time to paint, the artist was in his flow state.

All of us could probably do with extra tweaking around our habits, whether that's the habit of blogging, or reflecting on our enterprises, or making sure we're looking after our health so we CAN keep producing the output we desire.

11:03  Principles  This segment focusses principles you can apply in your business today.


Is there any way of shaking the dark shadows of our addiction to social media? Is AI something to be scared of? And have we helped make the AI monster smarter?

There is a lot we could discuss arising from David B. Auerbach's book, MEGANETS: How Digital Forces Beyond Our Control Commandeer Our Lives and Inner Realities.

Steve decides to centre our discussion around three things of relevance to us as marketers:

  • The reason why many marketers and users find social media puzzling (it's because we're all in filter bubbles)
  • Why it's impossible for executives to control the junk and lies in social media sites
  • The shallow depth of AI "understanding"

David Auerbach is a writer, technologist, and software engineer. He previously worked as a software engineer at Google and Microsoft for many years before turning to writing. He has written on technology, literature, and philosophy for many publications.

One of his opening observations is that people are not constant. When we interact, it is quite chaotic.

Within all that content, there is more poisonous content in social media than ever before in human history. This is because in the past, when we were restricted to interacting with people in our locale, there would rarely be a concentration of people who agreed with our excesses. If we had fringe ideas, it would get blunted by others around us who would challenge it.

However, social media has meant we can connect with likeminded people no matter where they are in the world. This has the result of making dangerous and fringe voices much louder than they would otherwise had been due to Volume, Velocity, and Virality.

For marketers, this is a double-edged sword. On one hand, if we manange to get "in" with our people, we can surf on a really strong current of ready made customers. However, if we upset a certain person or group, they can quickly "pile on" with their fellow travellers; many of whom will comment anonymously.

Secondly, David argues that when we complain that Mark Zuckerberg should do more to stop the poison in our networks, we are wasting our time. He cites many internal papers noting how little control they have over the networks. Every minute of the day, Google conducts 5.7 million searches, Discord uses send 668,000 messages, TikTok users watch 167 million videos, Facebook users share 240,000 photos. Algorithms just can't process the resulting chaos with any great accuracy.

On top of all of this, us humans actually change the machines. Users search, Google watches what they like and don't like, the algorithm updates itself to change results, website owners change content, and the cycle continues. The same happens everywhere.

And the scores given to how offensive certain terms are, need to be updated because often it is not the surface value but the cultural context that makes something offensive. For example, the phrase "I f*cking love you man. Happy birthday" was rated as 93 in 2017 as very vulgar, but that had dropped to 60 in 2021, while "drop dead" only rated as a 40 in 2017 but jumped to 71 in 2021.

He explains how AI is not all that effective because it does not UNDERSTAND human language. The language models being used just work on the probability of what word is more likely to go after this word in this context.

That's why the third point of interest was his explanation for how AI learns using deep learning.

He explained that if we gave AI a pile of pictures of correctly labelled animals and asked them to separate them into separate containers, it would look at what all the dog pictures had in common and all the cat pictures had in common, as well as where the cat and dog pictures differed the most. These similarities and differences are not things humans would understand. It would be certain arrangements of patterns and pixels. It basically is a huge pile of variation about what makes things more cat-like or dog-like, without it being clear as to WHY. But because we have trained it, it becomes accurate. A new unlabelled image comes in, and it is correctly labelled.

Eerily, David says our daily activities in social networks is a gift to AI. We are giving it a huge library of human interaction and, because the networks give us icons to click to show like and anger and love, the AI deep learning machines get an extra head start in categorising.

In fact, David's forecast is that the mega networks are moving towards dumbing down the flair in human language so that we can feed the machines better.

What do we do with this?

It's a reminder that we are about to go through a time of vanilla writing and things will get very bland for consumers. Our job will be to find ways to keep bucking trends and staying human.

Listen to the full conversation.

33:21  Problems  This segment answers questions we've received from clients or listeners.

Video Thumbnails

If you've noticed videos on YouTube having catchy images with bold titles, it's done for a reason.

