April 19, 2018

Who Will Succeed Sorrell?


That's the question of the day in adland. But speaking with a very smart person recently who has deep roots inside WPP, he feels that isn't the key question. He says the key question is this: what does an agency holding company do?

He believes there is a continuum along which holding companies can operate. On one end, the holding company is basically a financial instrument that invests in businesses and manages the corporation's relationships with investors and regulators. The operations of the constituent companies are left to the talents of the individual company managers. The exemplar of this is Berkshire Hathaway.

At the other end, a holding company can be more of an operating company that is a brand in its own right and works directly with customers. This is, to a significant degree, how WPP seems to have operated.

To find a proper CEO, the board of WPP first has to decide where it plans to sit on this continuum. The proper person for option one may be a completely different type of person than is needed for option two.

It's my belief that the agency holding companies are operating more like brands and less like traditional holding companies.

I believe they have moved toward greater centralization and are often operating as business units themselves, especially when it comes to pitching large global accounts.

Sorrell invented the "team" new business scheme -- in which the best of breed resources from different agencies within the WPP portfolio were supposedly going to be brought together to handle a new prospect's account as a custom-made agency. This idea has been adopted from time to time by all the holding companies and is now standard operating nonsense.

(Right. The holding company is going to risk taking its very best people off 5 or 6 key accounts and put them on yours. Only a Global CMO could be stupid enough to buy this horseshit.)

I have a hard time believing that WPP will adopt a de-centralized Berkshire Hathaway model. The only way I see that is if they plan to break it up and sell off some pieces.

I expect the board of WPP to go with what has worked and look for a sales-oriented, operations-focused, customer-centric CEO in the Sorrell mold. There are two problems with this. First, Sorrell was unique in that he was both a financial whiz and a salesman. Second is that times have changed and the holding companies have the "faint aroma of performing seals"* about them.

Replicating the Sorrell act in the current environment is not going to be easy. Whatever you think of Sorrell, thus far the world has produced only one. Good luck finding another.


*"I Wish I Were In Love Again," Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart 

April 17, 2018

Bats, Balls, And Bozos


As a resident of Oakland, CA and a baseball fan, I have more than a passing interest in the health and welfare of the Oakland A's baseball team.

Like all sports franchises, the A's have had their ups and downs. But in recent years they have become one of the most hapless franchises in all of American sports.

For years the ownership of the A's have turned off fans by trading excellent players for "prospects," hinting that they were going to leave town, constantly whining about their predicament, and making one false start after another trying to build a new stadium. They have also had lousy teams.

But the end of last season was hopeful. Although they finished in last place in their division, the final month of the season they played .586 ball with a 17-12 record. This would have placed them in 2nd place in their division and earned them a playoff spot (a .586 winning percentage would have won the division in the American League East.) They had some good young players and showed promise for an exciting 2018.

With that as background I went to an A's game last week. It was very depressing. It was a night game in which parking was free (saving fans $30) and still the park was empty. There was one other person in my row. The A's announced attendance of about 7,000 which means there were probably fewer than 5,000 people really there. The stadium holds over 50,000. And this was the first week of the season when fans are at their most hopeful and interest is high. Something, I thought, is terribly wrong.

And then I read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle...
"For many years, the A’s had the best television ads in the game...This season, the A’s have moved their advertising in-house, and the TV spots are no more...The A’s have decided to focus on targeted marketing this season rather than mass advertising, and they’re segmenting their advertising campaigns to customized audiences..."
"advertising in-house...targeted marketing... customized audiences...?" This ol' boy doesn't need an interpreter to know what that bullshit means -- social media crap to millennials. It's the default advertising strategy for everyone who knows nothing about advertising.

So far in this early season the A's have missed every advertising and marketing opportunity they've had. In the first week they had potentially the most exciting player in a generation - Shohei Ohtani - come to town. Did they tell the market about it? No, they were too busy doing "targeted marketing to customized audiences."

They have a player, Khris Davis, who has more home runs than everyone in baseball except the much ballyhooed Giancarlo Stanton the past two years. Have the A's told the 5 million or so people in their market about him? No, they've been too busy doing "targeted marketing to customized audiences."

So I did a little research to see how well their new strategy is working.

All of last year the A's averaged 18,446 people per game. The first eight games of this year they averaged 15,212. A drop of almost 20%. And it's really a lot worse. Last year's attendance figures include the dog days of August. And this year's small sample include both Opening Day and Opening Night, often the biggest crowds of the season.

Which leads us to tonight. The A's are staging a generous, but potentially misguided marketing stunt. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of their first game in Oakland they have distributed 200,000 free tickets for tonight's game -  200,000 tickets and fewer than 60,000 seats. What could go wrong?

And what for? So they can have a meaningless PR claim -- "the biggest crowd ever to watch an A's baseball game." Which proves what? That if you give something away for nothing people will take it? This stunt has a marketing value of zero. In the best case scenario it will be forgotten in 48 hours.

The Oakland A's problems go way deeper than marketing incompetence. But when you're in the toilet the last thing you need is amateurs screwing around with the plumbing.


April 10, 2018

Today's Festival Of Hypocrisy


Grab some popcorn and a nice comfy chair and get ready for a three-ring clown show.

The government that has done absolutely nothing to protect the privacy of its citizens is going to waggle its farcical finger of hypocrisy at a company that has done absolutely nothing to protect the privacy of its customers. It's gonna be the comedy hit of the season.

While the EU is ready to implement substantive restrictions on the unauthorized collection, sharing, and selling of personal, private information, all our government is prepared to do is give us a master class in insincere self-righteousness.

Congressional blowhards will be preening for the cameras and using Mark Zuckerberg as a piñata as they pretend to give a shit about consumer privacy.

These sanctimonious frauds have had a decade to do something about the unauthorized collection of personal private information, but they did nothing until they found out it affected them. When the 2016 Russian meddling and the Cambridge Analytica scandals broke and they realized that election campaigns -- and their jobs -- might be affected, they suddenly got all concerned about data collection. 

This is after years of thwarting every substantive initiative brought to Washington to tighten up data collection abuse. For years Facebook has escaped its responsibilities by claiming it's not a communications medium, it's a "platform" -- whatever the hell that means. And these bozos have bought this bullshit. If I were Zuckerberg I'd say, "Yes we've been negligent in the protection of privacy rights, Senator, but we don't hold a candle to you bozos."

Zuckerberg will be strung up for ignoring the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of people by clowns who have been ignoring the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of people. There's no one to root for in this cage match.

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg and his team of PR hustlers have been going a million miles an hour this week sticking band-aids all over every imaginable leak in the Facebook plumbing. It seems like every half-hour Facebook announces another half-measure. This will allow Z to "prove" they're doing things about security and privacy.

The cameras are rolling so everyone's going to be double extra concerned about consumer rights.  Gag me with a hoodie.
 

April 03, 2018

The Age Of Creativity


Walk into any ad agency in the world and in 10 seconds something will become obvious. Everyone is young.

While people over 50 comprise 42% of adults in the US, they comprise only 6% of agency employees. This is even more pronounced in creative departments where people over 50 make up about 0% of the population.

The reason for this is that young people are just more creative. Or are they? Let's have a quick look around...

There is only one Nobel Prize in a creative field. It is the prize for Literature. Last year it went to
Kazuo Ishiguro who is 64.


The recent Pulitzer Prize awards were interesting.

