Science is not relevant to the development of brand advertising

Assessing creativity is subjective and human subjectivity can never be measured by scientific reason. Therefore, science has no role in the creation of advertising.

Can we ever know what we think we know, or do we just happen to get some things right, sometimes, about the way things are?

Understanding something is not the same as believing, and believing something does not reveal truth, or intrinsic knowledge.

Despite this, some practitioners within the advertising fraternity seem obsessed with reducing advertising, or the power of persuasion, to a single universal truth via the false application of science, on the basis that, if they can make the label stick, because it’s science, it must be true!

The increasing demand for tangible return on investment has opened the door to the introduction of scientific reasoning to establish credibility for non-proven theories and sales pitches, based on a simple expectation that the future should resemble the past.

This is misleading, and should only serve to remind one and all that, behind every proposition, lies a very large element of self-interest.

For example, we do not understand why consumers behave the way they do. Do we not all agree, the consumer is irrational, and the subconscious controls most actions in respect to brand choice and purchase?

So whilst it may be credible to draw on past experience when making inference about cause and effect, what grounds do we have for relying upon extrapolation from the past into the future?

Where is the insight into the nature of human behaviour to allow us to do so?

Knowledge of the unobservable world is not possible.

The unobservable in this instance being the process in the consumers’ mind that eventually leads to a specific brand purchase.

Aggregating large numbers of actions through big data?

That’s not science, that’s simple best practice based on mechanical analysis of past outcomes.

In other words induction, and induction is not a rational method of inference, it is informed judgement.

Some are better at informed judgement than others, sometimes, which makes for the difference between good and not so good creativity.

Current thinking in advertising resembles the intellectual world of the 18th century, the early modern period when the mediaeval mindset was being exposed by the Enlightenment, reflecting the shift from the occult and subjective opinion, to mechanics.

This cannot be conflated with a shift towards advertising as science.

Two considered concepts discredit the relevance of scientific theory from the creation of effective brand advertising. 

There are always many alternative theories to explain events

(Under-determination of theory by evidence) and reaching a conclusion via scientific approach means the end of thinking at a certain point when creativity demands ongoing enquiry.


All past scientific theories turn out to be false, if not completely, then always to a certain extent

(Pessimistic meta-induction from past falsity).

For example the Flat Earth theory, Newtonian Law, the Geocentric universe, The Theory of Relativity to name but a few.

All past theories prove to be false or incomplete, so why should new scientific theories be accepted?

Advertising influences at the cultural level to build brands, as a source of information in the great sea of culture that we all float around in.

Whoever the cultural intermediaries responsible for the quality of brand communications (advertising agencies, clients, media owners), creativity has to be recognised as the key ingredient. It has no need of a universal truth, it just is (good or not good) and as such needs no rational justification.

The quality of ideas is reflected by ads that work, or don’t, as proven via considered implementation.

Creativity is subjective and transcends pseudo-scientific rigour.

Most can agree on what makes for a good campaign, you know it when you see it, and so does the consumer as demonstrated by advertising with the pay back to back up the common consent of creative excellence.

Creativity is what makes or breaks brands and makes science irrelevant.