Category: Inspiration

06 Feb 2019
podcasts2_blog

Dr. Techlove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Podcasts

I don’t care who you are, podcasts are pretty dope… and they’ll suck you in faster than an episode of Botched on a sickday. Try it; trust me, you’ll never look back. [Sidebar: the editors/producers at the E! and Bravo networks are some of the best in the game… fight me.]

Podcasts, if executed properly, can be just as addicting and binge-able as some of the most well written — and some would say “poorly written, yet somehow successful” — television series out there today. There’s a certain familiarity with listening to podcasts and listening to traditional radio in that you’re consuming the program via audial avenues; however, podcasts offer something a bit more than their heard counterpart: near-complete content control.

podcastingThe universal definition of a podcast, as provided by Wikipedia and endorsed by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), is an “episodic series of digital audio files, which a user can download and listen to.” This concept of downloading “episodes” and easily digestible programs that fall within niche and nuanced interests allow for each user to individually curate their own library or playlist of content specifically targeted to their own preferences.

If you didn’t catch on right away, allow me to point out that the term “podcast” is a direct variant of the widely understood concept of “broadcast,” in which content is blasted out into the airwaves and received by those who tune in via compatible devices. We participate in broadcasting nearly every day through our televisions and radios, but broadcasts have to be just that…broad. There’s not really an efficiently feasible way to target specific users in a television or radio setting, so the content must be malleable, flexible, and not too distinct. Conversely, the etymology of “podcast” likely stems from the advent of the Apple iPod in the Early Aughts as it was hitting the tech scene and becoming adopted by more and more people. Thus, a new means of targeted content distribution swept the nation, and a cute pun was born.

If you asked me two or three years ago how I felt about podcasts, I probably wouldn’t have been as favorable. I tend to project some sort of undeserved stigma toward new-wave media technology—especially the ones that challenge my routine or require me to purchase specific hardware. Technically, podcasts don’t require much more hardware than your typical smartphone and a pair of earbuds, but still, I was reluctant to adopt them as a regular means of content consumption.

…that is, until I heard about Serial.

Sarah Koenig from the "Serial" podcast
Sarah Koenig from the “Serial” podcast — produced by This American Life

De gustibus non est disputandum: This is a Latin maxim meaning “in matters of taste, there can be no disputes.” I cannot account for your particular taste in what you find interesting; however, the inaugural “season” of the Serial podcast is what hooked me on the format. If you’re not into “true crime” or investigative murder-mysteries, then it may not be your cup of tea. But if you are looking to venture into the world of podcasts for the first time, then I would absolutely recommend Serial as an engaging starting point.

The Serial podcast is structured like many podcast series: long-form, episodic documentary. During the initial run of the show, an episode with a runtime of about an hour is released onto a podcasting platform (like Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, etc.) each week. This amounts to usually 10-15 episodes that cover one story. The art of the “tease” is thoroughly and systematically employed, keeping the listener engrossed in the narrative and eager for each new episode. This style of programming reminds me of how Netflix was able to capture the streaming attention of its users by organizing and logistically serving what is perceived to be seamless content. For this reason, you may find yourself binging hours of podcast episodes during your daily commute. Likewise, the aspect of flexibility also proves to be a huge advantage in the medium. Listeners can pause and return to an episode at any time, which gives more control to the user. The emergence of this capability had a similar revolutionary effect that the DVR system had on the television industry.

There are other formats and structures to podcast programming, such as the talk show (sports comedy, etc.), narrative fiction, and informational/educational. While the gritty and suspenseful chronicling of Serial is what originally hooked me on podcasts, my passion for learning ultimately inspired me to look at other shows. That’s when I found Stuff You Should Know, which is an informational program that spends one episode (anywhere from 20-90 minutes) on one topic.

Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark from "Stuff You Should Know"
Charles W. “Chuck” Bryant and Josh Clark from “Stuff You Should Know” on HowStuffWorks.com

SYSK (as it’s known to those familiar) is a true podcasting treasure that challenges your perspective and general knowledge of subjects ranging from “How Royalty Works” to “How Decapitation Works,” or even “How Frostbite Works.” These are just examples of the diverse, yet interesting topics you might not know a lot about. And likely for this reason, SYSK has proven to be one of the most downloaded podcasting programs of all time with over a thousand episodes available.

