CTAM Report: Happiness, Enlightenment And Embracing Change

I spent part of my week last week in the happiest place on earth: Disney in Orlando. I was not exactly in the Disney theme parks, though. I was at the annual CTAM Insights Conference. This year’s conference had a compelling theme: embracing change in research approaches, methodology, marketing and even personal growth.

In Sunday’s opening night dinner, Nat Geo Brain Games host Jason Silva rapped poetic about “Radical Openess.” Alternately described as a futurist, filmmaker, epiphany addict, ecstatic truth lover, techno optimist and performance philosopher, Silva is an evangelist of technology as a form of enlightenment.

According to his website, Silva believes that “the rapid, exponential growth rate of technological development is transforming our world, disrupting established industries and leading us towards a radical transformation in many key areas. There are three overlapping revolutions occurring in biotechnology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, all of which [are] game-changers.” I see all three areas impacting how we conduct, analyze and receive research in the coming years.

Silva’s frenetic talk set the stage for this year’s CTAM conference where speakers on neuroscience discussed how we can use biometrics and eye tracking to monitor and gauge content.

Monday’s opening speaker, Shawn Achor from Good Think Inc, took us further along the path of corporate enlightenment. He spoke of a “happiness advantage,” a modern take on the power of positive thinking. The basic premise is that “75% of our job success is predicted not by intelligence, but by your optimism, social support network and the ability to manage energy and stress in a positive way.”

From there, much of the conference helped frame innovative ways to conduct and present research. ESPN’s Barry Blyn gave a presentation on the value of “research to know, not research to show” pointing out the intrinsic value of less-than-stellar research results as improvement tools. Negative research results from a study have enormous value, highlighing where things can be improved. Unfortunately there are some executives who only want to hear the good news, so it is refreshing to hear that, at ESPN, “research to know” is treated as an opportunity and not as a report card.

A session on neuroscience, which included demonstrations on biometric and eye tracking testing, showed how the brain responds to content and how we can interpret these responses to form a more engaging viewer experience.  It could be the next step in content measurement. According to Laurie Kaman from EyeTrackShop,  “Eye tracking and other forms of biometric research will grow increasingly more important to advertisers as they seek to learn more about what consumers are actually seeing, how they are reacting to those stimuli, and what they are taking away from those experiences.” 

Kaman believes that “the greatest challenge to television is and will continue to be finding creative, new ways to deliver integrated content that will be relevant to a variety of groups of consumers and that will work together across the multiple screens to further engage those audiences. It's going to become increasingly more important that consumers are able to interact in a meaningful way with that content, and with the advertisers that are attached to the content.”

Cathy Hetzel of Rentrak summed things up: “I think the greatest challenge and also the greatest opportunity for television is ‘change’.  We are moving to a world of accountability and performance based metrics, including advanced demographics about the products that consumer use and the cars they drive.  The opportunity is to target and sell advertising in brand new ways, including branded entertainment, which for the first time can now be measured, but the industry has to embrace the change in order to capitalize on it!”

So where do we think TV and research are headed in the next three years? What are the challenges /changes? I asked a group of attendees, and their video’d responses can be viewed here.

4 comments about "CTAM Report: Happiness, Enlightenment And Embracing Change ".
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  1. Charlene Weisler from Writer, Media Consultant:, October 26, 2012 at 12:23 p.m.

    Hi Charlene,

    Nice synopsis of the Conference; enjoyed the videos. Not surprisingly, Rich Feldman hit the nail on the head. While much research is reporting as much good news as possible to continue business relationships with producers, advertisers, programmers, networks and studios, little is being done to assess the relationships consumers of televisual content have with the physical media used for viewing. The use of physical media to deliver content is growing but the usage of advertising supported content is not keeping up! This gap between HUT/PUT and TUT (total TV usage) has been growing for over twenty years - the ship slowly started sailing about 20 years ago and nobody noticed. Consumers have steadily become more in charge of their use of content to the detriment of distributors over this time span. A brief look at the delivery of network ratings for prime time in any quarter shows fragmentation delivers death by a thousand cuts - DVR is the highest rated "network" with a lower than a one rating starting at rank 23 out of about 125 rated networks.

    The research community should realign its focus on what is actually happening with viewers of televisual content and their discretionary leisure time. The signs are and have been there but the pursuit of (and/or the reporting of the) truth has been sidelined too long.

    Thanks for your service to those who care.

    All the best,

    Paul Lenburg

  2. James Alexander from TV2020LLC, October 26, 2012 at 8:10 p.m.

    Thanks Charlene for the summary. There were a couple very new things including the gaming and betting of new program success being used to estimate performance of performance from media predict.

  3. Charlene Weisler from Writer, Media Consultant:, October 28, 2012 at 9:57 a.m.

    Hi Jim,
    It was very nice to see you there. I also found the wisdom of crowds fascinating.

  4. Anne Cowan from CTAM, November 6, 2012 at 8:31 a.m.

    Thanks for your excellent Insights conference summary, Charlene. There are videos of many sessions on the CTAM site now.

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