M360 – “Modern science itself is radically incoherent”

This summary contains paraphrasing and words from the presenter. While great care has been made to reflect the messages of the presenter, this article is also interpretation and opinion from the author.

At last week’s Mumbrella 360, Bryan Melmed, VP of Insights at Exponential quoted Walker Percy, from ‘Signposts in a Strange Land’, who pronounced that “modern science itself is radically incoherent” when it comes to understanding man. Not in a biological sense, but “when he [or she] is particularly human”[1].

Just like medicine, marketing is a combination of science and reality. We spend our time collecting endless amounts of information, trying to make sense of it all, and making sure that the money we spend is spent wisely – with proof of doing so. This information, however, can be misread, misused and mistreated. A quote attributed to John Wanamaker, sums up a challenge many marketers still face today: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”[2].

The technology we have available to us in marketing, while not there yet in terms of predicting with an absolute degree of accuracy, is moving forward well and allowing us to start facing this challenge head on. And this technology, of course, is beginning to be implemented in the world of programmatic and its commoditised market of ad inventory.

But while programmatic can allow us to reach groups of target audiences, en masse, across platforms efficiently and with ever-increasing optimisation from the rich data we can collect, we run into the danger of essentially boiling down human behaviour into discrete buckets. And this is doing humanity a great disservice.

Instead, we should also see programmatic as allowing us to be highly creative with our advertising. Research has delivered findings of 86% of audiences exhibiting banner blindness[3], 2.8% feeling ads meet their information needs[4], and 20% of branded Facebook content generating an emotional response[5]. This demonstrates that more can still be done in terms of relevance and impact, and with hyper-targeting possibilities we can also tailor our creatives to maximum effect – with Exponential finding that the probability an ad is noticed is at 47% for creative execution.

With increasing amounts of data, there are diminishing returns. And when data and technology is available to everyone, there is no differentiation. So we have to ensure we find truly insightful meaning from and relevance to our “particularly human” audiences.


[1] https://books.google.com.au/books?id=nWhvCeIjjTUC&pg=PT146&lpg=PT146&dq=Modern+science+itself+is+radically+incoherent&source=bl&ots=SBpmA32t5R&sig=rYV-pF_hmSwA1s-ofJ-krOtAXQU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAGoVChMIyKmpgbiHxgIVYuamCh0nNACj#v=onepage&q=Modern%20science%20itself%20is%20radically%20incoherent&f=false

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wanamaker

[3] http://www.adotas.com/2013/03/study-86-of-consumers-suffer-from-banner-blindness/

[4] http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/196071/banner-blindness-60-cant-remember-the-last-disp.html

[5] http://www.marketingmagazine.co.uk/article/1332270/branded-social-media-content-becoming-wallpaper

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