We're Hiring: Associate Consultant, Client Strategy & Operations at Proximis Digital

JOB POSTING: Associate Consultant

January 22, 2019

We’re hiring an Associate Consultant, Client Strategy & Operations.

We are looking for someone with 0-3 years of experience.  This is a 3-month contract position, where the successful candidate will be eligible to apply for a permanent employee position at the end of the contract.  

Link to position posting: https://proximis.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Associate-Consultant-Jan-2020.pdf

JOB POSTING: Associate Consultant

January 22, 2019

We’re hiring an Associate Consultant, Client Strategy & Operations.

We are looking for someone with 0-3 years of experience.  This is a 3-month contract position, where the successful candidate will be eligible to apply for a permanent employee position at the end of the contract.  

Link to position posting: https://proximis.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Associate-Consultant-Jan-2020.pdf


How Brexit Keeps Changing Our Views on Digital Democracy

by Edward Leung

How Brexit Keeps Changing Our Views on Digital Democracy

A day after the 2016 Brexit referendum, an article by Dhruva Jaishankar of the Brookings Institute exclaimed that Brexit was “the first major casualty of digital democracy”.

“Digital democracy” is a rare shared dream of political camps across the spectrum. From your progressive Silicon Valley technologists to your Tor-browsing crypto-anarchists, the rise of the internet and the globalization that followed was supposed to bring about a golden age of democratic expression. With a rapidly changing economic, social, and cultural landscape, it was inevitable that citizens would find institutions of the past unresponsive and turn to technology as the solution. The Arab Spring, fueled by social media, was a bright first example of the future to come.

Instead, we got Brexit. We got Trump. We got state-sponsored troll farms and censorship of Winnie the Pooh. We also got monopolistic “tech” companies that were negligent at best, criminal at worst, when it came to protecting our basic online privacy. 2019 is a far-cry from the emerging democratic utopia we were promised, and every week a new story breaks that hardly surprises us anymore.

The digital optimists assumed the internet and globalization would democratize information and create better-informed citizens who are less likely to be silenced, leading to better decision-making. What they failed to see was that these technological changes are inherently a double-edged sword and that they would be all-encompassing in our digital lives.

For every word of policy discussion that appeared on the internet, there were also hundreds of words about the Oscars, thousands of hours of YouTube videos, and millions of photos of the hottest new restaurants of the season. We, as citizens, are better informed than ever before in history, but not necessarily about good public policy.

And of course, better informed is not necessarily the same as correctly informed. When everyone has access to a firehose of instantaneous information in their pocket, it’s not surprising that a few poorly sourced mistruths get mixed into the flow as well. The ability to mass-distribute information might be a global lifeline for dissidents under oppressive regimes, but perhaps the optimists didn’t intend for it to be just as effective and convincing when a suburban mother mass-distributes anti-vaccination fake news. This is a reality we now have to grapple with in our “Post-Fact” world.

Now, all this sounds rather dystopic, and a considerable amount of ink has already been spilled discussing what we can do as a society to tackle these issues. To be fair, progress is being made both in legislation and in how we behave as consumers, but to me, these all seemed like band-aid solutions treating symptoms of a deeper sickness.

That is, until an online petition caught my eye last week.

A friend of mine studying in the UK was growing increasingly agitated with the whole Brexit fiasco and shared a link to a petition. The petition is named “Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU” and is hosted on the official UK Parliamentary petition website, with its mandate promising that the Government will have an official response to petitions with over 10,000 signatures.

To be frank, I wasn’t too interested at first; these petitions are a dime a dozen online, living on change.org or other governmental petition sites. Only a minuscule number of them ever collect enough signatures to receive a day’s worth of news coverage and most of those simply draw attention to policy changes that are more or less already accepted by the majority. The cynic in me thought that, while it had already reached a couple hundred thousand signatures at that point, it would slow down and most likely end up as nothing more than a single-use talking point while the British MPs continued to bicker for a fortnight about the Prime Minister’s deal.

To my surprise, however, the petition kept growing. And growing. As of this writing, there are now over 5.7 million signatures on the petition.

The number is impressive, and it would no longer surprise me if the number of signatures reach over 6 million by the time you read this. But what struck me most was how quickly my initial skepticism was addressed.

Surely, I thought, this was the work of a sophisticated remnant of the Remain campaign that saw an opening.

Nope. Just a woman named Margaret who seemed to have started it and shared it around more or less organically. So far, there’s no evidence that there are big interest groups backing her and astroturfing online to make this petition go “viral”. It seems like sheer good timing and good algorithmic luck (stay tuned for a blog post on this) that propelled her petition to the forefront of this current chapter of Brexit.

Oh, but what about the bots? The bots are going to brigade this petition just like they did back in 2016.

Nope. Turns out the British bureaucrats had learned their lesson and put in surprisingly sophisticated safeguards (by government standards, at least) and have gone to great lengths to ensure the petition’s integrity.

People would most definitely continue to stay home and just hope for the best, right?

Nope. I was wrong about this one too.

Now, I’m not trying to say that things are back to normal and that this petition has singlehandedly solved all the modern problems with democracy. Misinformation, social discontent, polarization, gridlock – all these symptoms are still very much present and should be treated as the new normal for how we see our relationship with governance and with each other.

However, this brief event has given me a bit more hope that for every negative impact that the tools of digital democracy have caused, there are still equal examples of positive impacts happening just like the optimists thought they would. The aspirations of a better democracy are still possible, even though we all must work very hard to get there.

If the Brexit referendum was one of the first casualties of democracy’s attempt at doing things the old-fashioned way in a truly digital world, then perhaps what happens next in the final chapters of the UK’s saga with Brexit could be one of the early steps of our renewed relationship with digital democracy.

 

Edward Leung is an Account Lead / Political Practice Lead at Proximis. He spends a lot of time thinking about how technology is changing democracy and governance because he’s generally quite concerned about the whole thing.

How Brexit Keeps Changing Our Views on Digital Democracy

by Edward Leung

A day after the 2016 Brexit referendum, an article by Dhruva Jaishankar of the Brookings Institute exclaimed that Brexit was “the first major casualty of digital democracy”.

