The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

When Is A Case Study Not A Case Study …
December 13, 2013, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

You’d think that having just come back from my 214th holiday of the year, I’d be happy and have nothing to complain about.


But it’s not my fault, it’s when companies put things like this out and try and say it’s a case study in creative effectiveness:

Are they being serious?

I hope not because putting aside the fact the ‘results’ are either ridiculously ambiguous or are of no true commercial value to the client other than stroking their precious ego, the fact is there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that any one of those 3000 bottles of ‘hot sauce’ had any direct effect on their clients business.

Maybe its because the case study was badly written up?

Maybe … but as I assume the ‘data’ being quoted came from the agency, I can’t see how this could be reported without their involvement.

Maybe it’s because the client didn’t want to release all the data?

Maybe … but that makes the case study pretty worthless given there’s little context to evaluate the true level of success achieved.

Maybe it’s because some people think this is what constitutes a ‘case study’?

Sadly, this is quite possibly the case.


I cannot tell you how angry this sort of thing makes me feel.

It’s exactly this sort of thing that makes adland a laughing stock in business because what we’re actually demonstrating is we don’t even understand the fundamentals of what business is supposed to be.

+ Did Ford make all their employees swear to secrecy prior to the launch of the car?

+ Was every press release banned from ever mentioning this car?

+ Were all Ford salesman kept in the dark about the impending launch?

+ Were all dealerships under strict orders to not feature collateral or examples of the car?

+ Did every car industry magazines/website agree to not mention the car?

+ In other words, were the 3000 bottles of hot sauce the only exposure this car had in terms of communicating it’s availability?

My guess is no.

My guess is that there was a lot of exposure that was used to communicate this special edition vehicle to the people of NZ.

In fact, I’d say the results are quite poor given a ‘special edition’ normally encourages people to act quickly and immediately … but as they don’t say how many cars were actually available, we will never know.

The thing that bugs me with this – apart from the fact the case study is more flawed than Seal’s face – is that adland loves to take all the credit when things are [allegedly] good but so bad at taking the responsibility when things go bad.

Sure, everyone is a bit like that, but adland has made it an art-form … however when they take credit for ‘good news’ that is questionable, they just make themselves look like fools.

Don’t get me wrong, I like that they tried to explore new ways to launch a car, but the information they are using to communicate this story doesn’t – in any way – show it had any impact on the end result. None. Nada. Zilch.

What this means is that if they say it did, they need to show it and prove it because as it stands now, this is nothing more than a case study for creative gimmicks, not creative effectiveness.

36 Comments so far
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May be, creating a hot dog would be better rather than the sauce.

Comment by greetingsfromindia

Could I ask where this case study appeared Robert? Surely it was not an award submission or a magazine article.

I wonder if the industry understand the harm this type of “case study” does to them? What they think may be communicating the power of creativity actually communicates their ignorance of business.

You are right to be disgusted Robert, it is embarrassing. If the people behind this campaign tried to sell their effectiveness with this example, I would throw them out of my office immediately.

Comment by Lee Hill

Well said Lee and Rob. This is surely some kind of very stupid joke.

Comment by Pete

It was in an industry magazine Lee. A respected one.

Comment by Rob

Another first for adland. The scam case study.

Comment by Bazza

Or the case study for a scam campaign.

Comment by Pete

But if the campaign did take place and this is the write up, then it is just a terrible case study.

Comment by Pete

The campaign did take place – which is a plus – but sadly, they are trying to claim success in ways that aren’t successful.

As I said, I think it’s great they did something new and interesting … but rather than try and claim sales effectiveness, there were surely other metrics they could have looked at to present their case in a more favourable light [even though companies wants to know the direct impact on their business, not the agencies]

Comment by Rob

If they’d given shampoo away instead of hot sauce the car would have sold out in days because the fiesta is a jersey hairdressers car.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Before the comment section becomes an anger management meeting, I’d like to point out two things: (1) most people, clients and agency folks alike do not have the faintest idea of what effectiveness is. So they convinced themselves that pulling this kind of crap is acceptable, obviously it is not. (2) Companies (not only marketing departments) need to start to do the fucking talk. This kind of insanity would not happen in a business without siloes, the first person to call bullshit on this would the damn CFO since this investment carried no return whatsoever. Maybe case studies are a way to draw attention away from the real issue into some marketing gimmick CMOs can ‘control’.
Then again, it is likely I am utterly wrong.

Comment by John Doe

This is additional proof that the marketing director has lost their seat at the boardroom table along with the agencies. If the advertising industry wants to know why procurement are now so involve in the agency process, they need to just look at this sham of a case study. Nicely said John Doe, you are far from wrong.

Comment by George

Sadly marketing has become – in many companies anyway – a ‘sales support’ discipline.

Of course, marketings role has always been to help drive the business, but what I mean is that inside many organisations, the focus is more on creating sales collateral than doing things that fundamentally attracts people to the brand and drive the overall business.

In other words, it’s now a passive discipline rather than an active. Not in all companies obviously, but it feels [and this is purely a personal view with no data to back it up whatsoever] in the majority.

Comment by Rob

And it’s fun seeing all you planner types cry like little pansies.

