1. It Could Be You

    The tube station ads this morning were trying to convince me to buy tube station ads.

    "37% of people go online after seeing an advert in this space" they cried.

    Wow, 37%! You’d be LEAVING MONEY ON THE TABLE if you didn’t.

    I mean, we don’t know what question they actually asked - do you go online if you see an interesting tube station advert? (but what defines interesting) Or - most likely in my experience - have you ever gone online after seeing a tube station advert?

    (I went online to shout angrily like an angry old man about Pete Doherty and the bloody Kooples taking over Oxford Circus. Does that count?)

    (Actually why is “going online” such a great thing for a prospect to do? It doesn’t mean they’re going to BUY it.)

    So say 37% of people remember going online to check out something after seeing an ad. Actually it’s probably more, some people can’t remember and some people won’t know or say it’s the ad prompting the decision. Let’s say it’s TWICE as many. 74% -

    - BLOODY HELL 74% of people go online after seeing an ad! *scrabbles for credit card, feverishly dials TUBECORP* -

    But - of course - what does this tell you about YOUR ad? NOTHING AT ALL. If one person goes on 500 tube journeys a year between 1000 stations and sees, oh, another thousand ads in that time (allowing for them sticking around etc) (BLOODY KOOPLES), and goes online after seeing ONE of those, then he’s still in the 74%! But the odds don’t look quite so good.

    It’s lottery thinking - a number (we’ve created 10,000 millionaires!) used to make something sound effective. All the 37% statistic really says is that 63% of people WON’T ever go online after seeing your ad. NOT SO EFFECTIVE NOW EH.

    What they’re trying to hint is that EVERY ad is acted on by 37% of the people who see it. Which is nonsense, of course, so “of course” that it feels embarassing to even have to type “of course”. But as long as we keep using crap self-reported surveys as a proxy for effectiveness this is what we’ll get.

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