“Digital democracy” is a rare shared dream of political camps across the spectrum. From your progressive Silicon Valley technologists to your Tor-browsing crypto-anarchists, the rise of the internet and the globalization that followed was supposed to bring about a golden age of democratic expression. With a rapidly changing economic, social, and cultural landscape, it was inevitable that citizens would find institutions of the past unresponsive and turn to technology as the solution. The Arab Spring, fueled by social media, was a bright first example of the future to come.

Instead, we got Brexit. We got Trump. We got state-sponsored troll farms and censorship of Winnie the Pooh. We also got monopolistic “tech” companies that were negligent at best, criminal at worst, when it came to protecting our basic online privacy. 2019 is a far-cry from the emerging democratic utopia we were promised, and every week a new story breaks that hardly surprises us anymore.

The digital optimists assumed the internet and globalization would democratize information and create better-informed citizens who are less likely to be silenced, leading to better decision-making. What they failed to see was that these technological changes are inherently a double-edged sword and that they would be all-encompassing in our digital lives.

For every word of policy discussion that appeared on the internet, there were also hundreds of words about the Oscars, thousands of hours of YouTube videos, and millions of photos of the hottest new restaurants of the season. We, as citizens, are better informed than ever before in history, but not necessarily about good public policy.

And of course, better informed is not necessarily the same as correctly informed. When everyone has access to a firehose of instantaneous information in their pocket, it’s not surprising that a few poorly sourced mistruths get mixed into the flow as well. The ability to mass-distribute information might be a global lifeline for dissidents under oppressive regimes, but perhaps the optimists didn’t intend for it to be just as effective and convincing when a suburban mother mass-distributes anti-vaccination fake news. This is a reality we now have to grapple with in our “Post-Fact” world.

Now, all this sounds rather dystopic, and a considerable amount of ink has already been spilled discussing what we can do as a society to tackle these issues. To be fair, progress is being made both in legislation and in how we behave as consumers, but to me, these all seemed like band-aid solutions treating symptoms of a deeper sickness.

That is, until an online petition caught my eye last week.

A friend of mine studying in the UK was growing increasingly agitated with the whole Brexit fiasco and shared a link to a petition. The petition is named “Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU” and is hosted on the official UK Parliamentary petition website, with its mandate promising that the Government will have an official response to petitions with over 10,000 signatures.

To be frank, I wasn’t too interested at first; these petitions are a dime a dozen online, living on change.org or other governmental petition sites. Only a minuscule number of them ever collect enough signatures to receive a day’s worth of news coverage and most of those simply draw attention to policy changes that are more or less already accepted by the majority. The cynic in me thought that, while it had already reached a couple hundred thousand signatures at that point, it would slow down and most likely end up as nothing more than a single-use talking point while the British MPs continued to bicker for a fortnight about the Prime Minister’s deal.

To my surprise, however, the petition kept growing. And growing. As of this writing, there are now over 5.7 million signatures on the petition.

The number is impressive, and it would no longer surprise me if the number of signatures reach over 6 million by the time you read this. But what struck me most was how quickly my initial skepticism was addressed.

Surely, I thought, this was the work of a sophisticated remnant of the Remain campaign that saw an opening.

Nope. Just a woman named Margaret who seemed to have started it and shared it around more or less organically. So far, there’s no evidence that there are big interest groups backing her and astroturfing online to make this petition go “viral”. It seems like sheer good timing and good algorithmic luck (stay tuned for a blog post on this) that propelled her petition to the forefront of this current chapter of Brexit.

Oh, but what about the bots? The bots are going to brigade this petition just like they did back in 2016.

Nope. Turns out the British bureaucrats had learned their lesson and put in surprisingly sophisticated safeguards (by government standards, at least) and have gone to great lengths to ensure the petition’s integrity.

People would most definitely continue to stay home and just hope for the best, right?

Nope. I was wrong about this one too.

Now, I’m not trying to say that things are back to normal and that this petition has singlehandedly solved all the modern problems with democracy. Misinformation, social discontent, polarization, gridlock – all these symptoms are still very much present and should be treated as the new normal for how we see our relationship with governance and with each other.

However, this brief event has given me a bit more hope that for every negative impact that the tools of digital democracy have caused, there are still equal examples of positive impacts happening just like the optimists thought they would. The aspirations of a better democracy are still possible, even though we all must work very hard to get there.

If the Brexit referendum was one of the first casualties of democracy’s attempt at doing things the old-fashioned way in a truly digital world, then perhaps what happens next in the final chapters of the UK’s saga with Brexit could be one of the early steps of our renewed relationship with digital democracy.

 

Edward Leung is an Account Lead / Political Practice Lead at Proximis. He spends a lot of time thinking about how technology is changing democracy and governance because he’s generally quite concerned about the whole thing.


The Changing Face of Political Videos

by Nicholas Kraak

The Changing Face of Political Videos

An old guy sits at a table. It’s a political video and he really, would very much, like your vote. With the help of some generic stock music, he’s going to tell you all about his life in chronological order. Eventually, at the 2-minute mark, he might transition into some loose policy points which he’ll jam together like an essay with no line breaks, before asking you, very politely, if you would please consider voting for him this September. The video ends, and you’ll realize that, despite just watching it, you can’t remember a single thing that was said.

The reason these videos are so ubiquitous throughout many Commonwealth nations and have been for the past 30 years, is because structurally they’re a no brainer. Why wouldn’t you want to know about the person you’re voting for before they tell you what they stand for? Besides, there’s no rule saying you can’t structure a video like this. But to quote It’s a Wonderful Life director Frank Capra, there are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.

South of the border, the political video landscape has shifted rapidly over the past two years. Pick a video (seriously, pick anything) and you’ll immediately notice a few things. Firstly, they’re often filmed in a wide aspect ratio, with black bars on the top and bottom. They utilize cinematic music and feature dark, gritty colours. Indeed, many articles have been written about how political videos in the United States more closely resemble Hollywood movies than traditional ads, but what these articles miss is that the biggest change these videos have is how they structure and present information.

Today, videos have approximately 10 seconds to hook viewers. For younger viewers, it’s even less. That doesn’t mean video isn’t a useful tool. On the contrary, 500 million people watch videos every day on Facebook, and 64% of consumers take action after watching a video (Animato, 2017). What it means is videos need to be smart in how they engage viewers. In today’s world, an old guy, sitting at a table, talking about his father, no longer cuts it.

