Data vs. Context – James Cameron and David Ogilvy Way
July 19, 2011
In this series of posts, I will try illustrate my learning in the data world.
- Don’t just rely on data. Powerful context dwarfs data. In fact, with a good context data serves as a subtext at best, as a distraction at worst.
An old, blind man is said to beg outside Ogilvy and Mather office. On an unusually sunny and bright day David Ogilvy noticed the old man standing with a sign – “I am blind. Please help”. Ogilvy stopped by, took his sign and added a few words. “It’s spring out there and I am blind”. The poor man had collected a huge sum by the evening.
- Raw data is the cheapest commodity. The world produces more bits and bytes a day than the total number of people ever lived. Thus, data by default is useless. If raw data is the only weapon to convince, try to tell a better story or a meaningful context.
After the ship sinks in ‘Titanic’, James Cameron opted to show starry sky. His rationale was perhaps to introduce enough fuzzy light for viewers. Cameron researched some really fine details and nailed it accurate. e.g., only three of four engines were used in the actual ship. The director correctly showed only three stacks of smoke coming out in the movie. However, his team got the entire sky wrong!
The constellation showed was wrong to the point of silly. Left side of it was the mirror image of stars showing in the right side. Sky never looked like it from any point on the earth ever in recorded history.
A scientist got an opportunity to chat with and complained about this detail to Cameron. He thanked the scientist for noticing and — sarcastically — added had he gotten the night sky “right” the movie may have grossed another $200M. Who knows?
To be continued.