ROI: Advertising’s Dirty Four-Letter Word

If you work in an ad agency today, you’re pressed by clients demanding accountability. But just because someone’s got numbers, does that mean they rule the roost?

We have access to more data, more statistics, more slicing and dicing of numbers and tactics than ever. And has advertising gotten any better through the years? Hardly. Has the creative work improved? Nope. Less wasteful? Occasionally. Is it still mostly wasted money? Absolutely.
But you will never, ever hear an agency exec get up in a presentation and say, “We don’t know if this’ll work. They won’t even say, “Well, we think it’s gonna work.” They’ll say, “It will work.” Every proposed campaign is a can’t miss. The producers of ‘Ishtar’ probably felt the same way.

It’s the subject of my new column on

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. “But you will never, ever hear an agency exec get up in a presentation and say, “We don’t know if this’ll work.”
    Actually, GOOD (as in competent, talented and not-full-of-it) agency people say words to that effect all the time. And GOOD clients already take it as a given. In fact, I think I recall an article Jeff Goodby wrote once where he mentioned advertising being, in essence, a gamble.
    The trouble is, too many agency folk are the bullshit, buzzword variety and too many clients encourage it because the folks they report too are usually cut from the same MBA cloth. So you get agency people continually promising the unpromisable to clients who demand they be lied to or else they’ll pay someone else to do it.
    That’s why in BDAs these days, it’s not generally the cream that rises to the top. More like something else that floats. 🙂

  2. I hate being in a client meeting with people who fully expect me to lie or fudge. It’s total bullshit and something I’ve experienced more times than I care to admit.
    Today, it’s a solid measuring stick. If I can’t tell the truth, I can’t help you.