Let’s not get contaminated with the results, okay people?


I was asked the other day a curveball by someone outside of the industry. It wasn’t the usual eyeball rolling fodder of “have you done any ads I would have seen?” or “what do you work on? TV or print or…” instead it was a fairly robust one of:

“What were the results of the last campaign you worked on?”

The way I see it results is a fairly loose term at best, was she (it was a she) meaning results in terms of quality of work (in which case, ‘very poor’) or was she meaning financial results, which is what I took it to mean.

My answer was this: “I have no idea.”

Not only was this the honest truth but also in the ten years of working in the industry I have only twice come to know the results of ad campaigns I’ve worked on.

In both cases it was only because of the abysmal failure of both campaigns.

In the first case, a $120,000 website was built to generate leads. It generated 12 unique impressions of which 7 downloaded a pack. Of this there were 3 sales.

In the second case, the client bent our arm to do a cheap knockoff of an existing stunt and was rewarded with a grand total of 16 texts to their competition.

So apart from these two stellar performances, I don’t know if the ads I’ve created have worked or crashed in spectacular fashion. I have not had an inkling as to whether I’ve made marketers famous, or destitute.

It’s a little like a heart surgeon who is never told if the patient lives or dies at the end of the operation.

Okay, perhaps we’re not heart surgeons, but you get the general gist.

In ad land’s circle of life, you have: the planning, the creation, the implementation and then the post mortem. An ad campaign starts as a near perfect embryo and usually ends life on the floor as a two headed screaming monster batting one eyelid due to locked in syndrome and motioning on an alphabet board to silently be put to sleep forever when the nurses go out.

My question is this: shouldn’t the creatives know a little bit more about the afterbirth so we can see if what we’re doing at the conception stage is right for future ad campaigns?

In this age where awarded ads are more and more being: a great idea PLUS proven results, I think most creatives would kind of like this information. In fact I’m pretty sure they’d love it.

So why are results always hidden from the creative team?

If you think, they’re hidden from the entire agency you’re wrong. Come Effies and Media Awards time, both client servicing as well as media agencies pull up all the results and data that they’ve had the whole time. There are conversations over what to include and what not to include.

All of this I’ve heard only as an eavesdropper in agencies.

I’d positively invite a conversation of: “Your print campaign increased market share by 6.2% but we were aiming for 8%. Better luck next time kiddo.” And then the Account Director chucks my chin with his knuckles before walking out again.

I’d like that. I think most creatives would.

And who knows… it might even make more effective work as a byproduct.

Shudder the thought.


In “lean manufacturing” they talk about the speed of the feedback loop being a key factor in improving things in a system. The trend towards analytics will improve this, but maybe at the cost of some creativity: http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/do-robots-make-better-marketers-than-humans/ For example, the highest click-through rate you can get on any advert (for any product) is a picture of boobs, but that may not be “on brand”.

posted by Peter Thomson / 06.18.13 - 2:05 pm
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