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Case studies are ads — right?

September 11, 2008

In this post from Herd, the hidden truth about who we are, Mark Earls writes this:

“We’ve all got used to using case studies to make our points: business books like my own work are awash with them (to illustrate better what I fear might otherwise be rather dry and dull points to the reader). The bloggersphere is ripe with case-study arguments, too.”

The thing about case studies is that they are ads. Yes, there are some case studies that are engaging because the material is engaging. I would love to read a case study about the McDonald’s ARG (btw, they sent me an e-mail explaining that with my help, the world was saved or something), but that’s because it’s a wonderful idea.

For the most part, case studies are ad agencies at their worst. They are generally written with lots of screamers using math that doesn’t say anything (we got 40% more response than expected!!!), while spinning the results in a manner that makes the agency look good.

(This is the obligatory part where I say that we have some case studies at our agency that rock.)

Perhaps. But examples of the work are better than the cold written up things we call case studies. Do clients really use them to determine anything? Maybe we should have some case studies for the times where we’ve failed miserably? At least they would stand out.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 11, 2008 3:58 pm

    IMO, clients use case studies to justify, or get necessary buy-in to make, the decision they’ve already made because they were motivated by something more engaging than a case study.

    Numbers nerds need numbers to make decisions, but story sells the decision.

  2. September 11, 2008 4:04 pm

    You’re right about numbers.

    I’ve often thought that people ask for case studies because they are afraid of looking like they forgot to ask for case studies.

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