Five times a year, the Graduate School of Communication hosts a colloquium series called Communication Science on the Spot. During these sessions, a communication professional is interviewed by a Graduate School lecturer or researcher.
The next Communication on the Spot will be held virtually on Tuesday, 27 October at 19:00.
During this session, Ken Winneg, professor and Managing Director of Survey Research at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania (APPC) will be interviewed by our very own Professor Penny Sheets Thibaut from the Political Communication track. As the US Presidential Elections draws near, the focus of the talk will be about public polling.
The zoom link to the talk is:
The series is designed for Communication Science Bachelor's and (pre-)Master's students, PhD candidates, staff members and alumni. Attendees are always encouraged to ask questions in order to help stimulate a lively debate. So don't be shy, and feel free to join the discussion.
Each session takes place on a Tuesday evening in CREA on the Roeterseiland campus. The evening ends with free drinks in the CREA cafe, making Communication Science on the Spot a perfect opportunity to meet up and connect with fellow students and alumni. And of course, a great way to chat with our guest speakers in an informal setting.
Would you like to nominate a communications professional to be our next guest speaker? Or is there a certain topic you would like to see discussed On the Spot? Don't hesitate to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!
On Tuesday 18 February 2020, Communication Science on the Spot welcomes its next guest speaker: Lara Ankersmit, a digital-savvy executive with a proven track record in Media and Journalism.
Lara Ankersmit is an experienced executive who has great expertise working on Digital Transformation and Digital Strategy. She has experience in a wide range of digital marketing, including designing and implementing content, distribution, data analytics and advertising products and strategies.
For over eight years, Lara was the Head of Digital for NOS, one of the broadcasting organizations that make up the Netherlands Public Broadcasting system. While there, she also started the NOS Innovation Lab in 2015. Recently, Lara joined Het Financieele Dagblad, daily Dutch newspaper focused on business and financial matters, as the Deputy Editor in Chief and Head of Digital.
Lara will be interviewed by professor Dr Sanne Kruikemeier about her career and what it is like to be the Head of Digital for the NOS and Het Financieele Dagblad. They will also discuss digital marketing in the world of journalism.
On Tuesday the 24th of September 2019 we were happy to welcome Loeki Westerveld, UvA alumnus and now campaign strategist for BKB, to Communication Science on the Spot. Assistant professor Bert Bakker hosted the event.
Despite the rainy weather, fifty students showed up for the first event of the academic year at the Theater at CREA. Loeki certainly did not disappoint them. The evening started with Bert interviewing her about how she ended up at the Amsterdam based campaigning agency BKB, and what her work entails. She gave some insights into her past and how she managed to work for BKB while still being a Master student. While she mentioned that it got tough at times, it always worked out well in the end.
One aspect the discussion focused on which was particularly interesting to students was the transition from university life to work life. While she did not believe that prior work experience is necessary, she did argue that work required very different skills than university taught her. However, that is something one can learn once employed. She made students excited about starting to work by pointing out that unlike in university, where not much attention is paid to student's essays, once hired; one's work finally has a real impact and significance.
Before the event concluded with a Q&A session, Loeki gave a good insight into what it means to be a campaign strategist and what necessary qualities are to be successful in this line of work. The inspiring evening ended with the usual Borrel at CREA, where students took the opportunity to ask Loeki and Bert even more questions. Altogether, it was once again a very successful night for Communication Science on the Spot.
Loeki Westerveld works as a campaign strategist at BKB, a Dutch campaigning agency. There, she can combine her passions for politics, journalism, and research, to set up successful campaigns for governments, companies, and public organizations. Campaigns that she helped to set up serve a variety of causes, like creating equal chances for youth in education, preserving nature in the Netherlands or letting people work safely with hazardous substances.
Eva van Rijnberk is creative strategist at GroenLinks, the Dutch Green political party. She was interviewed by Dr Knut de Swert on her work, which includes running the party's online campaigns.
Eva van Rijnberk (28) studied Media & Culture at the University of Amsterdam. She interned at the VPRO, NOS and documentary production company Een van de Jongens. Just before she finished her MA she started working at BKB, a campaign agency focused on social topics. Eva is also involved in the Vote for a Woman (Stem op een Vrouw) foundation, which started as a -foremost online- campaign to get more women elected into parliament. Since October 2017 she started to work at GroenLinks, running online campaigns as a creative strategist.
