Monday, November 27, 2017

There’s no such thing as precision.

For as long as men have been dropping, or firing, or even throwing ordnance at each other, people with epaulets on their shoulders have called it “precision bombing.”

Precision bombing was tried by both the Allies and the Central Powers during World War One, a trifle over 100 years ago, but abandoned. The promise was way ahead of reality.

In World War Two, all sorts of “advances” were made in precision bombing. Various bomb-sights and electronically-guided rockets and artillery shells were supposed to all-but-eliminate collateral damage. Various droppers-of-bombs claimed accuracy, under certain conditions, of 100 yards, or even 25 yards.

However, by the summer of 1944, by which time the Allies had had a lot of “target practice,” precision bombing was largely a fanciful notion. It took, for instance, 108 B-17 bombers, crewed by 1,080 airmen, dropping 648 bombs to guarantee a 96 percent chance of getting just two hits inside a 400 x 500 ft German power-generation plant.

In Korea and, later, in Vietnam, despite some success with laser-guided bombs which could strike within 20 feet of the intended target, most of the bombs dropped in those wars came from B-52s, which didn’t even make an attempt at precision bombing.

Precision bombing, we were told, had really arrived by the time we attempted to wipe Iraq off the map in 1991. However, despite their purported advantages over “dumb” bombs, precision bombs accounted for less than 10-percent of the ordnance dropped by American imperial forces.

In Sunday, November 19ths' “New York Times Magazine,” there was an article entitled “The Uncounted.” Here is its subtitle: “An on-the-ground investigation reveals that the U.S.-led battle against ISIS — hailed as the most precise air campaign in history — is killing far more Iraqi civilians than the coalition has acknowledged.”

In other words, precision ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.

This post, however, is not about bombing, though I suppose it could be. It’s about not believing men (they are largely men) who wear epaulets, either real or figurative one. That is the people who issue proclamations.

In marketing, I believe, those who use of the word precision—as in precision-targeting—are as full of bombast and deception as are our generals.

Whether it’s my personal email, my social newsfeeds, or the reprobate marketers who call my various phones—willy-nilly better describes their efforts than precision.

I don't believe, because I have never seen, the right message, to the right person, at the right time. If such precision is more than a chimera, how come it hasn't happened to me, once, in the 20 or so years I've been online?

So as far as precision marketing goes, I’ll be precise about this: I’ll believe it when I see it.

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