The client does not care if you are intellectually stimulated, Kendall, they just want the goddamned sales curve to start moving up

Every revolution has its reactionaries. I was going to respond to Kendall Allen’s article The Math State, but didn’t, for a few reasons: it wasn’t convincing enough to need a response, I’ve stated my answer to the objection elsewhere, and Joe Zawadzki is a better writer than I am.

I want to note, though, that when I accepted an offer to work at Omnicom, some 15 years ago, I was handed a copy of Peppers and Rogers.  This was the future, I was told, One to One Marketing. Some six years later the Economist wrote that “the marketing department is the last part of the modern corporation to resist automation.” It’s interesting that after so many years of wishing for it, the industry starts to object as soon as it becomes plausible.

This new math state is not new. It is a stage in a journey that some of us have been taking for more than a decade and one that will take another decade to reach its apotheosis. For those who don’t like it, I’ll trundle out the old Rosser Reeves quote that everyone in the agency world says they believe but that few really do:

What do you want out of me? Fine writing? Do you want masterpieces? Do you want glowing things that can be framed by copywriters? Or do you want to see the goddamned sales curve stop moving down and start moving up? 

Reality in Advertising, R. Reeves, 1961.


  1. If you aren’t directly causing the profit needle to significantly move, then it’s quite simply a waste of time and money.

    What is with this whole generation of new marketers who seemingly don’t want to recognize ANY company exists solely to generate shareholder equity; not for everybody to hold hands & sing kumbaya together!

  2. It shouldn’t be about the Math State or the Creative State. It should be about the Sales State. Math and Creative are just a means to an end … moving the “goddamned sales curve” up. I think the debate/focus on both sides has actually lost sight of that. The Math State citizens are losing the forest for the trees by getting too hung up on touting/tuning the tools without grounding themselves in the strategy of how to “put an ad in front of you that would be valuable for you to click on”. The Creative State residents are pining for the good ol days of creative epiphanies in corner offices. Math and Creative both matter but what really matters is how you leverage both to drive sales up and to the right.

  3. Here’s a question that I’ve been wondering about. How many agencies out there have their media buyers helping to design the pitch?

    The biggest schism right now is that the “math state” is being used only for optimization purposes. Where are the people using the state for creative purposes?

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