August 31, 2015

Random Acts Of Punditry

Morons And Their Money
Anyone who takes data generated by online activity seriously needs to take a nice slow read through this article about Ashley Madison.

The author did a little analysis of the Ashley Madison data that was exposed by the hacker group "Impact Team." What she found was this -- of the 5.5 million reported female accounts on the moronic website, it is likely that only about 12,000 -- or about zero percent -- were real.

No wonder I couldn't get a date.

I Never Make Predictions, But...
I would be very surprised if three years from now every operating system for every digital device didn't come loaded with software to obstruct tracking and enable blocking of unwanted content. This will wreak havoc with online advertising and, in the long run, make it less pervasive, better, and more effective.

This Actress Is Very Funny

Awesome New Gimmick To Get You To My Website 
Starting today, we will be re-purposing old Ad Contrarian rants over at my business website. 

Every weekday we'll be going down into The Ad Contrarian cellar and coming up with semi-brilliant and almost-fascinating shit from the archives. 

Here's your link to even more Ad Contrarian goodness.

August 27, 2015

Is Our Long Digital Nightmare Coming To An End?

I can think of nothing that has done more harm to the internet than adtech.

It is a plague. It interferes with virtually everything we try to do on the web. It has cheapened and debased advertising. It has helped spawn criminal empires. It is in part responsible for unprecedented fraud and corruption. It has turned marketing executives into clueless baboons. And it is destroying the idea of privacy, one of the backbones of democracy.

And for what? 8 clicks in 10,000 impressions?

But maybe there is hope for those of us who hate adtech.

The era of creepy tracking, maddening pop-ups and auto-play, and horrible banners may be drawing to its rightful conclusion.

According to Doc Searls, one of the smartest guys who's ever made the impenetrable comprehensible, the tide is turning against adtech.

In a recent post on his blog, Doc says Apple's new iOS platform will enable developers to develop apps that allow...
"...much more control over unwanted content than is provided currently by ad and tracking blockers on Web browsers, and does it at the system level, rather than at the browser level."
Doc goes on to say,
"...content blocking is chemo for the cancer of adtech."
Let's hope Doc is right. There is plenty of room on the web for responsible advertising without the Frankenstein of adtech.

Be sure to read Doc's full piece here.

August 26, 2015

Where Are The Artists?

Today we wander far afield from the mundane world of advertising and dip our toes into the murky waters of education. Yes, today we become The Ed Contrarian.

A couple of recent articles about life on American college campuses have painted a very disturbing picture of 1984-style bullying in which students -- by claiming an ultra-sensitivity to subject matter and opinions which they either don't approve of or don't agree with -- have effectively gotten discussion of these topics barred from campuses and from classrooms.

The first article is called "I'm A Liberal Professor, And My Liberal Students Terrify Me". The thrust of the article is that there is a Stalinist-like atmosphere on campus in which professors have to be very careful about what they say:
"I have intentionally adjusted my teaching materials as the political winds have shifted. (I also make sure all my remotely offensive or challenging opinions, such as this article, are expressed either anonymously or pseudonymously). Most of my colleagues who still have jobs have done the same. We've seen bad things happen to too many good teachers ...being removed from classes after a single student complaint..."
A second article called "The Coddling of the American Mind" appeared in the Atlantic and said... 
"This new climate is slowly being institutionalized, and is affecting what can be said in the classroom, even as a basis for discussion. During the 2014–15 school year, for instance, the deans and department chairs at the 10 University of California system schools were presented by administrators at faculty leader-training sessions with examples of microaggressions. The list of offensive statements included: “America is the land of opportunity” and “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”
This ethos is a perversion of "liberalism," which is meant to be a philosophy of tolerance. Instead it is nothing more than puerile politics masquerading as personal sensitivity. Just to be clear, this small-mindedness is not limited to one political point of view. 

I am not at all surprised that college faculties and administrators have become hostage to student touchiness. Ever since I went to college a thousand years ago, it was clear to me that faculties are replete with weak-kneed popularity-seekers who pander to the people they're supposed to be educating.

What I want to know is, where are the people who usually stand up to coercive ignoramuses? Where are the artists?

We've always had our Henry Millers, Pablo Picassos and Leo Tolstoys to give the finger to philistines who wanted to dictate what is acceptable.

Why do we hear nothing from the art community about this?

An academic institution is supposed to be a place where controversial ideas are examined, not banned.

If you are too sensitive to hear an unwelcome point of view, you are too delicate to be educated.

August 24, 2015

Advertising Is Becoming Fast Food.

In the beginning, there was the hamburger.

Then God created McDonald's. And the people said, "this is good."

They liked the idea of paying 15¢ for a burger.

But over time, as the fast food hamburger became the norm, the quality of the average hamburger dropped dramatically. It was not economically feasible to offer both a high quality hamburger and a very low price.