On Tuesday 9 April 2019 we proudly welcomed Melisa Eyiakkan, Original Publicity and Talent Manager at Netflix, to another session of Communication Science on the Spot. The event was hosted by assistant professor Annemarie van Oosten.
We all knew Netflix was sexy. But just how sexy, we couldn’t tell, not until we saw the line. More than a hundred students (full capacity) were patiently waiting to enter CREA’s Theaterzaal accompanied by more than a dozen friends and colleagues who did not get a spot in the first place but were trying their luck. Luckily, in the end, every single visitor could be placed in what one could confidentially call a full house.
That both the wait and the squeezing together were worth it was immediately confirmed by Melisa. And it was not the brand name Netflix per se. Melisa’s confident, witty and surprisingly honest way of responding to Annemarie’s questions made the evening entertaining and worthwhile.
The Istanbul-born Publicity Manager shared anecdotes and examples from her previous work at Fox as well as the current experiences at Netflix, where she has worked since 2016. She illustrated what her tasks as a publicity manager entailed, shared insights about differences between target audiences in different markets as well as explaining how Netflix test content in different markets (British people don’t like subtitles…) .
She also gave insights into crisis management and her vision for future television—linear and non-linear. During a Q&A session with our crowded audience, Melisa touched upon crucial topics from the importance of the audience for streaming services to the necessity of academic skills within her daily routine.
Before leaving for her evening flight to a promotional trip to Istanbul, she gave personal insights into her daily life and eventually joined the audience for the usual drinks at CREA. This successfully wrapped up another evening of Communication Science on the Spot, before students went home for some real sessions of Netflix (and chill, for some).
Melisa Eyiakkan works as Originial Publicity and Talent Manager at the European Headquarters of Netflix in Amsterdam. She oversees publicity, media relations and talent relations for the originals series both originating from the USA as well as from Europe, the Middle East and Africa for the entire region, with an additional focus on Turkey and Israel.
On Tuesday 18 September 2018, Communication Science on the Spot welcomed its first guest speaker of this academic year: Vicki Frid, influencer marketing expert at the Amsterdam based agency CROWD.
Influencer marketing is a quite recent practice which has rapidly grown and changed over the last 5 years. It is seen as an opportunity for brands to overcome the shortcomings of traditional advertising when reaching younger audiences, by using the creativity of online content creators. But the crossroads of influencers, agencies, social media platforms with their algorithms, and the target audience pose different challenges to brand communication. What should be the place of influencer marketing in the brand’s marketing strategy? How to choose the influencer that best fits a brand? How to avoid fake followers?
Vicki Frid, Operations director at CROWD, shared her experiences and insights on influencer marketing. She was interviewed by Corporate Communication lecturer Dr Tatiana Domingues Aguiar. As always, there were drinks afterwards at CREA.
On Tuesday 12 June 2018, Communication Science on the Spot welcomed its final guest speaker of this academic year: Tom te Buck, strategist at Amsterdam-based campaign agency BKB. True to CS on the Spot tradition, the last session of the year was organised together with the Amsterdam Research Initiative (ari), and for the first time ever, one of our own students conducted the interview: Research Master's student and ari-board member Chamoetal Zeidler.
Many of us associate the word ‘campaign’ with political campaigning. But campaigns can be conducted for many other (societal) issues as well, such as press freedom or motivating people to vote. So how is a campaign strategy invented? And how are campaigns executed?
During his interview, Tom shared a ‘behind the scenes’ overview of this entire process, from start to finish. As an example, he used a recent campaign about discrimination against pregnant women in their work place. Tom emphasized the importance of defining your target audience, and using the right media platforms to reach this audience. In the case of the pregnancy discrimination campaign for example, sponsored Facebook posts were used to target women between 25 and 35.
At the end of the night, Tom urged the students in the audience to be active and bold, and to not be afraid to approach people and organizations you might want to work together with.
