August 05, 2015

Radical Simplicity


I am getting started on a new book entitled Radical Simplicity.

Radical Simplicity is intended to be a prescription for ridding our business of the immaterial, wasteful and frustrating practices, people, and behaviors that are confusing the shit out of us and undermining the effectiveness of what we do.

It will try to strip away all the bullshit of our industry. What's left will be a radically simple way to think about and practice advertising.

Any sensible person working in marketing and advertising knows there’s something deeply wrong. We can’t quite put our finger on it, but we can feel it.

My belief is that it stems from a downward spiral of oppressive, unnecessary complexity that has infected our culture, our thinking, our systems, and our organizations.

It is manifest in several ways:
  • a feeling that a great deal of what we are doing is a waste of time and money
  • systems that obstruct the carrying out of assignments rather than facilitate them
  • organizations that encourage vagueness to protect egos
  • a sense that the waiters are doing the cooking, and the umpires are running the bases.
  • non-productive jobs that are 80% meetings and presentations and 20% doing something
  • data, measurements, and processes that have names but no value
  • a culture drowning in false goals
  • a deep distrust by marketers of the people creating their advertising 
  • thinly disguised contempt among agencies for their clients 
  • media practices that are so alarmingly arcane, no one knows where their advertising is running, how much they are paying, or even if it is running
  • a profusion of dreadful, pompous corporate titles that sound ridiculous and mean nothing 
  • a constant drumbeat of anxiety 
We are very confused.

Radical Simplicity will aim at finding a simple path through the woods. It will aim at freeing us from the relentless torrent of bullshit and worthless legends and rituals that are ruining the advertising and marketing industries, and sending talented people running screaming from us.

If advertising were religion, Radical Simplicity aims to be a type of Reformation.

In keeping with its promise Radical Simplicity will be under 25 pages.

It's a tall order. Wish me luck.



August 03, 2015

Humans Out At MCR


NEW YORK, NY (UPA) -- Marketing communications firm MCR announced today that they will be revamping their staffing practices in 2016 to eliminate the need for "non-digital" staff.

"We think we have identified a new way to look at marketing communication that will create deeper value for our clients by eliminating unnecessary cost factors, such as personnel," said Rich Mandrake, ceo of MCR.

MCR's plan is to utilize technology-based resources such as software, virtual robots, and media algorithms to create and implement advertising and marketing programs for its clients.

"We will need to keep a few tech people on staff to insure that our systems are functioning well and are properly integrated. But that's it. Last-century resources like account managers, copywriters, art directors, and media planners -- in other words, people -- will be replaced by digital resources."

Susan Rottingham, Executive Director of Marketing Matrix, another advertising and marketing firm in East Wilting, PA expressed admiration for the concept.

"I believe this is a first step toward advertising's future. We can drive creative content strategy and design experiences into a highly curated, customized experience across the digital ecosystem by eliminating non-essential pathways."

Thomas Train of A&P Partners in Phoenix was less enthusiastic. "It comes down to this," Train said, "algorithms can't buy lunch."

But Mandrake is unshaken in his confidence in the new system.

"We have developed what we call 'virtual robotics' that can actually understand a client brief when it is converted into code via a proprietary algorithm we have developed. The robot program then goes online and hunts down previously created advertising and marketing campaigns in similar categories which it 'borrows' from -- much like a traditional creative team does," he explained.

Using existing software, a "virtual account manager" then relays the creative content to a newly developed media package called "Planner Z" which generates a media plan and transmits the plan via secure lines to a programmatic buying service or trading desk.

According to Mandrake, the development time from the moment a new client brief is received until a new advertising campaign starts appearing in media can take less than 30 minutes.

MCR was formed in 2002 by the merger of Mandrake & Partners and C.R. Lewin Associates. With offices in Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, it currently employs 260 people and is the largest advertising agency in upstate New York.

You can learn more about the new technology here


July 30, 2015

What If Targeting Doesn't Work?


As regular readers know, I have a basement full of oddball ideas about advertising. One of them is that "media science" may be a lot of hooey.

What if all the "precision targeting" we do is mostly unnecessary complexity masquerading as knowledge?

What if there's only one important cut we need to make when planning media -- does the person participate in our category or not?

If we're selling golf balls, the only important targeting question we have to ask is, "Does this person play golf?" If we're selling wine the only important question to ask is, "Does she drink wine?" If we sell tires the only important question is, "Do they own a car?"

All the other stuff -- their education, their income, their weight, height, and serial number, their zip code and psychosexual predelictions, the websites they visited yesterday, and the number of chickens in their backyard -- may be interesting, but what if they don't do a damn thing to make our media buys more effective?

During my semi-brilliant advertising career I would never have suggested such a thing to a client. Clients don't like oddball ideas. They are resolutely devoted to believing what everybody else believes. And everyone else believes that leveraging data to create precision targeting is the future of advertising.

I guess it would be simple enough to either prove or disprove this theory.

I'd love to see an advertiser do a split run. In one market buy media based on the usual  demographics, psychographics, data-o-graphics, programmat-o-graphics, graph-o-graphics, and bullshit-o-graphics.

In another matched market run the same campaign but make the media buy based on one behavioral criterion -- does the person participate in our category or not?

I'd love to see the results.