Video thumbnails help grab our attention and if you haven't experimented with them yet, now might be the time.

An easy way to start is in Canva which has a set of video thumbnail templates.

36:01  Perspicacity  This segment is designed to sharpen our thinking by reflecting on a case study from the past.

A Hard Earned Thirst Unless You're A Robot

A fun note to finish on. The Michelob ULTRA - Robots - Super Bowl 2019 Commercial features an AI-driven robot doing everything better than humans, until it comes to enjoying a beer.

This ad has a bittersweet ending as the robot is left bewildered while humans enjoy the human experience of having a beer.

TRANSCRIPT  This is a transcript of the episode. Please note, although checked briefly, this was crafted by an AI tool and will contain errors. For quoting purposes, always check against the original audio.

Caitlin Davis: [00:00:00] Talking about marketing is a podcast for business owners and leaders, produced by my dad, Steve Davis, and his colleague at Talked About Marketing, David Olney, in which they explore marketing through the lens of their own four P's, person, principles, problems, and perspicacity. Yes, you heard that correctly.

Apart from their love of words, they really love helping people. So they hope this podcast will become a trusted companion on your journey in business.

Steve Davis: David, I've got a personal question I'd like to ask you.

David Olney: Should I put on my flying helmet now or later?

Steve Davis: Well, it's not a bad choice of terminology. On the weekend in my Facebook feed, came the story of a man, I believe an Adelaide man, a blind man, who was skateboarding. Did that make its [00:01:00] way through your Facebook feed?

Knowing how the algorithms like to sort things out.

David Olney: Interestingly, no.

The plot thickens, and we're getting deeper into this meganet in this episode.

Caitlin Davis: Our four Ps. Number one, person. The aim of life is self development. To realise one's nature perfectly. That is what each of us is here for. Oscar Wilde.

Steve Davis: Interesting insight on things that we can apply to our own life. A rise from a book that I've been listening to which I've now taken to listening to in smaller doses. It's called Resilience by Eric Greitens. So it's an interesting book in which he is writing a series of letters, or really the book is a collection of letters he wrote [00:02:00] to a fellow SEAL that he went through training with who had come back to civilian life and was struggling badly, to put it lightly, he was destroying his life. He was rock bottom. And so after a chat, Eric started writing letters and they had letters going back and forth. This book is the collection of the letters that Eric wrote back. And obviously he just embellished them a bit for publication and made them into a quite an interesting book, which you recommended to me, David.

And I thank you for that. What, what separates this book from others written by alpha males is that Eric is actually well read. And so he's got a lovely knack for weaving ancient writers poets and philosophers into his letters. And it powers forward. This is a dense book. So I'm listening to books a lot more these days.

Also, thanks to you, David, rather than reading them. And this one is just. [00:03:00] You need to stop, probably take one letter at a time, because there's so much thrown at us, but letter eight piqued my interest for this part of our segment, this segment in our podcast, which is about us as people running businesses.

And it comes back to this sense of habits and forming habits. We've had lots of people referenced on that topic, but the question here is What would Michelangelo do? And it comes from nature, right? Eric's talking about how important it is to, in fact, there's a couple of things he makes it great. One of them is this, to succeed in any endeavor in life, you have to train yourself to enjoy training yourself.

Now that is a wonderful insight because he said if you can enjoy doing the training when it's time to put it into real life, whatever this thing, this skill is, it will become natural, you'll have your [00:04:00] muscle memory, you'll be in your flow. That's a pretty good insight, David. You agree?

David Olney: Oh, it's a fabulous insight and to give the listeners a bit of context, he worked it out in so many different ways in his own life.

So when he was an undergraduate at Duke University, he wanted to learn to box and he thought, well, what's it going to be like to be up every morning and it's cold or it's, you know, really early before I go to class and what's it going to be like getting hit regularly and what's it going to be like being sore regularly.

