Burden Of Proof

I’m a fan of television legal dramas, the kind that feature intense courtroom scenes. Not the shows with sensationalist revelations but rather series in which thoughtful persuasive arguments are presented using the available evidence. I’m fascinated by the challenge of building a credible story, in direct opposition to the “other side”, using the relevant facts. Whether that’s sufficient to convince a judge or jury is central to the appeal of each episode. The barrister that wins the day achieves validation for their client. The burden of proof has been met.

In our consulting work, validation is an increasingly common theme when discussing licence fees with advertisers. When their agencies propose tracks with apparently excessive fees, I encourage clients to challenge agencies to validate their recommendations. It’s not enough to support this solely by creative judgement; there needs to be evidence or at least compelling answers to some probing questions.

For senior marketers struggling with tight budgets and a single over-priced music track recommendation, here’s what you should be asking your agency:



  • What’s the stature of the artist in the markets where the campaign will run?
  • Are they a star on home turf or a challenger looking to break new ground?
  • Can this be supported by market-segmented streaming data and social stats?
  • Which past awards and chart positions has the artist achieved in the campaign markets?
  • Does the evidence justify the artist stature being claimed by record label and music publisher?


  • Will the artist’s next tour in the campaign markets align with your campaign dates?
  • What’s the capacity of the venues?
  • What are the industry predictions about the artist’s new album being used to promote the tour?


  • Do the artist’s spoken and perceived values closely align with the brand?
  • Has the artist’s history been sufficiently checked for behaviour which might reflect negatively on the brand?

Fan Base

  • Can the artist’s fan base be accurately segmented by market?
  • Does the artist’s fan base closely align with the target segment in the campaign markets?


  • Has the agency presented back-up options to their recommended hero-track?
  • If so, can the agency provide answers to all the above questions for all tracks being considered?


It’s unlikely you’ll get clear answers to all these questions. However, they will help to focus minds around the need to justify creative recommendations, especially those with high price tags. Set the bar high for the burden of proof. Demand hard evidence and use that to make an informed decision. As marketer, you are the Judge and your agency needs to make a compelling argument before you release budget. The music in your campaign may well be dramatic, but the process by which it’s chosen and bought should be carefully reasoned.