The Pulitzer for Drama went to Lynn Nottage who is 54.

The Pulitzer for History went to Heather Ann Thompson, age 55.

The Pulitzer for Poetry went to Tyehimba Jess, age 53.


Meanwhile at this year's Academy Awards, three of the four winners for acting were over 50: Francis McDormand, 60; Gary Oldman, 59, and Allison Janney, 58. The fourth, Sam Rockwell, will be 50 in November.

The Oscar for Best Director went to Guillermo del Toro, who is 53.

Next we move to television.

The Emmy for Best Drama Series went to The Handmaid's Tale. The novel was written by Margaret Atwood who is 79 and is creative consultant on the show.

The Best Comedy Series went to Veep, executive produced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, 57. She also won for Best Actress.

Best Limited Series went to Big Little Lies created by David E Kelley, 62.

The Best Supporting Actor was John Lithgow, 73; Best Supporting Actress was Ann Dowd, 62.

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series went to Alec Baldwin, 60.


So, let's recap.

People over 50 aren't creative enough to write a fucking banner ad, but they are creative enough to dominate in Nobels, Pulitzers, Oscars, and Emmys. I guarantee you, not one of these brilliantly talented people could get a job in an ad agency today. Not one.

Is there another industry on earth that is as steeped in intolerance and as thoroughly isolated from reality as the ad industry?

March 29, 2018

It’s All My Fault


I did a word count. Facebook’s terms and privacy policies are longer than the U.S. Constitution.

I’m not the brightest star in the galaxy but I didn’t seem to have much trouble understanding the Constitution. But Facebook’s terms? I tried to keep track of everything I didn’t quite understand and by official count it came to somewhere around everything.

But, you see, that’s not Facebook's fault. It’s mine. If I were a responsible consumer I would drop what I’m doing and study their terms and policies until I understood them completely before I used their platform.

And not just Facebook’s, but every website I visit, every app I use, and every upgrade I download. And if there happens to be anything their legal departments concocted that I don’t understand I should have my team of attorneys review it and explain it to me. That shouldn’t take much time or money. This is all my responsibility.

Or so it seems according to a disturbingly misguided opinion piece called What Facebook Data Did They Get And What Did They Do?” by some tech genius in Ad Age recently. He bills himself as (god help us) "LinkedIn's No. 1 Voice in Technology" and apparently thinks the correct interpretation of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica shit storm is to blame the victims. Here's what "the voice" had to say...
“Just because you did not take the time to learn how you were paying for a tech service and you thought it was "free" doesn't mean it is actually free…”
Well, I’m terribly sorry for my prodigious stupidity. Apparently, in addition to being stupid, I am also inept. All this stealing of my private information is due to my incompetence...
“What you should be configuring is your "Personal Data Sharing Permission Settings" or "API Endpoint Permissions.”
Dude, how about taking your API Permissions and configuring them neatly in your own Endpoint?
“As a society, we have to raise our level of data maturity.”
Now, here he has a point. I do lack maturity. Data or otherwise. To be honest, I’m about the most immature bastard you’ll ever meet. And as an official card-carrying immature bastard, I’m about up to here with tech and data creeps telling me that the fraud, corruption and despicable horseshit going on in their poisonous world is my fault.

It’s not the lying, criminal scumbags who collect personal private information about me without my consent or knowledge who are at fault. It’s not the squids who peddle my info to every living weasel with a bitcoin.

Heck no, it’s my fault. Because I “didn’t take the time to learn…” and I "should be reconfiguring"... and I need to "raise my level..."

The corrupt online ad industry, the data collection maniacs, and the useful idiots who apologize for them are not the problem. Endangering the privacy and security of individuals and the integrity of democratic processes are not the problem.

Nope. According to these hotshots, I am the problem. And like all troublesome, self-respecting problems, I have absolutely no intention of going away.


(H/T the great Don Marti)

March 26, 2018

Top 10 Fixes For Facebook


Facebook's crack PR team met in secret over the weekend to discuss the scandal that has rocked the company. They drew up a 10-point plan to deal with the issues and re-establish public trust.

So here it is. Facebook's 10-point PR plan to fix the company:
1. Start referring to COO as Sheryl "Stormy" Sandburg
2. Adopt new corporate slogan: Google Is Even Worse
3. Use data-driven analytics and artificial intelligence to test concept of "telling the truth"

4. Legally change Zuckerberg to Vaynerzuck
5. Launch Social Responsibility initiative: Hire someone over 30 or a black person or something
6.  Send out 50 million "save-the-date" evites to next Hackathon
7. Always refer to stolen personal private information as "fun files"
8.  Tweak logo design: Two thumbs up
9. Hire Kendall Jenner to give every member of Congress a Pepsi
10. Move a little more slowly and break things

March 22, 2018

Zuckerberg Takes Full Responsibility


MENLO PARK, CA - Acknowledging serious allegations, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today released a statement taking full responsibility for a multitude of issues concerning the company.
"Today, I would like to address several matters that have arisen recently about Facebook that affect our worldwide community.
Unbeknownst to me and our management team, it appears that millions of people have been putting cat pictures on our platform. I want to make it clear that the posting of pictures of cats is forbidden by our user agreement and that these pictures appeared without our knowledge or consent. Our user agreement makes our policy on this matter very clear...
"...by accepting these terms, the user agrees not to post any fucking pictures of her fucking cat, or of any other fucking cats, including but not limited to, cats playing the fucking piano."
While we acknowledge that this breach of our policy...wait a minute, it wasn't a breach, it was a screech or a bleach or something... well, anyway, we hope to reassure our community that we are taking steps to end this unacceptable practice by people unauthorized to do anything except what we tell them to do which we never do because we are not responsible for anything.
We have also recently learned that a large number of people -- presumably unauthorized hackers -- have posted alarmingly annoying pictures of middle school soccer teams eating pizza. When we learned of this we immediately notified federal authorities and tried to shut the whole fucking company down and go into the dry cleaning business. But as Sheryl said to me yesterday, "...let's not shit ourselves, kid, it's hard to make a quick billion in dry cleaning." She's a pistol, that one.
Next, I would like to address the "thumbs up" symbol that has come to represent our company. Where the hell did that thing come from? I have no recollection of approving that symbol and have gone back to our shareholders' agreement and found that in Section VII, Paragraph X2 x π-(N+105) it states clearly...
"...no person, or representative of a person, or mere shadow of a person, shall at any time put anything on our page that looks like a goddamn fucking thumb."
See what I mean about these dipshits not listening to me?
Yes, my friends, despite my commitment to "folks, family, and fun," we still have a lot of work to do. But we hope these new policies that we are pretending to adopt will convince our community that when the cameras are running we take your welfare very seriously.
Remember, our first priority is to make sure that when you are part of the Facebook community your personal private information is tucked away safely in our vaults. Right next to your money.

March 21, 2018

The Irresponsibilty Of The Ad Industry


I posted this on LinkedIn yesterday and got some nice reaction to it. Being the lazy-ass bastard I am, I thought I'd re-post it here today and go out and have a beer.

Thus far the ad industry has been lucky. We have escaped the outrage and scorn that have been heaped on Facebook.

Lucky for us, the media and the public still don't get it. They don't understand at who's behest all the unconscionable collection, trading, and selling of personal, private information is being done. They haven't put two-and-two together yet and realized who is really at fault for the Cambridge Analytica and Russian election tampering scandals.