Podcasts are free to download and subscribe to. So how do they monetize and sustain their content/business model? Advertising… duh. Just like any piece of media that appears to be delivered at no cost to the user, podcasts take advantage of advertising as a means to sustain a quality product. There are also other methods of monetization, such as a “giving” format through the use of donation services like Patreon. However, short one-minute commercial breaks are the most widely utilized form of “advenue” — get it? Like “ad revenue.” I digress.

Regardless of what you’re into, there is likely a podcast out there that satiates your listening appetite. This increased niche-ness allows for a wide variety of outreach opportunity. Advertisers can tap into this diversity and build tailored media plans that target specific shows that align with what their ideal consumer profile would listen to. This concept is routinely executed in radio and television; however, the arrival of podcasts as a formidable competitor to the status quo built by the foundations of radio and television has provided advertisers a different, yet effective avenue to reach their customers.

So instead of queuing up “Crank That” by Soulja Boy on your way home from work today or tuning your radio dial to that smooth jazz channel as you sit in the Wendy’s drive-thru, maybe try browsing the catalog of over 600,000 shows in the vast realm of podcasts. You may find something you really like… and take back the control of your content.

 


About the Author

andy-edwards-headshot

Andy Edwards is the Director of Digital Services at bloomfield knoble. He possesses the hybrid skills of a strategic business executive and a creative, problem-solving designer; someone who is a catalyst for transformation and the agent of cultural change.

 


Who is bloomfield knoble?

bk is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bk provides a one-to-one approach.

Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at (214) 254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.

15 Jan 2019
being-heard-on-twitter_tom-blog_google

Just How Loud Do You Have to Scream to Be Heard on Twitter?

I’ve decided that I hate social media. I’ve joined neither Facebook nor Snap. I am on Instagram, but only to share vacation pictures with my family because I’m too lazy to sort and share photos with them after my trips. I gave up on LinkedIn because I find the timeline poorly designed and I’m not looking for a job anyway. I also stopped reading (and generally writing) blogs because I don’t care and don’t think other people do either. So, if someone besides the Director of Communication for bloomfield knoble is reading this, you have my permission to bail out now.

Well, if you’re actually still reading, then I have to admit that I used to really be into Twitter. I mean really into Twitter. I would post all day — use hashtags, join conversations, try to influence conversations (for or against depending on the topic) and more often than not, complain about some injustice against me (real or perceived). At one point I had nearly 100,000 followers.

And then a funny thing happened. I got bored. I’ve already shared with you that I’m quite lazy, so it didn’t take long for the novelty of Twitter to subside. I went from Tweeting a lot to now-and-then and then that became infrequently until it was pretty much never. I lost nearly all of my subscribers but honestly didn’t care. Most of my friends had given up on Twitter too – either also moving away from social networks in general or moving to a different platform. As such, I simply let it fade from memory and forgot about it.

Until recently, when I got really mad at my pest control company for a real (not perceived) injustice. I was so mad that I hopped on Twitter just to vent my frustration and (in my imaginary world) start a movement among the masses that had also been wronged by said company. Together our voices would force change as our postings became a trending topic which would go viral and then spread across different media and social networks. Satisfaction would be rendered. Justice would be mine!

Except, of course, none of that happened. No one joined the conversation – not one like or reply or retweet – not even from the brand itself as I’m not sure they even monitored their unverified account anyway.

I wasn’t surprised that my Tweets got no traction – I have few followers now – many of whom I suspect are inactive as well – and although I structured the posts properly (tagging the brand, using a hashtag) it’s just background noise in today’s world of political topic-driven social media. However, as a Behavioral Economist, I was interested in just what I would have to do to be heard on Twitter.

As an advertising agency, we at bloomfield knoble have been chasing the dream of going viral forever, but no amount of math or predictive analytics can really account for the irrationality of humans. Nevertheless, I was curious about how to measure – beyond the analytics Twitter provides – how one could analyze impact on a social network. A bit of research and some investigating later, I came across an excellent paper in the Journal of Physics by Natya Taniarza, Adiwijaya and Warih Maharani at the School of Computing, Telkom University, Bandung, Indonesia. Their paper, Social network analysis using k-Path centrality method, gave me some great insight into why my Tweets (in particular) don’t matter.

