Creativity vs. the Quants

The New Ad Man is an Egghead

The New Ad Man is an Egghead

It was only a matter of time…

From the New York Times:
(Advertising firms) are bringing some Wall Street-like analysis to Madison Avenue, exploiting the huge amounts of data produced by the Internet to adjust strategy almost instantly.

So now instead of someone coming up with the next great tagline or catchy ad slogan, the ad biz will be more and more concerned with statistics.

The search for the next “Where’s the Beef” will be replaced with a quest to discover how many brown-haired people between the ages of 18 to 34 in the southern quadrant of North Dakota click banner ads that have blue borders vs. green borders.  I know, exciting!

“It’s putting numbers to an industry that never had numbers before…It’s nice to be able to tell your brand manager or the chief marketing officer which audience is interacting with the unit, what time of day, what day of the week, and what the response is on certain types of offers. Before, nobody could really tell you that.”

Look, I get it, there are tons of out-of-work mathletes coming from the big Wall Street investment banks, and if someone doesn’t put a spreadsheet in front of them soon, they’re going to storm the Bastille.  And certainly, there is real value to being able to test a campaign in an inexpensive way online before buying tv time or print ads.  As someone who runs a few web businesses on the side, I get this…but still.

I wonder how the “traditional” ad guys are going to react when their every creative decision is tweaked, criticized, and second-guessed by the analysts and data geeks.

As data executives continue to build on their research, this arena could resemble Wall Street even more: yield managers could hedge their purchases, buy futures to lock in prices and use other trading strategies. And this type of sophisticated testing and trading will require changes in clients’ attitudes.

So, from the very folks who brought you the quantitative black box models that couldn’t fail, the hedge fund meltdown, the Long Term Capital blowup, and many other “the data can’t be wrong” aspects of our tattered capital markets over the last decade, you are about to be treated to the hedging and trading of ad space, Wall Street-style.  Good luck, Mad Men.

Let the games begin.

Full Story:  Put Ad on Web. Count Clicks. Revise. (NYT)

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