Our industry "leadership" have been uniquely incompetent and shamefully irresponsible in dealing with the dangers that ad tech has created.

Being the concerned, responsible, and annoying citizen that I am, in September of last year I wrote to a leader of one of our most influential trade organizations.
"You are now in a unique position to do something amazingly worthwhile about a very dangerous situation the agency industry has gotten itself into. I’m talking about surveillance marketing, tracking, and ad tech. These are very unhealthy for us as individuals and as members of a free society... can we have a brief talk about this subject? I would like to try to convince you... that this is an issue you guys should put on your agenda. It will not make you many friends among the holding companies, but you can do our industry and our country a great service."
In October, I personally wrote to another of our "leaders." Here's what I wrote:
"The ad industry has been irresponsibly negligent in its recognition of the implications of online tracking and surveillance. It is a very serious issue for free societies. I believe it is destined to explode in our face if we don’t start to do something about it...You are in a position to take a leadership role in giving mature consideration to this issue and bring some responsibility to our industry...You will be doing a service to the industry and to society...If you choose to do this I will help you in any way I can."
In neither case did I even get a reply.

There is now no doubt in my mind that the ad industry is in some deep shit. This problem is not going to go away. Pretty soon even the dimwits in Washington are going to see our fingerprints all over these debacles.

Any sense of responsibility that the ad industry once had has been drowned in the loose ethics and corrupt practices of the online ad industry and repulsive holding company creeps.

Meanwhile we waste our time at the "Programmatic Activation Worldwide Insider Summit" or some other idiotic conference when we should be discussing what to do about the shit storm we have created.

March 20, 2018

Preparing For Generation U


They're U-thful, they're Unbelievable, and soon they'll be U-biquitous!

Generation U -- also known as the Unborn Generation -- will soon comprise 100% of global consumers.

This will happen as soon as all the assholes currently alive are dead. At the rate we're going, that could be next Thursday.

That's why smart marketers are already studying the characteristics of this disruptive generation and learning how to engage with them to be engaging with their engagement.

Gen U is different

- Thus far, they are not limited by the artificial boundaries of "being alive"

- Many of them don't know how to spell Vaynerchuk

- They will demand corporate authenticity and responsibility, just as we demand it from our favorite corporations. You know, like Facebook.

- They can't tell Skittles from M&M's

- They are projected to be even more pathetic and useless than Baby Boomers

- They will be the first generation since Millennials who can't wipe themselves

How To Make Your Brand Resonate With Gen U

- Two Words: Content, Content, Content

- Mobilize your gamification. Or gamify your mobilization. Or have mobile conversations. Or... wait a minute, I have it...Virtual Reality or 3-D printing or something. No, no, no... QR Code Storytelling!

- Learn who the intrauterine influencers are and create an umbilical umbrella strategy

- How does your brand narrative align with the prenatal lifestyle?

- Create a placenta play center. Talk about your disruptive activations!

The Facts About Generation U 

- Favorite food: Mashed gluten

- Better get ready...according to FutureMarketing.com, 50% of Gen U's will be women!

- According to research conducted at the University of Icefishing, over 80% will have self-driving cars implanted in their brain. Although, honestly, it's hard to see how.

- They will be the first generation never to see a rerun of Two Broke Girls

- They are a big challenge for marketers to reach because... well, you know, it's kinda hard to reach up there

- They will eschew artificial intelligence in favor of authentic dumbness


March 14, 2018

Ad Tech And Social Pathology


The history of civilization is littered with horrifying social and cultural practices that, at the time, seemed perfectly normal.

Today, we are mortified by the idea of slavery. We cringe at the way women have been treated. We are appalled by the past treatment of religious and ethnic minorities. Past child labor practices seem incomprehensible.

And yet, in the context of those times, these abhorrent customs and practices were not just acceptable, they were established cultural norms.

Sometimes, it is only in retrospect that we understand the harm of social traditions and policies.

Today we may be in the middle of such an unacknowledged and unrecognized pathology. The three-headed monster of ad tech, tracking, and surveillance marketing seem perfectly normal to us. Most people don't give them a second thought as they live so much of their lives online.

But these currently acceptable practices have the potential to lead us into very dangerous waters.

We know the dangers of totalitarian governments. But we have no idea where totalitarian marketing leads. And make no mistake about it -- we are quickly headed toward totalitarian marketing. Very soon marketers and media owners will know everything there is to know about us.

It is not at all farfetched to imagine a time fifty years from now in which people will look back and say, "how could we have allowed marketers to know what we believed, who we talked to, what we said, where we were at all times, and what we did?"

We do not yet know where such unprecedented access to our most personal and private information by organizations unknown to us leads. But I promise you one thing - it ain't good.

History has taught us that the hardest time to recognize social pathology is when you're standing right in the middle of it.


March 08, 2018

Digital First Equals Me First


"Digital first" is the philosophy of imbeciles who know the answer before they know the question.

They know the treatment before they know the condition. They know what tool to use before they know what's broken. Imagine a doctor whose philosophy is "appendectomy first." He knows the cure before he knows the disease.

There is no other industry that would accept such manifest stupidity. But it is not just alive in our industry, it is commonplace.

There are a few reasons why this idiocy exists. First, and most understandable, is that it's what some people were taught. They learned it in school and have sought to learn nothing new since. They have made a practice of interpreting the world through its myopic lens.

Believing in the rapidly decomposing digital fantasy (see this and this,) they never bothered to acquire any other advertising or marketing knowledge. If the only tool you have is a hammer...well, you know the rest.

These people are ignorant, but it is usually an honest ignorance.

But there's another group of "digital firsters" who are not nearly as ignorant and not nearly as honest. They are the ones who put digital first because it is more lucrative. They have found that they can make more money buying digital advertising than traditional advertising. It doesn't really matter to them what's best for you, they know what's best for them.

Sadly, reading between the lines of the ANA's media transparency investigation, some agencies seem to fit nicely into this box. They have no ideological commitment to digital, they have an ideological commitment to money.

Mark Ritson wrote a couple of compelling pieces about this recently in The Australian. Unfortunately, The Australian is behind a paywall so I can't link you to his pieces. After quoting a few media experts who assert that...
- commissions on traditional media usually run the in the 3% range
- commissions on digital media run in the 7-10% range
- because of automation, digital media are no longer any more difficult or time consuming to buy than traditional media
- agencies often set digital media buying quotas for media buyers to meet
... Prof. Ritson concludes...
"...let's also accept something that no one in the industry wants to talk about: that digital media gets a much greater share of the pie than news media (print) because it is more profitable for the agencies that recommend it."
"...The simple marginal profit that agencies make from digital media is almost triple what they would get from channeling the money to news media."
As I said in my Type A Group Newsletter last week, Prof. Ritson is too wise and prudent to make outright accusations. I'm not. There is no doubt in my mind that to some agencies "digital first" is just code for "me first."

Does this mean that everyone who recommends a digital media buy is a doofus or a crook? Of course not. There are circumstances when an online buy is a perfectly reasonable recommendation. But anyone with a functioning brain will consider what the problem is before he recommends a solution. Anyone who starts with the solution -- e.g., "digital first" -- is a fool.

Here's a surefire litmus test for determining who you're dealing with. If they have the answer ready before you tell them the question, they're either imbeciles or opportunists.

March 06, 2018

You Gotta Read This


I was sitting at my desk doing whatever the hell it is a creative director does, when my associate creative director walked in.