But as he did it, he realized, hang on. Yeah, you have to enjoy the training or you won't do the work and you won't get better. And really, when he went on to Oxford to do his Master's and his PhD, the discipline he'd put into physical training and then the intellectual training of enjoying research, enjoying thinking, enjoying constructing arguments, enjoying putting arguments in front of his tutors at Oxford.

And they would sometimes demolish his arguments and he'd go away and go, right, how do I make it better? So it's not just he [00:05:00] worked this out in the alpha world of being a SEAL. He worked it out as a very young man, as a university student, wanting to not just sit on his bum thinking, but actually to be physically capable and intellectually open to grow.

Steve Davis: Yeah, and It's interesting, my, my daughters who are both into sport have adopted this and they're working on that as well and I'm trying to do it too with my little bits of daily exercise. But the, the other thing that came and grabbed me by the scruff of my neck as I was listening to this was he was referencing historians going through the papers left behind by Michelangelo.

And there's a big section in there with detailed notes on how to train yourself to be a good artist, the things to practice and consider.

Let's have a listen to a little excerpt now.

Eric Book: In the middle of Leonardo da Vinci's famous notebooks, there's a section called The Practice of Painting. [00:06:00] It's full of pages and pages of advice to beginners from a master. Look at it for a few minutes and it's obvious that you're reading the work of a man beautifully obsessed with his craft. Leonardo starts from the beginning, how to trace and copy the work of a great artist before you.

Then, he writes about mastering the details of human anatomy. It is indispensable to a painter who would be thoroughly familiar with the limbs and all the positions and actions of which they are capable, in the nude, to know the anatomy of the sinews, bones, muscles, and tendons so that, in their various movements and exertions, He may know which nerve or muscle is the cause of each movement.

And show those only as prominent and thickened, and not the others all over, as many do who, to seem great draftsmen, draw their nude figures looking like wood, devoid of grace, so that you would think you were looking at a sack of walnuts, [00:07:00] rather than the human form, or a bundle of radishes, rather than the muscles of figures.

Before you can paint, he says, you have to know the nerves and tendons and muscles behind every movement. The lesson goes on and on. How to set up your studio. Whether to paint alone or with friends. How wide to open your studio's window. The best kind of light to paint in. How to draw a figure on a wall 12 brachia high, which shall look 24 brachia high.

Where to find a good mirror. Why some shadows are more pleasant to look at than others. How to paint skin. Why faces look darker when seen from farther away. How to depict anger and despair. How to paint a flood or a man making a speech. How, even in your spare time, you should come up with games to test the sharpness of your eye and the steadiness of your hand.

How, when you close your eyes to go to sleep, you should see in your mind's eye the figures you painted that day in all their detail. Here's the thing, [00:08:00] Walker. Do you think Leonardo had to think much about any of that when he sat down to paint his masterworks? I doubt it. He had been studying and practicing and building habits his entire life.

When he sat down and took up his brush, all of that, all of it, was a part of him. He had attained a level of unconscious competence. What do you see when you watch a painter like this humming away at his work? Do you see a slave? A robot? Or do you see someone who is finally free to do what he was put on earth to do?

Steve Davis: And that is a pretty detailed list of things to do, but it is why, as he says, his nudes look like actual humans with only the muscle in action being the one that's flexed. Well, a lot of other artists, we look like bags of [00:09:00] walnuts because they've tried to do every single muscle every single time. It's a wonderful little snippet from this book, and it's just a, I think it's a great sampling of what he gets down to, and deepened my appreciation for Michelangelo.

He wasn't just some gifted whiz kid, there was a lot of hard yards that went in behind the scenes, and of course The, the work is enduring to this day. So probably the takeaway for me is that all of us, and I'm talking to myself, extra tweaking around our habits is always something that should be in vogue, whether that's about blogging, whether that's about taking those 15 minutes to reflect every day that we talked about on a recent episode, or making sure we keep our health mental and physical in, in train.

That's just yet another fresh approach to remind us to stay on track. David, any final thoughts on, on this other insight from Mr. Eric?

David Olney: Just going to link it to the David Sandler stuff we've talked about in the previous episode, because [00:10:00] David Sandler probably made the point. more entertainingly than a lot of authors.