Comment by Billy Whizz

This does not promote the value of creativity, it promotes ignorance and ridicule. Isn’t the Ford account handled by a WPP agency? The network that likes to say they are all about business? It appears that translates as being all about their business, not their clients. Humiliating. Well destroyed Robert, though they did an adequate job of doing that themselves.

Comment by George

It says it was done by JWT Auckland. There’s only about 3000 people in the place isn’t there? And 20 trillion sheep.

Comment by DH

look at auntie getting fucking touch. what happened, did the google kitchen run out of your favourite fucking papaya salad with couscous?

Comment by andy@cynic

Yep. Though to be fair, Sir M would probably go insane if he saw this being put out. He is very smart and wouldn’t fall into believing this rubbish.

Comment by Rob

I’d rather have the hot sauce than the fiesta.

Comment by DH

i like this post because campbell is back to doing what he does best, being a fucking bastard little bitch. he also is good at vein an annoying dick, but hes slagging off wpp so ill let him off.

Comment by andy@cynic

i thought youd like this ad campbell. didnt you always want an xr2i but ended up with a fucking ford fiesta hairdryer with less than a 1000cc engine?

Comment by andy@cynic

950cc with one wing mirror and no radio. A nightmare.

Comment by Rob

I’m very glad people are as equally offended by this case study as I am. Of course, it would be hard not to when it’s so flawed.

I swear the problem is because 99% of adland think they are at the business end of creativity, however as I’ve banged on about for literally decades [mainly because Lee – when he was my client – used to bang on about it to me for decades], we need to be at the creative end of business.

It might sound very similar, but the approach, creativity, opportunity and effectiveness end up being miles apart.

Comment by Rob

“Promoting a slightly different version of an existing model can be a bit of a slog” – exactly like working down a mine or on the night shift on the emergency ward.

You were too soft on these morons.

Comment by John

hes become more italian than nottingham as hes got older. fucking wimp.

Comment by andy@cynic

Agree with Mr. Dodds wholeheartedly.

Comment by John Doe

And a five pecent increase in Facebook fans. Trebles all round.

Comment by John

If this was printed in an industry magazine then it says as much about the adland as it says about JWT Auckland.

Comment by Wayne Green

Hi Wayne, you’re right … the fact this got printed without any element of ridicule is the saddest inducement on our industry. Hope you’re tops matey.

Comment by Rob

Great post Rob. This sort of ‘case study’ is appearing all over the trade press, and is a poor reflection on all involved. Agencies basically ‘refresh’ a campaign launch press release with a couple of ‘results’, then present it to the trades as a ‘case study’. The journos don’t question what they’re sent and are happy to have some words to fill a space.

Comment by Trade press survivor

Hello Trade Press Survivor … nice to have you pop by. As I am sure you can tell from the tone of this post, this case study upset me a lot.

I actually rate the industry I work in. I believe we can make a true and lasting difference to clients and society … however if this is the sort of shit that adland puts out to ‘validate’ our value, then the opportunity to prove ourselves will continue to decline because companies won’t believe a word we say and won’t believe we can make any difference to their business beyond churning out sales collateral.

The fact our industry press doesn’t challenge this sort of thing upsets me. They should be representing the best of us … not just the press releases the agencies want to churn out … and while I know it must be a nightmare to fill the pages for each edition, becoming a receptacle for any hype an agency wants to put out, is doing them – as well as us – a massive disservice.

Comment by Rob

I was chatting the other day with a planning director who was complaining that the industry is becoming fixated on execution rather than outcome – and that all the shiny digital toys are exacerbating this trend. I think the trades generally reflect this, rather than call BS on it.

Comment by Trade press survivor

I absolutely think we should be focused on what the goal and result is – whether that is financial or attitudinal or whatever – but I also think we should celebrate creative thinking and application because ultimately, that is what separates us from so many other industries and approach. My issue is that they are generally treated and reviewed separately when they should always be evaluated together because the reality is they are absolutely not mutually exclusive.

Thank you for your words, it’s great to hear your viewpoint.

Comment by Rob

If the industry press started challenging the methods and results of the industry, who would pay their excessive conference and award entry fees?

Comment by Pete

I’m not sure I can add much to what has already been said, but it pains me to see stuff like this that drags everything down.
I’m staring at this moment at a ridiculous, sumptuous box of chocolates that has been sent to me and my team for Xmas (meeja agencies always do well at this time of year) and it seems like digital, experiential and all like is just like that box of chocolates, they look lovely but have fuck all nutritional value.
Even worse, the majority (not all) of the types that peddle them, either residing in ad agencies, or as specialists don’t seem to help to account in the way that paid for ads are.
Some of that is because the ones that peddle them haven’t a clue, but much of the blame also resides in clients that don’t want to accept that the route to growth is still scale .
Oh, I don’t care, Paula Abdul is coming on the radio and I’ve going to eat a Hotel Chocolat Vanilla Bell (sounds pervy actually)

Comment by northern

who the fuck do you think you are with that analogy, forrest fucking grump?

Comment by andy@cynic

i meant to write gump but grump came out. the universe has spoken loud and fucking clear.

Comment by andy@cynic

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