"You gotta read this," he said.

"What is it?"

"A letter from a copywriter."

"We don't need a copywriter," I said.

"I know. But you gotta read this."

So I read it. By the end of reading the letter we were both laughing out loud and had invited the writer in for an interview. In the fullness of time, she became the chief creative and president of our agency.

Recently, a friend asked me to critique a cover letter he was writing for a job application. The letter was perfectly fine. It stated its case nicely, it was well-written, and it was articulate. But it was indistinguishable from a hundred other letters the prospective employer was likely to get.

My advice to him was this: Someone's going to open this letter and do one of two things - put it in a file with all the other letters or bring it to one of her colleagues and say, "you gotta read this."

If she puts it in the file you still have a chance of getting the job. If she takes it to a colleague and says, "you gotta read this" your chances just tripled.

Today, it is said, we do a lot less reading than we used to. I don't know if that's true. But one thing I do know, ironically we do a lot more writing. All day long we are writing emails, decks, texts, ads, tweets (god help us), content (god double-extra help us), strategies... some of us poor bastards even write blog posts. And most of it is crap.

That's okay because most of the time it doesn't need to be anything other than crap. But once a day or once a week or once in a while you have to write something really important. I'm sure there are a thousand somber posts on LinkedIn telling you how to write something really important. It's all bullshit.

There is only one objective you should have when writing something really important. You want one person to take it to another person and say, "you gotta read this."

March 01, 2018

How Brands Become Famous


For several years I have been saying that I can't think of any famous consumer-facing brands that have been built primarily by online advertising.

Whenever I write this I get one comment that is absolutely predictable. I usually get it from people who have an economic or ideological reason to defend digital advertising, but sometimes it's from people who just don't think too well. The response is, "oh yeah, how about Google and Facebook and Amazon?"

So once and for all let me deal with this so the next hundred times I get this comment I can just reply with a link to this post.

Google, Facebook and Amazon were not brands built by advertising.

There are several ways brands become big and famous. Advertising is only one of them. The other ways include: word of mouth, PR, news media coverage, ubiquitous public visibility (wide distribution.) These "non-advertising" ways usually revolve around uniqueness.

In other words, for many famous brands advertising plays a large role in their success. For some it plays little or no role.

I believe in the case of most of the famous web endemic brands -- those brands that live on the web like Facebook, Google and Amazon -- advertising played little to no role in their success. This is also true of a few non-web-native brands like Tesla.

It's my belief that advertising had very little to do with the success of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Tesla. They became famous primarily through news media coverage and word of mouth resulting from being unique.

I can think of a hundred Coke, Nike, McDonald's or Apple ads I've seen. I can recall only a handful of ads for the Google, Amazon and Facebook brands combined.

One of the confusing factors is that some of these companies - in particular Google and Facebook - make almost all their money from advertising. But as brands, they did not need much advertising to become famous. Mass media did it for them.

Getting back to the issue in question, it is my contention that Google, Amazon and Facebook did not rely on advertising for their success in the same way that Coke, Apple, Nike, or McDonald's did.

I still maintain that it is very hard to find any famous consumer-facing brands that were built by online advertising.


February 27, 2018

We Love Data And Hate Science


To the naive mind collecting data sounds like science. It is not.

A datum is the result of an instance of observation. But observations do not become science until they are made sense of.

People observed the movements of planets for thousands of years. They kept intricate charts. But for all those years no one could explain the seemingly incomprehensible movement of those planets.

And then Copernicus came along and in one simple theory explained what for millennia seemed beyond comprehension. The planets moved the way they did because they were circling the sun, not the earth.

That's what science does. It takes data and makes sense out of it.

Today the advertising industry has unimaginable quantities of data and hardly an ounce of science. Ask any advertising person for data about the Google or Facebook buy they made and you will get reams of papers and stacks of charts and tons of reports. You will get a festival of data.

Then ask that person to name one - just one - major consumer-facing brand of anything that has been built by advertising on Google or Facebook. I promise you, you will get a blank stare. Believe me I've tried it.

And yet, it is almost universally agreed that the primary objective of advertising is to build a successful brand.

So the question is this: If advertising's highest calling is to build a successful brand, and we have no examples of successful brands being built on either Google or Facebook, what is the science behind our obsession with these media?

What is the science behind all the data that has led to the incredible dominance of Google and Facebook if there is not a single instance anyone can find of either of them having achieved the primary goal of advertising?

Where is the science that makes sense of all the data?

Data is just a bunch of bricks laying around. Science takes those bricks and makes a house out of them. Right now we have no house. What data has given the ad industry is mostly just big piles of bricks.

February 22, 2018

Zuckerberg Has To Go


It's very simple. Facebook is way too powerful to be run by a jerk like Mark Zuckerberg.

While Zuckerberg has shown himself to be capable of creating a financial juggernaut, he has simultaneously shown himself to be utterly inadequate to handle the responsibilities of managing an organization with the power and influence of Facebook. Or even understanding what the responsibilities are.

The ease with which Russian operatives manipulated the Facebook platform has only two possible explanations. Facebook was either negligent or stupid. In light of the stakes, either of these is sufficient grounds for Zuckerberg's removal.

If we had a sensible government they would be looking into Zuckerberg's role in the Russian exploitation of Facebook. What did he know and when did he know it? What did he do about it?
- The indictments handed down by the Justice Department give us substantial reasons to believe that crimes were committed on the "buy" side. The question is, were crimes also committed on the "sell" side?

- In 2016, when a Columbia University researcher was trying to examine Russian links to Facebook activity, why did Facebook delete thousands of posts?
Facebook's history of fabrication and deception is unprecedented and unacceptable. Even in an industry famous for its willingness to play fast and loose with ethics and integrity, Zuckerberg is considered shady. He has zero credibility. Every public pronouncement he makes seems to be either spin or bullshit.

The absence of probity and maturity that Facebook has displayed has been baked into the company's DNA by Zuckerberg's arrogance, and will remain there as long as his vapid philosophies define their culture...
"Young people are just smarter"
"Move fast and break things"
This is the credo of an infantile egotist. You can draw a straight line from this nonsense to the current headlines.

We used to be able to dismiss Zuckerberg and his gang as greedy, silly brats with no perspective and no ethical compass. But he is far more dangerous than that. 

His shareholders and board won't remove him because their only concerns are financial. There needs to be external pressure. Sadly, it is highly unlikely.

The only groups with the power to exert such pressure are the government and us -- the advertising industry. We're his benefactors. We're his money machine.

The likelihood of the government doing anything? Close to zero.

The likelihood of the ad industry doing anything? Absolute zero.

February 15, 2018

Can We Trust P&G?


Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer for Procter & Gamble, made a big splash last year when he stood up before the annual IAB conference and lambasted the online ad industry.

Pritchard said the industry was “murky at best and fraudulent at worst” and "It's time to grow up. It's time for action... the days of giving digital a pass are over."

According to Ad Age, P&G, "vowed to no longer pay for any digital media, ad tech companies, agencies or other suppliers for services that don't comply with its new rules." 

Recently, however, Pritchard has been far more gentle -- one might even say strangely sympathetic -- in his statements about the online ad industry.

According to AdAge, Pritchard recently said he has "little reason to make good" on his threats of last year. He said...
"...I’m encouraged by the progress made over the past year to clean up the digital media supply chain, driven by the entire industry stepping up to take action."
"...progress with these big players is really strong. It's a sea change versus where we were a year ago."
Really?

