It’s a fascinating read.
Perhaps, what’s driving this phenomenon is something much more profound. Something that applies not just to advertising. “There is a fear that saying ‘I don’t know’ amounts to an admission of incompetence,” Tadelis observed. “But ignorance is not incompetence, curiosity is not incompetence.”
We want certainty. We used to find it in the Don Drapers of the world, the ones with the best one-liners up their sleeves. Today we look for certainty from data analysts who are supposed to just show us the numbers.
Lewis admitted that it’s not all bad. Decisions have to be made, somebody has to lay out a strategy, doubt must stop at some point. For that reason, companies hire overconfident people who act like they know what they cannot possibly know.
Lewis could never do the sort of work they do. “I would feel like it’s a random coin toss for most decisions,” he said. But somebody has to toss the coin. And a company full of Randalls only leads to analysis paralysis. Nothing happens.
The following is the paper on which the article is based (there are many, but I found this to be more effective).
The key takeaway from here is this:
Even when they knew, or could have known, that their ad campaigns were not very profitable, it had no impact on how they behaved.
“Beliefs formed on insufficient evidence seem tough to move.”
I think this is relevant as we move towards the era of AI and healthcare. It is primarily a problem that no one’s complaining about. However, it is heavily marketed as the next “healthcare innovation”. Do you know what is required? A simple improvement in the way we capture healthcare data. We need a specific, quantifiable healthcare measurement tool. We don’t need complicated healthcare MBA’s trying to push an idea that the healthcare delivery is broken.
Digital health has its caveats, and unless we learn from the catch-all era of digital advertising, it would only lead to more wastage of money. Online ad networks only increase the selection biases but almost always have no effect on the behavioural pattern.
(This aside, that’s why I feel that an SEO heavy blogging interface with investments in keywords research is a stupid waste of time. If your content is commendable (and not written to attract the bottom feeders, it will sell. While WordPress tries to offer a community, I don’t think it has had any effect on my blogging output. I prefer to grow content “organically”).
Practise what I preach 🙂