Patrick is Director of Research & Insights at DISQO, where he manages research design, execution, and reporting for projects in Marketing, Sales, Customer Success, and Product. Patrick received his PhD in Social Psychology from Indiana University in 2014, and has worked in increasingly senior research-consulting roles for both vendor and client organizations over the past 10 years.

DISQO helps brands create more meaningful experiences through an accurate and authentic understanding of every customer, every touchpoint and every outcome in their journeys. Check out DISQO’s recent reports on consumer perceptions of generative AI and in-game advertising, plus a deeply engaging Big Game report.

You can do a podcast on anything, what would it be?

Dog psychology. Eventually, when I’m retired, I’m gonna have a business involving dogs. I don’t know what it is, but my dog’s gonna be there, greeting people at the front. It’s gonna be great, I just have to work on the business plan quite a bit over the next 20, 30 years.

I’m obsessed with animals, and I have a psychology background, so it’s a perfect fit subject-wise. I’m always noticing little things about dog (and human) behavior. I usually am paying more attention to people’s dogs than the people themselves.

When I was in grad school, psychology research on people bringing their dogs into the lab was a burgeoning area. I was kind of jealous I wasn’t part of that trend, but I did research, for example, on self-regulation. Basically your ability to inhibit what’s an instinctual response. Like if you see something delicious and you’re hungry, just diving in and eating it is the low self-control response to that situation. There’s been a lot of cool research on dog self-control in the presence of owners when treats are at play.

I just find the observational talents that are required to unlock those insights to be really, really fascinating. You really have to do a great controlled experiment to find out what makes dogs – and obviously consumers – tick. 

In a previous life you worked for an airline. Here’s a magic wand, if you could change one thing about air travel in America today, what would it be?

More space on the seats. I’m 6’3” and it is painful flying in the economy cabin, particularly internationally. I have to fly a good bit because my family is spread out, and I get nervous every time I board, worrying about how much space my knees will have, and how much my back will ache the next day.

I mean different airlines make different decisions based on the economics of flying, so everything can’t be perfect, particularly in the economy section. But customer experience should trump economics in that very particular aspect of seat spacing. And I don’t think humans are gonna shrink any time soon, particularly in the United States.

What is a tech or research buzzword that needs to go away?

So, so many. My mind is swimming. I think unspecific terms are extremely problematic. I see the term “AI” getting thrown around a lot right now, with AI-generated content tools. Too many things are bleeding into it in a way that confuses the conversation.

Everybody’s been using AI to a certain level. Machine learning’s been part of business operations for 20 years, minimum, depending on the organization you’re looking at. 

And now that these chatbots and AI-generated content programs have emerged, people are overusing or misusing AI in a way that creates a lot of confusion for average consumers. Sometimes the media, and tech people, position these things in a very unhelpful way. They’re going for clicks and cash versus progressing the conversation.

You take on these galactic advertising analytics projects, trying to track results among all the money and hype of things like Super Bowl ads. How do you set up your methodology to cut through that clutter?

For me, speed is everything. I need to be able to put something out quickly because the half-life of clicks toward topical reporting that I put out is within a really, really short window. Particularly with something like the Super Bowl, where it goes from hot topic to old news in a matter of days.

Beyond speed, we’re trying to show people in our reporting that the multiple metrics are huge, so don’t get lost focusing solely on survey data or behavioral data or Channel A versus Channel B. Everybody’s focused on the television environment versus the social media environment, or streaming versus linear. But there’s so much more out there.

Take the Super Bowl TV ads, which presumably have a very long half-life if you’ve invested that much money in your campaign. From a measurement perspective, you need to keep a broad perspective. Don’t just think, “How did my advertising perform this one night of the year when everybody was watching?”

The long tail of continued evaluation and iterative improvement is really what I think differentiates good brands from great brands in terms of advertising.

What’s a trend brands should be paying attention to in regard to their ad spend over the next few years?

Brand engagement through in-game advertising. And, reframing the term “advertising” into collaboration and partnerships.

I play a lot of video games, and what I notice in the gaming ad space are brands that help me along the journey. Are they helping me achieve something? Are they giving me something in return for my time? 

It’s a clearer transaction in a gaming environment where brands can partner and give rewards, or brands can help progress someone to the next level. I haven’t seen that analog really unlocked in other channel environments. 

What I hope to see in the next couple of years with in-game advertising – and other channels that can innovate – might be more transactional. A lot of consumers won’t tell you that they hate ads, but they will tell you that they’re a little bit bored by ads because those ads are not trying to engage them. Those ads are simply trying to throw a message out with no conversation involved. 

Brands that are able to find the right channels, the right messaging, and the right digital environments to have a true exchange of ideas … if not just an exchange of clicks … will set the new standard for advertising.

