A view from Ivan Pollard

Perspective: Dr Gregory House has the cure for all our marketing ills

What a fantastic weekend. The Ryder Cup, Chelsea v Arsenal and the return of House to Sky TV.

Three things about Dr Gregory House can give us guidance and hope. The first lesson is about Hugh Laurie. He is now the most-watched actor on TV drama and one of the highest paid (£225k per episode), but consider where he came from. Think Jeeves And Wooster, Blackadder and A Bit Of Fry And Laurie. I still remember him in ads for Alliance & Leicester: "More choccy topping?" Stephen Fry has gone on to become a cultural giant and his formidable body of work casts a long shadow. I always thought that Mr Laurie was in that shadow but, now, through perseverance, talent, graft and luck, he also bestrides the globe. So let us learn: keep going, believe in yourself, take your chance when it comes and move to America.

Second, it is interesting to reflect on the power of TV. It still pulls crowds of people with attentive viewing around big events, brilliant stories and compelling characters. It does it in a way that generates talk, loyalty, enthusiasm and desire to consume the next thing. Each serving of House is involving in its own right but the underlying story is constantly evolving to maintain desire for the next episode. An old trick that needs to be applied to our stories in marketing. A big idea that is always in(e)volving. Can I invent a word like that?

The third lesson from House is the way he and his team work. The drama comes from the brilliance of the team in terms of the imaginative, intuitive leaps they make when trying to get to a "differential diagnosis". House's base hypothesis is that all people lie, so why trust what they tell you? It makes for compelling TV as they argue, deduce, guess and speculate. But whichever solution they land on, they always, always go off and do a test, a measurement or a scan of some sort. They have creative leaps but always go back to the science to check they are making valid calls - an interesting discipline to apply our business to.

I suspect that the past ten years of brilliantly seductive possibilities in the digital, data-driven, device-happy world have conspired to make us a little less focused on the science than we should be. We are too quick to sell the fantastic possibility rather than research the rational suitability of our ideas. And this is crazy in a digital world that gives us great tools for finding out what people are actually doing rather than listening to what they say they are doing (House says "they lie"). Check out Google's free tools on Google Analytics or type "insight for search" into Google.

So if House teaches us anything, it is to be as imaginative and as crazy as you like but to back it up with data that proves you are right. Oh, and he also teaches us that you can only be an arse if you are brilliant all the time and that none of the rest of us can get away with that because we are not on TV.

Ivan Pollard is a partner at Naked Communications.

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