Giving research the needling it deserves

Acupuncture being used during surgery as an anaesthetic in Cultural Revolution China.

I spent some time yesterday talking to a friend that is studying Chinese Medicine.

She is training to be an acupuncturist and she is interested in the kinds of research used in evidence based medicine.

This is a big issue for complementary therapies in general as they believe in using qualitative as well as quantitative research to understand a treatment’s efficacy since most complementary health treats the whole person and not just observable symptoms.

And it is a big issue for acupuncture in particular as the standard means to test any medical treatment, the randomised controlled trial (RCT) is notoriously problematic for this therapy. You can undertake a RCT but it involves using sham needles on the control and so while a single-blind test is therefore possible the gold standard of a double-blind test is out of the question.

She wanted my help in understanding different research methodologies.

But as a planner working in marketing communications I realised I could be of little help since I rarely come across research. Or rather I rarely come across real research and our little discussion finally proved this to me.

The media shall inherit the earth

The N.W. Ayer buiding in Philadelphia, an art deco masterpiece. N.W. Ayer was founded in 1869 and was the first advertising agency to create ads for clients rather than just book space for them.

I had a terrible premonition the other day.

I was waiting for a meeting at a prestigious London media agency. Their reception was wonderfully swanky, all extreme sports on the telly, big bowls of sweeties on the coffee table and agency propaganda smeared all over the walls. And I clicked.

We, the so called ‘creative agencies’, are not future of advertising, they are.

As I please No.1

“Announcing that the board of trade is about to remove the ban on turned-up trouser ends, a tailor’s advertisement hails this as ‘a first installment of the freedom for which we are fighting’. If we are really fighting for turned up trouser-ends, I should be inclined to be pro-Axis. Turn-ups have no function except to gather dust and no virtue except that when you clean them you occasionally find a six-pence there.” Geroge Orwell discussing the war aims in some detail in ‘As I please’ 4th February 1944.

‘As I please’ was the title George Orwell used for many of his articles whilst a contributor to the left-wing publication Tribune during the 1940s.

These articles covered a vast variety of topics from the defeat of fascism to the makings of a really good cup of tea, such was the eclecticism of Orwell’s writing.

At best they demonstrate Orwell’s supremacy in radical thought – by which he would have meant the facing of uncomfortable truths.

One of the best examples of this , if now rather shocking,is his defence of the bombing of German civilians. For Orwell, in meeting one’s war aims, it is better to kill a broad cross section of society – the old and the young, men and women – rather than to desimate the entire population of one group such as fighting age men. His arguement was that a society will recover more quickly form the former course of action than the latter. An unpalatable thought but probably true.

And I have decided to appropriate the title ‘As I please’ for a number of occasional trips off topic I intend to make this year. A kind of homage to Orwell.

The only rule will be that they attempt to offer a radical piece of thinking in an Orwellian tradition.

First up is a thought that the death penalty is the surest form of escape from punishment.

Bored witless

Wagner’s Ring Cycle (Der Ring des Nibelungen) – considerably less likely to induce boredom than this years IPA effectiveness shortlist.

How ironic. Just as we were wrapping up our discussion about the efficacy of the Honda ‘Power of Dreams’ idea the IPA announces their shortlist for this year’s effectiveness awards.
As awards shortlists go it is as thrilling and exciting a compendium of advertising achievement as it is possible to muster and I can’t wait to read each and every one of these powerful case studies.
In opposite land!

Get your tanks off our lawn

I’m enlisting good women and men ‘husky’ or not for the big push, the ulitmate scrap, the conflict to end all conflicts. As we know the run-in with the management consultancies was a mere skirmish, the real deal is the mother of all battles brewing between the ad agencies and the brand consultancies.
They want our lunch and they are no bloody good at it – handy with a logo but when it comes to business changing ideas they are woolley thinkers every man jack of them and slow and expensive into the bargain. Here is my opening salvo – a letter that appeared in Campaign this week.

Ornaments or instruments?

Brighton Pavillion, described by Lady Sydney Morgan as a ‘toyshop of royal bad taste’ and like most advertising pretty but useless.

Advertising’s ills are many, manifest and increasingly well documented. Many people out there blame the inflexibilty and self interest of the agencies (and I post extensively on this) but how about the clients? I have become increasingly concerned that the greatest threat to advertising is the way clients use it – not as a business tool but as a corporate bauble.

An end to the armistice

The First World war didn’t end on the 11th November 1918. This was merely an armistice. The war ended a year later with the Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles that followed.
I think that it is high time that the armistice maintained between creative and media agencies since our historic schism in the mid 90s be concluded with a peace conference and final treaty.

Death to the lemmings

This blog – unlike many ad blogs that talk about the future – has always set itself against both the Ostriches and the Lemmings. Of course we all loathe the Ostriches, those who continue to find succour beneath the sands of the status quo. But I have an equal amount of contempt for the Lemmings.

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