What’s a non-digital thing you own that’s designed really well?

Herman Miller furniture. I have these amazing kitchen chairs, one of which I’m sitting in right now. And it just – it wraps around me in a way that I didn’t think was possible for a chair to wrap around me. 

It’s just so comfortable that I could sit here all day and work. Somebody did an amazing job, and a lot of people probably sat in this chair before it was ready for production. I love when something has a great aesthetic but also manages to be in the 99th percentile of function. A rare combination that’s worth promoting a brand for.

Was there something in the Super Bowl research that genuinely surprised you? 

A lot of movie trailers performed really well. I wasn’t expecting that going in because we don’t typically think of movie trailers as part and parcel of the Super Bowl zeitgeist. It’s more like big brands with celebrities doing cool things. 

But movie trailers are effectively everything that a Super Bowl ad wants to be, on steroids. They already have a story, they already have celebrities, but they have a brand-new product that people have very little awareness of.

From an ad effectiveness standpoint, I was surprised just how well those performed, given the methodology we used, of which 50% of the equation is about lifting brand awareness.

New products do really well in this environment, because brand awareness has more room to run. That said, movie trailers do even better because it is the perfect venue to introduce something that’s action-filled and celebrity-filled. They are an extremely effective way to use the Super Bowl – the perfect 30-second or 60-second time to do a trailer. 

It’s also the best time to capture certain audiences who lean towards particular movie genres (e.g., action, sports). The Creed movies and Air: Courting a Legend have a strong connection with football fans. What’s surprising is that I haven’t seen too much reporting from other outlets about the impact and reception of these types of movie trailers. 

We want to do an ad, we’re a big company, we have a somewhat-beloved celebrity, and we want it to be funny. What should we definitely NOT do as we’re making the ad?

Don’t include a celebrity just because they’re a celebrity. Use their background to your advantage. Use their background strategically to link to the product. 

What we saw with, say, Doritos and Jack Harlow, Missy Elliot, and Elton John. The triangle element brought everything together in a way that every celebrity seemed very, very purposeful. 

Other brands just had a celebrity doing a straight-up endorsement, or a lineup of celebrities for celebrity’s sake. This gets some attention, but it doesn’t tell me anything about the product, it doesn’t reinforce that product relationship, and it fails to mention the attributes that you’re trying to represent as a brand. 

So, my advice to any advertiser is to pick your celebrity very strategically. I think a lot of brands might ask, “Well, does the demographic reach of this celebrity match my target audience?” That is certainly foundational, but there has to be a creative element of how you “tell me the why.”  Tell me why this is your endorser for this product, particularly when every other ad has a celebrity. 

Small incrementality of a buzzier person pitching your product is not enough to push a brand over the top, from a creative appeal or from a lift standpoint. This is especially true in the Super Bowl, where bringing a celebrity to your ad is effectively table stakes.

Best takeout in Chicago?

Pequod’s Pizza is probably my favorite. It doesn’t always deliver well, but when you pick it up for takeout and it doesn’t get soggy on the bottom, it is the most phenomenal deep-dish pizza you’ll find in Chicago. Honorable mention for Velvet Taco – I live for tacos, and this place makes some of the best you’ll find.

What’s something research-wise you’d like to take on as a major project?

AI-generated content. Those platforms have a tremendous amount of synergy with analytics, so I’d ask, “How can this help me write surveys more efficiently? How can this help me spot trends in the data before I dive into it whole hog? How can I think about open-ended analysis instead of me churning through 7,000 rows of text or giving that to someone else? Give me a head start.” 

These tools are always changing, so the challenge is when to start tackling it. As we were saying about short analytics windows earlier … if I put out a piece right now, GPT-4 just came out, so all of the material could just be completely wrong or completely dated. 

I’m trying to unlock ways to scale work by leveraging AI-generated tools, almost like hiring a chatbot intern. Could I give my ChatGPT friend or my Bard friend or whoever a couple of tasks that could knock out my first hour of the day in 15 minutes?

But it takes a little bit of refinement to get there. It takes a lot of prompting, and incorrect prompting, to come up with the right solutions. But I’m really, really excited about this technology because I think it’s not about replacing human beings; it’s just augmenting and elevating what I’m able to do as one person.

What’s an interesting city we should travel to?

Hamburg, Germany. My wife’s from Hamburg. It is an amazing city that’s right on the water. Extremely walkable. Very mild temperature in the summer. 

Sometimes hard to get to from an air travel standpoint, but it’s just beautiful. A couple million people, so surprisingly big. Lots of history, great food, amazing beer, and wonderful people. Berlin and Munich are amazing, but Hamburg on the waterfront is pretty tough to beat.

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