Tom te Buck is campaign strategist at the Amsterdam-based campaign office BKB. He did his Bachelor's in Product Design at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam and completed a Master's in Political and Public Communication at the Vrije Universiteit. While writing his Master's thesis in 2017, he started as a campaign strategist at BKB, where he continues to work on different campaigns until today.
On Tuesday 10 April 2018, Jeroen Trommelen, chief editor at Investico, visited Communication Science on the Spot to discuss the current state of investigative journalism. He was interviewed by postdoctoral researcher Mark Boukes.
The event opened with Jeroen’s own career path, outlining his 40 years of experience in journalism and the worthwhile fact that he never received journalistic education. After being denied into a journalistic programme in Utrecht, Jeroen bluntly applied at Dutch national newspaper De Volkskrant and, to his own surprise, was accepted. The investigative reporter, who claims to 'breathe news', eventually stayed there for 37 years before joining Investico.
During the session, Jeroen gave insights into his most explosive revelations that also earned him the Daniel Pearl Award: the Trafigura case. For this story on toxic waste dump at the Ivory Coast he collaborated with CNN and BBC. Jeroen furthermore discussed the necessity of academics in journalism, requirements for the job and his reasons to become a journalist: 'I believe in truth - it's as easy as that'.
Jeroen and Mark wrapped up the session with an outlook on the sustainability and funding of investigative journalism, before moving the location to the CREA Café, where conversations about the state of quality media went on until late that evening. While honestly addressing issues of contemporary journalism, this session gave hope that, as long as people are as passionate about the truth as Jeroen is, there will always be some journalists fighting for it.
Jeroen Trommelen is chief editor of Investico, an independent and non-profit bureau for investigative journalism based in Amsterdam. Trommelen worked as an investigative journalist for national newspaper de Volkskrant. He is a former board member and chairman of the Dutch-Flemish association for Investigative Journalists VVOJ. He uncovered the dumping of chemical waste in Ivory Coast by commodity trader Trafigura, in cooperation with BBC Newsnight, The Guardian and Norwegian Broadcasting Corp.; a project that won a Daniel Pearl Award in 2010. He won the Dutch national prize for outstandig news journalism De Tegel in 2013. He has authored five books on Suriname and environmental issues.
On Tuesday 27 February 2018, we welcomed Koen Hindriks on the Spot. He was interviewed by ASCoR director Jochen Peter on the topic of social robots. With the rapid changes in artificial intelligence, several experts predict that these robots will change our lives dramatically. Still, we know little about them.
What is the point of investing in robotics, Jochen asked as opening question. Why should we care? ‘Originally, because robots could help us with tasks that we don’t like to do ourselves’, Koen replied. ‘Tasks that may be dirty, dangerous or dull. And now, there is also a social element when it comes to robotics. They are able to interact with humans and can even express emotions.’
At the same time, Koen emphasized that no matter how advanced robotic technologies become, humans should still oversee the process and stay in charge behind the scenes. ‘A robot that assists elderly citizens can be helpful’, Koen said. ‘But we should always make sure that there is a hand-over between man and machine. We call that: responsible robotics. After all, robots will still never be able to have real empathy.’ Ken explained that robots that express emotions, do so in response to how humans express themselves, and what they project onto the robots in the first place. In that sense, it’s like putting a mirror in front of people.
As the conversation drew to a close, Koen challenged the student audience, the future generation of communication scientists, to help reshape the current narrative on robots. According to him, this narrative is still too often based on science fiction, particularly thanks to well-known movies such as The Terminator.
Koen Hindriks is Associate Professor in the Interactive Intelligence group at Delft University of Technology and CEO of the spin-off Interactive Robotics. His work on Artificial Intelligence focuses on cognitive robotics and he has published more than 150 papers on cognitive agent technology. Interaction between man and robot is at the heart of his research and drives the goals of his company. He has developed robots as companions and assistants for healthcare and education, and is developing service robots for business solutions.
On 21 November 2917, Katherina Martín Abello, CEO at Jamzone, was interviewed by Dr Nadine Bol about how digital technologies can help decreasing stress-related health problems.
