Irish adland must be wary of confirmation bias

In an era in which the ‘long tail’ of culture is basically neverending, specific market insights and careful analysis of target consumers is critical.

We’ve spoken before on this blog about the fallacy of age rigidity, but similarly, as marketers we must also strive to be careful to delve deeper with insights and not merely accept a favoured hypothesis.

The work of analysts like Malcolm Gladwell and Freakonomics illustrate that selective thinking around marketing and advertising can be a contagious disease.

‘Confirmation bias’ or the tendency to give more attention and weight to data that support our beliefs than we do to contrary data, is especially threatening. The theory illustrates why it’s so important for strategists and planners to really get inside the mind of their target – to play the role of consumer advocate in the briefing process.


With this in mind, recent research from TAM Ireland makes for interesting reading. It seems that the behaviour of the good folk of adland is quite different from the ‘man and woman on the street’, in terms of digital nativity. For example, just over 1 in 4 (28%) regular TV Viewers have a tablet in their home while 3 in 4 (78%) of marketers do. In addition 72% of TV viewers have a laptop in their home compared to 98% of adlanders.

Those in advertising were found to be more socially active (4 times more likely to use Twitter daily) and 3 times more likely to ‘second screen’

This propensity for early adoption is obviously a worthwhile exercise and necessary to stay ahead of the curve, but also needs to be taken into account to avoid ‘group think’.


Attempting to shoehorn a particularly juicy square insight into a round target market is tempting, but should be avoided at all costs. – often the success of a multi channel campaign rests on understanding existing behaviours.

It’s for the above reasoning that second guessing and self reference are critical skills within an industry that can sometimes be portrayed as overconfident and brash. So strategists, think twice before putting the seal on that creative brief!

Originally posted on Target McConnells Insights Blog