LETTERS to the editor should be accompanied by a home and business telephone number so that they may be verified. The editor reserves the right to edit letters for brevity if necessary.Research too subjectiveMy god, they're at it again.In the Commercial...

LETTERS to the editor should be accompanied by a home and business telephone number so that they may be verified. The editor reserves the right to edit letters for brevity if necessary.

Research too subjective

My god, they’re at it again.

In the Commercial Persuasion column in the Jan. 11 issue (Highliner relaunch gets low score) someone called Research Systems Corporation is touting yet another system, complete with the required acronyms and phrases like ‘extensive split-cable database,’ ’300+ documented validation cases,’ and ‘ARS Persuasion level.’

Evidently, we need superior ars Persuasion outcomes if we are to advertise effectively.

When we attempt to systematize, we necessarily exclude more than what we include. That is the nature of systems. They enclose.

Therefore, formats which do not fit the system are deemed to be ineffective. What they are, in fact, is incompatible with the system.

A pair of telemark ski boots will not fit a Solomon 747 alpine binding unless you adapt the boot or the binding, one or the other.

Research Systems is making certain assumptions about advertising, and dictating that advertising conform to these assumptions.

What room is there for acceleration components within this system? What about ingression?

How about the Canadian ethos which begins by doubting largely, and gradually grows into accepting, as opposed to an American ethos which applauds newness and remains fickle? Canadians like and need foreplay in their advertising.

The phrase ‘not bad’ means really good in Canada, yet I have heard a California research firm classify it as negative.

There is something very different in the way Canadians and Americans talk about things.

For the time being, anyway, the horseshit level is lower in Canada, although I cannot say I don’t fear its rise.

The point is that if the ARS Persuasion assumptions are established for one cultural bias, then you must add this to the bias in the assumption I earlier mentioned.

The whole effect of the acronymic pseudo-scientific approach to advertising research is that it fosters idea abortionists: people who kill on assumption and who confuse communication with words grouped into marketing settings, as if it was the truth.

Leonard Cohen was right when he said we should never let the facts get in the way of the truth.

With each new branded evaluation system, we become more and more thinkless, each of us forfeiting our intuitive individuality to someone’s impressive-sounding system. The fact is, systems encourage the replacement of thought with approved process. So we develop a lot of people who can’t tell a wank without a program.

Why on earth would Strategy allow such a subjective technique to be used to examine concepts which may have had totally different strategic imperatives than those of the ars dictates?

Other than giving space to yet another purveyor of an easy, saleable ‘truth,’ in return for some provocative columns, I can see no reason.

Back in the Sixties, Printer’s Ink magazine used to run a feature called ‘Which Ad Pulled Best.’ It evaluated two approaches for a given product by starch testing.

This was an interesting and much-read feature. It was also infinitely more fair to the advertiser whose product was being researched because one of his or her offerings always did better than the other.

So, whether you believed in starch, or didn’t equate a research system with ‘truth,’ you could enjoy the exercise.

The new Strategy feature, in which product advertising is subjected to a highly subjective set of assumptions, is no fun at all for the advertiser whose work does badly.

It also contributes to the myth that certain rigid specifications must be met for an advertising offering to be successful.

No one would argue that advertising should be ineffective, but a strong argument can be made that different advertisements in different situations affect, and are affected by, various elements in time, space and culture.

The time and space elements concern themselves with acceleration of understanding.

Culture can mean many different things to different groups.

The statement’s meaning is greatly affected by its source. ‘He was a very tough man’ means one thing to a hockey player, and another to a cannibal.

To offer a simplistic grid to evaluate advertising is to shut out the possibilities of learning more about the advertising.

While one appreciates that researchers have to live, too, and have every right to develop ‘product’ and ‘brand’ procedure, they have operated since the days of Albert Lasker, as bearers of truth, notwithstanding their universal disclaimer at the front of each and every evaluation.

Graham Watt,


Watt Burt Advertising,


New construct

Re: John Dalla Costa’s article (The decline and fault of marketing) in the Jan. 11 issue.

The deconstruction of marketing opens the way for a new construct: interactive marketing, the total empowerment of the consumer.

Long time coming.

Adrian Harvey

Interactive Communications Consultant

Phonetix Corporation