The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Don’t Be A Data Fashion Victim …
October 17, 2012, 6:12 am
Filed under: Comment

I love how business has suddenly become the groupie of data.

Everywhere you turn, there seems to be some story about it’s power and importance – as if it’s something that has just been discovered.

Seriously, the value of data is as old as the hills and while there are now more and more ways to discover it and fine-tune it, it’s hardly like a whole bunch of industries weren’t utilising it’s power for decades.

Of course, when I say ‘utilising it’s power’, that doesn’t include direct marketing companies who continually fail to grasp the concept that ‘knowing how many people ignored their message’ doesn’t mean they create effective communication.

While data is hugely important, the reality is it only tells you what happened – not why – which is why you need people who can understand or investigate what’s not being said as much as what is.

But I digress.


The [alleged] point of this point is that because adland latches on to trends like a fat boy holds on to cake [even though we tend to latch on to them much later than other industries. ‘Behavioural economics’ anyone?], we have jumped on the data bandwagon to such an extent that we’ve seemingly forgotten how normal human beings respond to stuff.

Instead of using the findings and learnings of data to create stories that have emotional value and meaning to our audience, we are now seeing more and more ads that basically regurgitate the data as the actual message.

I remember when Playstation 3 came out and their print ads talked about the number of polygons the machine could render in a second.

This was a brand that had previously done some of the most amazing work ever created and here they were, doing ads that were seemingly more for the benefit of the engineers ego than to entice the gamers heart.

In short, they’d gone from emotional to rational.

From culture creation to category convention.

From inspirational insight to repeating the words of the focus group or client brief.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying data isn’t important because it is and – when used correctly – can be commercially liberating. However it is important not to forget people are moved by ideas/messages/communication that have emotional meaning and value which is why ads that say stuff like “Tests show the new air base in our basketball shoes allow you to jump, on average, 2.1cm higher than before” are ever going to be as powerful, motivating or effective as work that simply says “Let’s you float like a butterfly”.

Data has many benefits and values. Using it as your creative strategy isn’t one of them.


42 Comments so far
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Great post Robert. When I think of a number of ads I’ve seen recently, you’re right that there seems to be a more rational representation coming through.

The other thing I’d add is that if you are going to use data, use it right. Rather than identify the right data to use, many companies and individuals are using whatever data they can get and making incredible recommendations based on it.

I’m also first to comment today. The data tells me I am proactive and forward thinking. Additional evidence to show how people use the wrong data to make the wrong claim in the wrong way.

Comment by Bazza

Just when you thought iMaps was your biggest problem, along comes Microsoft with their equally priced Surface tablet. How will you cope?

Comment by George

have you seen the fucking ad theyve made for that shit? makes the bill gates / seinfeld bollocks look like lawrence of afuckingabria.

Comment by andy@cynic

Great point Baz … you’re right. We are now coming into a situation where the word ‘data’ validates any behaviour, regardless of the fact that the data being used was either ambigious or lacking.

Comment by Rob

Great call on direct marketing agencies too. Though in their quest for survival they have evolved to digital direct marketing agencies. That is about the only thing that has changed.

Comment by Bazza

With the greatest respect to Colonel Gadaffi and men with a micro penis, I much prefer this sort of post. Your point is, of course, a very good one and your slur on the advertising industries “behavioural economics” obsession is especially pertinent. Data’s importance is unquestionable, especially in today’s highly competitive, parity category market. That said, it does not mean you are being furnished with all the answers or as Bazza points out, all the right answers. It could be argued that too much data can be as dangerous as too little unless the person delving in to it has the ability to identify value from noise, which few can do effectively. But the real point here is about emotion and the worrying trend that industry is doing all it can to avoid having to get to know people by how they feel and just by what they do. Neither side should be ignored but the thing business needs to remember is there are at least 2 basic sides.

Comment by George

why are you writing such long bastard comments? you never use to. you never even used to come to this bollocks place. you miss us dont you? you miss us and you miss cynic. well thats what you get when you get seduced by the fucking nerd money my friend. you might be able to afford africa but you dont get my inspirational genius 10 hours a day. but if you pay me $100,000 a month, you can have it via skype for 3 hours a day. mon to fri.

Comment by andy@cynic

You must be a clairvoyant.

Comment by George

a couple are in bed when the chick asks her bloke if he wants his palm read.

