This afternoon I had the opportunity to visit DDB Seattle advertising agency with some of my students from Seattle U. Once again Dan Miller gave us an excellent tour, and once again I was impressed with the agency. I was also reminded once again how easily influenced our species is and how little we believe that is true. Last year I was half-asleep in a sauna listening to four young men talk about how stupid people are who think that people’s behavior can change just because they watch a movie for and hour, “Especially when we know it’s a movie that somebody made up!”
I said nothing, but thought about marketing and advertising and the challenges that are faced every day. They collect data, they analyze, and they guess. The problem is that if they guess wrong, they are out of business, yet in the final analysis, they don’t know if their plan is going to work or not. To make matters worse, their client is not guessing, their client is calculating. They are calculating that if their business runs a 10% profit margin, and they buy 30 second spot on NBC for $100,000, it has to generate an additional $1,000,000 in sales – to break even! That’s a tough mark to hit day after day, but they do it. Not because they can analyze their way to a successful campaign, but because they have a good system, they know something of the human psyche, and they are not afraid to guess. It also works because our ego won’t let us believe that it works.
When I left the club that day there were four young men getting on their motorcycles – all smoking Marlboro’s. They actually believe that their Marlboro decision is based on taste, or price, or wisdom, but the rest of us know better – and it didn’t take an hour..