Vampires = $7B Hollywood Business…Yet Testing Never Predicted That

The Hollywood Reporter posted an item today which claims that stories about the blood-sucking undead have grossed roughly seven billion dollars across all mediums over the past two years.  According to their projections, the numbers breakdown to roughly three billion for film, 1.6 billion for books, 1.2 billion for TV and DVD’s, 600 million for merchandising, and another 600 million under the catchall ‘other.’  Bela Lugosi would be so proud…

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79And yet for all the runaway success of Stephanie Meyer, HBO’s True Blood, and even Vampires Suck, no advertising testing methodology predicted the massive impact on the economy that these tales would create.  Neither ASI, LINK, nor any other putative resource alerted marketers to the potential of these storylines.

Defenders of these kinds of tools say that’s not their purpose–these methodologies can only predict the market success of stimulus placed before them, but to me, that’s the very flaw that makes brand management’s blind faith in these products so disheartening.  If I were going to make an annual investment of hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars in testing research, I’d demand a better product.  I’d demand something truly useful instead of something that’s merely a high-priced means of minimizing my own career risks.  Qualitative testing can be a very helpful tool for determining generalities and guidelines for our advertising efforts, but as a predictive tool, it’s a complete and utter failure.  And quantitative testing is about as worthwhile as casting rune stones; it may make you feel better but it has precious little practical value.

The timeless advertising sage Bill Bernbach warned the industry against this kind of thing with his admonishment “Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.”  Persuasion demands originality, it thrives on surprise, and yes, the simple quality of an execution can radically enhance an idea, even a banal one.

And like a vampire, the thing about great persuasion is you never see the sucker coming.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


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