This is difficult to understand at a time when everyone else in the world seems to have finally caught on to the fraud, corruption and malevolence that are rampant in the digital ad ecosystem.
- The New York Times recently ran a scathing front page story about fraud and corruption on Twitter.

- Keith Weed of Unilever is threatening to pull their advertising from digital platforms...
“Fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, toxic content directed at children – parts of the internet we have ended up with is a million miles from where we thought it would take us.”
- The US Department of Justice has indicted 13 Russian operatives on a variety of charges related to illegally exploiting digital ad media.
- The Russian government continues to secretly exploit social media to influence US public opinion.
- Google and Facebook are still not in compliance with the Media Rating Council
- Even Mark Zuckerberg said recently, "Facebook has a lot of work to do — whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against the interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is well spent,”
So what's going on with Pritchard? I've got a hunch...

I've been told by insiders that several years ago one of the largest and most respected advertising trade associations was ready to tear into the corrupt online media industry. But Pritchard stepped in and blocked it. This was during an era in which P&G was deep into digital love.
"...digital is incredibly effective, and we're doing more,” said their CEO
“...effectiveness and the consumer impact of our advertising spending will be well ahead of the prior year... (because of) an optimized media mix with more digital, mobile, search and social presence..." said their CFO.
They had moved billions of their spending online. By blocking the trade association from taking on the online ad industry, P&G saved face.

That all quickly became farce when their sales dropped 8% in a twelve month period and they lost $6 billion in sales. Pritchard suddenly grew a pair and gave his famous IAB speech.

So why has Pritchard changed his tune again and gone all cuddly? Are the days of "giving digital a pass" back? First, let's be fair.

I'm sure P&G's agencies have stopped playing word games over what types of compensation they're entitled to. I'm also sure Google and Facebook have done a damn good job of putting a happy face on their relationship with P&G. And I wouldn't be surprised if a dollar or two has changed hands.

But here's why I'm suspicious. After going through the most expensive proxy fight in history, activist investor Nelson Peltz won a board seat at P&G a few months ago. According to The Wall Street Journal during the proxy battle...
Mr. Peltz’s Trian Fund Management LP criticized P&G’s cutback on digital spending. P&G’s improved earnings “came as a result of reducing advertising, specifically digital, a tactic we believe will damage the value of the company’s brands if continued in the long term”
Could it be that Pritchard's new coziness with digital is as much about politics as principles? I have no facts, but my smell detector is in the red zone.

February 12, 2018

Parachuting Behind Enemy Lines


This is gonna be fun.

I'm about to enter a contest called "The Q Award" sponsored by Ad Age and Quantcast (they do media hocus pocus with AI) that could win me a trip to Cannes and some kind of Grand Prize. I am compelled to enter this thing because it would allow me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sip putrid rosé with everyone in the world I've ever insulted.

The contest goes like this...
"The Q Award Details
We are looking for people who challenge the status quo, question everything and strive to break conventional wisdom. The winning team will have discovered new insights and implemented a new strategy, campaign or product that ultimately resulted in increased brand awareness, growth and sales."
Am I crazy, or is BadMen a slam dunk to win this fucking thing?

Just one little hurdle: Somewhere along the line I've probably called everyone on the judging panel a dickhead or an imbecile.



January 31, 2018

Trump's Twitter Torrent Doesn't Have Legs


Last week I was interviewed by BBC World Services. The topic of the interview was Trump and Twitter. One of the questions they asked was whether the fascination with Trump's tweets would be the new normal for politicians. My answer was no.

Historically, large social media successes have mostly been one-offs and have not been repeatable. Here are a few social media phenomena that were supposed to change everything and changed absolutely nothing.

First was The Blair Witch Project. It was a super-low budget film that became a smash hit through clever use of social media. It was hailed as the turning point for movie marketing, and was "proof" that movies would no longer need expensive TV advertising. Tune in to the Super Bowl to see how wrong this turned out to be.

Next is Zappos. They built a very successful online shoe retailing company (eventually bought by Amazon) on the back of Twitter. This was supposed to disrupt retailing forever as clever marketers would use Twitter to replace paid advertising. There has never been another Zappos.

We then had The Ice Bucket Challenge. Charitable fund raising would never be the same as non-profits learned "The Five Essential Lessons Of The Ice Bucket Challenge" as defined in hundreds of insufferable Powerpoint presentations by every marketing and social media nonentity on the planet. There was only one essential lesson to be learned -- sometimes crazy shit catches on.

Finally, social media brought us the revolutionary "Arab Spring." The less said about this delusional horseshit the better.

Now we are told that Trump's Twitter tornado will change politics. It won't. It is most likely another social media one-off that will work for Trump and no one else.

First, the whole Twitter phenomenon is not a Twitter phenomenon. In April of 2016, at the height of Republican presidential nomination hysteria, Trump had 7.5 million followers on Twitter. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say they were all American voters (which they most certainly were not) and they were all humans and not bots (not a chance in the world.) He still had a following that constituted only 3% of American adults.

How was it that only 3% of Americans followed him on Twitter but 100% knew about his tweets? Simple - TV, radio and newspapers decided they were big news. Think about it - how did you find out about Trump tweets? Did you follow him on Twitter, or did you hear and read about them on TV, radio and newspapers? The mass media enormously amplified his tweets and still does.

Journalists are bewitched by Twitter. A recent survey showed that 96% of journalists use Twitter on a weekly basis. Meanwhile, about 20% of Americans have a Twitter account (Pew Research.)

Obviously, journalists put a lot more value on what happens on Twitter than you or I do. They became enthralled with Trump's tweets. Let's face it, his tweets are good copy. But journalists are probably already regretting that they made such a fuss over them and spread them all over mass media. Journalists eventually learn their lessons. No one will ever again get the kind of mass media free ride from tweeting that Trump has gotten.

Twitter, like all social media, is a corrupt and sordid thing. It works most effectively for athletes, pop stars, actors, and other famous people because average people want to bask in the reflected glory of their famous heroes. After starring for 14 years on a "reality" TV show Trump fits this profile. He's a made-for-Twitter politician. Most politicians don't even come close. Who the fuck wants to bask in the glory of Nancy Pelosi or Mitch McConnell?

You can bet the farm that every half-assed pol in the world is currently trying to emulate Trump's Twitter formula to aggrandize him/herself. In 99.9% of cases it will come to nothing.

What are "The Five Essential Lessons Of The Trump Twitter Phenomenon?" There is only one - it won't happen again.

Update...
my interview with BBC World Service can be found here.

January 29, 2018

The Problem Isn't Technology. It's Us.


A few years ago we entered what might be termed the “technological” era of advertising. In this era, machines and software took a lot of the tasks that used to be done by people and started to do them quicker, and in some cases better.

Recently, we have thought of ad technology mostly in terms of media. But technology has influenced the advertising business in many other ways including film production, computer design, data collection and analysis, etc.

Technology, in fact, has influenced all aspects of the advertising business. In many instances for the better, in some, for the worse.

The problem we have yet to come to terms with is that there is a difference between technology and science. We view our modern technological tools as giving us a scientific way of doing advertising. Before technology we were mostly guessing at what was working and what wasn’t. Today we believe that technology gives us a much truer picture of advertising reality.

I am not convinced.

