MK 354 Spring 2010

February 8, 2010

Hooked on Reality

Filed under: blog #2, Uncategorized — carolinerichov @ 1:47 pm

There is no denying it: at one point or another you tuned in to see what was happening on The Jersey Shore. If, perhaps you wanted to save a couple brain cells, you may have watched who was getting kicked off American Idol, getting intimate on The Bachelor, losing the most weight on The Biggest Loser, or causing drama with The Real Housewives. Whatever your show of choice may be, there is no denying that reality television has become an integral part of our lives. 

Reality shows have captivated audiences and topped the ratings. They are definitely “sticky”. As Heath and Heath explain, “to be surprising, and event can’t be predictable” (71).   Different from the classic sitcoms and drama, which can sometimes seem cliché and repetitive, reality shows are unscripted and play out in unpredictable ways.  Watching ordinary people react to bazaar scenarios and unreal situations, an audience doesn’t know what to expect. Always curious to know what these ordinary individuals will do, the “knowledge gap” keeps viewers wanting more.

Producers of reality shows often add in unexpected challenges for participants.  By relocating, taking exotic trips, adding new group member, enforcing eliminations, and bringing back previously eliminated participants; reality shows are always surprising the audience with the unpredictable.

It seems as though many of us are often ashamed of watching certain reality shows.  The reality is, producers know how to draw is in and keep us stuck on watching them. They are unscripted, unpredictable, and unexpected. Wonder Child

Filed under: blog #2 — morganhowell @ 1:23 pm

Yesterday, I joined 150 million Americans sitting in front of their TVs to watch the one of the biggest sporting events of the year. Like many of the people watching, I have no interest in football—I was watching for the commercials. And as I watched, I became more and more unimpressed. The millions of dollars spent to just get a 30-second spot seemed wasted. Then everything changed. Everyone went silent as a little boy expertly put out a fire with baking soda, and then he hopped on his bike and began riding with hardly a word of advice from his dad, nonplussed, in the background. He moved on to neutralizing a jellyfish sting, birthing a Bengal tiger, and rescuing a squad of cheerleaders from a tornado. Every one watching was perplexed and eager to see what would happen next, to find out what company employed people like this child—perhaps it was American Express, highlighting the type of people it employs, or maybe it was a coke commercial, showing the miracles one could perform with the aid of the delicious and refreshing beverage. This mystery company had surprised us with a miracle child performing tasks that kept me on the edge of my seat and it created a knowledge gap that kept me guessing at what sort of forward thinking company created this masterpiece. The commercial then showed this boy as a grown man, standing in a parking lot, looking perplexed. By now, this company had almost created the perfect ad: the audience had been surprised, impressed, and now, perplexed. Our schemas were momentarily broken: what was it that had finally stumped this wonder child? The mind raced. And then we all stopped dead in our tracks and erupted in a cacophony of exalted disgust. It was the prospect of buying a new car that stopped this boy genius in his tracks, a goddamn car. The announcer tells us how helped this man regain his confidence and buy the perfect car, and that we could do the same.

And despite the disgust that everyone felt for this anticlimactic commercial, most of us remember not only what happened in that commercial, but what company it was for. The Heath brothers open up chapter two of Made to Stick with another superbowl commercial that they thought missed the mark.  They said that what happened in the commercial did not seem to relate to the company that produced it. So does this commercial fall into the same category? Does a commercial really need to satisfy all of the Heath brothers’ criteria? I have to say no, because while people were left unhappy with the outcome of the commercial, the majority of my friends remember that commercial today, and I’d be willing to bet that when it comes time to buy a new car, superbowl fans will visit as a source of advice.

Watch it for yourself here:

Lend a Hand

Filed under: blog #2 — ElizabethOstebo @ 1:12 pm

How unexpected can anything be anymore? Haven’t we all been told, at some point in our lives, to expect the unexpected? We’re cautious, alert and prepared for unforeseen situations. It’s safe to say that insurance companies thrive off of our expectation of the unexpected. However, in reality, most of us get used to patterns and routines that allow for the unplanned, the unintended and the unexpected.

In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath explain that unexpected ideas contradict our schemas. Based on our schemas or preconceived notions or “guessing machines” we can easily guess how a situation will pan out and what the best course of action will be (Heath 67). The Heath brothers also highlight that “When our guessing machines fail, surprise grabs our attention so that we can repair them for the future” (67). Australian Unifem takes advantage of this idea in its 60 second PSA about domestic violence as the public awareness message surprises with a twist plot ending and then redefines our schema of what it means to “lend a hand.”

