Advertising and Subjectivity

I heard myself saying these words yesterday, “Well, really, it’s advertising. It’s not as though there is a right or wrong answer. Advertising is subjective.” And for whatever reason, those words stuck with me throughout the day, and I began to question whether this statement was actually true. Is advertising subjective? Am I actually in a business with no right or wrong way to address problems? No real discipline required for problem solving? I have always enjoyed the fluidity and creative freedom that comes with this industry, but yesterday I felt a bit depressed about it, honestly.

If advertising is completely subjective, can one ever really be an expert or even an esteemed representative of the field? Probably not. If it’s all guesswork and sporadic, unexplained hits, with a lot of misses…what AM I spending the majority of my days thinking about?

And then it occurred to me that advertising is only subjective when the consumer isn’t considered or understood. Because advertising actually shifts from subjective to objective when consumers are identified, evaluated and understood.

And when this happens, when you are able to identify your users (or personas), there becomes a clear methodology for identifying problems and providing the right solutions. Yes, I did say the “right” solutions…

And that, my friends, is where data comes into play.

Oh man, did she say “data”? Blech. Boring. Overwhelming. That’s probably what you’re thinking…. But listen, if I get the value of data and understand (roughly) how to use it, then you certainly can, too. I’m not a statistician. I just understand that if you want to deliver something of value to someone, you better figure out who that person is, what they want and why. And DATA…data enables us to do just that.

Through the collection and amalgamation of data points—from tools like MRI and Simmons to ethnographic research, social audits, user testing and even existing data from assets like sites or applications, we’re able to understand our consumers better than ever before. We’re able to take the most relevant data points and learnings, paint a picture of the most common and most important user groups and develop products, solutions and messaging that is highly relevant to them. Some call these paintings personas. And all call this type of insightful and thoughtful planning successful.

Why? It’s like Roy has always said: “Go to the consumer. The consumer is always right.” That’s really what data enables us to do. And that’s really all that persona development is…going to the consumer, identifying them, evaluating and understanding them…and making decisions based on this information.

Because it’s only through consumer understanding that we’re able to turn the corner from subjectivity to objectivity. And being objective, versus subjective, is a good place to be in an industry full of flash-in-the-pan brands and agencies.

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