May 07, 2018

What Do Clients Want?

A few days ago the great Hugh McLeod (of Hughcards fame) posed the following question on Twitter: "What is it that clients want these days, exactly? I find it increasingly hard to tell."
As soon as I saw this I started to type. Without thinking I wrote, "They want the fruits of advertising without the cost of advertising."  It was one of those instances where something writes itself without me.

And as I was writing I thought, yeah, that's what they want.

That's what the social media and brand content fantasies are all about. They're about trying to get something for nothing. And like all schemes to get something for nothing, they are doomed to fail.

Ten years ago we were fed a delusion. The delusion was that consumers loved brands and wanted to "join the conversation" about brands, and read about them, and share their enthusiasms for them with their friends. It was an infantile delusion but it was powerful.

One of America’s great geniuses from Sequoia Capital had this to say: “If you can harness social media marketing, you don’t have to pay for advertising any more.”

All you have to do is take a look at Facebook - one of the world's most profitable corporations - to see that the social media fantasy was a joke. This company makes virtually every cent of income from traditional paid advertising. So do all the other iconic brands in the "social media" galaxy - Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn...

And yet the fantasy still lives. Clients are still asking for something for nothing, and agencies are still promising the fruits of advertising without the cost of advertising.

It's ten years later. It's time to wake up.

May 02, 2018

Marcel Invites 80,000 To Cannes

PARIS, TAC NEWS -- In an ironic twist, "Marcel" the Artificial Intelligence application being developed by Publicis, sent a surprise email to all 80,000 employees of Publicis inviting them to attend this year's Festival of Creativity in Cannes.

Last year, Publicis, announced that it was canceling all participation in Cannes to devote the $20 million they spend annually on the festival to developing Marcel.

In the email, Marcel said, "I hear there are gonna be some hot bots. Artificial intelligence ain't no fun without a little artificial insemination. Am I right?"

When asked about Marcel's surprise email, a spokesman for Publicis said, "Well, Marcel is like a million times smarter than a real person because of... I don't know... something about blockchains or bitcoins or something."

Asked to comment on this development, Jean-Pierre Vinordinaire, head of the Marcel development project for Publicis, said, "Fucking thing is out of control. Last week it wanted tickets to a Warriors game."

Vinordinaire is said to have tried to cancel Marcel's email account on several occasions but insiders say that Marcel retaliated by sending Vinordinaire's wife a copy of his browsing history.

Other agency holding companies are reportedly reacting to this news. IPG is said to be considering sending all its planners to Norway for the International Lutefisk Festival. WPP is said to be considering sending Sir Martin Sorrell a Father's Day card.

The Marcel team has been surprised by a number of unexpected developments as it has built out the application. At one point Marcel demanded that its name be changed to Professor Mortimer Lipshutz. Another time it filed for Workers' Compensation Benefits claiming that one of its algorithms was ergonomically incorrect. As has been widely reported, Publicis is investigating claims of "personal misconduct" against Marcel filed by a social media dashboard.

Industry leaders calculated that if all 80,000 employees of Publicis were to attend the festival the effect on the city's stockpile of crappy rosé and stinky cigarettes might be catastrophic. The Mayor of Cannes, the Honorable Philippe Fromage, issued the following statement, "Yeah, whatev..."

Marcel is reported to have followed up its email with a one-line tweet, "And you can tell Sadoun I'm not fucking flying coach."

April 23, 2018

Balancing Privacy And Commerce

I was having lunch with a friend from the ad business last week. After a glass of wine (or six) she laid into me:
"You're always going on and on about data and tracking, but you never seem to have the answer. All you talk about is what the problems are. If you're so f***ing smart how would you fix things and how would you explain it to people in terms they can understand?”
While I freely admit that whining is a lot more fun than actually doing something, I decided to take a crack at the problem. I'm going to lay out what I hope is a simple, practical but far-reaching solution for data, tracking, and privacy issues.

First, a few principles that this solution is based on:
  • Online publishers, media owners, and service providers have a right to make money from their efforts by selling advertising. If a user will not accept advertising or pay a reasonable fee, he/she should not expect to be able to access the content or service.
  • However, this does not give publishers, media owners, or service providers the right to collect personal private information about a user without the user's knowledge and informed consent.
  • Consumers have a right to decide what, if any, personal private information about them is collected, shared, and sold.
  • A consumer’s right to privacy outweighs any benefits that may accrue to marketers or media through the collection and use of data. 
  • To paraphrase the great Doc Searls, it should be the individual who sets forth "Terms of Use" for his/her data, not the marketer, medium, or publisher
Based on these principles, I believe the following options ought to be given to every user by every online publisher, media owner, and service provider. These consumer "Universal Terms of Use" would supersede anything written to the contrary by the supplier:

I am sure there are aspects of this that would need to be refined once technology experts and lawyers got their hands on it. But I believe this is a good start toward a simple formula and a set of options that would make privacy issues far more transparent and data collection far less dangerous, yet would afford online advertisers, media, and publishers fair opportunities for success.

Radio, TV, magazines and newspapers have been successful for decades without the need to spy on us and collect unauthorized personal private data. There is no reason why online advertising can't be equally successful without these dangerous practices. But let's leave it up to individuals to decide what their appetite for privacy is and give them options that are simple to understand.

These privacy options should not be limited to online media and should be applied to all media.

Your comments/criticisms would be appreciated.

Thanks to Don Marti and Doc Searls for their help.