September 22, 2011

The Evidence Of Our Own Eyes

One thing we have in the ad business today that we didn't have when I started 100 years ago is experts.

We had "creative geniuses," "stars" and "gurus." But we didn't have "experts."

In those days, advertising was believed to be the art of persuasion. Today it is believed to be the science of engagement.

We didn't have nearly the amount of data. The only "metric" that really mattered was sales.

The continuing evolution of advertising from a qualitative to a quantitative endeavor has resulted in the growing belief in experts and expertise. We now have social media experts, and digital advertising experts, and consumer engagement experts, and...well, you know.

One of unsettling aspects of this is that in some ways we have been convinced that the opinions of experts are more real than the evidence of our own eyes. Every day we experience behaviors that contradict what our experts are telling us. Yet, for some strange reason we don't perceive the disjunction.
  • We know that we have never clicked on a banner ad, yet we continue to accept the proposition that banner ads are "interactive."
  • We know that we have never looked at an ad on our Facebook page, yet we continue to accept the argument that Facebook is a powerful advertising medium.
  • We know that advertising is more pervasive than ever, yet we continue to accept the thesis that advertising is a dying industry.
We're strange this way. We experience the specific but have a hard time connecting it to the general.

In the fullness of time, I believe we will find that our first generation of "experts" turned out to be about as dependable as experts in most other social sciences -- the equivalent of monkeys throwing darts.

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