Here’s what our American neighbours have been up to:

Ilhan Omar’s video (above) hooks viewers by proclaiming: “This country says it was founded on fundamental values of justice, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But these core beliefs are under threat.”

The video then goes on to list a series of problems the United States is facing. Ilhan Omar, the candidate in the video, doesn’t even appear until nearly one-minute in, where the video then goes on to detail her core beliefs which, surprise surprise, just so happen to be the same ones the video begins with.

By using this non-linear structure, filmmakers are able to organize information thematically rather than chronologically. It’s a technique that not only helps keep things interesting but helps present a cohesive vision – where everything in the video works in service of a single core idea. ¬

Here’s another example:

Above: Bernie Sander’s 2020 Launch Video is built around the premise that Bernie has always been on the right side of history.

By theming videos around a core idea, presenting information in a non-linear structure, and, of course, being willing to cut everything and anything that doesn’t work in service of the story, recent political videos in the United States are better able to engage viewers, and avoid that cardinal sin: dullness. It is this approach to filmmaking we strive to take at Proximis Digital, and one that many in Canada could learn from.

Nicholas Kraak is Proximis’ Director of Video Production. He studied Film and Screen Media Production at Griffith University and is interested in the evolution of storytelling.

The Changing Face of Political Videos

An old guy sits at a table. It’s a political video and he really, would very much, like your vote. With the help of some generic stock music, he’s going to tell you all about his life in chronological order. Eventually, at the 2-minute mark, he might transition into some loose policy points which he’ll jam together like an essay with no line breaks, before asking you, very politely, if you would please consider voting for him this September. The video ends, and you’ll realize that, despite just watching it, you can’t remember a single thing that was said.

The reason these videos are so ubiquitous throughout many Commonwealth nations and have been for the past 30 years, is because structurally they’re a no brainer. Why wouldn’t you want to know about the person you’re voting for before they tell you what they stand for? Besides, there’s no rule saying you can’t structure a video like this. But to quote It’s a Wonderful Life director Frank Capra, there are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.

South of the border, the political video landscape has shifted rapidly over the past two years. Pick a video (seriously, pick anything) and you’ll immediately notice a few things. Firstly, they’re often filmed in a wide aspect ratio, with black bars on the top and bottom. They utilize cinematic music and feature dark, gritty colours. Indeed, many articles have been written about how political videos in the United States more closely resemble Hollywood movies than traditional ads, but what these articles miss is that the biggest change these videos have is how they structure and present information.

Today, videos have approximately 10 seconds to hook viewers. For younger viewers, it’s even less. That doesn’t mean video isn’t a useful tool. On the contrary, 500 million people watch videos every day on Facebook, and 64% of consumers take action after watching a video (Animato, 2017). What it means is videos need to be smart in how they engage viewers. In today’s world, an old guy, sitting at a table, talking about his father, no longer cuts it.

Here’s what our American neighbours have been up to:

Ilhan Omar’s video (above) hooks viewers by proclaiming: “This country says it was founded on fundamental values of justice, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But these core beliefs are under threat.”

The video then goes on to list a series of problems the United States is facing. Ilhan Omar, the candidate in the video, doesn’t even appear until nearly one-minute in, where the video then goes on to detail her core beliefs which, surprise surprise, just so happen to be the same ones the video begins with.

By using this non-linear structure, filmmakers are able to organize information thematically rather than chronologically. It’s a technique that not only helps keep things interesting but helps present a cohesive vision – where everything in the video works in service of a single core idea. ¬

Here’s another example:

by Nicholas Kraak

Above: Bernie Sander’s 2020 Launch Video is built around the premise that Bernie has always been on the right side of history.

By theming videos around a core idea, presenting information in a non-linear structure, and, of course, being willing to cut everything and anything that doesn’t work in service of the story, recent political videos in the United States are better able to engage viewers, and avoid that cardinal sin: dullness. It is this approach to filmmaking we strive to take at Proximis Digital, and one that many in Canada could learn from.

Nicholas Kraak is Proximis’ Director of Video Production. He studied Film and Screen Media Production at Griffith University and is interested in the evolution of storytelling.


Pro Rep referendum results a reminder that we know what we don't know

by John Manning and Edward Leung

Pro Rep referendum results a reminder that we know what we don't know

This week’s B.C. electoral reform referendum results are a reminder – or even a wakeup call – that when it comes to public opinion on the issues of the day, we often know far less than we think we do.

Take us, for example. In the weeks leading up to the release of the results, we informally polled family and friends on who they thought would win.

“PR for sure…. but I don’t really know,” said some.

“FPTP in a landslide… or maybe not,” said others.

“Too close to call! Flip a coin! Or perhaps I’m wrong…” said the rest.

These disparate opinions illustrate a key point in today’s politicking: outside of your local community, and short of conducting professional polling, it can be just about impossible to guess where the majority sits on the issues of the day.

Why? You could come up with a dozen or so reasons but we’ll give you three: a fractured news media landscape, the increasingly powerful influence of social media, and online advertising being conducted with lax transparency rules.

Let’s start with the news media. Ten years ago (or so), when a public debate such as PR would play out, all you had to do was observe the major news sources (in our case: Global TV, The Vancouver Sun / The Province, CKNW, and a few others) and you had a pretty good idea as to what information was making it to the public, and how it was being digested by columnists. You even knew to a certain degree how it was being received based on letters to the editor, radio callers, and random passersby on TV news. Scanning the media certainly wouldn’t tell you everything that was going on, but it would be rare for a substantial movement to form and not make it into one of the major media outlets. And here’s the point: when we are all consuming more or less the same news, it’s easier for us to make tip-of-our-nose judgements about how the public is or is going to perceive things. But today we live in a world where:

  • Most people under 40 don’t bother with cable TV or newspapers
  • Radio is non-existent to youth and technocrats who prefer podcasts; and
  • Most media is consumed online one way or another, where personalization driven algorithms skew information in ways that only enforce the walls around our personal “bubbles.”

