I was reading Scott Brinker’s blog Chiefmartec when I saw this article on the hot debate running at AdAge.com. This all started with Kendall Allen’s article on The Dangers Of Online Advertising’s ‘Math State’ and then Joe Zawadzki responded the following week with a rebuttal: Why the “Math Men” Will Set Online Advertising Free.

I particularly like the point that Joe Zawadzki makes:

There’s no unringing a bell: math and technology are part of [the] future of marketing.

But it’s not art or science, people or machine. It’s mad men AND math men.

This got me thinking about the evolution of marketing and why it has reached a state of driven by “Algorithms” and “Math Men” driving the same.

I think it has to do with the speed of new businesses, the impatience of failing fast or learning faster. With the evolution of fast growing business models and the pressures to deliver sales and ROI or even profitability, it’s imperative to run experiments and figure out what works the best for your business. The online media provides that ability, the ability to run experiments and to be able to learn about your customers, to understand the customers and the ability to make changes in communication messages with controlled audiences. All this is provided by automated frameworks that are agile and helps you focus on finding out what matters.

In earlier days, we used to see brands believing the “Mad Men” on the positioning routes that they thought was right and brands spending tons of money to back that up. However, the ROI or “responsibility” to deliver that ROI was less significant. In today’s world, these data models, advanced neural ad-networks, real time bidding and likes help you test the market to really find out what works and what doesn’t. It makes the mad men think harder than earlier times.

I have statistically significant data that suggest that the creatives done by the in-house brick and mortar team of 20 somethings focusing on data and maths (focussing on better Call to Actions, weight of creatives, direct message etc) performed 25% better to drive sales VS the creative agency’s creatives which were more focused on the design and creative messaging.

If you think too hard about the message and finally that message is not performing for you, you can always make changes to your campaigns. This was not possible earlier in traditional media (that easily). Today if the mad men have given you the message, they should take responsibility of the numbers too. Yes, there are math men to support with all the technology prowess to be able to bring that responsibility to the forefront.

I think a lot of work that mad men did can now be done by experimentation by math men. I understand that this puts a lot more pressure on the mad men to own up and bring more responsibility to the table along with their creative hats. Is that too much to ask for in the world where you can measure things?

I would add on to Joe’s point and say: It’s math men AND “responsible” mad men.