The essence of science lays in honesty. Scientists must approach their activities with the greatest skepticism. They must be doubtful. If they are approaching a problem - an experiment, if you will - and have already decided what the outcome must be, they are not doing science. They are doing advocacy.

Our boosterism about technology does not have the integrity of science because it has lacked skepticism and doubt. Ten years ago we decided what the technological revolution in advertising was going to deliver. We decided this with great anticipation but no facts. All we had were the assertions and promises of experts, and a set of outcomes we were aggressively anticipating.

Let’s review a few examples of what experts promised us about advertising technology and what has actually occurred.
1. We were told that technology - in particular the collection and analysis of online data — would allow us to produce advertising that was tailored to the personal interests and behaviors of individuals and would make advertising more relevant, more welcome, and more effective.

2.  We were told that technology would allow us to engage consumers as never before through digital social channels which would open up lines of communication that consumers would find compelling and lead them to “join the conversation” with us, and with each other, about our brands.

3. We were told that digital media buying technology - what we now call programmatic buying - would enable us to spend our media dollars in a far more efficient manner.
These are just a few of the many promises that experts assured us would be the benchmarks of the era of advertising technology.

It is not my intention in this piece to undertake a dismantling of these promises (I seem to have spent the last five years attempting that.) But I do want to be sure my point is clear, so let me state a few facts for the record:
1. Virtually every independent study I have seen on consumer attitudes about online advertising indicate that they are exactly the opposite of what we were told to anticipate. Online advertising is generally seen as the least trustworthy, the least liked, the least relevant and the most annoying.

2. The idea that consumers would be enthusiastic about “joining the conversation” about brands has turned out to be a fantasy. One look at a Facebook page and you can see there is not a conversation about brands to be found. In fact Facebook has essentially given up on providing brands with anything like significant organic social reach. According to most sources, the Facebook algorithm now delivers a brand’s page organically to about 1% of its followers. It has instead become the world’s leading distributor and beneficiary of paid display advertising -- the very thing it was supposed to replace.

3.  The waste in online advertising is beyond comprehension. Reliable estimates are that over $16 billion in online ad dollars will be stolen by fraud this year; ad tech middlemen are scraping about 75% of online ad dollars even when there is no fraud; of the 25% of non-fraud ads that actually “appear” only about 50% are visible to consumers.
In fairness to the early champions of advertising technology and the experts that waxed eloquently about its promise, they probably could not have foreseen any of these unintended effects of ad technology.

And here’s where science steps in. To a scientist with integrity, honesty is more important than ego. A scientist is out to discover the truth, not to prove himself right. If ad technology - and our industry - were being led by people of integrity instead of boosters and hustlers, we would have corrected the record long ago. We would have buried the many misconceptions about ad technology that are currently enormously influential in marketing circles.

I want to quote to you something from Richard Feynman, one of the most brilliant men of the 20th century.

“There are big schools of reading methods and mathematics methods and so forth, but if you notice, you’ll see the reading scores keep going down or hardly going up in spite of the fact that we continually use these same people to improve the methods. Another example is how we treat criminals. We obviously have made no progress — lots of theory but no progress — in decreasing the amount of crime by the methods we use to handle criminals.

Yet these things are said to be scientific. We study them. And I think ordinary people with commonsense ideas are intimidated by them. A teacher who has some good idea of how to teach her children to read is forced by a school system to do it some other way - or even fooled by a school system into thinking that her method is not necessarily a good one. Or a parent of “bad boys” after disciplining them in one way or another, feels guilty for the rest of her life because she didn’t do “the right thing” according to the experts.”


I’m sure by now you’re seeing where I'm going with this. It is my contention that with a few rare exceptions, we in the ad industry, despite our addiction to technology, are not practicing science.

If our commitment to technology is based on scientific principles about the efficacy of our technologies, why are we so confused? Why are we still so lost in our search for finding out what really works? Why is there so much disagreement? Why do we hear so often that marketing isn’t as effective as it once was? And that advertising isn’t as effective as it once was? Why are we chasing every shiny thing that comes around in the hope we can find a magic button? Aren't we exactly like the experts on reading and criminal reform that Feynman describes?

How did it reach the point that the brand leader of the largest advertiser on the planet had to characterize the online advertising ecosystem as “murky at best and fraudulent at worst" and threaten to withdraw all their support? How did it reach the point at which social media fraud is the lead story on the front page of The New York Times? It's simple -- years of obfuscation, misrepresentation, and flat-out lies by the "leaders" of our industry.

Technology has enchanted us but we have chosen to ignore its lessons because they have not confirmed our expectations. We pick and choose our examples to prove our points. We have acted like cheerleaders, not scientists.

We have experts coming around telling us that virtual reality is the answer, or QR codes, or “voice,” or AI, or content, or emojis, or Pokemon Go, or social media, or blockchain or...what will it be next week?

And where is the science to prove any of this? Well it turns out the science is usually just case histories and anecdotes. Sadly, these pseudo-scientific devices are convincing enough to fool most people. Just attend any marketing conference.

Feynman says about scientific inquiry, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”

In my mind, advertising technology has lost its credibility for two reasons. First, we haven’t acknowledged the unanticipated consequences of what has ensued. Second, we have refused to act honestly and correct the errors of our expectations. Instead we have created an ongoing crisis of credibility with a constant stream of half-truths, lame excuses, and public scandals.

We have refused to admit that a great deal of what we promised has turned out to be wrong. We continue to behave as if the predictions and promises of years ago are still relevant. We continue to make excuses. When we are confronted with real world contradictions to our predictions we kick the can down the road, “just wait, you’ll see.”

Ad tech is now sounding an awful lot like religion. It’s always going to bring great things some day. Just not today.

Does this mean that technology has nothing to offer us? Of course not. But as Feynman would say, technology doesn't come with instructions. Until the ad tech industry and those who have been protecting and defending it in the agency world start to be truthful about what we have learned, our business will continue to be poisoned by a most dishonest and wasteful disease — technology without science.

It's not the technology that's the problem. It's us.

January 22, 2018

How To Become The Largest Agency In The World


A few days ago, a fine fellow named Matt Bergman was kind enough to say some very nice things about me on LinkedIn.

Matt did a juxtaposition of excerpts from two different pieces about "branding." One was from WPP (the largest agency holding company on the planet) and one was from me.

Being the nice guy that he is, Matt said that both pieces came from completely different planets but each had something to offer.

Being the asshole that I am, I think the WPP piece is utter garbage. It is absolutely one hundred percent undiluted horseshit. Some sentences seem to be just random clichés strung together willy-nilly by imbeciles.

Now, to be fair, the excerpts are just that, excerpts. You can take pretty much anything and cut it apart and make it look silly. But this thing wasn't edited for that purpose. It was edited for the opposite purpose by someone looking for value.

In my opinion, it's a perfect example of the unspeakable jargon and hideous double-talk that the advertising industry has been force-feeding naive and impressionable clients. It's a paragon of the dreadful gibberish that makes agency brand babble so often a laughingstock among sensible people.

But I'll let you be the judge. Here's the excerpt in question from the WPP piece. You can find the whole piece at WPP's eReading Room:
"People expect their brand experiences to be relevant, customized and value-adding within the context of the touchpoint where they take place. They also expect each touchpoint to be inherently flexible, to play the role that they want at a given time... How can brands balance this with the need to stay coherent – and differentiate themselves from the other brands scrambling to offer every experience at every touchpoint?