Which brings us to social media. Facebook may well be receding, but it’s still the front page of the internet for mainstream political discourse. And since the data breach scandals began a few years ago, privacy is being tightened up (so they claim) meaning that analytics tools are increasingly being cut off from info that would provide a broad-based look into the trends and sentiments on important issues. So here we are, lemmings living in Facebook’s perpetual beta-test social-experiment world where emotional content is king and echo chambers are too profitable to go away – but if my news feed looks nothing like your news feed which looks nothing like your friend’s news feed – how is anyone to know what’s really going on out there? And Twitter? Still influential, but unreliable. Instagram? Great when you get the formula right, almost impossible if you don’t. Reddit? WhatsApp? Snapchat? WeChat? Massively influential to some groups, completely invisible to others. When it comes to politics, it’s still Facebook by a mile… for little longer, anyway.

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, let’s look at online political advertising. Despite some rules coming in over the last few year, online is still the wild west of political advertising. In the case of the PR referendum, anyone, from anywhere in the world, with money earned from any source, could spend any amount of money, with (just about) any type of targeting… right up until the official campaign period began. And there is no record and no way to find out what happened. The same rules apply to elections – you can (largely) do whatever you want up until the official 30-day writ period, and then there are some restrictions. This is a massive issue, with major risks for Western democracy, that looks like it will take a little longer to get sorted out. And let’s be clear; this is everyone’s issue, no matter what your political stripes are.

And that brings us back to the key point of this post: in today’s digital-first world, we as individuals have very limited knowledge of what our information our peers are consuming. What each of us sees in our feeds is simply not representative of what the population sees in the way it used to be.

So, what to do?

In our view, professionally-conducted research such as polls and focus groups, done by someone who knows what they are doing, has never before been so important. And clients on a more limited budget should look to advertising firms like ours, with extensive experience in issues-based advertising and social media analytics, to extrapolate insights from advertising and social data.

It’s all to easy to make a gut call based on the information you are exposed to. But for reasons outside of your control, it may turn out to be absolutely, dead wrong. In this era that we are living in, we need to remember that we know… what we don’t know.

 

John Manning is a Principal at Proximis Digital Inc, BC’s market leader for issues advertising

Edward Leung is an Account Lead / Political Practice Lead at Proximis

See their work at www.proximis.ca

Pro Rep referendum results a reminder that we know what we don't know

by John Manning and Edward Leung

This week’s B.C. electoral reform referendum results are a reminder – or even a wakeup call – that when it comes to public opinion on the issues of the day, we often know far less than we think we do.

Take us, for example. In the weeks leading up to the release of the results, we informally polled family and friends on who they thought would win.

“PR for sure…. but I don’t really know,” said some.

“FPTP in a landslide… or maybe not,” said others.

“Too close to call! Flip a coin! Or perhaps I’m wrong…” said the rest.

These disparate opinions illustrate a key point in today’s politicking: outside of your local community, and short of conducting professional polling, it can be just about impossible to guess where the majority sits on the issues of the day.

Why? You could come up with a dozen or so reasons but we’ll give you three: a fractured news media landscape, the increasingly powerful influence of social media, and online advertising being conducted with lax transparency rules.

Let’s start with the news media. Ten years ago (or so), when a public debate such as PR would play out, all you had to do was observe the major news sources (in our case: Global TV, The Vancouver Sun / The Province, CKNW, and a few others) and you had a pretty good idea as to what information was making it to the public, and how it was being digested by columnists. You even knew to a certain degree how it was being received based on letters to the editor, radio callers, and random passersby on TV news. Scanning the media certainly wouldn’t tell you everything that was going on, but it would be rare for a substantial movement to form and not make it into one of the major media outlets. And here’s the point: when we are all consuming more or less the same news, it’s easier for us to make tip-of-our-nose judgements about how the public is or is going to perceive things. But today we live in a world where:

  • Most people under 40 don’t bother with cable TV or newspapers
  • Radio is non-existent to youth and technocrats who prefer podcasts; and
  • Most media is consumed online one way or another, where personalization driven algorithms skew information in ways that only enforce the walls around our personal “bubbles.”

Which brings us to social media. Facebook may well be receding, but it’s still the front page of the internet for mainstream political discourse. And since the data breach scandals began a few years ago, privacy is being tightened up (so they claim) meaning that analytics tools are increasingly being cut off from info that would provide a broad-based look into the trends and sentiments on important issues. So here we are, lemmings living in Facebook’s perpetual beta-test social-experiment world where emotional content is king and echo chambers are too profitable to go away – but if my news feed looks nothing like your news feed which looks nothing like your friend’s news feed – how is anyone to know what’s really going on out there? And Twitter? Still influential, but unreliable. Instagram? Great when you get the formula right, almost impossible if you don’t. Reddit? WhatsApp? Snapchat? WeChat? Massively influential to some groups, completely invisible to others. When it comes to politics, it’s still Facebook by a mile… for little longer, anyway.

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, let’s look at online political advertising. Despite some rules coming in over the last few year, online is still the wild west of political advertising. In the case of the PR referendum, anyone, from anywhere in the world, with money earned from any source, could spend any amount of money, with (just about) any type of targeting… right up until the official campaign period began. And there is no record and no way to find out what happened. The same rules apply to elections – you can (largely) do whatever you want up until the official 30-day writ period, and then there are some restrictions. This is a massive issue, with major risks for Western democracy, that looks like it will take a little longer to get sorted out. And let’s be clear; this is everyone’s issue, no matter what your political stripes are.

And that brings us back to the key point of this post: in today’s digital-first world, we as individuals have very limited knowledge of what our information our peers are consuming. What each of us sees in our feeds is simply not representative of what the population sees in the way it used to be.

So, what to do?

In our view, professionally-conducted research such as polls and focus groups, done by someone who knows what they are doing, has never before been so important. And clients on a more limited budget should look to advertising firms like ours, with extensive experience in issues-based advertising and social media analytics, to extrapolate insights from advertising and social data.

It’s all to easy to make a gut call based on the information you are exposed to. But for reasons outside of your control, it may turn out to be absolutely, dead wrong. In this era that we are living in, we need to remember that we know… what we don’t know.

 

John Manning is a Principal at Proximis Digital Inc, BC’s market leader for issues advertising

Edward Leung is an Account Lead / Political Practice Lead at Proximis

See their work at www.proximis.ca


Introducing: Carrier Pigeon

by John Manning

Introducing: Carrier Pigeon

Today we are celebrating the launch of our latest project: Carrier Pigeon.