Really try and work smart rather than working hard. Now, if you're working smart, you'll probably work hard too, but you'll get a lot further. And this is very much the example that Eric is trying to make here of, doesn't matter how much raw talent you've got, the way you work is either going to bring that talent out or leave it underdeveloped.

So where possible, have a think about how could you work smart here? And sometimes by working smart, you won't have to work as hard. Often, you'll have to work smart and hard, but the outcome will be so much better, because you thought through how to build and maintain the gains you need to succeed.

Caitlin Davis: Our four P's, number two, principles. You can never be overdressed or over educated, Oscar Wilde.[00:11:00]

Steve Davis: Is there any way of shaking the dark shadows of our addiction to social media? Is A. I. Something to be scared of and have we helped make the AI monster smarter These are some of the questions that are grappled with in a book by David B. Auerbach. It's called Meganets, How Digital Forces Beyond Our Control Commandeer Our Lives and Our Inner Realities.

I encountered David in an episode of Sam Harris's Making Sense podcast. It was a really fascinating chat, and I since went off and read the book. David, you've also had a listen to... That David and Sam Harris interview. There are three things that floated to the top for me that I wanted us to discuss in this podcast that I think have a closer overlap to us as marketers.

The first of all the first one [00:12:00] is the reason why marketers and even users of and this is particularly in relation to the way filter bubbles grouped and create. Another one is why it's impossible for executives. At these mega nets, and when I say mega net, what Dave was referring to there is these huge sites that have evolved over time and interact with each other that are bigger than the Internet itself, just about the Facebook, YouTube, Googled as a search engine, et cetera.

So why is it impossible for the. The executives at the top of those juggernauts, those mega nets, to actually control what we see. And this comes up when we had that shooter rampage in Auckland many years ago, and there was this outcry. Why didn't Twitter and Facebook shut down the sharing of those gruesome videos?

Well, David says they can't. And the other one is the shallow depth of AI "understanding" in inverted commas. So [00:13:00] let's pick these off one at a time. And David, you'll chip in with things that you've picked up from the conversation too. But David Auerbach is actually a writer, a technologist and a software engineer.

He previously worked at Google and Microsoft for many years before he turned to writing. And one of the opening observations in his book is that people are not constant. And when we interact with each other, it's a chaotic outcome. There's a lot of randomness at play. And within all the content that we're sharing these days, in particular social media, there's more poisonous content that we get exposed to than any other time in human history.

And he says, this is because in the past, when we were restricted to interacting with people just in our locale, So, you know, for me, it would just be in my suburb, maybe if I go into the city, and maybe a couple other friends groups or a sports group, that's where I [00:14:00] could see. And, you know, if I had really outlandish or horrid ideas, they would soon get blunted in the cut and thrust of conversation with people who know me, they're close enough to slap me on the back, say, settle down there, son.

What about this? Oh, I hadn't thought about that, etc. But what happens with social media in particular, the blessing and the curse of it, is that I can put these thoughts out online and connect with people who share them, no matter where they are. They could be 10, 000 kilometers away, someone else could be 2, 000, but together we become concentrated, and we have these toxic bubbles, these of people of like mind, and of course, we get fed, and we'll talk more about this in a moment, the way the algorithms learn what sort of content we're enjoying the most, and feeds us more of it, so it's quite possible that for someone to hear about, say, the Andrew [00:15:00] Tate character who's talked about a bit in the media.

And I didn't even know he existed. I had absolutely nothing in my bubble until the news story came through. While others are really, of all ages, with the people on the weekend, their 14 year old daughter was very well aware of him, etc. And as normal cut and thrust of her social media consumption. So we've got these poisonous bubbles where people can gather together, whether it's for good or bad, because of this artificial proximity we have to each other.

David, your thoughts on this?

David Olney: Yeah, it's not just even artificial proximity, it's the speed of transmission too. Something can be put in front of you so fast from people you don't know, because it's similar to something you've sat and read before. So rather than your little bubble, Just being here in Adelaide in your suburb or in the city and a free of friendship groups.

