Thursday, April 23, 2009

Truths + Facts: Belief systems being challenged

Facts and truths don't really have much to do with one another - William Faulkner

One of the truisms in an age of self evidence is that everyone is entitled to their personal truths. Sometimes, we actually use facts to support our positions, often times we use data. And in other situations, we just hold some things to be self what I just typed.

For marketers, we've relied on the best available data to discern that facts that support the truth about our advertising efforts. Neilsen ratings, market research, market development data...all provide proxy support for the truths we hold to be self evident: that the campaign we created is reaching the right person in the right way with the right impact at the right time. Put another way, we believe it was noticed, we beleive it worked. And in the general truthiness of the statement 'more often than not', we are right.

But what if we really wanted to know the facts? The best available data on TV viewing is about to get realtime and real betterer: TiVo has announced that they are going to sell realtime data on what viewers watch...and all but the smallest of the country's 210 markets. (see here).

So what?

TiVo's universe of 3.3 million subscribers is, of course, self selecting and not entirely representative of all demographic groups...except the one defined merely as 'human'. But beyond that, the TiVo announcement may mean the following truths become self evident using the facts:

  1. Neilsen's quarterly local data on 400 households, three or four times a year, may seem as quaint and incomplete as a single candle on an 80 year old's birthday cake.
  2. Marketers may know the facts surrounding a program's viewer habits, such as timeshifting, program browsing and viewing duration, as well as the inevitable ad skipping.
  3. Media planners and buyers may get to explore a host of new facts challenging assertions by reps on topics like dayparts, must-see TV and program ratings.
  4. Advertising agencies will have access to facts about behavior that can inform audience insights and creative approaches in a test-evaluate-retest model more common in the online and direct response spaces.

Of course, whether these truths turn out to be self evident will depend on what the facts actually say...and one's willingness to believe them. 

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