Nick Childs is an incredible mind. Hear the episode at specific.substack.com/p/nick-childs-helps-tell-your-story
Transcript of the episode here:
Adam Pierno: Alright, welcome back to another episode of The Strategy Inside Everything. Today we are going to have an enlightening conversation I’m positive. Our guest today is Nick Childs he is co-founder of DIRT Research Technologies, and I know Nick from Twitter, where a lot of my guests are found. But, learning about DIRT. I had to talk to him, I wanted to see what they’re what they’re working on there and what they’re creating, because this is an area that I’m really interested in, Nick thank you so much for making time to join.
Nick Childs: Oh, thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure.
Adam: Your background is not you’re not, when I think of a tech startup or a research startup, you’re not the typical background that I would think because you have a legacy of award winning creative work, can you- I mean you’ve been everywhere, pretty much. So, can you give people a sense of your background and career before we talk about DIRT.
Nick: I feel like I can and I can’t give a sense of background and career I can tell you the background. I can make much sense of the career. But there’s this great book that I mentioned all the time called Range by David Epstein, that I love to send to people and I’d love to talk about. And I think, talking about his thesis and that wonderful book feels just like I get credit for having written it. I think it’s got a brilliant insight which is that I’ve had a very diverse career and I loved that he wrote about the idea that having a career that ranges across unexpected jobs, unexpected opportunities, ends up in the long haul for certain kinds of people being very very beneficial because you learn to put unexpected pieces together, and as a creative person and somebody who has driven to the creative fields my whole life, writing filmmaking TV advertising, even. I love the idea that you don’t need to be creative by making things out of whole cloth, you need to try and be creative by putting unexpected pieces together and that’s kind of a cliche and nothing tremendously new but i think is is spot on and my career has jumped around a bit and your introduction is funny because I feel like even before DIRT and getting into the research field, no matter where I would talk to anybody about any job, they would start with that question, or statement, you’ve been a lot of places.
Adam: Yeah, I know. I just did an episode with someone else who has, has been a lot of places and played a lot of different parts, and it’s I don’t mean it as an as an insult in any way, it’s but it is factual that you’ve, you’ve seen the creative industry from a lot of different perspectives and, you know, approach it a lot of different ways.
Nick: Yeah, and one part of that, the positive narrative story that I put behind that is by seeing it in various different ways, you’re able to put those pieces together and do something unique and interesting. The tricky part is convincing others that that’s the smart path and then therefore, the role you should be in next so I jumped over to dirt which is a biometric neuroscientific research company, and we can talk about what exactly that means that a little bit, but it’s still driven by the hope to make the work that people do the creative at the at the core of anything. If that’s games, mobile games, mobile platforms, film, television, any content that people are making fundamentally make that content better from the creative perspective and that’s my role coming into what is more of a technology software research company. At the core of what we do at the heart of what we do at dirt is to drive that success of the creative itself forward so having somebody like me in a position at the company became very very important for the CEO who founded the company, he saw he saw how my role made sense before I did.
Adam: Yeah, well I could see why you’re you’ve been on the other side of the table when someone says okay I think we want to test this and that that cold sweat that I’ve gotten before when I heard those words as a, as a creative, or you go, ‘Oh, no, they’re gonna’ – you inevitably think they’re going to water it down instead of improve it.
Nick: Yes, exactly.
Adam: What was your experience, tell me about your experience with testing, and what it was like, you know, because you you’ve been there before technology was really possible to do what you’re doing now. Talk to me a little bit about your experience with testing your own creative or testing the creativity your teams.
Nick: My experience was, I would say in the early years was really paying attention to the focus group testing for bigger campaigns and bigger spots. Quite honestly, we didn’t get a lot of feedback in those areas and certainly not a lot of targeted feedback that seemed beneficial to the makers the creative people, that’s funny you said we didn’t get a lot of feedback what you meant was, we didn’t get any valuable feedback.