“are you clairvoyant?”

“no, im on my period.”

beat that seinfeld, you rich wanker.

Comment by andy@cynic

Am I allowed to laugh at this?

Comment by DH

quietly. very fucking quietly.

Comment by andy@cynic

the word fashion should never be mentioned within 1000 fucking feet of campbell. victim can. victim can be closer than a fucking in growing bastard toenail. but not fucking fashion. oh fucking no.

Comment by andy@cynic

dear baz and auntie. get a fucking room. i dont care if you fuck each other or talk more planning shit, just get the fuck away from me.

Comment by andy@cynic

first adland wanted to dress like clients.
then they wanted to charge like lawyers.
now they want to act like fucking accountants.
no fucking wonder its all gone to fucking pot. what about wanting to be fucking adfuckers? sorry, i mean communication specialists with excellence in fucking storytelling.

Comment by andy@cynic

What Andy said. In every comment.

Comment by Billy Whizz

wise fucking words billy boy.

Comment by andy@cynic

I don’t want to annoy Andy, but what constitutes valuable data these days? That might sound stupid but I’ve seen some articles where it looks like one person counting how many Birkenstocks they own counted was valuable information.

Comment by DH

Sorry Andy.

Comment by DH

100% of data says your question was bordering on fucking planner wank. and apologising doesnt do a fucking thing to change that.

Comment by andy@cynic

And then I read George and Bazza’s comments and see they say the same thing. Just not as well or as concise as I did.

Comment by DH

Great post and great comments, especially by Baz and George.

The argument about rational versus emotional advertising is dead. It’s now data versus emotion. Same thing, just a rebranding of an old and futile argument.

Comment by Pete

I enjoyed this post Robert. So much so, that I forwarded it to a number of colleagues. I await the response from our CRM team with particular interest.

Comment by Lee Hill

Bang goes all my frequent flyer points.

Comment by Rob

The saddest point of data collecting is that datas arent collected to discover “things” but only because they are collectibles (I’m strongly thinking of all these inept facebook/digital datas).

As if you started counting the number of noodles within a pack just for the sake of it.

In Adland, datas are a mind anesthesia.

Comment by Jean

Hi Jean – great to have you pop by.

You’re right, the point for a lot of data collection is not to discover and then do things with it, it’s to justify or ass cover. It’s all too similar to the way many companies approach projects. Rather than put their energies into what they can create, their focus is on the process of the process. Of course, ensuring things are being done properly is important, but losing sight on why you’re doing it is utter, utter madness.

Comment by Rob

You could easily make an article on the way tools alienate our free will. Within media agencies this is nuts.

At this point, if we gave them a screwdriver, they’ll probably start unscrewing the building.

Comment by Jean

75 out of 83 women interviewed said we could put this statistically insignificant “data” in our skincare ad.

Comment by John

You mean the ‘fear’ data?

Comment by Rob

Even though a lot of the ‘data’ isn’t really scary when you discover where it came from & what it really means.

Comment by Rob

Was thinking of the endorsement data, but I imagine it applies to ‘fear’ data – whatever that is.

Comment by John

100% of people said they were fucking scared to death of being forced to read this blog. that is fear data.

Comment by andy@cynic

God, I love this blog.

Comment by Marcus

Don’t you mean you tolerate this blog. Even I don’t love it.

PS: Without wishing to sound gay, I miss you.

Comment by Rob

No I love it. Miss you too, but you know where I am.

Comment by Marcus

youre not in the fucking shed anymore thats all i fucking know. fucking travesty.

Comment by andy@cynic

when we were working on Holden, we finally convinced them to stop using fuel mileage stats in their ads. Instead, we used the line “drive from Melbourne to Sydney on one tank”.

it completely reinvented the perception of (the large car) Commodore.

Comment by Age

why the fuck would anyone want to go to sydney. thats where campbell owns half the fucking place. paid for with my fucking money.

Comment by andy@cynic

drive by?

Comment by Age

i stand corrected.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Rob Mortimer

When Forbes headlined Big Data Is The New Oil I read it as the birth of a dirty business. The scraper protected more than the scraped.

Comment by Charles Edward Frith (@charlesfrith)

[…] But despite this, I am also of the opinion it’s current position on the pedestal, is misguided. […]

Pingback by Is The Only Thing Big About Big Data Is The Hype? | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

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