A surprising number of people say they would prefer a doctor who makes an intuitive rather than a statistical diagnosis. Often they are buoyed by tales of anomalies where a doctor defied the odds and won. Trouble is, if an anomaly were a safe bet, it wouldn’t be an anomaly. As Wichita State University’s Charles Lambdin said, “It is usually in patients’ best interest to be treated like a ‘statistic.’ When doctors hear a decision aid has a 25% error rate and state ‘I can beat that,’ this should raise suspicion.”
Likewise, when an ad agency defies proven practice — assuming they even know about it — clients should think twice about whether they have the right agency.
There exists nearly two centuries’ worth of accumulated knowledge about what works (and what does not work) in advertising. Using anomalies to justify disregarding that knowledge is like ignoring an airplane’s instruments because of the rare case where someone relied on intuition and lived to tell about it. “Trust your feelings” worked for Luke Skywalker, but I seem to recall that Star Wars was a work of fiction.
There is, of course, another problem. I alluded to it a moment ago. Most marketers are unaware of the body of knowledge, not to mention of what constitutes a controlled marketing test. Of the few who know, many disdain it. It’d be one thing if the money they gamble were their own. But since it’s their client’s money, you would think they might feel a certain, oh, I dunno, fiduciary responsibility to stack the odds in their client’s favor.