What the election reminded me about data.

If you’re new to this blog, it won’t take you too long of scrolling through the archives to realize that I’m a data dude.  I love me some research, focus groups, surveys, customer modeling, and more.  Why?  Well, I firmly believe that advertising without this info is like throwing darts blindfolded.

In fact, I won’t do a show without doing some sort of market analysis before going to market.  (Yep, that was me who dial-tested Somewhere in Time when we were out of town.)

The more data, the better.

But do I let that data make the decisions for me?


Because, as we learned in Tuesday’s election . . . data can sometimes be very, very, exceptionally very, wrong.

Every pollster, every pundit, and just about every person (including many Trump campaign members) had Secretary Clinton handling our President-Elect an ego-smacking loss.

But it didn’t happen.

Because data isn’t always right.

Surveys, focus groups, and yeah, even that dial testing, can’t be what makes your decisions.  Those tools can only be used as evidence as you ponder your decision.  Because doing something just because the numbers say so is a sure way to fail, or at least produce super-uninteresting art.

What’s the best use of all that data then?  I like to say that data settles 3 AM arguments . . . between creatives who are fighting like cats and Cats about whether a song should stay or go (“Why don’t we look at the research?”), or producers arguing about a certain tag line or another (“Why don’t we look at the research”), and so on.

Research may show you how things should play out, but that doesn’t mean that’s how they will play out.

So do your research.  I believe producers have an obligation to study the market and their product before spending millions of investor money on the show.  But when you get that research, don’t forget that there’s a key element of producing that must go hand in hand with all that data.

Your gut.


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  • jlallis@shsd.org says:

    The reason Trump won is because he struck a chord(ouch) with many of us who felt that we were losing any voice in this country. That’s why some shows are hits and some are bombs… And the polls were wrong because we were sick of being looked down upon and being called deplorables and Neanderthals by the elitists masquerading as “progressives,” so we just bit our tongues and voted. For the record, I am the son of immigrants, a Dartmouth graduate, a Vietnam Veteran, and have over 75 copyrights, been married 37 years and the father of nine. :Oh, by the way, the Indians and the Cubs scored the same number of runs in the World Series, but the Cubs were champs because they won 4 games…that’s how it is decided, just as the election is decided by electoral votes….John Lallis Gladstone, NJ

  • Rich Mc says:

    Great post. In this election Dems believed (& refused to question) their own optimistic BS, a classic example of Group Think. Somewhere in a distant past life I was Mgr. of Market Research at a NYSE company. Generated data up the kazoo. The key, prior to presenting to Sr. Management, was Interpretation, i.e., putting pure data into perspective, qualifying results against various contingencies. Some factors simply cannot be quantified, or quantified meaningfully. That’s where your ‘gut’ comes in, and that’s what they should have done, many months ago. Forearmed in this way, it might have been a different result.

    As you suggest, I expect this applies equally to b-Way data, and relevant decisions therein.

  • Rich Mc says:

    Why is my legitimate comment of 11/10 still awaiting MODERATION???

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