What the election reminded me about data.

If you’re new to this blog, it won’t take you too long of scrolling through the archives to realize that I’m a data dude.  I love me some research, focus groups, surveys, customer modeling, and more.  Why?  Well, I firmly believe that advertising without this info is like throwing darts blindfolded.

In fact, I won’t do a show without doing some sort of market analysis before going to market.  (Yep, that was me who dial-tested Somewhere in Time when we were out of town.)

The more data, the better.

But do I let that data make the decisions for me?


Because, as we learned in Tuesday’s election . . . data can sometimes be very, very, exceptionally very, wrong.

Every pollster, every pundit, and just about every person (including many Trump campaign members) had Secretary Clinton handling our President-Elect an ego-smacking loss.

But it didn’t happen.

Because data isn’t always right.

Surveys, focus groups, and yeah, even that dial testing, can’t be what makes your decisions.  Those tools can only be used as evidence as you ponder your decision.  Because doing something just because the numbers say so is a sure way to fail, or at least produce super-uninteresting art.

What’s the best use of all that data then?  I like to say that data settles 3 AM arguments . . . between creatives who are fighting like cats and Cats about whether a song should stay or go (“Why don’t we look at the research?”), or producers arguing about a certain tag line or another (“Why don’t we look at the research”), and so on.

Research may show you how things should play out, but that doesn’t mean that’s how they will play out.

So do your research.  I believe producers have an obligation to study the market and their product before spending millions of investor money on the show.  But when you get that research, don’t forget that there’s a key element of producing that must go hand in hand with all that data.

Your gut.


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 Listen to Podcast Episode 97 with Three Time Tony-Winning Director, Jack O’Brien! Click here.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.