Carrier Pigeon is a web series about communication through the ages. Naturally, the pilot episode is about pigeons and the role they played in both World Wars. The pilot episode combines archival footage with brightly-coloured animated graphics.

Proximis researched and scripted the video carefully to ensure it was historically accurate, and through the use of a unique two-tone colour palette, developed a cohesive visual style that is both fresh and engaging.

Carrier Pigeon

by John Manning

Carrier Pigeon is a web series about communication through the ages. Naturally, the pilot episode is about pigeons and the role they played in both World Wars. The pilot episode combines archival footage with brightly coloured animated graphics.

Proximis researched and scripted the video carefully to ensure it was historically accurate, and through the use of a unique two-tone colour palette, developed a cohesive visual style that is both fresh and engaging.


Proximis is growing

by John Manning

Proximis is Growing

Here at the Proximis shop, we’ve constantly evolving to stay ahead of the most recent trends in digital marketing and communications.

During the last 9 months, we’ve brought in more and more in-house creative talent in order to streamline our production.  Notably, this includes our Director of Video, Nicholas Kraak; a new graphic/motion graphics designer, Natalia Escobar; and our new jr. web developer/communications specialist, Talia Walkey.

Nick joined Proximis in June 2017, and has since produced high-impact video products including advertisements, animated videos, live interviews, and some genre-blurring pieces.  Prior to joining Proximis, Nick worked with an array of esteemed production companies.  You may have seen his work before in cinemas, video games, television, and in-flight entertainment. Nick grew up in Australia but is loving life in Canada.

Natalia became part of the Proximis team in January of 2018 and works as a Graphic/Motion Graphics Designer.  Her work ranges from branding and advertisements online and in print media, to motion graphics and illustration.   Before moving to Canada, Natalia studied graphic design at Doctor Jose Matias Delgado University in El Salvador.  While working with us, she is completing her master’s degree in design at the Centre for Digital Media, an elite program offered jointly by BCIT, UBC, SFU, and Emily Carr.

Finally, Talia is the newest addition to Proximis. She graduated from BCIT with a Digital Design and Development Diploma just a few days before starting at Proximis in May of 2018. Talia is a Jr. Website Developer and Communication Specialist who brings the latest web development trends in the industry.

As the Proximis team continues to grow, the addition of these three members allows us to give our clients more what they need: a full suite of creative services all in one place.

You can see their work and read more about them here.

Proximis is Growing

by John Manning

Here at the Proximis shop, we’ve constantly evolving to stay ahead of the most recent trends in digital marketing and communications.

During the last 9 months, we’ve brought in more and more in-house creative talent in order to streamline our production.  Notably, this includes our Director of Video, Nicholas Kraak; a new graphic/motion graphics designer, Natalia Escobar; and our new jr. web developer/communications specialist, Talia Walkey.

Nick joined Proximis in June 2017, and has since produced high-impact video products including advertisements, animated videos, live interviews, and some genre-blurring pieces.  Prior to joining Proximis, Nick worked with an array of esteemed production companies.  You may have seen his work before in cinemas, video games, television, and in-flight entertainment. Nick grew up in Australia but is loving life in Canada.

Natalia became part of the Proximis team in January of 2018 and works as a Graphic/Motion Graphics Designer.  Her work ranges from branding and advertisements online and in print media, to motion graphics and illustration.   Before moving to Canada, Natalia studied graphic design at Doctor Jose Matias Delgado University in El Salvador.  While working with us, she is completing her master’s degree in design at the Centre for Digital Media, an elite program offered jointly by BCIT, UBC, SFU, and Emily Carr.

Finally, Talia is the newest addition to Proximis. She graduated from BCIT with a Digital Design and Development Diploma just a few days before starting at Proximis in May of 2018. Talia is a Jr. Website Developer and Communication Specialist who brings the latest web development trends in the industry.

As the Proximis team continues to grow, the addition of these three members allows us to give our clients more what they need: a full suite of creative services all in one place.

You can see their work and read more about them here.


Facebook & Cambridge Analytica Scandal: Where Do We Go From Here?

by John Manning

Facebook & Cambridge Analytica Scandal: Where Do We Go From Here?

Is the golden era of online political micro-targeting ending? The recent revelations about how data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica exploited Facebook data, extensively documented in The Guardian, Channel 4 News, and other major media, seem like a watershed moment for this industry.

Much of the story is driven by Canadian-born whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who was a founding member of Cambridge Analytica and has now come forward to expose their inner workings. Their firm specializes in collecting and processing large amounts of consumer data for the use of political marketing online and Wylie claims that the data set first used by him and his team to create the company’s touted “psychographic” targeting profiles was collected without user consent – up to 50 million Facebook users.

The Globe and Mail released a great summary of the scandal, so we won’t repeat the technical and legal details here. What we’re more interested in addressing is whether any of this is new in the realm of political marketing.

“Micro-targeting” and “big data” have been buzzwords in political circles for the past decade and no one should be surprised that nefarious actors would try to exploit the holy grail of accessible big data that is Facebook. While Cambridge Analytica appears to have collected its data through unethical means, the techniques and processes that resulted from analyzing that data are not inherently new. Pollsters and communications specialists collect data and match key messages with target demographics on a daily basis; Cambridge Analytica simply created a more sophisticated and streamlined version of that process by using its algorithms and having access to a potentially priceless dataset. So whereas you and I can deduce what demographics would be susceptible to pro-gun and anti-gun messaging, Cambridge Analytica appears to just do it more granularly.

What intrigues us is how they were able to use that targeting and execute so effectively. The operations and workflow planning, if you will. In our experience, it’s rare for a lack of data to be the main roadblock for sophisticated political advertising online – it more typically comes down to a lack of available resources and/or coordination.  Wylie says in his interview “In addition to having data scientists, psychologists and strategists, they also have an entire team of creatives, designers, videographers, photographers. They then create that content, that then gets sent to a targeting team, which then injects it into the internet.” Here’s a direct link to the quote. The point is this: Cambridge Analytica’s suspected massive influence doesn’t just come from having access to better data than others, it’s largely (and in our view, more so) to do with the fact that they appear to have learned how to efficiently and ruthlessly produce inflammatory content to “weaponize” that data.

