Monday, May 17, 2010

Projectable Versus Accountable Data

It now seems as if The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) wants a seat at the creative table. They think they have a way to take data and turn it into ideas.

They’ve formed a “Super-Council” – important names, big titles – director of consumer and market insights at Unilever, VP of global strategic insights at Johnson & Johnson, SVP and head of research and competitive intelligence at Kraft – to list just a few.

What they are planning to do is take data and give it perspective.

Who knows, it might work. But, if you ask me, the perspective we need about data is that it serves best in an accountable, rather than a projectable, fashion.

Currently, we are using data – behavioral, contextual, demographic – in a projectable manner, so that we can better put the right ads in front of the right people at the right time.

Supposedly, this is to make the creative more effective.

But I think if we want to make the creative more effective, we need to use less projectable data and more accountable data.

What do I mean by accountable data?

Well, if you pay your agency to create a thirty-second commercial, odds are that you want all thirty seconds to be watched by those that you’re targeting.

You’re selling a product. And while no one can guarantee that watching a commercial will produce a sale, we can guarantee that not watching will not produce a sale.

So, yes, the first responsibility of any commercial is to get those who it’s aimed at to watch it.

Can you hold an agency accountable for this with second-by-second data?

Absolutely.

How does this help creativity?

What if the advertiser paid their agency based on how well they held the viewer’s interest? If all thirty seconds are watched, the agency would make good money. If ten seconds are watched, less good money.

In return for accountability, the advertiser needs to give the agency more creative freedom. Once buying off on the script, how that script is executed is the in the hands of the agency.

Would this help creativity?

You bet.

Which is why we think accountable, rather than projectable data, is the way to elicit more viewer interest in creative.

After all, it’s not all about the target. It’s also about the content.

I wish the ARF luck with their Research Transformation Super Council.

But, when all is said and done, I think they’ll find the best way to improve creative isn’t by following the data.

It’s by following the money.

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