Unifem’s “Lend a Hand” PSA begins. We listen to an intensifying argument between a man and a woman, but we can’t see them. Instead, we watch their neighbors, an older couple, eat a meal. We watch the pair eat as though they can’t hear what’s going on next door, until a loud thump against the conjoining wall interrupts their indifference. The older man gets out of his chair, reaches for a baseball bat and walks into the hallway.

As he knocks on his neighbor’s door, we instantly think we know that the older man will intervene in the situation and lend a hand to the woman being verbally and physically abused. Actually, we thought that the older man was going to intervene as soon as he got out of his chair. However, a turning point occurs as the door opens and the older man hands the baseball bat over to his abusive neighbor while saying, “Thought you could use this.” After the man leaves, the copy “Do nothing and you may as well lend a hand” appears. Meaning, a neutral and passive stance on domestic violence does not exist.

Our expectation of what a person should do when he or she is able to help someone being abused is not met. What we expected would happen was replaced by the complete opposite. Unifem’s PSA is an example of an idea that goes against the “commonsensical.” The main message is that we should help stop domestic violence, but the bolder message is that doing nothing has a consequence. Being indifferent to domestic violence is redefined as actively helping the abusive person sustain violence.

Based on the principles explored in Made to Stick, the public awareness message was unexpected and sticky. The PSA doesn’t break our schema in vain because the unexpected messages relate to Unifem’s core message. No sense of gimmickry is elicited as the unexpected makes sense with the main idea. Although we haven’t viewed indifference equal to helping hurt somebody, now it’s second nature.

Blog #2 – Identity Theft

Filed under: blog #2 — csomerville @ 1:04 pm

What typical, middle-aged man doesn’t own a leather bustier or speak like a valley girl? I would guess that the answer is most, which is what makes this 2006 Citibank advertisement so unexpected.

In the second chapter of their book, “Made to Stick,” authors Dan and Chip Heath explain that unexpected things grab peoples’ attention, because they break a pattern, or a “schema.” A schema, the Heaths write, is like a guessing machine. We (the audience) use our schemas to predict what is going to happen in a given situation. When our schema fails, surprise leads us to pay attention, so we can understand why our schema failed to predict what happened.

In this commercial, our schema of how a middle-aged man should sound is broken, because when he speaks, the voice of a young, ditzy woman comes out. The commercial surprises us, because it has broken our expectations of how the man should sound. Now that the commercial has our attention, the challenge is to retain it.

At the beginning of the chapter, the Heaths recount how a flight attendant was able to hold the attention of the plane’s passengers through the safety announcement by entertaining them with humor. Similarly, this commercial keeps our attention because the man with the mismatched voice talks about buying a leather bustier that “lifts and separates.” The idea of this man wearing this bust-enhancing garment is hysterical. As well as being amused, our schema is still broken, and we’re waiting for the commercial to offer a solution.

Towards the end of the commercial, we’re told that this man is the victim of identity theft. That wasn’t the man’s voice, nor was that his purchase. What we were hearing was the voice of the woman whom had stolen, and used his credit card. Luckily, Citibank offers identity theft solutions, a free service that comes with the company’s credit card.

What makes this a good commercial is that it grabs, and holds our attention till the very end, answers all of our questions, and restores our schemas, while being entertaining along the way. What makes this a great commercial is that 4 years after it aired, it’s still stuck.

What is Next? Apple Inc. Will Surprise You

Filed under: blog #2 — kathrynflynn @ 1:01 pm

There is one brand today that has an uncanny ability to crawl inside its consumers’ heads and figure out what they want before they even realize that they want it. When Apple Inc.’s innovative technologies are introduced to the market, they change the world and fill a need for their consumers that they didn’t know they had. It helps that the ipod, iphone, ipad, etc. are very functional and good-looking, but consumers need them because at their core, those gadgets are unprecedented, unexpected and exciting.

In their book, Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath focus on the importance of mystery in order to grab an audience’s attention and keep them hooked. The Heath brothers say that teachers and other effective communicators often employ mystery in order for their audience to stay captivated. This strategy works because the communicator makes the audience realize that there’s a gap in their knowledge. The audience needs to fill this gap; they want to know the outcome of the mystery. Similarly, Apple creates a mystery situation surrounding their products.  Apple makes it apparent to its audience that they are missing something that they need. (Like a tiny device that can hold all of their CDs and play them clearly to you as you go about your day).  Apple’s audience’s attention is grabbed and a desire to have the product is stirred in them.

Apple makes its consumers believe that they need their products, just like when watching a crime show, people need to know how it ends. The unexpected nature of Apple’s technologies is what makes it so successful and impressive.

Trash Conformity.

