I first heard it attributed to a University of Chicago President
addressing an incoming Freshman class: "Half of everything we teach you
is wrong... unfortunately, we don't know which half." But it appears to
have an even longer history in advertising.
Donald McCoy DVM:
When I attended Veterinary School in 1970, we were told that half of
what we learned might not be true, but we just didnšt know which half.
Richard Ruhling, MD:
One of my professors, John Peterson, MD, was taught at Harvard that
half of medical education was not true, the only problem was, they
didn.t know which half
John L. Meade, MD, FACEP:
When I started medical school, a professor told us that half of what
we would be taught in the next 4 years was wrong; unfortunately, we
didn't know which half was wrong just yet.
My wife is a practicing doctor. And in general we have high respect
for the medical field. However, as she was going through her medical
training at one of the top medical schools in the USA, she was told
that half of what she would be taught over the next 4 years would
later be found to be inaccurate, they just didn.t know which half.
I always thought it was only the advertising industry that believed
half of what it spent, or knew, or did was wasted -- they just didn't
know which half. Then I read a New York Times Magazine article about
medical progress, or lack thereof. The doctor who wrote it said that
at her "white-coat ceremony," welcoming her class to med school, the
dean proclaimed half of what the school teaches is wrong -- only they
don't know which half.
Lord Lever once said (although often attributed to Henry Ford) that he
knew that only half his advertising worked, but the trouble was that
he didn.t know which half.
"John Wanamaker once said he knew half of his advertising was wasted,
he just didn't know which half," Cynthia Ponce, EVP, ABC Television
I expect many to be quoting the Lever brother who said that half his
advertising was wasted but he didn't know which half.
It's like Kornbluth's Law. He observed 1) that he knew that half the
money he spent on advertising was wasted and 2) that he didn't know
which half it was.
The statement attributed to the legendary carmaker Henry Ford comes
to mind. He claimed that half of his advertising budget was wasted -
but he didn't know which half!
John Wanamaker, a department-store magnate in the late 19th century,
famously quipped that half the money he spent on advertising was
wasted, but that he didn't know which half.
As Henry Ford once said, he knew half of every dollar he spent on
advertising was wasted. He just didn't know which half.
Lord Leverhulme once said he knew half of his advertising was wasted,
but didn't know which half.
In one of the marketing textbooks from my college days, I remember an
interesting story about department store tycoon J.C. Penney. He once
stated he was aware of the fact that only fifty percent of his
advertising was working. When an associate asked him why he continued
to do all of his advertising efforts when he knew only half of it was
working, he replied that he didn.t know which half of his advertising
In the 1880s, Philadelphia department store giant John Wanamaker said
that he knew half his ad budget was wasted, but he didn.t know which