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...
" 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...
" 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, 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.