October 01, 2014

The Anecdote Epidemic

I noticed it my first week in the ad business -- the naive belief in anecdotes.

As a junior copywriter I was amazed that account directors and creative directors could get away with it. They would stand before clients and tell the story of this company or that agency that did this or that and had remarkable results. And then they would inflate the anecdote into a rationale for what they were selling.

And the client would sit there and buy it.

It astounded me.

As time went on it only got worse. Specious claims about account planning or copy testing or whatever went unchallenged.

Then anecdotes went national. I would go to conferences and listen to experts tell how this thing or that medium (the one they were pitching) created a huge success. And the audience would accept it as if it were the rule.

There was no demand for what the normal results were.

And now, with the advent of the web, anecdotes have gone global. The most extreme case of anything is accepted as typical. So Zappos -- the most radical case of social media success -- became the case history that proved the standard power of social media.

We are in an endless echosystem of success stories about web marketing -- first it was podcasts, blogs and banners, then widgets and QR codes, now it's social media and content. And the thing that all these success stories have in common is that they are free of industry norms.

I have seen evidence that search and email -- as categories -- are effective online marketing activities.

But I have yet to see one disinterested study that shows me anything convincing about the standard effectiveness of podcasts, blogs, banners, QR codes, social, content, etc. If you know of any, please send them my way.

You would think that with the amount of money being spent on line, marketers would demand more than just anecdotes and outlier case histories. But it's hard to exaggerate the lemming-ocracy in marketing today.


Cecil B. DeMille said...

Advertising is an industry that masquerades anecdotes as facts, clichés as ideas, and accountants as creative. It wasn't always this way. Or as that now a cliché as well?

Charlotte said...

Aren't you rich and famous because of this blog?

bob hoffman said...

I'm rich and famous despite this blog.

royAB said...

Lots of research .... but still no cases.
Given the amount of hot air inflating this balloon I can't believe there are NO examples (even for this industry that would surely be a first) ... but beginning to wonder. Genuinely, please someone!?

duck_of_d00m said...

all data from Millward Brown based on cases, they accumulate thousands of campaigns done by their clients and efficiency researches, and show benchmarks based on this data. Same for Nielsen and TNS

royAB said...

Sure. But aggregated data = aggregated conclusions. Still looking for individual case metrics

Mark @ Make Them Click said...

Gary Vaynerchuk is probably the best example/case study, mind you he's one of the few.

duck_of_d00m said...