Total Drek

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Not the approach I would have selected.

Regular readers of this blog no doubt realize that I am a Stata whore.* For those who don't know, Stata is a statistical software package much beloved by a variety of social and physical scientists. It has many advantages including the ability to craft intricate programs, a simple interface, and extensive help features.

There are a number of other stats packages that compete with Stata, including the underpowered and occasionally inscrutable SPSS and the flexible, powerful, but nearly homicidally impenetrable SAS. SAS is, indeed, the bitch queen of the statistical software world, having been developed from modest FORTRAN and Kobol beginnings to become a relatively modern approach to processing data. Unfortunately a lot of that early history is still lingering in SAS's design such that it reminds me of nothing so much as an apartment in Venice. Sure it has electric lights and air conditioning, but since you're basically working with a foundation older than you, there are just some real constraints on what you can do.

I bring all this up because, occasionally, as I go about my day, I will run into an advertisement for SAS. It is, apparently, in wide use among corporate clients or else it would like to be. Now, selling a stats package is unlikely to ever be a glamorous task- certainly not one that lends itself to a soundtrack by Foghat or the use of swimsuit models- but every now and then it gets a little bizarre. This is one of those times. I recently encountered the following ad for SAS:

For those who don't want to read it completely, we have an advertisement for an advanced stats package that relies on the basic assertion that we are not limited by the reproductive system common to mackeral. So, in other words, "Buy SAS because you aren't a fish."

I don't have a problem with this, per se, but does anyone else think that the advertising firm responsible for this is just kinda running out of good idea?

* A trait I share with Jeremy.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in favor of any ad that doesn't actually reference what the product that it's selling does.

And, really, given SAS's actual characteristics this might be the best way to sell it. Would a list of features really be preferable? It could list wonders such as, "Inconsistent coding"; "Error messages that provide no insight into the actual problems" and "A command structure that references punch cards".

Given that list of "wonderful" features, referencing the reproductive cycle of a fish seems like a smart plan.

The only strategy that I can imagine topping this one, is the use of celebrities. Just because I want a celebrity of some sort (maybe a Victoria's Secret model) to try and sell SAS to me. The possibilities there really are endless--just imagine the layout with "proc reg" output in the background. And maybe the tagline, "What could be simpler?".

Also: good luck tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007 3:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, if I tried SAS and didn't like it, does that make me a mackerel?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007 5:36:00 PM  
Blogger Aftersox said...

I think it's more like a marketer thought, "Only nerds would ever need SAS. What do nerds like? That's right, pointless facts!"

[Grab nerd attention] [Tell them to buy product]

But SAS is lame...

R is where the action is.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007 5:44:00 PM  
Blogger tina said...

I love that you spell Cobol with a K, as if it is some mythical legend you once heard about from an old man who tells ghost stories around the campfire. "And then, kids, they tell of a program you could only see in green letters. It used two digits for years and almost collapsed the grid, but for the brave programmers who worked around the clock in 99."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007 6:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago we were forced to undergo statistical training. Unfortunately our lecturer didn't realise we hadn't done any mathematics since most of us had left school at 16, and so assumed we knew everything already. As a result, despite being "trained" in the use of SPSS, most of us had to learn it and the purpose of various statistical procedures from scratch.

Just as well we weren't expected to use SAS really!

Friday, November 02, 2007 5:10:00 AM  

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