The Days Of Data Dependence
This past week's "Entourage" episode focused on the opening weekend of "Aquaman," the fictional movie starring Vincent Chase, which poises our main character for superstardom. The entire episode includes phone exchanges between Ari and Eric concerning the opening numbers, and it turns out that the low-ball estimates they were receiving throughout the course of the day were a result of the rolling blackouts in California (and for those of you who lived in California for rolling blackouts, you know how frustrating they can be). The numbers they were hearing were low because the blackouts made it more difficult to estimate the actual numbers. As it turned out, the weekend was huge--but the back-and-forth phone calls were what interested me. The numbers were being watched with peculiar scrutiny, and it reminded me how our clients and agencies tend to do the same thing!
How many times have you sent an e-mail and become frustrated when you don't get a response in the first 20 minutes?
How many times has your client called and asked for the numbers prematurely?
How many times have you sent an instant message and been bummed when you don't get an immediate response?
Our expectations are immediate, and our sense of immediate gratification edges into every moment of our lives. It would appear that patience is a virtue, but technology is more powerful than patience. The Zen approach to the world seems at odds with technology because technology means everything is within our immediate reach. My cell phone is an e-mail device, and even instant messenger is available on my phone--which seems silly, since text messaging is pretty much the same thing. If someone takes more than 10 minutes to respond to a text message, I get worried. What really worries me is that eventually my clients might want to start text-messaging me, and then I'll have no respite from being plugged in all the time!
While it's understandable to keep an eye on the numbers, we need to understand the ramifications of this focus. Our attention to the immediacy of data is sacrificing our ability to pay attention to the long-term goals. Wall Street watches quarterly numbers, and appears to ignore the long-term goals. Clients want to know when sales will increase as a result of advertising, but they fail to apply these short-term blips to the long-term business. Media professionals are paying too much attention to the 3-month goals and not enough attention to the 18-month goals. Obviously, you can't sacrifice the here and now for the future, but you must recognize that the here and now is only a stepping stone toward the future. In applicable terms, immediate sales may jump when you blast e-mails to your database on a regular basis, but over time the result of those blasts is a non-attentive user. "The boy who cries wolf" via e-mail, so to speak. Long-term sales may be injured as a result of this aggressive e-mail strategy, which means the long term was sacrificed for the short term. Not a smart business strategy, of course.
The true way to find success is to find balance between long-term and short-term goals. Find balance between the immediate needs of your business and the long-term needs of your business. Ari needs to put the phone down and check the numbers on Monday after the weekend has run. The ticket sales were out of his control, and he's done everything he can to ensure the opening would be big. Trust your strategy and enjoy the payoff when the time comes. Make adjustments when you have enough data to work with, but don't be too aggressive until you've gotten the full story.
And you should send an e-mail to someone you work with today, but tell them there's no rush to get back to you. Take your time--make sure it's thorough. Exercise patience, and you'll probably end up with better content anyway.
Don't you agree?