Here’s the abstract to their paper:

“k-Path centrality is deemed as one of the effective methods to be applied in centrality measurement in which the influential node is estimated as the node that is being passed by information path frequently. Regarding this, k-Path centrality has been employed in the analysis of this paper specifically by adapting random-algorithm approach in order to: (1) determine the influential user’s ranking in social media Twitter; and (2) ascertain the influence of parameter ain the numeration of k-Path centrality. According to the analysis, the findings showed that the method of k-Path centrality with random-algorithm approach can be used to determine user’s ranking which influences in the dissemination of information in Twitter. Furthermore, the findings also showed that parameter influenced the duration and the ranking results: the less the avalue, the longer the duration, yet the ranking results were more stable.”

The paper is worth reading and I’m not going to do justice to their research, but here’s the bottom-line – specifically as it impacts me. Basically, a person needs a lot of followers (which I don’t have anymore) or needs to wield influence in a group (node) of people who are likely to participate in the conversation – or are also connected in different groups where they wield influence.

It’s like the gossip game. If I have a small group of friends, but they have no friends, then even though I shared – our little circle is as far as it goes. However, if one of my friends is in another circle of friends – and that person tells that circle – and someone in that circle tells another circle – pretty soon a lot of people have heard. This is actually common-sense in a way. Anyone that has ever been on social media gets how this works. It’s not the process that can be hard to understand – it’s the measurement.

The big buzzword for the past couple of years has been “influencer marketing.” Brands know they need to have an influencer but understanding who – and how much to spend – and what the return-on-investment could be – is a vital part of marketing. Understanding that influence doesn’t move in a straight-line and utilizing the learning in Taniarza’s paper may be an important factor in projecting success.

Anyway, all the math showed me was that no one cared that I was whining about my pest control company, so I gave up on my dream of Twitter vengeance and decided to vent my frustration against their company by firing them – convinced that the $29 per month they were losing would cripple their business economy. Yeah, that’ll show ‘em! Who’s with me?

#Vivalarevolucion

Sources:

Taniarza N., Maharani A., Maharani W. Social network analysis using k-Path centrality method. IOP Publishing: International Conference on Data and Information Science. IOP Conf. Series: Journal of Physics: Conf. Series 971 (2018) 012015. dos: 10.1088/1742-6596/971/1/012015. (Natya Taniarza et al 2018 J. Phys.: Conf. Ser 971 012015)

 


About the Author

thomas-thompson-headshot

A STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Math) graduate and COO of bloomfield knoble, Thomas exemplifies the view that advertising is becoming an engineering discipline. He leads the integrated insights and strategic planning group in a way consistent with bloomfield knoble’s goal of bringing a strong analytical foundation to uncover fresh and innovative insights and business opportunities.
Connect with Thomas Thompson
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Who is bloomfield knoble?

bk is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bk provides a one-to-one approach.

Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at (214) 254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.

18 Dec 2018
product-placement_google

Product Placement Impacts You — Even When You’re Aware of It

Alternate title: How product placement can affect everyday decision-making — more specifically, how even I, a self-aware, independent individual [accidentally] fell for a fictitious character’s recommendation after re-watching the 1995 rom-com Clueless, and thereby proving that product placement can be more than just a joke.

In the world of American entertainment, we are no strangers to product placement. It’s become so integrated into our society that it gets made fun of ironically — with more product placement. From subtle appearances like Nike in Back to the Future 2 to Wayne’s World’s infamous scene where they don’t want to sell out with Pizza Hut and Reebok, we are immersed in advertisements.

[Side note: I know those are both 90s movies, but that’s the recurring theme of this post. For something more current, check out the product placement overload in Man of Steel.]

Product placement ads add small reminders called brand recall to your life. And if used strategically, they can act as a referral that vouches for the product.

U.S. product placement increased 13.7% in 2017 and continues to grow. This is because product placement has a pattern of very positive results. Now, you may love them, or you may make fun of them with your friends, but that’s the point. You’re talking about the brand, which is what the company wants — to be at the front of your mind.

Photo: Rotten Tomatoes

It’s probably been about 10 years since I sat down and watched Clueless, but I was thinking about how Paul Rudd doesn’t age… and well, here we are. As I watched this funny movie with my developed marketing mindset, three things stood out:

1. Some of the product placement goes unnoticed because it fits the setting. These are stores in the mall, shopping bags, cars, etc. And honestly, it’s perfect because it fits the setting of the movie: wealthy teenagers in 1995 Beverly Hills, California. Of course, they’ll go to a mall and wear designer clothing. Seeing them immersed in fashion makes perfect sense.

