UPDATE 8/4/09: Good FORTUNE magazine article on “Advertising’s Revenge of The Nerds”. Will the algorithms that were peddled on Wall Street to inflate the housing bubble wreak similar havoc on Madison Avenue? I wonder.
The Formula Herd has descended on Austin, Texas, Mickey Mouse ears and eye-tracking googles at the ready.
Their mission: find the holy grail for online advertising.
“The goal” says Disney Media Networks’ Peter Seymour, the unit’s executive vice president for strategy and research, “is ultimately to have laws that apply.”
And so, without irony, the company that brings us Disney Magic sets out to eradicate magic from advertising in favor of a formula.
As you can imagine, this is serious work: you can’t use just any old Mickey Mouse tools.
Besides the eye-tracking goggles, they have heart-rate monitors, and skin temperature readers and probes attached to facial muscles to measure every grin and grimace.
And so the holy war between art and science continues. We continue chasing the goofy illusion of perfection.
I’m not anti-science, or anti-research. And, I have no doubt that the Disney execs are entirely sincere in their desire to get at the truth and are genuinely trying to help.
But after more than half a century of TV research, we still don’t know in advance what makes TV commercials work. In fact, the best research I have ever seen comes from Nielsen IAG. Their conclusion? Engagement (aka “executional magic”) is the best predictor of sales.
So much for formulas.
Heretical Prediction Of The Day
Yogi Berra famously said “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future”. In spite of this sage advice, here goes.
On the day when all interactive advertising is successfully refined to the point where there is 100% efficiency and 0% waste, we will learn something shocking.
We’ll discover that 0% waste means we end up advertising ONLY to those people who were going to buy the product anyway – which of course equals 100% waste.
Spoiler alert: no matter how hard we chase perfect understanding, we end up in the same place of not knowing.
It’s a Zen circle. The difference is this time, it’s a Zen circle with mouse ears :-)