...It is the emotional connection that brands are able to create consistently with their chosen audiences that gives them their power : an influence over both immediate, instinctive decision-making and more conscious rationalization of choices. When marketers talk about brand consistency, it is the components of their brand that produce these emotional responses that they need to focus on. When understood and managed in the right way, emotion can run like a consistent thread through the different experiences that a brand weaves for different touchpoints. Consistent emotions deliver consistent brand experiences...

Marketers must match the emotive needs of their target audiences with the emotive meaning that their brand represents...they can then plan to deliver relevant touchpoint experiences in a way that connects with this inherent emotive meaning."
If you haven't killed yourself by now, congratulations. You are a strong and formidable person.


January 18, 2018

Technology And Wisdom


There is a battle going on for the soul of marketing. It is a struggle between two competing forces -- technology and wisdom.

It is not unusual for technology and wisdom to be at odds. Technology moves in a straight line. Wisdom doesn't.

When our country was formed, about 250 years ago, the technology was remarkably primitive compared to today. No motor vehicles, no electricity, no antibiotics. But was there less wisdom? You'd have to be a mighty persuasive individual to convince any reasonable person that today's leaders are wiser than the "founding fathers."

This has been true throughout history. One of the reasons that the Bible and Shakespeare still appeal to us is that the follies of humans - the greed, envy, and betrayal - are constant while the technology moves from slingshots to spears to laser guided missiles.

If I had to make the case that humanity is any wiser today than it was 5,000 years ago, I'd be at a loss.

Nonetheless, today in the marketing industry we have foolishly equated technology with wisdom. The result is Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook has utilized technological skill to create an immensely profitable business. But it has been run by callow oafs whose lack of wisdom has created a crisis for democracies, a dangerously cruel social environment for children, and an un-safe space for truth.

Not all technology is the province of the young and not all wisdom comes with age. But, as a rule, tech is the territory of youth, wisdom the territory of maturity.

In the world of marketing, the conflict between technology and wisdom has been no contest. All it takes is a quick stroll through the halls of any marketing or advertising enterprise and it becomes immediately apparent which side has won. In the US today, 42% of the adult population is over 50. But in the advertising industry only 6% of employees are over 50.

The result is that the marketing industry is drowning in technology and starving for wisdom. Technology, left unbalanced by wisdom, is currently responsible for some of the most wasteful, idiotic, and ineffectual follies in the history of commerce. Or does $16 billion in ad fraud not shock us anymore? Does relentless surveillance not concern us? Does public disgust not bother us?

The wisdom of advertising's great "founding fathers" -- the Bernbachs and Gossages -- are unknown or ignored. They knew nothing about our current technology so how they can they inform what we're doing today?... goes the argument.

Technology without wisdom is just an elevator without buttons.

January 16, 2018

Sweethearts Or Customers?


In 2014, I wrote a book called Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey. The thesis of the book was that we marketers have largely lost contact with reality and are living in a fantasyland of our own invention.

Last week I was doing a podcast for the great Bob Knorpp and was asked about an article that appeared in MarketingDaily entitled "Marketers As Relationship Scientists." The article was the kind of undiluted horseshit that has become the norm in the modern literature of marketing.

If we are to believe the article in question we are no longer "Brand Architects," nor are we any longer "Cultural Anthropologists." No sir. Now we need to be reborn as "Relationship Scientists." It seems that the worse we get at marketing the more preposterous our job descriptions become.

The problem is that the gap I described in "Marketers/Mars" -- between what we think we are doing and what we are actually doing -- is accelerating at a head-spinning pace.

We believe that our ability to collect data about individuals and deliver advertising to these individuals "at the right time, at the right place, with the right message" has made our advertising more relevant, and consequently more effective and better-liked. This is what Marc Pritchard of P&G calls "mass one-to-one marketing."

Ultimately, the goal of mass one-to-one marketing is for us "relationship scientists" to build powerful relationships with individual customers based on our keen understanding of their individual characteristics.We believe we have made big strides toward this goal through our gathering and utilization of personal data.

This is the most insanely out-of-touch delusion in an insanely out-of-touch industry.

In the real world, consumers are horrified. They hate what we are doing. Every reliable study I have seen says that consumers view personalized, precision-targeted advertising as the least trusted, most annoying, least relevant and most hated form of advertising. This is one reason there are over 600 million connected devices in the world running ad blockers.

But marketers are unmoved. We are committed to an ideology, and that commitment is impervious to facts or reason.

We are also preoccupied with infantile concepts like "brand relationships," "brand love," and "brand engagement." Apparently it's a fucking lonely hearts club out there. We're not seeking customers, we're looking for sweethearts.

Consumers, on the other hand, seem perfectly satisfied with having the shallowest of connections to us. They are quite satisfied just to buy our stuff from time to time and to focus their passions on people, not peanut butter or paper towels.

Most marketers don't understand that while their brand is vitally important to them, it is of little to no consequence to their customers. These marketers don't understand the enormous difference between brand acceptability and brand love. (I'll be writing a lot more about this soon.) Their deepest desire is to be loved. But most consumers in most categories don't really give much of a shit.

I am quite sure that my habit of buying the same brand of canned tuna fish every week for the past 30 years has very little to do with "brand love" and has everything to do with my natural inclination not to screw things up that I'm satisfied with.

Anyone who has observed shoppers patrolling a supermarket and has the slightest bit of acumen can't help but observe that when buying plastic wrap or apple juice we are far more likely to behave pragmatically than passionately.

I'm still waiting to observe the first shopper going gaga over her choice of tomato sauce, frozen waffles, or wet wipes.

Nonetheless, we will continue to delude ourselves into believing the self-aggrandizing nonsense that we are 'brand architects', 'cultural anthropologists', and 'relationship scientists.' It is so much more romantic than admitting what we really are -- sales bozos.

I can't help but recall the great line Dashiell Hammett wrote for Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, "The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter."

If you want to test my thesis that we have lost touch with the real world try this experiment. Go into any bar in America and explain to the assembled crowd that you work in marketing and that you are a "brand architect", a "cultural anthropologist" or a "relationship scientist."

It shouldn't take much more than 30 seconds to get your ass handed to you.


In Other News... 
... I don't usually pimp my podcast on the blog, but there's a new episode called "I Finally Understand Why Online Advertising Doesn't Build Brands" which I think you will find interesting.


January 11, 2018

My Hopes For 2018


Three years ago I wrote a post called "My Hopes For 2015." Just to show how little things change, I am re-posting it here word-for-word as my hopes for 2018.


I'm tired of being disappointed. Every year I have high hopes that it's going to be different. And it never is.

So this year I am determined not to be disappointed. I've adjusted my hopes for the year accordingly.