2. There is blatant product placement [that felt out of place] just twice.

First is when Cher (Alicia Silverstone) is looking for a potential girlfriend for her debate teacher, we watch her first-person perspective as she makes her way through the teacher’s lounge. Suddenly, she gets distracted by a Snickers bar — then pauses and returns to her mission.

The second is a Mentos commercial when Ty (Brittany Murphy) turns on the television and watches/sings along with the classic 90s Mentos commercial song (i.e., “Mentos fresh and full of life”).

Both are slightly awkward, but surprisingly fit the characters, so I let it pass.

3. The majority of the product placement is spoken. From designers like Calvin Klein to breakfast foods like Special K, the script is filled with product name dropping left and right, but always causally. So casually, in fact, that I can’t even guarantee that these companies/people are placed advertisements, or just used to fit the story.

My favorites include:

    • “Buns of Steel” exercise videos
    • Marky Mark (now Mark Wahlberg)
    • CliffsNotes
    • Snapple (lemon-flavored)
    • Billie Holiday
    • Hamlet (specifically the 1990 version, which Cher only watched because of Mel Gibson)

 

Fast forward to this morning, as I stopped at the drug store to get a few things. As I was deciding if I should get a soda to take to the office, I passed by an end-cap full of Snapple. I stopped and knowingly thought This is what Cher would have with her lunch. I must admit that it is way healthier than soda.

I opted for peach over lemon, but I still made the purchase based off a fictional character’s preference — not even from a blunt visual like the Snickers bar, but from a fly-by comment about Snapple.

How did this happen? As a female young adult living in a city, I am its target demographic. The advertising in this movie was aimed at me and others who essentially idolize Cher, or maybe young Alicia Silverstone. (I did binge watch old Aerosmith music videos after the movie.) Maybe it was a little bit of that, but don’t forget one of the most important steps in the consumer journey: Consideration (or Evaluation). I’m trying to drink healthier, and I was triggered by the end-cap to recall a memory of someone saying they liked Snapple. I then rationalized it with the consideration that it actually was a healthier alternative to soda.

Opportunity met brand awareness and familiarity to solidify my decision to purchase. Looking back, the name-drop worked a bit like word-of-mouth marketing — a recommendation from someone I trusted.

 


About the Author

amanda-lovewell-headshot

Amanda Lovewell is a copyeditor for bloomfield knoble. She works to keep the brand voice intact for us, and for our clients. She lives for any form of artistic expression, especially music. One day, she would love to travel creating short stories about her misadventures.

Connect with Amanda Lovewell
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Who is bloomfield knoble?

bk is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bk provides a one-to-one approach.

Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at (214) 254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.

20 Aug 2018
radio-blog_google

3 Reasons to Try Radio Advertising in DFW

As I sat stuck in stop-start traffic on switch from 183 East to the Turnpike this morning, I was reminded of the power of advertising. Here I was, switching back and forth on my preset channels, looking for a morning rush talk show that I like. What was marked as a 20-minute commute on my phone was suddenly a 45-minute frustration.

Image result for dallas traffic

Now, I’m never really one to plan my meals; I tend to let my mood decide or just skip lunch all together. However, I was quickly persuaded to get a sandwich today, as Subway, a favorite of mine (that I completely forgot about for some reason), played a simple commercial while I stared at the tail lights in front of me.

This small act made me think—maybe there’s something to radio advertising that’s worth talking about. Perhaps this seemingly old-fashion, slightly intimidating medium isn’t so removed after all, and, in fact, could really benefit your business specially if your audience lives or works in Dallas / Fort Worth.

  • Your customers are always driving [and probably stuck in traffic]

Whether your target audience is C-level executives, college students or stay-at-home parents, they’ll spend some time driving. The INRIX 2017 Global Traffic Scorecard reports that Dallas drivers each spent an average of 54 hours of last year stuck in traffic (about 6%), ranking Dallas as one of the top 30 global cities that has high traffic congestion. As maddening as that is, it couldn’t feel more accurate. Does this mean that your customers listen to the AM/FM radio while in their car? With this fact alone, probably not, but you have already increased your reach out of shear probability.

  • DFW has a huge music scene that utilizes the radio

Between live music at restaurants or festivals and concerts at the American Airlines Center, it’s obvious that DFW is a place of music lovers. How does this help you? According to a 2017 Nielsen State of the Media Report, AM/FM radio reaches more Americans each week than any other platform (including phones and television). This means that, with a strong strategy that focuses on your target audience and their preference in music, you can create a planned approach to appeal to your local customers.

