Wednesday, 12 November, 2008

More from buyology

“In short, based on viewers' brains' responses to the three programs we tested that day at Los Angeles, The Swan was the least engaging, How Clean Is Your House? The most engaging, and Quizmania lay somewhere between the two. Therefore, we concluded (with a 99 percent degree of statistical certainty) that Quizmania – if and when it is ever aited – would be more successful than The Swan, but less successful than How Clean Is Your House?”

If there were a smiley for a dropping jaw, I'd put it here.

Our boy genius, Lindstrom, and his brain scanning friend were showing some people reality shows and measuring how their brains lit up to these. And then linking existing shows' TRPs, or whatever they use to rate shows out there, predicting success for future shows. The more a new show fries your brain, the more likely it'll be a hit.

Very nice, but is the luminosity of the frontal lobe the only thing that matters to the success of a reality show? How about culture? The economy? War? Show timing? Publicity?

Oh, but we do all know that our boy wonder means that 'all things being equal', it's the heat in the head that matters, don't we? Do we? Or are we doing a hallelujah to this sure-shot method of predicting everything to do with anything?

It's one thing to design an experiment that allows for every possible influence, and then measures the effect – if any – of the factor under investigation*; it's quite another to blissfully ignore the universe and measure only one specific change coincident with a given factor (Did they measure, say, the twitching of the subjects' ears?).

It is yet another thing to extrapolate a straightforward observation (brain engagement => glowing frontal lobe) into something heavily pregnant with possibility (not only glowing frontal lobe => hit show; but also rating = k times glow).

I'm afraid there are such suspicious logical jumps throughout the book. Worse, he doesn't give references to the original research. So, one giant leap for Lindstrom, many steps back for marketing research. I tremble for the day when my headlines will be glow tested on any dimwit with time to kill.

*What is beyond measure can be immeasurably important. But we shouldn't engage in 'semantics'.


Jake said...

I suppose Lindstrom was taking stimulation as a measure of involvement, implying that if a person is emotionally invested in the show, he'll come back for more. You'd think he'd be a little more explicit about it, though. The book sounds interesting but I'm probably going to rent it with my BookSwim account-- in case the book is chock-full of shaky assertions like the one above, I want to be able to return it afterwards!

Anonymous said...

"luminosity of the frontal lobe" LOL!

N&P said...

Jake, the subject is very interesting. The book oversimplifies, and ruins it all.