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Prince (FRED PROUSER/Fred Prouser/Reuters)
Prince (FRED PROUSER/Fred Prouser/Reuters)

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What's the symbol for unintelligible? Add to ...

1. Do you remember back about 20 years ago, when the Artist Once Again Known as Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol? It turns out he was a trendsetter - albeit, oh, 20 years too early. The other day we got a press release from the Toronto agency H2 Central Marketing and Communications that predicted the top interactive marketing trend for 2011 would be a return to hieroglyphics. "You can't go fast when you read online," explained the H2 executive Christine Saunders. "Everything is going symbolic, visual and interactive, all in the name of speed and comprehension." We went to the agency's website h2central.ca to learn more, but it was full of words, so we have no idea what it said.

2. If we've stopped reading, Facebook certainly hasn't. This week the social network announced a pilot program in which it mines conversations taking place on the site to help deliver real-time targeted ads. Facebook's servers have always been monitoring content that people post on the site, and serving ads based on an aggregation of that information. But now the company is using a test pool of six million users to see if it can refine its tracking to deliver ads in a split-second fashion: If you mention that you're hungry, you might suddenly find an ad for a local pizza place appear on your page. So if your Facebook "friends" don't care what you're up to, you can take some solace from knowing that at least Facebook's computers do.

3. We're assuming that sort of tracking is kosher, at least by the standards of the advertising industry, since it wasn't flagged as a concern when the U.S.-based Institute for Advertising Ethics recently released a set of eight principles it would like to see adopted by the industry. The issues that the IAE would like to address include the sale or use of private information to marketers, as well as the proper disclosure of material compensation for endorsements. (They're looking at you, tech and fashion and mommy bloggers.) So far, no such similar effort exists north of the border, which we guess means either that Canadians don't have concerns about the ethics of advertisers, or Canadian advertisers have no ethics.

4. In any case, ethical lines can sometimes be hard to locate. Take, for example, a new research paper by Antonia Mantonakis, an assistant professor of marketing at Ontario's Brock University. Through a series of experiments, she seems to have found that leaving a pause between a tagline and a brand name in an ad can enhance both brand recognition and brand preference - "without," as the press release crows, "consumers even knowing about it." The study, which suggests a little cognitive dissonance can be a good thing, could help advertisers craft messages for digital boards, Web ads, TV spots, or even radio ads. We suspect Coca-Cola knew this back in 1929, when its first slogan boasted: "The pause that refreshes."

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