Nick: Well, you know, to be honest, too. I feel like we weren’t invited to a ton of meetings to even get that feedback I feel like it was a process for the, for the, for the strategy teams and if a meeting got missed you didn’t really get it and maybe you got sent to through to you and you’re supposed to read it but you didn’t really, by the time we got a lot of it. It felt like it was impacting what we’d already created more than further upstream and what we might make that could hit the audiences better. So it was much more targeted to version and edits and things like that or if something was coming through that simply wasn’t working through an audience how could you fix it, and being a filmmaker and a producer at my at the heart of things from the beginning of my career. I kind of appreciated that and knew it and was able to use that feedback and and know how to read it and do all those things but I was more interested I think then. And this may be unfair to say but then most creatives in the strategy of things in trying to understand what was driving audience behavior. At the very beginning of creating any idea. So I feel like from the early days of getting into large holding company creatives agencies like when I joined gray. I feel as if I were the was one of the creatives asking for more and more and more strategic insight, and not getting it all the time so that we would almost bake our strategy and insight, out of the idea we would come up with we would try to come up with what we thought was a really interesting idea, have some kind of eye on why that would be intriguing to an audience. And then as we were getting ready to pitch it or make it kind of back out into. ‘Oh, here is why that makes sense.’
Adam: Yeah, you were to kind of reverse engineer a secondary insight, that would be like well this is the this is not the insight in the brief but this is the insight that this idea is baked in yeah that’s that’s a smart, a smart way to pin it to something bigger than your punch line or to the, to the story that you’re telling on its own.
Nick: Exactly, exactly. And I’ve jumped around between creative agencies communications agencies and Fleishman Hillard and then moving over to the media side of things I’ve kind of seen that quote unquote brief from different perspectives and over the years that’s made me more and more strategic. I think I’ve always been a very strategic creative person I’ve always been somebody who aspired to writing or filmmaking, with the audience in mind, I met Michael Moore the great documentarian once, because I had a project at kind of a film festival and event, and got a chance to talk to him and his basic. Just as I remember it as I like to remember it was like looking at me and saying hey look, ‘If you make movies for your friends on the Lower East Side, that’s totally cool. But if you want to put butts in seats in theaters, and a lot of them, then you better understand what the audience wants to see and make it for them,’ and that’s always been my take creatively was, if you’re being the kind of artist who wants to work in their loft or in their garage or wherever, and paint for 30 years and then have somebody discovered those paintings. Later in your life or after you’re gone and say oh my god this is this some amazing undiscovered artists, that’s fine, but just understand what you’re doing, if you’re making anything that has an audience at the end that in the moment you want to sell to, and by selling mean engage interest. Then, I don’t really understand the creative perspective of being precious and saying, I don’t want that input, I need to do my own intuition and follow that and that’s all that matters. There’s a nice healthy balance between trusting and testing your intuition, but, but I think having those really strategic insights is only valuable to makers.
Adam: Yeah and you could, That’s so funny that you said that you could be satisfied doing either thing, you could be satisfied just painting for your own enjoyment of putting the paint on the canvas for yourself and painting over it two days later.
Nick: Yes, and nothing wrong with it. Nothing wrong with it and part of what’s interesting now and what I’m doing, deeply at DIRT, and then the research side is understanding. I feel like it’s better to. It’s always more helpful to get those insights and do that research earlier up the funnel as we say or earlier in the process, because I do also believe. Once you’ve made the thing and you put it out into the audience, other than tweaking it as you might need to for whatever marketing reasons. That’s the point at which you want to stop listening to people, you know, hearing audience feedback after you’ve made something and burying your head, because you’re miserable because they did or didn’t like it. It’s really really tricky. I’m trying to get better at don’t listen at that point, move on to the next thing make the next thing better make the next thing or partner.
Adam: Yeah, that is always a hard part of testing, because, because you can test like an animatic or you can test the storyboards but those are always incomplete. And so what do you what you get back may not be really reflective of what the what the intent of the piece was.
Nick: Yes, or you can test a cut.