Filed under: blog #2 — cathleendbombard @ 12:05 pm

Unexpected can be defined in many ways: a flight attendant changing her usual spiel to gain the attention of her passengers, a department store transforming the way shoppers perceive customer service employees, or a death of a loved one that alters ones life forever. Unexpected isn’t easily defined, as it can be many things, such as comical, efficient and it can be horrifying, sometimes all at once. However, unexpected is an important piece in making good communication. Communication that is unexpected breaks the pattern of daily life, thus causing people who normally would be unaware, aware of change.

Unexpected to me is the feeling of walking in the dark with a glass of water in the house you grew up in. The house that you know every creak in the old wooden floor boards, the house that your hands recognize the height of every lamp and panting on the hall wall. This house couldn’t feel anymore familiar, until you miss the last step on the stairs, and the glass of water crashes to the ground. That is the feeling of unexpected, the sensation of a total and utter unforeseen difference. A break in the pattern.

Hummel America Inc., a Danish soccer and streetwear company (I worked for them in 2004) worked hard at grabbing their consumers with unexpected ad campaigns. For one of their ad campaigns Hummel developed a slogan, entitled, “Trash Conformity Write History.” This campaign was designed to show that Hummel was truly very different than the rest of the soccer and streetwear market, which included Adidas, Nike and Puma. Hummel developed different shirts with their slogan in what they believed were catchy and unexpected ways. One shirt was filled with a mix match of letters, which if deciphered would read their slogan. Another shirt had the campaign slogan written out as expected. However, each word and letter was done in a different font or color.

Hummel did a excellence job at distinguishing themselves, not only as the leading soccer brand, but as a edgy and unexpected brand. However, for one campaign I believe they went over the line and ultimately alienated their customers. Along with their “Trash Conformity Write History,” campaign, Hummel added a line of polka dotted soccer gear and streetwear. They called this line: “The h spot.” Not only did the name of the line hold a sexual context, the company added shirts of women in their underwear and polka dotted soccer sox, as well as a glossy catalog for the retail and consumer relations department.

Hummel did a good job making their ideas sticky and they sure did “Trash Conformity.” I’m not so sure about the “Write History” aspect, as Hummel left America a few months following the campaign.

Audi Green Car

Filed under: blog #2 — mtamayo26 @ 3:26 am

What stuck out to me most in this chapter was the idea that humans adapt quickly to patterns, and that the only way to break these patterns is for something unexpected to happen. In the new Audi Green Car commercial, Audi took to exploring some of the negative patterns and habits many individuals have developed which are hurting the environment. Everyday patterns the commercial chose to include were ones such as packing groceries into plastic bags at the supermarket, throwing batteries in the trash instead of recycling, using regular light bulbs instead of eco-friendly ones, and so on. The objective of this ad was to make you realize it is important to stop your usual routine and to join the green movement, in a humorous way. Not until the last few seconds of the spot did the Audio car come on the screen as the smart choice for driving.

So what makes this commercial sticky? It’s surprising. It’s surprising because when you think car commercials, especially luxury car commercials you think sleek and formal, not funny and unique. The chapter talked about surprising being a component of stickiness because it’s unpredictable. The Audi commercial involved cops on segways, an anteater, people getting arrested at the supermarket- definitely not predictable.

The Audi commercial also started with things completely irrelevant to cars, which made me want to watch it. The book called this the “mystery factor” of stickiness. You watch to find out how it ends. I was curious to know what the cops on segways had to do with protecting the environment. At the end of the commercial, these cops fined everyone but the Audi driver, because the Audi Green Car is a step in the right direction for a greener earth.

Michael Bay, Super Bowl Prove Disappointing

Filed under: blog #2 — Tags: , , — pmitch1 @ 2:49 am

Originally, I held off on writing this post because I had hoped that the Super Bowl would be filled with humorous, unexpected advertisements-I was wrong.  Apparently, slapstick comedy is on the rise because literally half the commercials aired last Sunday involved some kind of physical violence, usually and old woman getting tackled.  Sure, it’s funny to see an old lady get hit by a football player or win a boxing match against Mike Tyson but at this point, it’s almost become a cop-out.  If you have to rely on the gimmick of “the old woman” to be funny, you’re basically pulling a Michael Bay: “I guess I could try to work in some more character development so viewers actually care what’s happening to the people on screen or I could develop the plot so that the viewers are still interested even when things aren’t blowing up… Nah, I’ll just toss in some more explosions and special effects, it’ll look so cool.”  These kinds of spots, like Michael Bay movies, have little substance and therefore the average viewer will not even recall what was being advertised, let alone go out of their way to purchase it.

Ironically, it’s kind of a cop-out to make fun of Michael Bay, he’s a pretty easy target.

