Not All Data Is Fake

By The Cog Blog Archives
Cover image for  article: Not All Data Is Fake

I’m not sure when this happened, but whenever it was it seems to be an ever more popular pastime to call out what some identify as fake data.  Thinkbox does some great research. “It must be biased, look who funds Thinkbox” inevitably pops up in my Twitter and LinkedIn feeds.  And on it goes.  Newsworks does work to demonstrate the importance of trust in news reporting.  “Well, they would, ask yourself who owns their paymasters.”  The IPA proves that advertising drives sales and profit.  “Why don’t they ever publish anything showing the power and effectiveness of non-advertising channels?”  And this one: “BARB data is wrong, unrepresentative, takes no account of any viewing that happens on any device aside from a TV set, and is plainly not fit for purpose.”  Needless to say, these arguments are inevitably unsupported by facts, often misinformed, and ignorant of the work that those accused of bias actually do.

Why bother defending them?  BARB, Thinkbox, Newsworks and the IPA are all perfectly capable of arguing their case, but it seems to me important to do my bit to point out a few basic truths.  It’s also important to point out that the ad business is full of genuinely smart people doing their best to provide the rest of us with the best data and research they can to help us navigate the complicated communications world we inhabit.

Conferences are built around this stuff, well-thought-out articles are published, debates are had, award entries are written, and yes, not all of it is perfect.  Not all of it is as up to the minute as it might be.  But we are a ton better off with it than without it.

Many of the data cynics come from the online world.  These online evangelists have a belief that market research is old hat in the era of big data, that immediate reactions are all that matters, and that a show of hands at a conference attended by their fellow evangelists somehow proves their point.

The irony is that FB and various other online platforms are guilty of some pretty appalling misuses of research and data, as you can read here, here and here.

It’s also interesting that some communication forms that have been short of independent research and data have recently gone out of their way to provide it.  Step forward JICMAIL (measuring the impact of advertising mail) as one excellent example.

So, the next time someone goes on about “why doesn’t your industry measure the impact of influencers/in-game ads/ads on cows chewing away in a field passed by a railway” (yes that was once a thing), you might suggest that they get off the sofa, pull the parties together, raise the cash, organize the research and publish the results. As opposed to blaming someone else for focussing on something else.

There is a community committed to trying to answer questions that help advertisers spend their budgets more wisely, and thus for many forms of commercial communications to work as effectively as possible.

Like news, not all data is fake.

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