Suddenly you're tapped into people worldwide and it gives you the sense, literally, that what you're interested in is [00:16:00] big. Thus kind of relating to the phrase he created, or the term he created, the MegaNet. Suddenly you are part of this big thing, rather than just the little thing of you and a couple of friends.

Steve Davis: And it's a double edged sword for marketers too, because on one hand, if we manage to get In with our people, we have like a slipstream that we can coast along with customers left, right and center. But also means if we run afoul of someone, whether it's a person or a group, they can pile on really quickly with fellow travelers and many of whom will just spew their poison at us anonymously.

David Olney: Yeah, everything is magnified and it's very much happening at the pace of system one in the brain. of fast emotional thinking. So it doesn't give people time to get past the initial emotional response and then reason something out that they're more comfortable with. It pops up, they look at it, they're either outraged or they love it, they write something equally emotional, and [00:17:00] it keeps driving this thing of time, It's short, distance doesn't matter, it looks like we're all in it together, and it's fueled by emotion rather than a reason.

So it really is, you know, the whole idea of like when a fire officer talks about the fire triangle. You know, you have to have fuel, you have to have oxygen, and you have to have ignition. And the problem is we've created a situation where social media is all three all the time. Mm.

Steve Davis: The other point is that David Auerbach argues that when we complain that Mark Zuckerberg should do more to stop the, the poison seeping through the networks, we're wasting our time because he does cite a number of internal memos in which different executives are just complaining.

They've got no control over this thing and talking of the volume there's a lovely pdf in the book that captures that every minute of the day, every minute, Google is conducting 5. 7 million searches. Discord users are [00:18:00] sending 668, 000 messages. Every minute, TikTok users are watching 167 million videos.

On Facebook, apart from all the... Comments and videos and other things, Facebook users are also sharing 240, 000 photos and the algorithms just can't process this all they can, but they can't do it with much accuracy. And on top of this, the key dynamic that he brings to the table is how us humans are changing the machine.

So we do a search, Google watches what we've searched and then what we go to, what we like and don't like. So its algorithm learns to, Oh, we need to adapt that. That wasn't very popular. This is more popular. And then the website owners who are getting. punish down the rankings, they change their content and the cycle continues.

And this haem happens across all of the networks. You were, you picked up on this in the interview with David and Sam, didn't [00:19:00] you?

David Olney: This is the thing that I found most interesting. And that really is that the fact that our, our behavior on social media on the internet is so often emotional, basically irrational.

The algorithm is always looking, what can we learn from the user? Well, what the algorithm learns from the user. Cause the algorithm doesn't have moral or ethical discernment skill. It just goes, humans do this, me do this to get more humans. Yeah, that was the point. The algorithms were created to make economically successful models.

Mm-hmm. The algorithm doesn't care whether it's good, bad, or indifferent. The algorithm just says, humans did this, I do this. So as a consequence, when we are hyper emotional, don't engage rationality, pile on, or just do dumb things online. And lots of other people respond. The algorithm goes, Hmm, humans must want more of this thing because they're responding.

And the algorithm doubles down. And this is happening at a pace [00:20:00] where there is no such thing as the big lever in Facebook or YouTube headquarters where you yank on the lever and their algorithm powers down. There is no powering down the algorithm, or the whole system is gone, and that is something that for economic reasons, no one's ever going to say yes to in the companies, and all right, more of us might be saying no to social media, more of us in a professional setting, you know, like small business, might be moving to LinkedIn, where the behavior is a bit better, because the point of turning up on LinkedIn is to try to be the more rational professional you actually are, you know.

And you want to interact with other professionals in a more rational way. Okay, that's a bit better. But that is one of the few online communities I can think of where the humans aren't hyper emotional and the algorithm isn't responding at warp speed to keep up with us morphing the system further and further out of shape.

Steve Davis: And in trying to keep [00:21:00] up the bits of code, the algorithms that are trying to learn and match and whatever, they have human moderators in the fray as well, unless your new owner comes in and sacks them all. And so he makes the point in the book that I think was quite interesting, looking at how, I think it was from the realm of Facebook, different Phrases have been judged differently on an offensive scale.