Adam: But it’s very unlikely that you have something in the can that you can go fix it with if they say well yeah I like it but I don’t like that casting, you know who, ‘Why is that guy the dad? That doesn’t make any sense. He’s too young.’ Yeah, now I’m stuck–What do I do?
Nick: I learned this long time ago when I was working at HBO and we were shoving cuts of films to audiences and the audience by audiences I mean people who are pulled in off the street and became a focus group to watch a movie in a screening room at HBO and I remember one day, I was working with the director, and he was upset with some of the feedback that we were getting from the focus group and and I said, ‘Okay, but with a grain of salt, the person who said that about that character in a very dramatic moment is is literally I saw them pull him up the street as a pizza delivery person.’ Nothing against being a pizza delivery person but it is one person’s opinion. I wouldn’t re edit the whole film around that and I’m not saying that that director was planning to, but I do see the danger in being too allegiant to that feedback and part of what’s interesting to me and what we’re doing on the neuroscientific and of measuring emotions and measuring what people don’t tell us, but actually happens in their head as they’re watching something is to say there’s value in the other side of the testing too, there’s value in hearing what people think they saw and how they think they reacted and what they’re telling you reacted because that tends to lean toward what they will remember and tell other people down the line, what we do on the neuroscientific end with specific biometric devices, is to measure what their brain is actually seeing in the moment. And so those, I think those two things. One isn’t necessarily better, I’ll just be open and be kind and say that, but in arguably they work together really really well, and be able to capture that in the moment response.
Adam: At least gives you another measure against the filters that people put up where they maybe they think they’re supposed to react a certain way so they tell you, either what they think you want to hear, or they play to their own persona, and they say ‘Oh, no I would never, I would never like that because it’s not who I you know doesn’t represent who I am’ but meanwhile you’re watching a you know fMRI and you’re watching it light up like ‘Oh no, this guy loves Nicole Kidman, there’s no problem.’
Nick: Yes, and I can go into that it’s what we’re measuring to doesn’t necessarily tell you loves it tells you is, is interested in that moment is paying attention. And what we do is, so DIRT itself. The word dirt like Earth. The idea behind it is that we’d love to, we hope to partner with clients and creators and really dig deep into their challenges and kind of play in the sandbox with them right that’s the fun and cute description of why we came up with the name but it’s also an acronym for discover and illuminate real truth. And so we’ve built a tech enabled insights company that uses neuroscientific principles to measure emotion in audiences, specifically to help creators make their work, connect more powerfully with people with those audiences. And the reason we created DIRT and this is really my partners, Ryan Anthony who’s the CEO and Brendan Murray, who’s our chief science officer had been doing this for years and years and years and the tech side of it successfully is because clients have a lot of ways to measure consumer behavior.
Adam: Right. The A B testing the survey testing the focus groups, and we think we know we can be invaluable if we identify what drives those behaviors so you can measure behavior on the one side, and we can understand by using what we do. What drives that behavior on a biological level, level.
Nick: Right. That’s a complicated way to explain it so there’s actually like a really easy way to. We measure people’s attention and engagement by bringing them into a lab, we put sensors on them, like a little sensor on their wrist looks like an apple I watch me attached to nodules that goes up to their fingers, and we measure their response in the moment, how they’re responding physiologically to any type of content that we put in front of them and that can be mobile and platform games UX and UI. It could be ads and movie trailers.
Adam: It can be anything right yeah and you just described the missing link there because there are you know there has been A/B testing there has been in quantitative testing even where we’re, we’re able to say they prefer this over that. You can add open ends, you can add highlighting exercises you can add forced choice to get them to give you a reason
why but you never really know why they prefer one over another, unless it’s unanimously like I like we all like this one because of this singular reason.
