Time to treat our 'post truth' phobia of empirical rules
A view from Ollie Joyce

Time to treat our 'post truth' phobia of empirical rules

As our largely liberal-minded industry bemoans the polarized and "post truth" world, should we be challenging our own use of alternative facts?

I don’t understand the obsession with all things Apple on the one hand, while at the same time ignoring the brand's faultless use of traditional broadcast media.

I’m troubled seeing repetitive references to "viral", when organic reach averages less than 2%.

I’m bemused when we look to ape the Uber and AirBnB models for their first 1,000 customers, when those brands have long since moved to broader growth strategies.

I’m baffled by a generic personalisation narrative, when for many brands this adds little benefit and execution is cost prohibitive.

And I feel deliberately misled when told about the "mobile" Olympics, when 97% of viewing hours were on TV.

It’s farcical that an industry allegedly obsessed with data is selectively using it to draw its conclusions. Just like the post truth world there is a herd mentality at work here.

I feel deliberately misled when told about the "mobile" Olympics, when 97% of viewing hours were on TV.

Sensible informed views are dismissed as old school, contrived stats are used to intimidate doubters into silence and the relative cost and impact of activity is seen as a taboo debate. When did it become wrong to interrogate the "job to be done" before jumping to a pre-ordained fashionable solution?

So what is the answer?

Well, there isn’t one answer. The world isn’t that neat as we are seeing all around us right now. But we can start with one macro example.

Byron Sharp is at one end of a polarised advertising debate with his law-like patterns and empirical generalisations, including number one law – continuously reach all buyers of the category (communication plus distribution) – don’t ever be silent.

The recent Campaign article from Marie Oldham of VCCP – Challenge Byron Sharp and Grow Your Brand, – suggested Sharp’s laws (or at least the first one) were at odds with her selected highlights of the winners of the 2016 IPA Effectiveness Awards, which display great targeting of an audience.

Why the need for such a polarised view?

The IPA Effectiveness Awards winners are fantastic examples of the best work the industry does and a source of great inspiration but they are by dint of their success, outliers. As Oldham says, "great work requires more than following universal 'laws' and conventional thinking".

But why are we so uncomfortable adopting universal laws as our foundation on which to build brilliant innovation? After all, delivering mass reach and segmented messaging are no longer conflicting objectives. Universal laws would reduce failure and avoid vanity exercises and endless vapid debates driven by personal bias and spurious facts.

We could greatly enhance our reputation before the "grown-up" decisions become the sole domain of management consultants.

Great work requires creativity and innovation inside universal laws to shift the needle on your business – a mix of Sharp and Cannes, or IPA and MMA, or Sharp, Cannes and IPA (now that would be something).

So how about no more pub trivia stats as the foundation for planning, no more denying gravity as a justification for creativity, no more "the answer is digital innovation now what’s the question".

Let’s establish more robust empirical generalisations and use them as our start point. Or to put it another way, lets be a bit more Byron and a lot less Donald.

Ollie Joyce is the global client partner at Mindshare Worldwide.