So 100 is totally offensive, 0 is really benign. And just two examples I remember he saw, because here's the thing with humans. We might say something at a surface level, but we're using it ironically. And this is where the machines struggle. So the phrase, I effing love you man, happy birthday. In 2017, if you shared that, that would've ranked 93 as vulgar and bad and to be hidden, but that had dropped to 60 in 2021 because yeah, the context was learned, obviously watching people not being reacting in an [00:22:00] angry way, but loving it.

So they've learned and dropped dead. If you said drop dead in 2017, that was 40. Fairly benign, but now in a highly charged environment, that's 71 because there are. Increasingly horrible threats that people make and he does explain that AI and that the machine learning is not all that good at understanding the complexities of human language.

They sort of work on the probability. This word's been said, what is the next most likely word that would go after this in a certain context? And That's why the third point of interest that I wanted to share was his explanation for how AI actually uses deep learning. Let's have a listen to this.

Now that's interesting, especially if you're someone who has been drinking the Kool Aid and think AI can write a deeper, meaningful piece of content. It's really skating over the surface and [00:23:00] labeling things correctly in a really different way. But, before I turn to you, David, there is something fascinating that I thought.

Is that. As the AI networks are using different, sorry, as the social networks using AI tools to learn and play a role in, in watching and listening and moderating, machine, the whole deep learning thing, struggle with the complexities of human language. So, it helps them if we can Self label ourselves.

Hence the introduction of the like button, the love button, the sad button. That's not necessarily for us to communicate that to humans. This is us helping feed the machines with the sort of food and machine you are. That makes it easier. And in fact, his vision in the future, at the dystopian end, is ultimately these meganets need to dumb [00:24:00] down and make human interactions more bland so that the machines can become more accurate.


David Olney: Yeah, basically. Where the machines need us to be is that we use emojis that have clear meanings and we use like and dislike buttons that have clear meanings because the AIs are so dumb. They pattern match. They don't have ethics. They don't have morality. They don't understand language. They don't understand what it is to be alive.

And okay, there are all these people terrified of AIs becoming sentient, and that whole idea is terrifying, but the idea that we are close to that when the current tools we see do pattern matching in a way that's got nothing to do with human consciousness or perception of the world we're in such a strange place because, like you said, the human moderators You know, can only subjectively make sense of language use [00:25:00] and how people think and what they feel and what they believe at such a slow pace compared to the data flow.

And yet the machine learning is so stupid. So you put that combination together, and it's no wonder that the Meganets are out of control. And they're largely out of control because we don't function very well when we're online and doing everything emotionally. And the machine learning algorithms underpin AI aren't very clever.

You put the combination of emotional humans and dumb machines together. And it's no wonder we've got this social media mayhem and online environment that means that there's a proportion of marketing people are like, yeah, social media is everything. And then there's some of us like me who go social media is utterly insane.

And if you can talk to a community you value about something you care about and can talk about with expertise, do that. But that's not how social media is normally used, that's not what the algorithms are for, and that's not what the machine learning [00:26:00] understands.

Steve Davis: The scary thing is, the master plan is to help us talk more simply, but if we're all just giving up to the AI, well, we fly the white flag when it's not necessarily earned.

The book is fascinating from that perspective, going into that deeply, but what do we do with this? As people leading or running enterprises is the question and it's, it's hard to grapple with at many levels. Probably the key thing I'd say here is we're about to go through, we're in the middle of going through an increasing barrage of pretty bland and vanilla content as more and more tricksters try the lazy way of getting AI to write stuff, maybe.

There's scope for us if we can amplify our humanness to throw things into the mix of human discourse that jar, that are different because they're human. [00:27:00] They're Andy Warhol. They're not Hallmark. David, anything you'd take away from this?

David Olney: Yeah, I think that the final thing I'd add is when you're thinking of writing something on social media personally or for your small business, Don't think, will it be shocking or surprising or wow?