This is the kind of problem that many “unexpected” advertisements run in to.  While it may be funny to see 300-pound silverback gorilla roundhouse kick a midget, what could such a thing possibly have to do with buying a Hyundai or eating Doritos?  These kinds of commercials are entertaining in their own right, but that doesn’t make them successful pieces of advertising.  Yes the commercial is unexpected, but does its surprise make sense within the context of what the spot is advertising?  According to Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the book Made to Stick, in order to create an effective unexpected message you must identify the central message, find what is counterintuitive about that message, and then break your audience’s guessing machines along that counterintuitive dimension (p.72). The following ad for Avista Language School is aligned with these ideas and is a good example of an effective message that uses unexpectedness.

Unlike many commercials that use random, over-the-top surprises for shock value, this commercial’s surprise is actually relevant to the product.  The fact that the fish uses another “language” to avoid danger highlights the core of the message; learning another language is useful.  The advertisement proves to be unexpected not just because a barking fish is surprising, but also because it introduces the idea of safety as an impetus for learning a new language.  The average person on the street doesn’t think,” I should learn Spanish because it may save my life one day,” although it is a very real possibility.  While the viewer may have speculated that the fish would not be eaten, few could have guessed it would produce a vicious bark to save itself.  Because this is so unexpected, it breaks the audience’s guessing machine. The fish’s unanticipated use of another language suggests that there are many unforeseen benefits to being multi-lingual.

Unexpected Gaga

Filed under: blog #2 — jlptzld @ 2:27 am

When someone mentions Lady Gaga images of hair bows, Kermit the Frog outfits and vibrant, non-traditional makeup are among the first to spring to mind. Bursting into the music scene in late 2008 and early 2009, Lady Gaga could have easily been a one-hit-wonder, or less. However, she rapidly developed a name for her music and herself—transforming from an unknown to a pop icon worthy of the mass’ attention.

A contributing factor to Lady Gaga’s recent success includes the pop star’s commitment to the unexpected. Part of being unexpected, according to Chip Heath and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick, includes the quality of unpredictability, a surprise that “jolts us to attention” when our preexisting knowledge fails to provide an adequate explanation for an experience (67). Lady Gaga’s adopted persona is complete with wacky wardrobe decisions, complex and spectacular live performances, and bizarre music videos that are more puzzling than cliché.

Lady Gaga has gained the attention of thousands through her surprising and unexpected aesthetic. However, as Heath and Heath point out, gaining attention is only part of the battle; maintaining the attention of an audience is just as, if not more, difficult. Lady Gaga has managed to maintain the interest of her audience through 2010, as attested to by her two Grammy Awards ( But one wonders how long Gaga’s aesthetic will remain unexpected and at what point will her insanely high shoulder-pads fail to raise a bemused eyebrow.

Keep your hands off my Doritos

Filed under: blog #2 — Jackies blah-g @ 1:24 am

            As the Super Bowl came to an end tonight, the New Orleans Saints dominated over the Indianapolis Colts to become the champions of the football world for the 2009-1010 season. Yet, the talk of the morning will not be about the game, but rather about the advertisements that took place during the game. Are you one of the millions of people that view the game just for the commercials? Which commercial was the most memorable and why? Why did that commercial of all commercials stick?

           In Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath state, “If you want your ideas to be stickier, you’ve got to break someone’s guessing machine and then fix it (71).” It is human nature to try to predict what will happen next so that we are prepared to react accordingly. The reason that some of those commercials are more memorable than the rest is due to the fact that it may have caught you by surprise. When we are surprised our brows go up and our eyes widen to give us a broader field of vision (68).

            In the Doritos Chip advertisement in the first half of the Super Bowl, a young boy breaks our guessing machine and definitely catches the audience by surprise. As the commercial is unfolding, Heath and Heath’s Gap Theory of Curiosity is becoming clearer. “When we want to know something but don’t, it’s like having an itch that we need to scratch (84).” The commercial opens the gap as we, the audience, try to predict what will happen with the young boy.

            As the older gentleman is waiting for the young boy’s mother for their date, he reaches for a Doritos chip in a chip bowl on the coffee table. The confrontation is now face to face, as the little boy speaks in the tone of an overprotective father. He lists two rules that the older gentleman is expected to abide by. Since we weren’t sure what was going to unfold, we keep watching until we can close that knowledge gap.

          In doing so, the Doritos Chip ad has become one of the more memorable commercials because it was planned unexpectedness (66). The commercial grabbed our attention and kept it for the full 30 seconds until the message was clear. So the next time you walk down the potato chip and snack aisle in your nearest grocery store, you may just reach for a bag of Doritos Chips thanks to this advertisement.

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