Just The Facts, Please -- In Our Industry As Well As Politics

  • by , Featured Contributor, November 3, 2016
I’ve never before fully appreciated the importance of people and politicians grounding their analysis and arguments in facts and logic to the level I do now. There’s nothing like a dizzyingly crazy U.S. presidential campaign, along with a spate of rhetoric-filled, emotional debates on issues like climate change, immigration, media partisanship, policing, race relations and the rise or fall of crime in America, to make you appreciate the importance of fact-based discourse.

The ridiculousness of many of the claims we hear on these very complex issues is certainly accentuated by the fact that our media world today gives highly visible soapboxes to an almost infinite supply of self-proclaimed or dubiously anointed “experts” with little or no regard for the veracity of what they say, or their qualifications for saying it. In fact, those with the more-extreme arguments are more likely to get links and airtime and appear on carousels and scrollers (thank you, content marketing).



The fragmentation of media has created echo chambers of sameness and self-selection bias that only makes things worse. This is a real problem that our media and news organizations need to solve, not just exploit. The watchdog duties of our Fourth Estate must not only balance the power of our governments, but must be even more vigilant in demanding substantiation and facts from the growing multitude of opinion leaders who have refashioned themselves as experts.

When we think about the importance of bringing more fact-based discourse to these critical national and global issues impacting all of humanity, we’re bound to realize the similar problems in our own industry — even if they pale in comparison to such issues as who sits in the White House or how we combat climate change.

The world of marketing has long been dominated more by art, intuition and fad than science, empiricism and sound strategy.

We wouldn’t have had nearly the problems affecting us today with fraud, viewability and bots if the companies allocating those many billions of dollars of wasted shareholder money had immersed themselves more in the facts of how the digital ad ecosystem operated — instead of just chasing the bright, shiny object of participating in the digital, social, mobile-first world that they read and talk about everyday.

The same can probably be said for the nonsensical, maniacal focus so many marketers have today on appealing to “millennials” — as if talking incessantly about one age-based demographic was going to solve all the problems their companies have achieving growth. Easy advice: It won’t.

More advice: Most of the consultants whom you’re employing to help you understand millennials don’t know any more about them than you do. And they certainly don’t know more about your customers than you could learn if you made them the center of your business and focus.  Personas don’t buy product; people do.

Why are our conversations so focused on the latest fads? Because that’s what our echo chambers are focused on, from industry trade sites to conferences to our social media.

Many of those areas are growing. Our investments in — and our attention to — real research have not been growing. Try to find research departments at agencies that look anything like what they were in the 1980s and 1990s.

That’s why we continue to see many media and marketing service sellers making ridiculous and frequently unchallenged claims about the size and quality of their audiences and their ability to practically create life (and double sales) if their platform is utilized.

Does it really matter if marketing industry rhetoric loses sight of facts sometimes, particularly when we have such big national and global issues facing us, where facts truly can be a matter of life and death?

Yes, it does. A massive amount of the revenue that pays the bills of independent news platforms comes from advertising. We can’t solve the former without ensuring a stronger economic foundation for the latter.

We need to get a better handle on facts. What do you think?

10 comments about "Just The Facts, Please -- In Our Industry As Well As Politics".
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  1. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, November 3, 2016 at 3:44 p.m.

    David, I have been reading you for years and although and it appears to me this column flowed out of you like lava from a volcano -- this is great writing and spot on.  LOVE the quote below -- so true. 

    "That’s why we continue to see many media and marketing service sellers making ridiculous and frequently unchallenged claims about the size and quality of their audiences and their ability to practically create life (and double sales) if their platform is utilized."

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 3, 2016 at 4:42 p.m.

     Another excellent piece, David. I, too, am amazed by the unending adulation of 18-34s as if they and only they, count. As for the wildly exaggerated claims made by many platform sellers, they are motivated by the desire to make money and little else. If any of these people took the trouble to find out something about advertising and media they would see how silly their propositions sound.

  3. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, November 3, 2016 at 6:27 p.m.

    Thanks Ari!

  4. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, November 3, 2016 at 6:29 p.m.

    I totally agree Ed. I'm hoping that 2017 brings even a tiny bit of sobriety in this relentless pursuit of romanticized Millennial customers who will never live up to their billing.

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 3, 2016 at 8:59 p.m.

    Amen. And now for the hard, if not the impossible part. Change the channel on the dial. 

  6. Andreas Schroeter from wywy, November 4, 2016 at 10:44 a.m.

    Couldn't agree more.

    The new Thinkbox study shows this clearly for TV watching behavior - there is a perception vs. reality gap:

  7. Neil Ascher from The Midas Exchange, November 4, 2016 at 11:37 a.m.

    Great piece Dave!

  8. David Scardino from TV & Film Content Development, November 4, 2016 at 1:37 p.m.

    Excellent piece and it jibes with my experience of coming back onto the business side of media in 2004 after 25 years away and seeing the proliferation and wide distribution of unsubstantiated seller claims in the "objective" trade press and how unchallenged they often were. Although in my years at BBDO and Y&R I'm not sure it was ever articulated explicitly, I do know my collegues and I thought of ourselves as "truth tellers." We expected sellers to make claims out to the borders of credibility--they were trying to make money after all--but we also recognized that it was up to us to give our clients the straight objective truth. Thankfully, back then, the trust level was such that that usually sufficed. 

  9. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia replied, November 5, 2016 at 9:01 a.m.

    Great point David. I do believe that some notion of self-evident "trust" is one of the elements that we've lost from our industry over the past 10 years. It used to be that you could start buyer-seller discussions with a base level of assumed trust and it remained until explicitly violated and folks didn't have to proactively investigate every claim in advance. We're certainly not there anymore. It's well past "trust, but verify." It's verify, verify, verify, and only then, maybe trust.

  10. John Grono from GAP Research, November 6, 2016 at 6:11 p.m.

    Hear hear Dave.   I lament the death of facts and common sense.

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