  • Your customers may need a medium changeup

If your print and video campaigns seem to fall short, it could be an issue with impact. While we work within the average attention span of eight seconds, it may be harder than you realize to make an impression. In 2017, the IE School of Human Sciences & Technology (via the American Marketing Association) conducted studies showing that “the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day.” What’s more, “consumers switch screens up to 21 times an hour.” That’s a lot of information to take in visually.

In this case, the Radio Advertising Bureau infers that radio can be used as additional medium to your regular channels, as a form of recency (or brand reminders). This small form of reinforcement can boost your reach and presence, so they’ll be reminded of you when they need your product or services. The concept is exactly how the Subway advertisement quietly persuaded me to have a sandwich for lunch today.

Where do you start?

Our team can help you identify who specifically are your customers and their needs. Once we know your advertising goals, we can strategize with you to make the most of your radio advertisements. Check out our services.

Photo credit: The Dallas Morning News

 


About the Author

amanda-lovewell-headshot

Amanda Lovewell is a copyeditor for bloomfield knoble. She works to keep the brand voice intact for us, and for our clients. She lives for any form of artistic expression, especially music. One day, she would love to travel creating short stories about her misadventures.

Connect with Amanda Lovewell
facebooklinkedin_25x25youtube_25X25

 


Who is bloomfield knoble?

bk is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bk provides a one-to-one approach.

Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at (214) 254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.

28 Jun 2016

Can You Hear Me Now?

I saw an ad that made me do a double-take the other day.

Since I work at bloomfield knoble, a premier strategic marketing and advertising agency, I’m generally not prone to paying much attention to ads or being surprised by them, but this one caught me off guard. The ad was Paul Marcarelli pitching Sprint.

The name may not mean much to you, but the face should – Marcarelli was the long-time spokesperson for Verizon and known for the catch phrase, “Can you hear me now?” I’ll be honest – the ad isn’t that great creatively, but it caught my attention because I was stunned that Verizon had let Marcarelli’s non-compete expire. I know Verizon has long since moved on from the “Can you hear me now?” slogan, but letting something go isn’t the same as letting some one take it.

It’s always a challenge identifying a face with a brand – be it celebrity or recurring spokesperson. The inherent upside is that the brand literally has a face, name and personality that immediately projects an image of a living, breathing, credible person, as opposed to a faceless corporate entity. The downside is that individuals are not as stable or as easily controllable as corporate entities. Even imaginary characters that represent the brand can create issues. Consider the image of Betty Crocker and how it has evolved over time. A portrait of Betty Crocker was first introduced in the 1930s. Since then, Betty’s image has been refined to reflect the changing image of women. Other companies use real people, a celebrity, to represent a brand. The inherent downside to using real people is that when the celebrity encounters personal problems or scandals, the brand may suffer too. The company cannot simply redraw the celebrity’s face – they must convince the public that the celebrity’s current problems do not reflect on the brand itself. Looking at you, Jared from Subway.

Thus, brands, in some cases, can be golden straightjackets. They are “golden” because they build product knowledge and profits, but they can also be “straightjackets” (limiting or restrictive) because to be valuable they must be narrowly defined. As an agency, it’s our job at bloomfield knoble to carefully evaluate the associations clients are trying to attach to their brand and consider both the upside and the potential downside with the brand elements. One of the fundamental principles of using a brand element is making sure that it is “protectable” in both a legal and competitive sense. Clearly, Verizon (or their agency) had a 5-year agreement in place, but once that expired Marcarelli was fair game.

The question to me isn’t the effectiveness of the ad, but more about the steps that agencies should take to protect any brand element they use. It’s fine to let “Can you hear me now?” expire, but don’t let Sprint take it. Just enough people will remember it and do the same thing I did – pay attention to the ad. I can’t imagine that Flo will be allowed to do an Allstate commercial anytime soon. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if a bunch of agencies are pulling out old talent contracts and hoping to avoid something like this.

In any event, the simple truth is that I stopped to watch the ad, and in an era when consumers are inundated with a ton of messages, any action that creates pause and engagement is a win, so well done Sprint.


