Paul Lachine

The Transparent Consumer

There’s an old, true joke in the advertising business: half of it is wasted on customers who will never buy, but nobody knows which half. The real number is probably much worse, but that is beginning to change, thanks to a massive increase in the amount of relevant information.

NEW YORK – There’s an old, true joke in the advertising business: half of it is wasted on customers who will never buy, but nobody knows which half. People avoid health-care jokes, but you could say the same thing about drugs.

In fact, in both advertising and pharmaceuticals, no one knows what the numbers are, because no one knows what “effectiveness” means, other than people buying things or recovering their health. But was it the advertisements or the drugs that led to one outcome or another?

It is becoming easier to find out (and for this article, let’s just assume the privacy issues are properly addressed). In both cases, the amount of information about the targets (the potential buyers or ill people who could get better) and the outcomes (who bought what or who got better) is increasing rapidly. Indeed, there is little difference between advertisements and drugs for an information specialist.

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