Here's a metaphysical puzzle: can you send a marketing message before it's created? The answer used to be no: messages remained unchanged after they were sent, either because they were broadcast and vanished immediately or because they were physically persistent but inert, like a printed catalog or recorded TV/radio ad. Even messages that were dynamically tailored to a specific individual and situation were rendered and then frozen before they were sent. A website might adjust its offers over time, but each offer was itself fixed.

Because marketers knew the contents of each message when they sent it, the only subsequent information they needed was who received it and how they reacted. Indeed, most marketing measurement boils down to answering those two exceedingly difficult questions.

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