A video is playing. Two people wearing Virtual Reality headsets and waving their arms holding futuristic-looking controllers are standing in a relatively empty room. The video cuts to an in-game scene of a tropical island setting. Subjects appear to move around the island to solve quests and one can’t suppress the associations with games like Monkey Island or Stranded from way back in the days.
But what Katherina Martín Abello and her team are doing is likely to take the winds out of technology critics’ sails. As the video ends, the lights dim up, and Katherina starts explaining what we actually just saw, many of the audience members are left baffled. What we saw was Stressjam, a VR-based game designed to re-coin people’s cognitive perceptions of stress – because stress can be good for you. Needless to say, a lot of arms were raised as the first round of questions was opened after this fairly bold statement. But let’s take it one step at a time.
Stressjam is a game in which users need to solve quests by having ‘the right amount and perception towards stress’. Stressjam measures heart rates and the current stress levels of users (through a sensor around users’ chests). This way, the game can tell how calm or stressed you are. Throughout the game, users are exposed to stress-inducing situations that can only be successfully resolved by remaining calm throughout a certain period of time. Stress itself being a process of our body becoming more aware of a situation and enabling us to act. However, the cognitive response to stress is usually negative. Meaning: If we learn to understand stress as a physical response to a situation rather than a mental barrier, we are enabled to embrace it – and if we embrace it, we can use the heightened physical reaction and direct it towards a goal we set for ourselves. Stress can thus enable us to become better at what we do, instead of holding us captive of our own selves. And this logic pays off. Jamzone is working closely with Olympic athletes and coaches, helping them to perform and understand themselves better.
As the CEO of Jamzone, Katherina’s vision does not stop there. She explained her motivations, the steps she took, her motivation behind these steps, and the outcomes connected to them – which led her to be CEO and guest at Communication Science on the Spot. By doing so, she showed how social sciences play a major role in every business sector she has worked in and how communication science can be applied using digital technologies. How knowledge from one field can be adapted and applied in another. How it sometimes is not about the message, but about the overarching strategy behind it. And, most importantly, how she learned to translate her own visions into concrete actions.
And this is how this session of Communication Science on the Spot sparks the visionary in audience members. Stay curious! Explore! Combine knowledge! Bring together your network in contexts where expertise overlaps! Expand your horizon! Katherina serves as the perfect example for how these claims cannot be as hollow as they sometimes sound. Her company was just awarded the ‘Digital Innovation of the Year’ award, a major step in expanding the reach of the brand and the product, and thus to helping people understand stress, and decrease stress-related health problems. And even though it was not her final comment whilst on the spot, Katherina captured the spirit of technological innovation and personal vision in her recommendation to every member of the audience:
“Have a goal. The plan will follow.”
On 25 September 2017, Cindy Penders, Communications manager at Google Benelux, was interviewed by Dr Nadine Strauss about her work with the globally operating digital giant.
The queue was long in front of CREA’s Theaterzaal as Bachelor’s and (pre-)Master’s students were waiting to be admitted to this semester’s first session of Communication Science on the Spot. The Graduate School of Communication had invited Cindy Penders, communications manager at Google Benelux, the global tech giant ranking #1 on many of the world’s Top Brand rankings.
Whether it was the sizzle of the brand name or a general interest in Public Relations, as Cindy started to talk about her work, people were intuitively moving to the tip of their seats (impressions of which you can see on our Facebook page).
Starting off, Cindy talked about the vision of Google to make information universally available: a driving force in most of her work. Whether this be educational projects for school children who are, taking virtual field trips enabled through Google Cardboard (a DIY VR Kit for your cellphone), , or informational projects such as that of the Google privacy-caravan. The latter being a PR-effective campaign in which the company toured through the Netherlands in a caravan, inviting people to join and talk about their privacy-related concerns as users of the company’s products.