Think about, will it cause a person to both have a positive emotional response? And then to enjoy thinking about what you just wrote or shared for 30 seconds. Because if someone can enjoy the photo or the comment for 30 seconds, that's going to slow their brain back down to the point of, hang on, I should write a sentence back that is also thoughtful.

So try and get a loop of getting people into System 2 thinking. Yes, they have the immediate emotional response of, that was nice or that was interesting, but that it's so valuable or so worthwhile that they spend the extra time. So really, you've got to put out content that has content.

Steve Davis: Well, that's true.

And I'll finish with an example [00:28:00] of this, the slowing down thing. The other day I put a post on social media. I was reading a book in bed. The last thing I do at night is I read my junkie secret novels where there's some superhero character, not as a cape wearing one, just a superhero person who solves a whole lot of problems.

And it was a quote in which the author surprised me with this. Reflection that people put themselves in categories so they can hide. They don't want to stand out on their own. I thought, Oh, that's an interesting thought. Anyway, I had a friend who put, who only comments two or three times a year on my things, and that's only if she's picked up a bit of grammar that's wrong.

It's, it's a really interesting characteristic, David. We wouldn't act like this in real life. I don't think. Anyway, she, I put a comment out that said this. When you're in a minority, categories help you identify your needs, [00:29:00] seek support, build networks. Like when I look for philosophy, I tend to skip the airport fiction section.

Now that was a takedown, a drive by takedown that I dare try to put something from a, you know, a junkie novel as philosophy. Ouch, David. But here's the slowing down thing. It was about eight hours later, she came back and said, Oh, sorry, that was mean before 8 a. m. So she'd had a time to reflect on what she said.

This, I think, is the perfect... dynamic that captures this trap we're in of the shoot from the hip poison, when maybe reflection would have been better before sending it.

David Olney: And I think this is one of the interesting ideas in the interview in the book, that we might get to the point where one of the only ways to improve social media is to say, you've just written this post, you will be shown it again in 10 minutes time to confirm that you want to actually submit it and put it out there in the [00:30:00] world.

And I really do think a 10 minute delay like that might end up being critical. And the more people end up in firestorms and piling on other people, I think we almost want algorithms to go, Well, you can't control your emotional state. We'll make it two hours before you're allowed to post.

Steve Davis: But we won't wait two hours before the next segment.

We'll come to it in about 20 seconds.

Caitlin Davis: Our four Ps. Number three, Problems. I asked a question for the best reason possible, simple curiosity. Oscar Wilde.

Steve Davis: A really quick exhibit for our problem segment this episode and it's all to do with video thumbnails. On YouTube, if you have a glance through, you will see some videos stand out more than others when you're scrolling through the list because they've crafted a specific [00:31:00] thumbnail cover image for the video.

And one of the things that separates the this trend from the others is. Videos where people haven't bothered this are just a still from within the video. But these cover images tend to be bright, brightly coloured, and tend to have a strong image, typically of a human, with three or four lines, or even two lines of bold text that you can see, even when the image is small, that cuts to the chase of what this video is about.

It's garish, it's the stuff of the influencer mindset, but I've started adopting it with my clients, for some of them, this YouTube aspect is becoming more important and David, you also noting too, the reason we're doing it is in the nature of these environments, it does help grab attention as people scroll past the videos.

David Olney: Yep, we're all looking at small screens [00:32:00] except for me who's listening, so these things don't affect me. But one of the guitar teachers I follow on YouTube, you know, just tried doing the more overt and striking, you know, little image and very bold clear text and guess what? More subscribers, more likes. So the reality is when people are looking at little screens, your thing needs to be colorful and it needs to be clear what it's about.

And it's to be easy to find that the most interesting thing in the cluster on your screen and it's not. Sort of icky to use this logic. It's like well What's the point of having a good thing that's bland and doesn't get found? As long as what you're saying is true and the image is still of you Make it as engaging as you possibly can.

