December 27, 2017

Best of 2017 #8: The World's Most Expensive Clown Show

2017 will go down as the year the world woke up to the sleaze of the online ad industry. In May, I wrote this piece ridiculing the absurd play-acting of marketers and agencies pretending to be shocked at the squalid nature of the beast.

This week The Worldwide Bullshit Insider Summit is being held here at the Ketel One Conference Center on the campus of The Ad Contrarian Global Headquarters.

The question being hotly debated is this: Who’s more full of shit? The marketing honchos who are pretending they just discovered there’s no transparency in online media, or the agency hustlers who are pretending they’re shocked that ads running in the bowels of the web are creating brand safety issues?

Let’s examine the evidence.

First, the marketers. They have insisted for years on getting the lowest possible online CPMs — which everyone with a functioning cortex knows means buying a heavy dose of the cheapest crap you can find, aka “non-human traffic,” aka “bots,” aka standing in the executive wash room flushing million dollar bills down the toilet (by the way, do they have million dollar bills? If so, can I have one? Please?)

Did it bother them? Hell no! They had amazing KPIs, aka "Kockamamie Performance Indicators," that they could wave in front of their clueless bosses and prove they were getting tremendous value from the bots, sourced traffic, and non-viewable ads they were buying.

But then trouble arose. The ANA "transparency" massacre became public and their bosses started asking questions. Suddenly they were transformed into helpless victims who were outraged! at the crookedness around them. Oh my god, the poor babies!

So they played the outrage card and hung onto their jobs for another three months (by the way, three months is known around here as a "CMO Year.")

But now that the storm has passed, the aggrieved marketers have taken the offensive and have changed the subject (always a good survival strategy!) to "brand safety."

Which brings us to the agency sharpies. They’ve built careers telling half-truths about online advertising to their goober clients and giggling all the way to the bank.

They've been "programmatically" spreading their clients’ money all over the sleaziest corners of the web in order to impress them with their awesome CPMs, and winking and nodding when ad network hustlers tell them the traffic is 100% clean and pure.

Now, suddenly, they have found out that - oh my god! - our clients’ ads have been running in naughty places. We’re shocked! We demand to see the manager!

I've seen some hilariously lousy performances in my time, but if they gave Oscars for duplicity these guys would have to build a trophy room.

So let's sum up: We have CMOs pretending they just discovered that online advertising is not transparent. And agency bigwigs pretending they're shocked that they've been buying disreputable crap.

It's a full-tilt, 3-ring festival of comedy horseshit.

And the outcome? The marketers issue some somber press releases about how they're going to clean up this mess and the agencies do the bobblehead dance while continuing to ride the grotesque ad tech gravy train.

But best of all, I get to continue writing about the world's most hilarious and expensive clown show. Everybody wins!

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