Nick: Exactly, exactly. And there’s value in seeing with the group ‘Hey, who likes this one over that one.’ But no matter what if you couple that with the readings we’re getting from their brain, we can show you was that really real right so if you’re doing a skin of a character in a video game that you may want people to download it by, they might tell you they liked that character that skin that storyline, and their brains might all be pointing to something else. And what that does Adam is it gives you an opportunity to go back to the makers and say, here’s what they’re saying so there may be some value of that of telling people but maybe they’re being biased and maybe what they really like is this one, how about we go back to work on that one and make it more interesting for the audience. And what we’ve seen is when we then do retesting suddenly the one that they thought they weren’t interested in, when they talk to you, but their brain was interested in you make some tweaks to the one that their brain was interested in, and now they’re saying that’s the one I was most interested and our brains are telling you it’s, yeah. In that example are you able to see let’s say you showed them, you know, five character skins.
Adam: Are you able to see commonality Are you able to get to that level to say like, oh I see what like here’s the common element of what they are reacting to through, through the.
Nick: Yes, yes, and without getting too deep in the weeds what we use is something called galvanic skin response primarily, and that’s the module that that you know like I watch attaches around your wrist and goes up to two stickies with sensors that attach to your fingers and it measures the infinitesimal change in sweat secretion basically I’m doing a terrible job and our science officer, Brian.
Adam: You’re doing a good job,
Nick: But what that does is you then track that to a timeline of the content that you’re putting in front of them, and you have a trace that looks like. Looks like a mountain graph on top of the content kind of and we deliver that back to the clients and show them. Here’s where people were paying more attention and less attention, and the tension forms memories, and to explain it simply because this is how I understand it, it’s the formation of memories that matter, right, it’s the attention that matters, not necessarily good or bad attention, although we can extract and consult on whether or not that was good or bad attention because we know what the content was at that moment. So if the GR DSR spikes at that moment, and we know was a moment of action, then we can say it was a moment of action when it spiked and they were interested in action so there’s a way to correlate specific emotion with it, but really what it’s doing is taking a moment of attention and saying, unlike the other kind of testing where they’re going to tell you what they might suggest to somebody in the future. This is forming a memory, and when you form memories, it’s part of a flight or fight response, you’re forming an action that you’re more likely to take in the future, right, something you’re more likely to also respond to in the future. And what that allows us to do is to go back to makers and not be as the way I like to put it. The Emperor, who’s doing a thumbs up or thumbs down on your work and saying this is good or bad, it allows us to come back to you and say here’s where the audience is interested, we consult on, here’s why they’re interested. Here’s how to make them more interested. Don’t you want to go back to your work and make those parts that you’ve already put in there because you like them work better, and the parts that aren’t working so well, maybe those are the parts that we dropped or don’t pay as much attention to but it gives the playing field back to the creators and I’m not being like, flip here, or a Pollyanna and saying like oh and it helps creators to I’m literally saying when I’ve been in meetings now with Chief Creative officers and clients and board members and CEOs and heads of marketing and researchers and strategist, all of them tend to come back after seeing, even a very first test and go, ‘Holy shit. This helps us align around where we want to go next.’ Like it really, it makes them – nobody has come back and maybe this will happen and that’ll be fun and we’ll see how it goes. Maybe somebody will come back and be like, Oh, I don’t like this at all but they don’t tend to go there, they tend to start focusing on the opportunities that the data and the research present to them.
Adam: Is that part of your role is to I’m sure is to translate this this new thing that a lot of people have not yet experienced as a, as a client to see us understanding what the results mean to a creative person but is part of your role also to help guide them to say look this is an area that is really capturing their attention. Here are some ideas for you or do you stay out of that part just kind of get them to understand and, and how it might play out in the future, like, an area of focus but not giving them potential ideas.
Nick: That’s a great question. I think it can wonderfully quickly get to Well, what should we do, we are living in the area of we’re building the technology, we’re building the software, we’re doing multiple different things to completely change. Hopefully in revolutionize how this research is doing pulling it out of labs, making it much faster, make it much more applicable to other teams that need it, making it much clearer. There’s part of me always as a, as a x creative officer and
Adam: Your brain just go your brain goes to solutions.