In addition, its clear from Channel 4’s undercover interview with CEO Alexander Nix that his company has no qualms about distributing content on Facebook under falsely identified Pages – something that “the Russians” have been extensively accused of doing – and what should run contrary to most election laws. Did they do this in the United States, and break electoral financing and disclosure laws?  We don’t know – but we can tell you from our experience working on the Facebook platform that the technical barriers to doing so were, up until recently, essentially zero (Facebook will tell you this is about protecting freedom of speech and keeping the internet clear of censorship, and they are right… to a point).

So, where do we all go from here?  First, it seems to us that regulators are now finally starting to catch up and understand how data is collected and distributed on Facebook, and what this means for privacy.  This will likely lead to updated laws and enforcement mechanisms. Second, elected officials are rapidly cluing in on how serious a threat to democracy the exploitation of Facebook’s data poses, and will certainly start placing more checks and balances on online advertising. Third, Facebook is already taking steps to fight false news and improve transparency, such as with its new advertising transparency tool, and will continue to change – probably very fast. Fourth, we think that Facebook’s days of absolute dominance of Western social discourse, are likely (though not certainly) numbered, and we are increasingly expecting a new serious entrant in the market or a resurgent of a secondary player.

So yes, we do expect that to some degree, the era of cheap and easy online political targeting is coming to an end. And we think this is a good thing. But also, in our view, we as public affairs professionals should not forget where we came from – before the era of micro-targeting and Facebook – and starting planning to return to our roots.

By this, we mean that good messaging – authentic, creative, compelling storytelling – should and in our view will always be more important for politicians than massive data sets and overly micro-targeted campaigns.

So, we say to Cambridge Analytica: (hopefully) good bye, and (certainly) good riddance. There is a better way to do politics online than a race to the bottom of the dataset. Let’s work towards that.

 

Edward Leung is an Account Lead at Proximis.

John Manning is a Principal at Proximis.

You can see their work at proximis.ca

Facebook & Cambridge Analytica Scandal: Where Do We Go From Here?

by John Manning

Is the golden era of online political micro-targeting ending? The recent revelations about how data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica exploited Facebook data, extensively documented in The Guardian, Channel 4 News, and other major media, seem like a watershed moment for this industry.

Much of the story is driven by Canadian-born whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who was a founding member of Cambridge Analytica and has now come forward to expose their inner workings. Their firm specializes in collecting and processing large amounts of consumer data for the use of political marketing online and Wylie claims that the data set first used by him and his team to create the company’s touted “psychographic” targeting profiles was collected without user consent – up to 50 million Facebook users.

The Globe and Mail released a great summary of the scandal, so we won’t repeat the technical and legal details here. What we’re more interested in addressing is whether any of this is new in the realm of political marketing.

“Micro-targeting” and “big data” have been buzzwords in political circles for the past decade and no one should be surprised that nefarious actors would try to exploit the holy grail of accessible big data that is Facebook. While Cambridge Analytica appears to have collected its data through unethical means, the techniques and processes that resulted from analyzing that data are not inherently new. Pollsters and communications specialists collect data and match key messages with target demographics on a daily basis; Cambridge Analytica simply created a more sophisticated and streamlined version of that process by using its algorithms and having access to a potentially priceless dataset. So whereas you and I can deduce what demographics would be susceptible to pro-gun and anti-gun messaging, Cambridge Analytica appears to just do it more granularly.

What intrigues us is how they were able to use that targeting and execute so effectively. The operations and workflow planning, if you will. In our experience, it’s rare for a lack of data to be the main roadblock for sophisticated political advertising online – it more typically comes down to a lack of available resources and/or coordination.  Wylie says in his interview “In addition to having data scientists, psychologists and strategists, they also have an entire team of creatives, designers, videographers, photographers. They then create that content, that then gets sent to a targeting team, which then injects it into the internet.” Here’s a direct link to the quote. The point is this: Cambridge Analytica’s suspected massive influence doesn’t just come from having access to better data than others, it’s largely (and in our view, more so) to do with the fact that they appear to have learned how to efficiently and ruthlessly produce inflammatory content to “weaponize” that data.

In addition, its clear from Channel 4’s undercover interview with CEO Alexander Nix that his company has no qualms about distributing content on Facebook under falsely identified Pages – something that “the Russians” have been extensively accused of doing – and what should run contrary to most election laws. Did they do this in the United States, and break electoral financing and disclosure laws?  We don’t know – but we can tell you from our experience working on the Facebook platform that the technical barriers to doing so were, up until recently, essentially zero (Facebook will tell you this is about protecting freedom of speech and keeping the internet clear of censorship, and they are right… to a point).

So, where do we all go from here?  First, it seems to us that regulators are now finally starting to catch up and understand how data is collected and distributed on Facebook, and what this means for privacy.  This will likely lead to updated laws and enforcement mechanisms. Second, elected officials are rapidly cluing in on how serious a threat to democracy the exploitation of Facebook’s data poses, and will certainly start placing more checks and balances on online advertising. Third, Facebook is already taking steps to fight false news and improve transparency, such as with its new advertising transparency tool, and will continue to change – probably very fast. Fourth, we think that Facebook’s days of absolute dominance of Western social discourse, are likely (though not certainly) numbered, and we are increasingly expecting a new serious entrant in the market or a resurgent of a secondary player.

So yes, we do expect that to some degree, the era of cheap and easy online political targeting is coming to an end. And we think this is a good thing. But also, in our view, we as public affairs professionals should not forget where we came from – before the era of micro-targeting and Facebook – and starting planning to return to our roots.

By this, we mean that good messaging – authentic, creative, compelling storytelling – should and in our view will always be more important for politicians than massive data sets and overly micro-targeted campaigns.

So, we say to Cambridge Analytica: (hopefully) good bye, and (certainly) good riddance. There is a better way to do politics online than a race to the bottom of the dataset. Let’s work towards that.

 

Edward Leung is an Account Lead at Proximis.

John Manning is a Principal at Proximis.

You can see their work at proximis.ca


Proximis Is Hiring A Web Developer | Feb 25, 2018

by John Manning

Proximis Is Hiring A Web Developer | Feb 25, 2018

link to PDF version here

JOB POSTING: Website Developer at Proximis Digital|Vancouver, BC
Posting Date: February 25, 2018

WHO WE ARE
Proximis Digital Inc. is a communications and advertising agency located in downtown Vancouver, BC. Now in our fourth year of business, we are a national leader in delivering high-impact campaigns to support issues, organizations, and brands.

