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

The Truth Is Hard To Find …

Many years ago, I was in a meeting where a client was using their ‘data’ to explain why they wouldn’t be going with our idea.

At the heart of the clients issue was the fact they felt the audience we were going to engage was too niche and they wanted to go as broad as possible.

Putting aside the fact you should never have a target audience of ‘everyone’ – not to mention the fact by targeting the core of a culture, you find they pull the broader culture up with them – what we hated was the client was [incorrectly] using data to hide behind their fear.

Up steps Andy.

“Have you ever used a prostitute?”

Unsurprisingly, the client denied this strenuously.

“That’s interesting …”, said my evil ex-colleague, “… because for the oldest industry in the World, I’ve never met anyone who admitted to using them.”

Of course what he was trying to say is that what people say, isn’t always what they really think or do – especially when there is so much evidence to prove it if you’re just willing to look under some rocks – and while we didn’t win that particular argument with that particular client, it does highlight an important point that I believe is becoming even more difficult today.

It’s hard to find the truth.

I don’t mean that purely in terms of just exploring it – though that’s fucking tough – I mean it in terms of the client often being unwilling to accept it or, more specifically, admit it.

OK, so part of our job is to find a way to make that happen however sometimes – and it feels increasingly so – there’s a blinkered approach to discussing truth, where the corporately agreed narrative is more important than the facts.

There’s a bunch of reasons for this … job security, insecurity, a lack of corporate diversity – both in terms of culture, lifestyle and opinion – and an attitude where middle management believe they are only empowered to say ‘no’ … but fundamentally, we are entering a period where the biggest thing holding a brand back is their reluctance to know who, and what, their audience are really about.

Oh they know the general stuff.

How much they earn.

How much they buy.

What their family consists of.

But get to anything where you understand how this audience thinks or does stuff … and it’s more bland than a James Blunt album.

“They like spending time with their family”.

“They don’t like cleaning, but it makes them feel they’re being a good parent.”

“Safety and security are important for them”.

Nothing highlights this like the recent election results we’ve had.




Sure, some people saw the signs, but the vast majority – with their traditional, designed-for-convenient-answers methodologies, chose to ignore them – preferring to stick to the pre-agreed narrative. And given I heard this quote by Geoff Norcott recently noted …

“Voting conservative is like buying a James Blunt album. You know for a fact millions of people do it, but you never meet anyone who admits to it.”

… it seems things haven’t changed that much from Andy’s observation.

Though I’d argue talking about James Blunt is worse than talking about prostitues.

But then I would say that wouldn’t I.

28 Comments so far
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Andy. Hero.

Comment by DH

good fucking taste.

Comment by andy@cynic

As well as making point, I assume you didn’t like the client and were questioning his appeal to women.

Comment by APAC Insider Magazine

That’s my second favorite Andy story after the “vomit” incident.
This post has made me almost miss cynic.

Comment by DH

im not proud of the vomit incident. im fucking proud of this one though. and i was fucking right. as usual.

Comment by andy@cynic

A rare moment of mature reflection Andrew. Well done.

Comment by Lee Hill

Is Lee being sarcastic?

Comment by DH


Comment by Lee Hill

didnt know you were such a fucking expert at the back handed compliment.

Comment by andy@cynic

Wow … I’m impressed Andy.

Only took you 13+ years to admit it.

Comment by Rob

I remember George telling me that story prior to meeting Andrew for the first time. I was scared to meet him but when I did, I was able to say, “your reputation proceeds you” with total conviction.

Comment by Lee Hill

never scared you into giving me freebies like you gave those 2 fucking freeloaders though did i.

Comment by andy@cynic

We had a distinctive approach to business didn’t we.

Comment by George

i made your life fucking interesting for once.

Comment by andy@cynic

Life has never been the same for me. There’s been moments where it has felt close, but never quite the same as those mad, magic years.

Comment by Rob

Mad and magic in that order.

Comment by George

Andy was right. By the way Rob, I still find it strange to find new posts from you in the morning. But I also find it strange we are in the same state.

Comment by Pete

And what a state you’re both in.

Comment by John

If it’s any consolation Pete, I can’t believe it either.

Comment by Rob

Karma has hit me with this post because I’m in a meeting where the whole conversation is how the data should dictate all our creative approaches regardless of the fact (1) their data is insanely general and (2) they readily admit they don’t have answers for why certain things (ie: original work) has been so effective.

I will be dropping my ‘counter argument bomb’ in 5-4-3-2-1 …

Comment by Rob

Finally karma comes good. Except it’s karma that I want you to defeat which screws with my brain.

Comment by DH

Pro tip: best not to mention your 3% maths exam score.

Comment by John


Comment by Rob


Comment by crowdedmind

” …an attitude where middle management believe they are only empowered to say ‘no’ …”

Rob Dow once remarked that this wasn’t quite true. He said “They can’t say ‘yes’ but they can’t say ‘no’ either. We’re dealing with people who only have the power to say ‘maybe’ “.

I think he got it just right.

Comment by Ian Gee

one thing i know rob is that there is no absolute truth – there is only information shaped by the context within which it is presented. and – there is lots of facts many of which are inconvenient. smart planners should just stick to making their employers money – we are not here to make the world a better place – are we? nope didnt think so.

Comment by Mark Hancock

I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic or not but for what it’s worth, there is absolute truth – admittedly not always in subjects related to advertising – but making money and making the world a better place (or at least segments of culture) do not have to be mutually exclusive. Yes it’s more difficult, but everything worth working towards, is.

Comment by Rob

agree there are some ‘absolutes’ such as the speed of light – but i hold by there is no absolute truth – plenty of verifiable facts but ‘truth’ – not so much. yes we can all hope to make the world a better place but there are no agencies in the big networks that would jeopardise the income for work that doesn’t sell so that always comes first in my experience. once you get higher up the organisation the more you realize that its about money for shareholders – nothing else so you have to battle everyday for ideas that go above and beyond and if you can make the world a better place – brilliant – i struggle to think of any real examples that actually improved things – they are few and far between. still agree that its worth the effort – but depends on the outfit you work for. 🙂

Comment by Mark Hancock

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