Nick: Sure. Yeah, but we’re going to live in the space and I kind of hope forever of, it gets to a point where the clients, saying, well, would what would you recommend we do instead or what might be a great pursuit in this campaign recommending all of the wonderful people we know and can link in from an agency perspective, or stay objection company, and also bring in people who are talented and amazing and hardworking of what they do right there’s no more. It sounds, I don’t know, maybe it sounds disingenuous but, like, there’s no more pleasure for me at my age and point in my career. Now then, understanding. It’s not my job to do all of these things and that while I wanted to be a great writer or a director or a show runner on TV like. Now what is my role. My role I feel fits back, we just began with a rage, what are the pieces that I can help put together to make something great and fun and work with as a team for the solution, and it’s much more valuable for us to come in and say, Oh, you want to talk to you a strategist who knows what’s coming next, in the world of Fandoms well let’s call Zoe Scaman, and bring her in. You want to talk to a creative agency, let’s call it Nils and his team at Uncommon, you know, I just think there’s so many opportunities to go to wonderfully talented incredibly hard working, far more brilliant people and say, Can we include you in on this and look my hope, and hopefully it’s not naive is by doing that, we create a playing field in which, everybody’s coming to solve the problem, as opposed to what I experienced so many times in the traditional marketing space or certainly holding company is you need to bring solutions that are all underneath the same umbrella, or everybody’s fighting for pieces of the pie and so it becomes challenging. Early on, to do the work and jockey, the politics of the situation. So we’re trying to present.
Adam: Yeah, you don’t want to create a situation where you’re bringing in sales people to sell their, their vertical product and it’s always the answer right, yeah.
Nick: Yeah, exactly. And I think that’s where DIRT can plug in and by DIRT I mean anybody in this kind of. If you come in and you’re not white labeled by a big agency group. I think we could be a solution, direct to their clients and really really be helpful, it may be easier to go straight to the clients but I think they’ll be a lot of different ways to come to the table selfishly from my perspective and our company’s perspective. That could be beneficial as long as we understand, everybody’s roles. One of the ways I like to sell it. And I’m not sure, which is the best way to say it is when we partner with other people and go to the table for a client. What’s nice about playing those different roles clearly to is, if they do work with us and find no value in it, they can stop working with us but keep their creative agency, if they’re finding value by being brought to the table by a media agency, and what we do at DIRT and then they shift from that media agency, they could still use us from dirt and I think that’s really important. To be honest about in the in the modern landscape is people are going to jump around all the time for different reasons so you kind of need to understand and be able to measure your specific success.
Adam: I have a question about that I know you’re not a statistician or a data scientists but when you are like, what’s a sample for something like this? So you mentioned that you can test UX for example, how many people do you would you typically include or what have you tested so far that like what’s a reasonable sample I’m assuming it’s more than a focus group but less than a real quiet sample.
Nick: Yes. So, another awesome question right now. The way we do these neuroscientific tests. I had mentioned GSR galvanic skin response which requires the sensor to be put on people. And we also implement and incorporate eye tracking, in a bunch of these studies because that’s a valuable addition to where they were paying attention to do that. That’s primarily done on laptops now, we do that in lab and by in lab we have a partnership with a team out west and has multiple locations around the globe that allows us to open up those labs, even during the pandemic we’ve been able to do it. And certainly that’ll be easier as as restrictions lift, but it’s challenging right you have to bring people into a lab, you have to get them to come and even if it takes a couple hours of their day to get there. It kills a day for them and you have to compensate them in a certain way and it takes a lot of time, we generally do I would say 60 to 100 plus people in those tests and they take a few days to get three four or five people at a time, through the content, and then we were able to give back. Absolutely. 100% solid data from that size. We are building a solution that breaks that process completely and we’ll be able to make it easier for people to do this outside of a lab setting and could scale anywhere we want beyond that, 200, thousands of people,
Adam: That’s interesting. Are you doing them in primarily in New York or had so far have you traveled and taking it to other markets so that you could get a more diverse group, responding.
