Nina DiSesa: Priceless: Creating the MasterCard Commercials

Nina DiSesa: A MasterCard is actually a pretty good case history, because it was a new business pitch, they where 6 agencies who were going after this business and we were all given the same brief, all, we where told to use their existing end line which is what I guess you would call a slogan, which is it that “the feature of money” and it was all over the world, everywhere you went you saw MasterCard “the feature of money,” nobody remembered if, but it was all over in the world. So, all of the six agencies tried to execute against that positioning line, and we where the only once that did not do that, because we couldn’t get any residence with the consumer with that line, it was pushing us in the direction of the futuristic non-electronic money, it wasn’t really a very warm and friendly place to be. So, one day one creative person came up with the line there are somethinga money cannot buy, for everything else is MasterCard and another creative person came up with the price list champagne that was Joyce King Thomas who has been watching that champagne for a last ten year, not just in the America, but all around the world and the way we got to that was a very long process. We had a very good strategy that said, people who think of themselves as good revolvers, people who use their credit card for good reason and that’s everybody, if the other guy who is not doing it for good reason. They thought that they where buying things that were worthwhile and from that we got to the difference between a MasterCard user and other credit card users and they where buying things, because that was good for the family, and that little insight they are really triggered the entire process, but you still needed a creative person to come up with the pricelist idea and a creative person like this Creative Director, Joyce King Thomas to make sure that it didn’t get style, that it is still existing and if you have client like the MasterCard client who stays with you on that, then you can have a long term marketing approach that is quite brilliant, that’s in text books. I mean the MasterCard cases is in text book from my nephews go to school and see them, “my God" that the only thing they really respect me for is that and MasterCard’s in my text book, so it’s really existing.

Recorded on: 2/29/08

DiSesa talks about making the famous "Priceless" commercials, start to finish.

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Political activism may get people invested in politics, and affect urgently needed change, but it comes at the expense of tolerance and healthy democratic norms.

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  • Polarization and extreme partisanships have been on the rise in the United States.
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How do 80-year-old 'super-agers' have the brains of 20-somethings?

Most elderly individuals' brains degrade over time, but some match — or even outperform — younger individuals on cognitive tests.

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  • "Super-agers" seem to escape the decline in cognitive function that affects most of the elderly population.
  • New research suggests this is because of higher functional connectivity in key brain networks.
  • It's not clear what the specific reason for this is, but research has uncovered several activities that encourage greater brain health in old age.

At some point in our 20s or 30s, something starts to change in our brains. They begin to shrink a little bit. The myelin that insulates our nerves begins to lose some of its integrity. Fewer and fewer chemical messages get sent as our brains make fewer neurotransmitters.

As we get older, these processes increase. Brain weight decreases by about 5 percent per decade after 40. The frontal lobe and hippocampus — areas related to memory encoding — begin to shrink mainly around 60 or 70. But this is just an unfortunate reality; you can't always be young, and things will begin to break down eventually. That's part of the reason why some individuals think that we should all hope for a life that ends by 75, before the worst effects of time sink in.

But this might be a touch premature. Some lucky individuals seem to resist these destructive forces working on our brains. In cognitive tests, these 80-year-old "super-agers" perform just as well as individuals in their 20s.

Just as sharp as the whippersnappers

To find out what's behind the phenomenon of super-agers, researchers conducted a study examining the brains and cognitive performances of two groups: 41 young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 and 40 older adults between the ages of 60 and 80.

First, the researchers administered a series of cognitive tests, like the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT) and the Trail Making Test (TMT). Seventeen members of the older group scored at or above the mean scores of the younger group. That is, these 17 could be considered super-agers, performing at the same level as the younger study participants. Aside from these individuals, members of the older group tended to perform less well on the cognitive tests. Then, the researchers scanned all participants' brains in an fMRI, paying special attention to two portions of the brain: the default mode network and the salience network.

The default mode network is, as its name might suggest, a series of brain regions that are active by default — when we're not engaged in a task, they tend to show higher levels of activity. It also appears to be very related to thinking about one's self, thinking about others, as well as aspects of memory and thinking about the future.

The salience network is another network of brain regions, so named because it appears deeply linked to detecting and integrating salient emotional and sensory stimuli. (In neuroscience, saliency refers to how much an item "sticks out"). Both of these networks are also extremely important to overall cognitive function, and in super-agers, the activity in these networks was more coordinated than in their peers.

Default Mode Network

Wikimedia Commons

An image of the brain highlighting the regions associated with the default mode network.

How to ensure brain health in old age

While prior research has identified some genetic influences on how "gracefully" the brain ages, there are likely activities that can encourage brain health. "We hope to identify things we can prescribe for people that would help them be more like a superager," said Bradford Dickerson, one of the researchers in this study, in a statement. "It's not as likely to be a pill as more likely to be recommendations for lifestyle, diet, and exercise. That's one of the long-term goals of this study — to try to help people become superagers if they want to."

To date, there is some preliminary evidence of ways that you can keep your brain younger longer. For instance, more education and a cognitively demanding job predicts having higher cognitive abilities in old age. Generally speaking, the adage of "use it or lose it" appears to hold true; having a cognitively active lifestyle helps to protect your brain in old age. So, it might be tempting to fill your golden years with beer and reruns of CSI, but it's unlikely to help you keep your edge.

Aside from these intuitive ways to keep your brain healthy, regular exercise appears to boost cognitive health in old age, as Dickinson mentioned. Diet is also a protective factor, especially for diets delivering omega-3 fatty acids (which can be found in fish oil), polyphenols (found in dark chocolate!), vitamin D (egg yolks and sunlight), and the B vitamins (meat, eggs, and legumes). There's also evidence that having a healthy social life in old age can protect against cognitive decline.

For many, the physical decline associated with old age is an expected side effect of a life well-lived. But the idea that our intellect will also degrade can be a much scarier reality. Fortunately, the existence of super-agers shows that at the very least, we don't have to accept cognitive decline without a fight.


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