Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Posted on May 19, 2009 by Jayant Kadambi

Benjamin Disraeli, the 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, who incidentally also held the post of Prime Minister of England is attributed to making the statement “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” The sentence refers to the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments, and the tendency of people to disparage statistics that do not support their positions.

In the advertising business, data and metrics are key. Ad data, including impressions, unique viewers, ads streamed, ads delivered, click-through-rate, engagement, and a myriad of other metrics are analysed, counter-analysed and then used in hundreds of powerpoint decks to show clients and customers why the advert campaign did or didn’t do well.

One set of data that is often quoted, (and I still can’t figure out what the data really means), is the “potential” reach and “actual” reach in terms of unique viewers and impressions for both display and video ads.

In general, people and companies like to be at the top of lists, not in the middle or at the end. Go figure. And when the being at the top of the list may feel as if it’s material to the business or the reputation, the data is often manipulated, and if not manipulated on purpose, then by benign neglect. Take video impressions. Reporting agencies have a list of the “top” video ad networks. So, it’s in everyone’s interest to be at the top of the list. One probably should define what a video ad is before we start making statistics about video ad networks.

So, while I pause before the next blog, the question to think about is what is a video ad? Is it a flash file in a banner, a pre-roll video in a player, a post-roll video in a player, a swf that expands in a banner slot? There are other choices, but let’s chew on these for a while.

Stay tuned…

- Jayant Kadambi