Nick: I’ve been doing it in San Francisco and Los Angeles because that’s where the company that we are partnering with who does can gather these groups is based right now and has their offices, their their locations back open, they have locations around the world so as soon as there’s a need for it and we are working with some global clients, particularly in the gaming space and mobile gaming space now who are who are everywhere and so I think very quickly. In the next year so we’ll get to doing that in locations around the world, London, Singapore Japan or wherever else we need to go. Our again our Brendan, our science officer would speak to this better but I think it totally depends on the content you’re putting in front of people and kind of demographic you want, generally for what we’re doing. We do focus on the demographic for very specific ways are they gamers do they play these kinds of things like that, but it doesn’t matter whether or not we’re doing that in New York City as opposed to LA, that’s just, you know whether or not we can find those people, those locations.
Adam: Yeah, I mean if you can get it out of the lab and get it to that scale then it won’t matter all you can you can go across across any country and get you know purely demographic or psychographic match.
Nick: Yes, absolutely. That’s fantastic. It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty cool. I mean, the promise of it is really interesting Adam because we all have these stats that kind of speak to the story we want to tell but when I started digging into this with the team. You know, these numbers of kind of failure are astronomical right like 99.5% of mobile ads, don’t convert. And that’s before I knew iOS and 96 of people opting out, opting out of tracking completely and like 80% of products fail after focus groups. That’s after you’ve gotten people to tell you what they want, they still fail and even in a somewhat disassociated realm like film and TV, which has tons of money being spent in development and people really care about nurture and craft these films, 80% of them fail, right and it just they just disappear. Yeah and 80% of CEOs in this new study that I was reading earlier this week that was I think 300 CEOs globally, literally were quoted as saying they don’t think digital advertising as a reliable source of customers or sales.
Nick: So that just shows us again and again that there’s this massive room for improvement, and how we measure what audiences want and how we can do a better job of delivering that to them. So, my guest sales pitch on this is, we don’t have to get 100% better This doesn’t have to change the world astronomically overnight. It just has to be a percent 2% 3% 4% better. And what we’re seeing from the studies we’ve done with clients is very quickly they’re seeing, it’s exponentially more than those small percent. So, it’s just it’s just a lot of fun to approach things from the perspective of. It doesn’t feel like I’m doing a pitch a VC pitch a sales pitch, because maybe for the first time, I just want to do the work like I want to see. I want to see if it works for people. I want to see and work with the teams that it could change things for and I want to say, What’s your problem, what’s the real ROI or whatever you’re trying to measure against. Let’s talk about that. Honestly, and if you want to. honestly talk about that, and we can measure against it. Let’s try our thing and we’ll see where it goes. Our thing in lab is look it’s an expensive proposition and it takes time. So I think you’re right, doing it now for people who find value in it fantastic doing it. Once we change the nature of the game and we can do it for a lot more people faster and cheaper. That’s a whole new world. Yeah, that’s a different that’s a different endeavor question, because I know you.
Adam: Besides DIRT, I know you are a creator you are participating in and making things all the time has this has this understanding, change the way you approach, creating like you know you just made a film. Did you incorporate some of maybe you didn’t test it. But did you incorporate some of the overall learnings or results that you’ve seen into how you approach making work,
Nick: what’s the cobblers children. You’re like this is, I feel like this is the perfect question that you should ask all your guests. You know, the thing you’re promising to your clients do you actually do it inside your agency has always been. Oh yeah, we don’t really do that part here. We I’m fascinated by doing that, yes, we are doing, We’re using absolutely 100%, all of the insights, especially the insights that Ryan, our CEO Arvind our chief operating officer and Brendan our Chief Science Officer know from their long backgrounds, right so there are things that they know that when we look at anything from our own website to the materials we’re putting together to the way we talk about things are a better way to present a better way to build things forward our platform that we’re building our, our software, all of those things.
Adam: For sure.
