CNBC News Releases

CNBC Transcript: Chris Graves, Chairman, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

Following is the transcript of an exclusive CNBC interview with Chris Graves, Chairman of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. The interview was broadcast on CNBC on 17 November 2016 at 06:40AM SG/HK Time.

All references must be sourced to a "CNBC Interview".

Interviewed by Akiko Fujita, Correspondent, CNBC.

Akiko Fujita: We're joined now from Hong Kong by Chris Graves, Chairman at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. Chris, great to have you here.

Certainly a lot of soul searching going on over the last week. You know a lot of questions about how the polls got it all wrong. You know this was an election in the end that came down to character questions for two of those unpopular candidates. Hillary Clinton has since come out and says she believes the FBI, the investigation, the last minute developments that thwarted her momentum, but you say that Hillary Clinton's attack on all outruns character and temperament may have actually empowered his supporters. Help us understand what this confirmation bias is.

Chris Graves: So confirmation bias, Akiko, is an enormously powerful thing and one that is little understood in communications and it's one that's employed unwittingly all the time and here all it means if you attack somebody with evidence with facts that they are wrong, they don't pause and look at your facts and go "wow, maybe I will change my vote". Instead they get angry, they dig it in and all behavioral science shows that they get more fervent, more shrill, in that line of belief that they started it.

So it's actually sometimes called the backfire effect and it's an entire field of behavioral science. She also remember, when she referred to half of the Donald Trump supporters as deplorable. This is a behavioral science principle called out group derogation. You know in sports you call it trash talking and that actually has two effects simultaneously. You can mobilize your own base but you can really mobilize the opponents as they dig in and feel that they've been labeled by the opposition.

Akiko: My first thought when I read this though is that you know you could ask the question why didn't this work in the reverse? Because Donald Trump did go after Hillary Clinton calling her a liar, calling her crooked Hillary. Why didn't that work for her supporters?

Chris: Actually it did mobilize her supporters. But scientists have also found this when you have intense negative ads not everybody reacts the same in terms of voter turnout for example negative ads from both sides tend to depress independents when they come out. It tends to mobilize people on the right more.

But there is something that will trigger for those who self-disclose as being more conservative. There are certain things that work more to mobilize these people and that is F-L-A-P - FLAP! Fear, Loyalty, Authority and Purity.

And if you use words over and over again like "disgusting" you actually trigger on the right something very deep and very powerful, doesn't make them wrong, it doesn't make them weird. It's just how they see the world.

Akiko: There was a lot of focus here in this election, on the female vote how women would react to the comments that came out from Donald Trump especially without access to the hollywood tape. Any idea, any sense of how women process that kind of the rhetoric on the campaign trail as well as the accusations of sexual harassment from Trump? How was that processed in the end, is there any way to get a sense of that?

Chris: You could get a sense of the sort of second hand looking at what they did versus what they said. And so for example when you look at the vote I think Clinton supporters were surprised how many women not just lower educated but even educated women showed up and voted for Donald Trump. But there was something that the polls did not look for and something the behavioral scientists say correlates more closely to supporting Trump than anything that they had asked a very few people started asking this and it showed up back in January and that was this.

If you asked people about their parenting style you can surface more readily who might support Donald Trump. Very simple questions. Questions such as - did you want your child to be more independent-minded; or do you prefer they respect elders; do you wish that they would exhibit more curiosity or have good manners; do you want them to be more self-reliant or would you prefer they be obedient?

And this surfaces as a kind of latent authoritarianism in all of us. Authoritarianism is not necessarily a bad thing and people, it's just they crave a real certainty in order especially in times of trouble when they view threats and people who supported Trump, viewed a lot of threats in America. They viewed terrorism, they viewed changing complexion of America, loss of jobs, the economy, and so you have people who didn't surface in the polling because you asked traditional questions and polling but some clever behavioral scientists saw this going all the way back in January.

Akiko: Chris let me ask you this because you know there's been some criticism of the Clinton campaign that they even have a very clear message. You know when you ask anybody what Donald Trump's message was everybody knows 'Make America Great Again'. You know Clinton was a bit more nuanced, a bit more complex in her messaging and I have to wonder when you look at the outcome of the election, you know both sides but especially with Donald Trump he was very light on policy, been very strong on the rhetoric. The fact that he was able to come out on top, what does that tell you about how the electorate is change how the process the campaign messages. Is it any different from what you would have seen, let's say you know, 10, 20 years ago?

Chris: Actually there's something that humans have had true in terms of language for 200,000 years and that is that we call it the concreteness effect. And Republicans in the US, those who are up more on the right tend to be better at leveraging the concreteness effect, here's all it means: When I speak to you, can you picture what I'm saying in your mind. If you can't then it's really ineffective and so Democrats historically have been more what people call say 'wonkish' or policy-related or more complex in their speech.

Whereas if I stand up on a stage and you ask me a very abstract question about immigration reform and I answer I will build a wall. You can't get more concrete than that in your language. Now this isn't just some wild theory many brain scientists believe that we process concrete language in a very different part of the brain from abstraction.

And so the lesson for all communicators including politicians and CEOs and anchors is you have to speak in a way that people can picture what you're saying if you want to have a persuasive emotional bond.

Akiko: Certainly some fascinating insight there, Chris Graves joining us from Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, live for us in Hong Kong. Appreciate your insight this morning.