As of February 2018, we have a core staff of 6, and several additional partners on various files.

Visit us online at: www.proximis.ca.

WHO YOU ARE
We are seeking a website developer to join our growing agency full-time or part-time at our office in downtown Vancouver. This position will augment our existing web development team.

We are open to candidates seeking either part time or full-time employment.

Work will be performed at our office at located at 1588-789 West Pender St. We are open to considering scenarios where a small amount of the work is performed remotely.

Applications received from candidates outside of the Vancouver area will not be considered.

WHY YOU WANT TO WORK HERE
Proximis is an exciting agency – young, innovative, and independent. Now in our fourth year, we have our own way of doing things, and it gets results.

The major of our clients are in the public affairs sector, and no two engagements are the same.

New ideas and experimentation are encouraged here. Collaboration is mandatory. Fun is expected. And the recent addition of in-house video capacity has given us an edge.

Our new 1,000-square foot office looks out over the Vancouver Harbour and North Shore mountains. We like it here and we think you will too.

RESPONSIBILITIES

Website Development
• Build websites on the Wordpress Platform
• Build websites on the Nationbuilder Platform (Nationbuilder sites are edited in Liquid. See more information here: http://nationbuilder.com/liquid_basics).
• Work with our graphics, video, and motion graphics team to develop memorable and cutting-edge sites
• Support the Account Leads and Principal in delivering winning strategies and results for our clients
• Ensure best practices in SEO, UX, UI, and overall client experience

Website Architecture and Security
• Develop website architecture plans for clients based on their needs
• Take a security-first and risk-mitigation approach to every task
• Respect client confidentiality as requested, and ensure that technical solutions meet the desired level of security and privacy for each client project
• Ensure the security of all web platforms we work on, including client and internal assets

Miscellaneous
• Website statistics reporting
• Assist with the preparation of pitches, proposals, and other business development needs
• May be asked to assist with content creation & social media
• Assist with the execution of online advertising campaigns on Facebook, Google Adwords, and other platforms
• Be willing to learn new programming languages as required

SKILLS & EXPERIENCE

Soft skills
Team Player |Attention to detail |Good with numbers|Ability to solve problems|Strategic

Hard Skills
1. Demonstrated ability to build beautiful, secure, modern sites on the Wordpress platform
o Build using theme/template tools in some cases, in order to facilitate ease of updates to websites and to build quickly when needed
o Develop using raw code when to needed to solve challenges not supported in a theme
2. Demonstrated ability to build on the Nationbuilder platform **OR** present a viable plan to learn quickly
3. Experience developing on other platforms will be an asset

Experience & Compensation
The successful candidate is likely to have at least 3 years of website development experience, but the most important things are proof that you can do the job, and a willingness to learn what you don’t know.

Compensation will be dependent on level of experience. Expected compensation will be discussed with candidates who are selected for an interview.

JOB DETAILS
• Full-time or part-time position
• This is a position as an employee of Proximis Digital Inc.
• Work on location in downtown Vancouver office
• Reports to: Account Leads, Principal
• Compensation: commensurate with experience and competitive within industry. If we think you are the right fit, we will make you a competitive offer.

APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS
• Only applications that contain a resume, cover letter, and portfolio of work will be considered
• Please send application to jobs@proximis.ca
• Only applicants who are selected for an interview will be contacted
• There is no set closing date, but we are hoping to fill this position as quickly as possible

Proximis Is Hiring A Web Developer | Feb 25, 2018

by John Manning

link to PDF version here

JOB POSTING: Website Developer at Proximis Digital|Vancouver, BC
Posting Date: February 25, 2018

WHO WE ARE
Proximis Digital Inc. is a communications and advertising agency located in downtown Vancouver, BC. Now in our fourth year of business, we are a national leader in delivering high-impact campaigns to support issues, organizations, and brands.

As of February 2018, we have a core staff of 6, and several additional partners on various files.

Visit us online at: www.proximis.ca.

WHO YOU ARE
We are seeking a website developer to join our growing agency full-time or part-time at our office in downtown Vancouver. This position will augment our existing web development team.

We are open to candidates seeking either part time or full-time employment.

Work will be performed at our office at located at 1588-789 West Pender St. We are open to considering scenarios where a small amount of the work is performed remotely.

Applications received from candidates outside of the Vancouver area will not be considered.

WHY YOU WANT TO WORK HERE
Proximis is an exciting agency – young, innovative, and independent. Now in our fourth year, we have our own way of doing things, and it gets results.

The major of our clients are in the public affairs sector, and no two engagements are the same.

New ideas and experimentation are encouraged here. Collaboration is mandatory. Fun is expected. And the recent addition of in-house video capacity has given us an edge.

Our new 1,000-square foot office looks out over the Vancouver Harbour and North Shore mountains. We like it here and we think you will too.

RESPONSIBILITIES

Website Development
• Build websites on the Wordpress Platform
• Build websites on the Nationbuilder Platform (Nationbuilder sites are edited in Liquid. See more information here: http://nationbuilder.com/liquid_basics).
• Work with our graphics, video, and motion graphics team to develop memorable and cutting-edge sites
• Support the Account Leads and Principal in delivering winning strategies and results for our clients
• Ensure best practices in SEO, UX, UI, and overall client experience

Website Architecture and Security
• Develop website architecture plans for clients based on their needs
• Take a security-first and risk-mitigation approach to every task
• Respect client confidentiality as requested, and ensure that technical solutions meet the desired level of security and privacy for each client project
• Ensure the security of all web platforms we work on, including client and internal assets

Miscellaneous
• Website statistics reporting
• Assist with the preparation of pitches, proposals, and other business development needs
• May be asked to assist with content creation & social media
• Assist with the execution of online advertising campaigns on Facebook, Google Adwords, and other platforms
• Be willing to learn new programming languages as required

SKILLS & EXPERIENCE

Soft skills
Team Player |Attention to detail |Good with numbers|Ability to solve problems|Strategic

Hard Skills
1. Demonstrated ability to build beautiful, secure, modern sites on the Wordpress platform
o Build using theme/template tools in some cases, in order to facilitate ease of updates to websites and to build quickly when needed
o Develop using raw code when to needed to solve challenges not supported in a theme
2. Demonstrated ability to build on the Nationbuilder platform **OR** present a viable plan to learn quickly
3. Experience developing on other platforms will be an asset

Experience & Compensation
The successful candidate is likely to have at least 3 years of website development experience, but the most important things are proof that you can do the job, and a willingness to learn what you don’t know.