Nick: We have not sat down and spent the time and effort to put anything, through a test of 100 people. And I think that’s more because there’s, you know, our software platform is going to be in beta version in the next month or so, there hasn’t been something that’s been in a full enough even beta version to get in front of an audience in a way that we get the right feedback, we’re certainly going to do it for ourselves. On the creative side of the kind of projects that I make that hit film festivals and the TV show that I’m adapting and working on as soon as those get greenlit Yeah, I’ll be offering it to that team, making that show potentially or, especially in the experiential piece if there’s a way to use what we do when people are going through an experience that would be amazing. Right now it’s tricky to do that kind of work outside of a lab and for instance, a lot of the work I do with a guy named Lance Wyler who’s head of the Digital Storytelling area at Columbia University and makes just amazing projects we can partner for years, those projects put people through an experience and that experience uses digital. At its core, whether that’s AR VR AI. It’s tricky to measure to put devices on people now GSR and measure as they go through and experience for VR, because it’s hard to understand what they were looking at we need everybody to be seeing the same thing so that we are that trace over everybody but it’s fascinating we’re talking to a global healthcare company right now in the VR space, about how to bring this to bear, and that’s part of the area we’re super excited by it right there’s always the idea well basically Are you trying to make things better that you can put in front of people and have them buy more of it, right, whether that’s a audience clicking on watching the next episode on Netflix or having a better experience scrolling through their selections on Apple TV. My feeling and my team’s feeling is absolutely hundred percent what we’re doing a lot of time, but we’re fascinated by how we can measure things like implicit bias in policing and healthcare and Ed Tech options and political advertising like those things where we might be able to have an impact on the insights, we’re giving to create work that fundamentally moves audiences to do certain things in areas that we care about look they’ll always be part of it that’s like, you’re going to pick the path that is you care about, but for vaccine adoption, for instance, I, I’m of the opinion that more people should get vaccines. So, if we were to connect with a group that we’re trying to get Americans to adopt the vaccine more.
That’s the area, kind of very we would love to work deeply with people get and move the needle and have a huge impact.
Adam: Yeah, and your, your testing allows to the identification of root rationale route thinking beyond just yes or no, it gets a little bit deeper into why people make the choices they make in the case of vaccination choices or implicit bias and almost anything Nick: Right, yeah and Brandon has an amazing case study from a couple years ago, or maybe just a year and a half ago, that in working with PSAs in in attention and driving and showing that humor does fundamentally work better than luxury.
Nick: So being able to prove out intuitions that people already have, and give them the data. So this kind of this this simple equation of your intuition plus our data equals better success is is great, and it can do that it can really at the core of it help align people around. Okay, that’s the path to go and the way I think about I don’t know if you agree, or if I’m not quite experienced enough on the strategy side but to me as a creator, as the maker as part of the team making whatever PSA if you came to me and said, hey we’re doing this thing for a distracted driving, right. It should be as part of the brief was it needs to be humorous to me as a maker as a writer as a director as a producer like telling me it needs to be humorous is still so open ended that that’s a great challenge to hit and helps me tremendously so I’m not trying to chase 15 rabbits. That’s the way I’ve always felt as a creatively driven person was the more you can help focus my attention, the more I’m not all over the place, and just making shit up out of thin air.
Adam: Yeah, it’s I’ve often wondered about testing strategies, it’s not like you can show someone a creative brief and, or, or a strategy statement and get a consumer an end user to respond to it, you’re not going to get anything back. But I’ve wondered if you could find territories. And, for example, if you were, if you were trying to do something about distracted driving. Show them three, you know, show them something that’s funny show them something that dramatic show them something that’s luxury and get get a response from the type of person you’re trying to move that has a similar lesson you’re trying to take away and maybe get feedback on the territories and their response overall to that, so that you have a strategy now that’s a common strategy that can be informed by. Listen, comedy, engaged them it was more memorable. But then they ultimately didn’t change their behavior in this lecture when they hated the entire time but then they stopped, they stopped looking at their phone, you know, or whatever. I wonder if that’s a better approach but I’ve never had the wherewithal to pull it off.