Seamlessly connecting examples of her work with one another, the theme of the talk turned more critical as a student in the audience brought up recent turmoil around the company regarding sexist comments about female colleagues by a developer. Discussing consequences for both internal working atmosphere as well as external reputation management, Cindy elaborated from a strategic as well as a personal point of view. According to her, the external, strategic implications were highly interesting from a PR perspective; such as being able to follow how this information was spreading and developing throughout European countries. However, being a female employee, it was especially Cindy’s personal view on the topic that the audience engaged with. Talking about implications of sexist behavior at the workplace paired with an increasing uncertainty of information sharing due to leaks such as this, turned the conversation towards internal communications and workplace atmosphere. Bringing up Google’s practice of TGIF: ‘Thank Google It’s Friday’
Cindy explained the practice of “Thank Google It’s Friday”, which is basically a world-wide conference call amongst the company’s employees every Friday in which the most popular questions amongst employees are answered by the company’s CEO. Doing so on a stage, the answering by the CEO is being broadcasted to all Google offices around.
That the idea of Google as an employer is present in many students’ minds was reflected by their questions regarding the notorious application process of the company. Cindy shared her experience of six different interviews, having to explain how crazy she is on a scale of 1 to 10 to her future employer, and giving advice on the steps to be taken when wanting to work at Google. She described young professionals’ careers to usually start in Dublin and to then ‘rotate’ throughout desired offices throughout the world. So, on a closing note, if you are interested in working for Google: Follow Cindy’s advice – ‘be genuine’, be crazy, and tús a chur le Gaeilge a fhoghlaim.
In her current job at Google Benelux, Cindy Penders is responsible for the PR and strategic and corporate communication efforts. Before she obtained this position, about 1,5 years ago, she worked for ING as the External Communication Manager and held various (communication) positions in the FMCG industry and financial journalism. Cindy studied Communication Science and Political Science at the University of Amsterdam and was an active member of study association Mercurius.
On 13 June 2017, Bart Massa, neuromarketing business manager at the Amsterdam based research agency Validators, was interviewed by lecturer Zeph van Berlo.
During the final session of Communication Science on the Spot of this academic year, organised together with the Amsterdam Research Initiative (ari), Bart elaborated on three methods used to study the brain’s response to advertising and branding: eye-tracking, facial coding and the Implicit Association Test (IAT).
Eye-tracking gives insight into the viewing patterns on websites, outdoor advertising (e.g. in bus shelters) and newspapers. It can be used to measure exactly what it is that attracts people’s attention. A heat-map visually shows aggregated eye-tracking data that provides more information regarding the number of fixations and the power of various ad elements. According to Bart, an ad should include the brand’s logo, a simple lay-out (not too crowded!) and a clear font, in order to enhance brand recall.
However, measuring emotional effects of ads goes beyond viewing patterns. Bart explained how Validators has developed software to employ facial coding to measure the six emotions of consumers. This data can be used to predict brand effectiveness. For example, Validators has found a strong correlation between positive emotions (e.g. happiness) and brand recall.
Finally, as Validators prefers implicit methods, the Implicit Association Test is employed to examine a consumer’s attitude towards a brand’s packaging, shell segmentation or products. As many consumer decisions are taken unconsciously, it is interesting to understand these associations. Based on a prime classical decision task, respondents have to recognize real words amongst non-existing words. However, this is an extensive research method which has to take age, education and vocabulary into account.
Based on the results, Validators is able to give their clients a visual advice. 80 percent of their clients are large international organisations, and merely 10 percent are media agencies. Since neuromarketing is a buzzword nowadays, Bart sees a bright future for the field. Nowadays, organisations are calling them asking to collaborate, instead of the other way around. As a final advice for students, Bart said to be bold: he started his own career making calls and approaching companies, so don’t be afraid to take the first step when it comes to work you really aspire.
Bart Massa has worked for Validators since 2012. This Amsterdam based research agency, whose clients include Coca-Cola, Greetz and the Red Cross, has developed a diverse range of innovative neurotechniques that can be used to measure the unconscious effects of advertising campaigns. In his role as Business Manager, Bart is responsible for helping clients answer their issues concerning communication. For example: We have a commercial that is 30 seconds in length. Which scenes can we delete to go back to 20 seconds without losing effectiveness?
Myrthe Hilkens, Maurice Wheeler, Timothy Coombs, Yara Michels, Omar Kbiri,Anniek Mauser, Hans Laroes, Ashley Vinson, David Kleeman, Cees Hamelink, Geerte Udo, Maurice de Hond, Sebastián Valenzuela, Guido Rijnja, Steven Livingston, Kay van de Linde and Remco Pijpers.