Top Gun Twitter targets

That makes no sense!!! is a signal for misunderstanding. We may not need to understand. The logic may not be local to us. But people don’t do dumb things.

Tyler Cowen questions Twitter’s ad targeting, “can’t they send me a targeted ad for Indian classical music at least once? An economics book? That would be easy given who I follow. But they can’t even do that. It’s Top Gun. I know Top Gun is out and my eyes roll.” 

This is a known problem. Thomas Tull founded Legendary Entertainment in 2000 based (partially) on this idea. The fans of Batman will know when Batman comes out (2005, 2008, 2012). People reading the newspaper will not know, but people who read the newspaper also may not care. Tull said he could give his mother two tickets and money for popcorn, drinks, and a snack and she still wouldn’t go see Batman. 

Tull thought: How to persuade the middle group? Don’t waste money advertising to the huge fans or the never-buyers

The Top Gun:Maverick trailer came out July 2019! Everyone between thirty-five and fifty knew about the movie. Yet Top Gun is on Twitter. That makes no sense?

Option 1: Momentum. Paramount Pictures has an annual budget for social media and each gets their share. TG was on Twitter because it’s just something they do. 

Option 2: Social proof. PP has the annual budget to advertise on social media to build social proof. According to Robert Cialdini, social proof and authority are both tools to reduce uncertainty. Maybe lots of people heard about TG but were unsure if they should go. Seeing it on the timeline makes the film appear popular, more people go, the film appears popular, more people go, and so on. 

Option 3: Twitter ads are just bad. Cowen is right. 

Option 4: Twitter ads are secretly great. Cowen did go see Top Gun. The mechanism is something other than social proof (#2)

Option 5: Twitter ads aren’t targeted, they’re brand building. Maybe a better analogy for Twitter is the NFL, a place for national brands to reinforce their messages. My last three promoted tweets were for Google, Extra gum, and the AP news. 

Option 6: Something else. 

A viral YouTube ad from 2013 was It’s Not About The Nail. Put another way this thing isn’t really about the thing at all. A lot of life has deeper parts to it. 

Last week one of our regular players brought Gatorade to the pickleball courts. She had too much and was getting rid of it. The superficial reading is that she wants to get rid of it. Why? It doesn’t spoil. Just drink it over the next few years. But really it was about sharing. 

Status Games (review) make no sense superficially. But peel back the layers of evolution and we see that status is a proxy for power. Rather than physical conflict to create a hierarchy, certain species use status. Physical conflict reduces the individual and collective. Groups which adopted a non-physical mechanism performed better than ones who did not. 

Sometimes superficial is just superficial. Twitter might just have bad targeting and Yeah that makes no sense is a fine answer. But sometimes it’s not! And that’s where the fun stuff hides. 

‘Typical’ monthly mortgages (1971-2022)

This is the ‘typical’ house payment for the last fifty years. ‘Typical’ being the median sale price and average thirty year rate.

If my parents had bought when I was born they paid $982. But if they bought when my brother was born, it would be almost two-hundred dollars less each month. A huge difference for a young family.

The sweet spot for modern buyers was October 2011 when payments flirted with $1,000. 

The Covid-19 drop and surge can be seen toward the right. It wasn’t until August of 2021 that payments crossed the trend line into wild heights. 

What difference does it make for someone now? Since the end of 2020, the ‘typical’ payment increased seven-hundred dollars a month. 

Interest rates are a headline metric, but are not the most important thing for buyers. The fall 2022 ‘typical’ monthly payment is: $2,580. A $50,000 decline on the purchase price is equivalent to 1% lower interest payments. Not only that, home prices have a .9 correlation with monthly payments whereas interest rates have a -.55 score.

Housing is easy news to consume. The bad is about rising prices and rates. The good is about remodels, flips, and luxury. The truth is somewhere in the middle, here it’s in color.

How “off track” are housing prices? The red line is the 2016- March 2020 trend line relative to the graph of median listing prices. Currently prices are a 33% premium to what the historical growth suggests.

United States figures only.

Enhanced Savings Rates

This is from our HSA. It’s good copywriting. ‘5X’ is easy to understand. ‘You may be missing out’ is great too. 

The chart excels as well. It’s easy to understand and those Enhanced Rates do look bigger. They look bigger because of level one numeracy. 

We level one think all the time. It’s knee jerk and first blush. We see something and some combination of evolution and experience fit what we see with what we know. Big red ‘Sale’ signs are examples. We first compare the sale price with the previous price rather than the item’s intrinsic value. This makes sense as our first reaction is immediate, requires no additional effort, and is something we are used to doing because it mostly works just fine. 

The posts here, about average, focus on this idea too. Average is easy to compute and conveys certainty about an uncertain (often heterogeneous) world. Average is level one numeracy but we can do better. 

One way to get past this reactionary thinking is to change the what we know part of our lives. Books like The Data Detective (2021), How to Lie with Statistics (2010), Fooled by Randomness (2008), and Factfullness (2018) are wonderful. 

A fast fix comes from Sir David Spiegelhalter. Don’t look at relative comparisons, look at absolutes. Rather than the relative rate, look at the dollar difference.

That’s what I did. 

If someone saves the $2,000 in an ‘enhanced’ HSA account they have sixteen more dollars after twenty years. A lot of years for not a lot of money. For accounts of ten-thousand dollars, the difference is almost eight hundred dollars ($11,543 vs $10,745). Fine, a Series I Savings Bond accrued that same dollar value in six months. 

The don’t look at relative comparisons, look at absolutes is a good starting place – but there are further levels. 

First is to think about the costs. The enhanced HSA rates are an annuity, likely with some new terms. There’s the switching costs too. That’s a potential headache and unwanted contract in exchange for not much money. We will pass. 

Actual health rather than health savings is different. 

For people 25-34, their chance of dying from Covid-19 is about the same as pulling the ace of spades from a shuffled deck – twice in a row. 

For people 55-64, their chance of dying from Covid-19 is about the same as flipping heads eight times in a row. 

For people 75-84, their chance of dying from Covid-19 is about the same as pulling any heart from a random deck of cards – three times in a row. 

Those are low absolute risks but seriously consequential. 

The world is complicated and messy. Not only that, but it changes too. Numbers are helpful, but we have to ask the right questions to start. 

The Covid-19 odds are rough estimates. There are about forty million people in any ten year age group. The number of deaths in the 25-34 group is 11,451. I divided the deaths by size of the group to get the percent chance of death. Odds are multiplicative, three heads in a row are 12.5%, 0.5*0.5*05. Two ace of spaces are one in fifty-two times one in fifty two, or about 0.04%.