Nick: Yeah, and I think part of that sounds like it’s where teams decided to place their attention, we just had this conversation with a client, yesterday in fact about how to help people internally at their company, better believe in, I won’t say understand because everybody knows it but better believe in platforms, other than the typical digital platforms they’ve been on. So the knee jerk reaction internally is to say, Here’s where our comms plan here’s where our media spend here’s where we’re going to make the creative live, and Facebook is very different than Tiktok, Tiktok is very different than Twitter, so I’m fascinated by platforms and their promise but I’m also because of the kind of work I do outside in the artistic and experiential realm. I’m very interested in being honest with what works for audiences in the exact platform you’re building it right so if we make a movie. It’s fundamentally a different artistic object than a even a TV series and that TV series is fundamentally different than an experiential project and we had an example, I’d love to use this when we did a project at Tribeca called where there’s smoke that was tough to get into and in short term time but it you know it used essences of an escape room and digital gallery event and it was all wrapped around memory and loss and grief, and well known director who’s done big big movies came out of it a friend and he was excited and we went grab coffee and I love to see his enthusiasm he loved the experience and he literally said to me, ‘Oh man, I want this project I’m working on that’s a movie and I just, I think I’m going to just make it be this instead.’ And it’s not wrong, great, I love it. That’d be amazing, you’re probably not going to get the audience that you would with the big movie you’re making, but also, you can’t just take a movie and put that into a digital experience different things so long winded way of saying, The comms plan plan and using some of this to help you identify, not only what should be done. Overall, the kind of genre or approach, but also then understanding that that even if you picked humor, and it’s going to be digital. It’s very different how that hits and how the creative should hit on the different platforms that you’ve been put on hundred percent.
Adam: Nick this has been really interesting, I think we’ll, we’ll probably talk more about this offline, but really interesting to hear what you’re what you’re working on what you’ve been building and how how you’re seeing it applied in the potential for it. Thank you so much for making time for me today.
Nick: Thank you so much I didn’t even get to begin by saying how honored I am seriously to be in the company, new and all the people you know seems like Amy Kean and Zoe and even Keith Stoeckeler, let’s say even Keith who I knew you know it’s just, it’s such great group and such a great podcast and thank you so much for having me and
Adam: My absolute pleasure to have you and I’m glad we were finally able to talk after going back and forth on Twitter for a long time together. Where, where can people find you online?
Nick: Um, let’s do, let’s do Twitter @NickChilds with you there I’m very I’m using Twitter as you probably know, over the last 18 months very specific
Adam: The way you’re trying to very optimistically and the number one thing that that helps with that is really cool
Nick: I’m finding people and trying to break the filter bubble of expected people that I might have fallen before and trying to get away from binary conversations of it’s this or that and open up wants and that’s what’s been a blast for me, meeting people like you and everybody else there so find me on Twitter, jump into those dams and love to connect with anybody,
Adam: Your energy of thanking people for being for something good that they bring to your feed is, is incredible. I love when you get on a spree of that you’ll do four or five of them at a time. And I’m like, now Yeah, that’d be interesting.
Nick: It’s just, it creates good energy so you can bet you can use our stuff and track that over time and be like, next good days and bad days yeah I’ll bet that’s true.
Adam: That’s true. I wonder, does your, do you see like engagement spikes or like follower drops when people are like, I don’t want to hear any positivity from this jerk. I’m having a bad day.
Nick: I’m not dumb but I don’t even track follower drops I don’t even know how to do it, I guess I could just look at whoever I don’t I don’t pay attention, and I get no engagement. People reaching back to me, but I’m not kidding when it’s no matter how many people I connect with their follow, I feel like I’m screaming into the void most of the time but also getting back to research and data and loving what that proves out is, I’m all over the place on Twitter, it’s just like my range at work, and so I understand, just like at work. I’m not going to get that next typical job. I’m going to make the path. What I need to make it, it’s the same thing on Twitter I’m not focused I’m not talking about one thing I don’t have an audience doing that and so I understand that if I’m going to tweet half the time about zero RG and 000 and and TV shows and developing movies and then part of the time, optimism and part of the time about research, most people are just going to be confused.