Here's what I'm hoping for in 2015:

  • I'm hoping that some people with no talent or brains became really famous. 
  • I'm hoping that a presidential candidate writes a book.
  • I hope that some Hollywood stars sign a petition.
  • I'm hoping that a famous athlete gets arrested.
  • I'm hoping that college students discover the world isn't perfect.  
  • I hope there's a Super Bowl spot with talking animals.
  • I'm hoping that companies I buy things from make it very hard for me to talk to someone on the phone. 
  • I'm hoping for really annoying online ads. 
  • I hope to see more about Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian, and Al Sharpton.
  • I'm hoping that someone announces they are going to re-invent the ad agency. 
  • I'm hoping this is the year of mobile. 
  • I hope someone in Washington suggests that we move to the metric system. 
  • I hope that some pop music stars share their political opinions with us.
  • I'm hoping that a lot of people decide that anyone who doesn't agree with them -- particularly about religion or politics -- needs to be killed. 
  • I hope that two large advertising companies merge.  
  • I'm hoping that a marketing group holds a conference called "Disrupt" or "Engage" or "Connect."
  • I hope that people get really sensitive about their religion or race or size or height or sex or ethnicity. 
  • I'm hoping that we have more people on TV talk shows screaming at each other. 
  • I hope our elected representatives have really nice suits and haircuts.
  • I'm hoping someone makes a movie about a flawed loner who has to save the world.
  • I'm hoping that a car company has the best deals of the year. 
  • I'm hoping that all my friends post cute pictures of their children. 
  • I'm hoping someone says, "It is what it is." 
  • I hope that a food we thought was good for us turns out to be bad, and a food we thought was bad turns out to be good. 
  • I'm hoping for more data-driven insights.
  • I hope that the ceo of a once-great magazine or newspaper decides they need to be an "online content provider. " 
  • I'm hoping to read about developing my personal brand. 
  • I hope that a tech ceo publishes an article about how I can be just like him if I follow five simple rules. 
  • I hope that someone writes a book about how to market to millennials. 
I have a feeling that this year I won't be disappointed.

January 07, 2018

The Copernicus Of Media


So today we're having a nice light pleasant day in which no planners will be harmed, no fraudulent or corrupt online bastards will be unmasked, and no agency holding companies will be ridiculed. I know, it sounds a little creepy. But fear not.

Instead we will focus on the positive. In particular, the self-aggrandizing positive -- my most favorite kind.

Today we are announcing the launch of the Ad Contrarian Show a sporadic podcast focusing on some of my favorite blog posts over the years. I believe they make for a nice cleansing 5 minute break from the horrifying daily onslaught of bullshit we all subjected to.

So when you're feeling really blue, punch up the Ad Contrarian Show right here and I suspect you'll feel a lot better.

The second part of today's blog is to accept my elevation to the role of the "Copernicus Of Media" as bestowed on me by the great David Indo and Tom Denford of ID Comms. Each year they pick their ten favorite people and things in marketing and bestow certain honors.

It is with great humility (and a year's supply of Polish sausage) that I
accept this daunting, yet challenging responsibility.

Here's a greatly abridged version of how my coronation went down...


Next year I am hoping to be recognized as the Isaac Newton of synchronized swimming.

January 04, 2018

Facebook's Dangerous Ad Model


People sometimes ask me some version of the following question:
"Why are you so down on political ads on Facebook and not on TV?"
It's a reasonable question. The answer has 3 parts:

1. Television advertising is obviously advertising. When we see a TV spot, we know exactly what it is. No one ever mistook a TV spot for a news broadcast. Ads on Facebook, however, look exactly like "content." It is hard to differentiate an ad from a post or a post from a news item. Consequently, political ads on Facebook often serve as fake news even if they are not intended to be such.

2. On television (and radio) political ads are required to be identified as such. Not on Facebook. Facebook maintains the absurd position that it is not a media company. In fact, it is the largest media company in the history of the world. By saying they are a "platform" or a "tech company" or some other obfuscation, they have exempted themselves from the adult responsibilities that media companies must assume. Amazingly, the governmental authorities have allowed Facebook to get away with this nonsense.

3. Facebook does everything possible to blur the lines. On the web, there is an awful culture of blurring the lines between advertising and content (for some depth on this, you might want to read an excellent book called BadMen.) Facebook is one of the worst offenders. They intentionally use imprecise language -- e.g.,"sponsored" instead of "ad" -- to describe advertising in our feeds. They use loopholes in their user agreement to imply endorsements when none exist. Here's an example taken from my Facebook feed...


Despite the claim in this ad, I can assure you that Barbara Lippert (whom I know) did not endorse The Wall Street Journal. Nonetheless, Facebook continues to use this squalid practice to confuse people. Once again, the result is that we are never quite sure what is an ad.

Regardless of one's political leanings, the corrupting effect of Facebook's advertising practices have to be regarded as anathema to any idea of responsible political advertising. Couple this with the amount of personal and private information they have amassed about us without our explicit knowledge or consent and you have a very combustible and dangerous mixture. 

As I said over 7 years ago...
"There’s no reasonable way that this is a good development for a free society. There is no realistic vision of the future in which this will not lead to appalling mischief."
The "appalling mischief" arrived in 2016, contaminating our presidential election.

Our elected officials have demonstrated utter incompetence at dealing with this issue. The only hope is that responsible advertisers will force Facebook to clean up its toxic practices by withdrawing advertising money.

Did I say "responsible advertisers?" Yeah, right. This will happen when chickens play checkers.

January 02, 2018

Everybody Wants My Feedback


We can't do anything these days without someone annoying the shit out of us for feedback.

Buy a cell phone? Pretty soon you'll get an email inquiring about your buying experience. Visit the doctor? In a few days the ceo of the "system" will be asking you to rate your visit. Take a flight? You'll get some free miles if you just complete the survey.

Every morning I go to a coffee shop called Peet's. Every morning they ask me if I have their app. Every morning I say no. Every morning they tell me I should download the app because I can accumulate points and get a free cup of coffee. Every morning I tell them that if I wanted a free cup of coffee I would stay the fuck home and make it myself.

The whole business of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has evolved into not much more than a contest for who can collect the most data by constantly pestering the hell out of us. 

It might be acceptable if these people were actually doing something useful with their data. But they're not. The amount of time, energy, and money they are spending irritating us with data collection schemes disguised as feedback inquiries is way out of proportion to the actual application of this data to anything of value.

A recent article in Marketing Week was headlined "Customer Experience Investment Fails To Pay Off As Performance Hits All-Time Low"

The article says...
KPMG Nunwood’s annual Customer Experience Excellence study shows that rather than improving, the overall performance score for British brands has hit the lowest level in the eight-year history of the report
In other words, the more feedback they are getting from us, the worse they are performing. One of the executives at the company that did the research said...
"...part of the issue is that organisations are not structured to think effectively about the customer..."
I don't know what that bullshit means, but here's what I do know. Most companies are living in a fantasy world in which they think that if they engage (i.e., bother) us enough they can get us to "love" their brand.

Consumers, on the other hand, mostly don't give a good flying shit about their brand. They want a cup of coffee and they want it now. And they don't want to stand in line while the barista wastes everybody's time trying to peddle a useless app to every bleary-eyed bastard who's late for the bus.

If companies would stop wasting their time implementing their marketing department's idiotic ideas about brand engagement and just provide better service, maybe customer satisfaction wouldn't be at an all-time low.

This means they need to forget the juvenile delusion that we are all in love with brands. They need to  stop trying to get us to love them by annoying the living shit out of us with emails, apps, social media contrivances, idiotic "content" and other engagement gimmicks that cost them a fortune and buy them not an ounce of loyalty.

Here's the thing Ms Marketer -- most of you are collecting data to "better understand" your customer. This is just code for sending us more useless, annoying crap. It is a colossal waste of your time, money and energy. And, as the research indicates, it has had the exact opposite of its intended effect.

The only value in data is if you actually do something useful with it. Annoying us with a relentless torrent of horseshit is the antithesis of useful.