Compensation will be dependent on level of experience. Expected compensation will be discussed with candidates who are selected for an interview.

JOB DETAILS
• Full-time or part-time position
• This is a position as an employee of Proximis Digital Inc.
• Work on location in downtown Vancouver office
• Reports to: Account Leads, Principal
• Compensation: commensurate with experience and competitive within industry. If we think you are the right fit, we will make you a competitive offer.

APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS
• Only applications that contain a resume, cover letter, and portfolio of work will be considered
• Please send application to jobs@proximis.ca
• Only applicants who are selected for an interview will be contacted
• There is no set closing date, but we are hoping to fill this position as quickly as possible


Is there a market failure for factual information?

by John Manning and Sebastian Zein

Is there a market failure for factual information?

In 2004, Eli Noam, a Columbia University economics professor, observed that technology is pushing-down the price of information to almost nothing. Constant downward pressure, he warned, could push prices so low that a market structure would be impossible to sustain.

It’s hard to remember, but this was a time when Facebook was a niche club for Ivy League kids to show off to each other. Professor Noam was far ahead of the curve. Much discussion has focused on how algorithmic social media, primarily but not only Facebook, has enabled and encouraged the distribution of fake news. But his point is as true today as it was in the pre-algorithmic era: technology has largely destroyed the market structure that used to support fact-based journalism.

While traditional media is by no means free its share of pretenders muddying the water, higher barriers to entry (sustained by the need to maintain costly physical infrastructure) historically limited the supply of information to an extent that prices could be supported, so long as there was a large market for the product.  This in turn led to “news” for the masses, that, as journalistic standards have evolved, has kept its integrity, to a more or lesser degree, through fact-checking and severe ramifications when things turn out to be false.

But as we have now entered an era of an overabundance of information, with little disincentive to publish material that is demonstrably false, and click-based advertising often easily covering the marginal cost of such production, we have to ask the question: is there a market failure for high-quality, factual information? And if so, how and when is this scenario going to be resolved?  And what will happen in the meantime?

If you haven’t taken a look at the findings of the Nov. 2016 Stanford study on middle, high, and post-secondary students’ abilities to recognize fake news, you should.

We see it this way: a healthy democracy relies on a shared body of facts from which voters make their choices. And if we are all operating from a different set of facts, some of which are not facts at all, how are we to have meaningful policy debates in public?

Market remedies for information asymmetry do exist: Carfax or CarProof make businesses out of telling you if you’re about to buy a lemon, Yelp exists to tell you where it’s worthwhile to dine-out, etc. And yes, you can pay to get your news from one or more reputable organizations. But given that Facebook still largely treats real news AND fake news the same way it treats posts about selfies and babyshowers, and Facebook is up to 40% of all time spent online by some estimates, there should be no denying we have a real problem.

Facebook is already experimenting with a peer-rated negative certification system. With the recent elections in Germany, a feature has been deployed allowing users to report a post for suspected fake news. This triggers a referral to 3rd party fact checkers, less favorable algorithm treatment, and (if found to be untrue) a warning tag accompanying the post and a warning note for subsequent users intending to share the article.

More features will undoubted come out. But when that will happen, whether it will be enough, and what damage will be done in the meantime (and potentially afterwards) – these are the questions that we all should be asking right now.

Is there a market failure for factual information?

by John Manning and Sebastian Zein

In 2004, Eli Noam, a Columbia University economics professor, observed that technology is pushing-down the price of information to almost nothing. Constant downward pressure, he warned, could push prices so low that a market structure would be impossible to sustain.

It’s hard to remember, but this was a time when Facebook was a niche club for Ivy League kids to show off to each other. Professor Noam was far ahead of the curve. Much discussion has focused on how algorithmic social media, primarily but not only Facebook, has enabled and encouraged the distribution of fake news. But his point is as true today as it was in the pre-algorithmic era: technology has largely destroyed the market structure that used to support fact-based journalism.

While traditional media is by no means free its share of pretenders muddying the water, higher barriers to entry (sustained by the need to maintain costly physical infrastructure) historically limited the supply of information to an extent that prices could be supported, so long as there was a large market for the product.  This in turn led to “news” for the masses, that, as journalistic standards have evolved, has kept its integrity, to a more or lesser degree, through fact-checking and severe ramifications when things turn out to be false.

But as we have now entered an era of an overabundance of information, with little disincentive to publish material that is demonstrably false, and click-based advertising often easily covering the marginal cost of such production, we have to ask the question: is there a market failure for high-quality, factual information? And if so, how and when is this scenario going to be resolved?  And what will happen in the meantime?

If you haven’t taken a look at the findings of the Nov. 2016 Stanford study on middle, high, and post-secondary students’ abilities to recognize fake news, you should.

We see it this way: a healthy democracy relies on a shared body of facts from which voters make their choices. And if we are all operating from a different set of facts, some of which are not facts at all, how are we to have meaningful policy debates in public?

Market remedies for information asymmetry do exist: Carfax or CarProof make businesses out of telling you if you’re about to buy a lemon, Yelp exists to tell you where it’s worthwhile to dine-out, etc. And yes, you can pay to get your news from one or more reputable organizations. But given that Facebook still largely treats real news AND fake news the same way it treats posts about selfies and babyshowers, and Facebook is up to 40% of all time spent online by some estimates, there should be no denying we have a real problem.

Facebook is already experimenting with a peer-rated negative certification system. With the recent elections in Germany, a feature has been deployed allowing users to report a post for suspected fake news. This triggers a referral to 3rd party fact checkers, less favorable algorithm treatment, and (if found to be untrue) a warning tag accompanying the post and a warning note for subsequent users intending to share the article.

More features will undoubted come out. But when that will happen, whether it will be enough, and what damage will be done in the meantime (and potentially afterwards) – these are the questions that we all should be asking right now.