 About The Author

thomas-thompson-headshot

A STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Math) graduate and COO of bloomfield knoble, Thomas exemplifies the view that advertising is becoming an engineering discipline. He leads the integrated insights and strategic planning group in a way consistent with bloomfield knoble’s goal of bringing a strong analytical foundation to uncover fresh and innovative insights and business opportunities.
Connect With Thomas J Thompson
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# # #

Who is bloomfield knoble?

bloomfield knoble is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bloomfield knoble provides a one-to-one approach. Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at 214-254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.

15 Feb 2016

True Artificial Intelligence Closer to Reality

I, for one, welcome our new computer overlord.

I’ve seen enough movies to know that an Artificial Intelligence will rule the planet some day. While these usually end up going pretty poorly for humans (The Matrix, Terminator), I’m hoping that a pro-AI article (most likely being read by the AI) will allow me a position in the new world order. Perhaps bloomfield knoble can be the agency promoting the excellence and benevolence of our wise, yet still humble, AI ruler?

Why the sudden shift on the AI spectrum? It’s because the evil geniuses at Google DeepMind, along with equally evil geniuses at the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA) at the University of Montreal, have created a machine that beat the European champion at the ancient game of Go and mastered several video games from the Atari 2600. While that may not seem a huge deal (I mean, really, Space Invaders wasn’t that challenging – I totally mastered it after 3 years of constant play), the face that the team just created an artificial intelligence that can navigate 3D mazes (think Doom) is.

According to a recently published article, the team proposes “a conceptually simple and lightweight framework for deep reinforcement learning that uses asynchronous gradient descent for optimization of deep neural network controllers. The best performing method, an asynchronous variant of actor-critic . . . succeeds on a wide variety of continuous motor control problems as well as on a new task involving finding rewards in random 3D mazes using a visual input.” In plain language, they just invented a machine that can play a game by looking at the screen. This really should be written like, JUST BY LOOKING AT THE SCREEN!

From a science perspective, this is a big deal because it was generally believed that the combination of simple online reinforcement learning algorithms with deep neural networks was fundamentally unstable. Most research in this area focused on the idea that the sequence of observed data encountered by an online reinforcement learning agent is non-stationary and online reinforcement learning updates are strongly correlated. By storing the agent’s data in an experience replay memory, the data can be batched or randomly sampled from different time-steps. Aggregating over memory in this way reduces non-stationarity and decor relates updates, but at the same time limits the methods to off-policy refinfocement learning algorithms. The authors instead present a very different paradigm for deep reinforcement learning. Instead of experience replay, they asynchronously execute multiple agents in parallel, on multiple instances of the environment. This parallelism also decor relates the agents’ data into a more stationary process, since at given time-step the parallel agents will be experiencing a variety of different states. This simple idea enables a much larger spectrum on fundamental on-policy reinforcement learning algorithms to be applied robustly and effectively using deep neural networks.

From a still-kind-of-science-but-what-does-that-mean-to-me perspective, this is a big deal because the results show that stable training of neural networks through reinforcement learning is possible with both value-based and policy-based methods, off-policy as well as on-policy methods, and in discrete as well as continuous domains. The experiments tested for the paper were just to show the proof of their concept. By combining other existing reinforcement learning methods or recent advances in deep reinforcements learning with asynchronous framework presents many possibilities for immediate improvements to the methods they presented. Basically, the team just made AI go from a pre-teen to a teenager and gave the blueprint for how it can head off to college to grow into a gracious and generous AI ruler who remembers, and rewards, the people that spoke positively about it during it’s awkward stages of puberty.

PS – In analyzing the data results in the paper, several data points were measured against a human (how well the human scored vs. the machine plotted over time) and it occurred to me that someone’s job at Google DeepMind is to play Atari 2600 video games for many, many hours on end. This really should be written like, GETS TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES. On the incredibly off-chance that anyone at Google DeepMind reads this, please keep me in mind for future reinforcement learning projects that involve humans playing video games. I assure you that I will put in as many hours as necessary to help you in the name of science. Thank you.


 About The Author

thomas-thompson-headshot

A STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Math) graduate and COO of bloomfield knoble, Thomas exemplifies the view that advertising is becoming an engineering discipline. He leads the integrated insights and strategic planning group in a way consistent with bloomfield knoble’s goal of bringing a strong analytical foundation to uncover fresh and innovative insights and business opportunities.
Connect With Thomas J Thompson
twitter
facebooklinkedin_25x25youtube_25X25

# # #

Who is bloomfield knoble?

bloomfield knoble is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bloomfield knoble provides a one-to-one approach. Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at 214-254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.