Steve Davis: And if you want to start on this and you're using Canva at canva. com, they do have a set of video thumbnail templates Which is as good as any way of getting this started. Doesn't affect the video itself It's just what's in the [00:33:00] holding pattern as people scroll through the list Or videos, they might watch

Caitlin Davis: Our four Ps. Number four purse per cassity. The one duty Weta history is to rewrite it. Oscar Wild

Steve Davis: For Per Per Cassidy. In this episode, we're gonna go to it. It's not that old 2019. There was a Superbowl ad for Michelob, I dunno how to pronounce it. It's a brand of beer. We'll say Michelob Ultra and it's called Robots. And I thought it would just round off this seeing we were talking about David Auerbach's book and the Mega Nets because.

I want last episode we talked about the Coca Cola AI ad in this one. Let me just set it up. You can have a look at this on our show notes. We've got the video embedded so you can watch it, but basically you've got all these. Vignettes of humans, you know, going [00:34:00] for a run and then a robot going for a run and outpacing them doing strength workouts, outpacing the humans.

You know, basically vignette after vignette of the robot just showing how pathetic and weak our wet bodies are compared to their beautifully steel bodies, etc. Until the last scene where the robots going down the street. Power walking as usual, and stops and turns in, looks into the window of a bar, and there are the humans gathered around, drinking this Michelob beer, and savoring the taste and laughing together.

And of course the point is, robots might be good at other things, but they can't have that deep human experience that us humans have. And I think that's a poignant point, and it's another example of this robot slash AI versus human or, or with human scenario. What's your [00:35:00] reaction to this ad, David?

David Olney: I think it's a much better ad than the Coca Cola ad because it's not relying on technology.

It's using the trope of the robot to go at the end of the day. What's a tasty beer all about? Well, the fact it's tasty and you can share it with people. And most of the experience of sharing the beer won't be about the beer, but the beer is a nice part of the experience.

Steve Davis: Hmm. And I think the thing I like about this ad from a communication perspective is that it is cutting to an eternal truth, which is that we're humans and we socialize together.

And to me, this is a little salve for those of us who are. A bit worried about the, it's not so much what AIs do on their own, it's what we give up and surrender to AIs because we're caught up like lemmings, all rushing towards the edge of the cliff. This is a reminder that we should value some of the human stuff, [00:36:00] given this state of play and the nature of this segment, which is to think about You know, will this have legs, so to speak, this sort of communication going forward?

I kind of think there's, it can get worn out quickly, but there's going to be chance to make these points in different ways. I think maybe we need to get deeper into the lost binary world of digits and AI for this ad to even have more bite than it does now.

David Olney: I will come back to the human thing to finish my bit, and that is, remember your customers are people, and they might be impressed by technology, but they aren't technological, they're human.

And if you can engage with them in that human level, again of, this is yummy, and you're hanging out with your friends, that's far more powerful. Then what the wow of technology and if we can harness the [00:37:00] wow of technology to enjoying being human That's probably the ultimate advert.

Steve Davis: And talking of being human, we're human. We're having a break now This is the end of series two of talking about marketing We hope this series has been helpful. If you've missed series one, it's still up online We're going to take a few weeks Off of podcasting we'll be back with series three for the second half of the year, but we are doing some deep work on that human aspect, David, which is starting to put into place the foundations for the community aspects we want to build around the people we are interacting with in talking about marketing.

That's exciting, more exciting than playing chess against a computer, wouldn't you say?

David Olney: I still think the best example of the human playing chess was in that wonderful 80s horror movie. It's Kurt Russell pours his whiskey and ice into the chess computer when it beats him, and of course it blows up, saying that the human always wins.

[00:38:00] So we're all about community being

David Olney: the way that humans win.

Steve Davis: Yeah, and we'll drink to that too.

Caitlin Davis: Thank you for listening to Talking About Marketing. If you enjoyed it, Please leave a rating or a review in your favorite podcast app. And if you found it helpful, please share it with others. Steve and David always welcome your comments and questions.

So send them to podcast at talkedaboutmarketing. com. And finally, the last word to Oscar Wilde. There's only one thing worse than being talked about, and that's not being talked about.

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