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 questions 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.