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Adweek’s front door in Manhattan’s East Village coincidentally opens on Wanamaker Place, named after John Wanamaker, the 19th century retailer, who said the most famous thing ever said about advertising. Since taking up my job at Adweek, almost everyone who I have consulted about the state of the business has found an opportunity to remind me of Wanamaker’s shibboleth and cliché, often more than once. His conundrum seems to inspire both continuing awe about the unknowable magic of advertising and predictable consternation about its inherent waste.
Wanamaker’s formulation has also become, more recently, a rallying cry for those who believe that digital marketing strategies, together with the vast trove of analytics such strategies provide, have solved the fundamental riddle of the business.