We are experiencing the same thing in advertising.

Advertising used to be expensive. Magazines, newspapers, outdoor, TV and radio used to charge advertisers a lot of money for the privilege of annoying their audiences. Now there is an alternative.

The web has made advertising cheap. You can buy ads on websites, on Facebook, on Twitter for fractions of pennies. Okay, maybe handfuls of pennies. But the point is, there is now a low-price alternative to traditional media.

This has not had a positive effect on the quality of advertising.

Agencies once competed for high-priced, talented people to meet the expectations of clients who were spending a lot of money for media. Clients spending fractions of pennies for media don't seem to have the same expectations.

Of course, there has always been a lot of crappy advertising, but I don't think any serious student of advertising would argue with the assertion that the level of creativity in advertising has taken a deep dive in recent years.

The economics of inexpensive online advertising has meant that only a foolish agency would hire high-priced, talented people to write and design banner ads, website copy, and tweets.

As agency work became more trivial, agency talent became more inconsequential.

So agencies started hiring not-so-high-priced, not-so-talented people to do this stuff. And, in the fullness of time, it was inevitable that these people would rise in the ranks in agencies. Those who were hired to write tweets and banners are now writing big brand campaigns.

Happily, we still have some very talented people working in some excellent agencies. But they are the exceptions. For the most part, our industry has seriously diminished its talent pool and our creative work is showing the stress.

Advertising is becoming fast food.

August 20, 2015

Today At Campaign

You can catch me at Campaign's Private View feature here today.

To read my remarks you need to click on my gorgeous face.

August 19, 2015

Apple And The Interruption Factory

The mobile web should be renamed The Interruption Factory.

There is no more frustrating or infuriating experience than trying to accomplish something on a mobile device. We are constantly interrupted, misdirected, and hijacked.

It has become almost impossible to read a simple news article on a mobile device without winding up somewhere you have no interest in visiting and no way to get back from.

Clicking on a mobile link has become a form of Russian roulette brought to you by your friends in the advertising industry.

We have taken the promise of mobile advertising and turned into a cesspool of stupidity and annoyance. There is no form of intrusion too grotesque.

But there may be hope.

According to published reports, Apple's iOS9 -- due to be released next month -- will allow certain plug-ins that can block ads and other unwanted mobile content.

Of course, nothing in techland is this simple. The vagaries of Apple's new system are way too technically daunting for a dumb-ass blogger to understand. And it seems like Apple has a lot to gain while filtering out advertising platforms other than their own.

Nonetheless, enabling the ability to use mobile devices without the constant interruptions and annoyances may turn out to be a big win for Apple and its aging iPhone.

Big losers may be agencies and publishers. By their relentless stupidity, they've earned it.

August 17, 2015

62% Of Content Viewed By Aliens

We all know that by utilizing big data and online metrics, digital advertising has become incredibly amazing.

Data specialists are capable of understanding everything about who we are and what we do, which is what makes online advertising so darn effective.

I mean, without all this tracking and technology, how could we possible achieve the astounding standard of 8 clicks per 10,000 ads served?

Imagine what display advertising would be like without all this brilliant technology. It might drop to, you know, 7 clicks per 10,000 or something. What a disaster!

Remarkably, one of the things we have learned from studying the data is that over 60% of viewers of online content are from other planets. That's right.

According to an article in The Washington Post, the Washington Redskins of the National Football League reported that there were almost 7.9 billion unique visitors to content about their training camp this summer.

Strangely, there are only 7.2 billion people on Earth.

And of the earthlings, only 40% have internet access.

This leaves only one possible explanation: The majority of these unique visitors must have come from someplace else. These visitors were really unique.

My calculations tell me that, if projectible, this means about 62% of "content" is being consumed by extraterrestrials.

If you ever have any doubt about the value of big data and online metrics, the fact that these awesome tools have once and for all proven the existence of alien beings should ease your mind.

August 11, 2015

10 Compelling Reasons To Target Millennials

Marketers who are not targeting Millennials are making a huge mistake and are leaving billions of dollars on the table.
  • They are responsible for about 50% of all consumer spending.
  • They have $2.4 trillion in annual income, which accounts for 42% of all after-tax income in the U.S.
  • They buy about 60% of all new cars
  • They have a net worth 3x that of other generations
  • They outspend the average consumer in nearly every category, from food, household furnishing, entertainment, personal care, gifts, etc.
  • They account for nearly $230 billion, or 55% of consumer packaged goods sales 
  • They dominate 94% of CPG categories
  • They outspend other adults online 2:1 on a per-capita basis 
  • They control about 70% of the wealth in the US
  • Nielsen calls them "the most valuable generation in the history of marketing" 
Oh, wait a second... that's not Millennials, that's people over 50.


August 10, 2015

Same Circus, New Monkeys.

Before you go firing your head of marketing and hiring a new one, let me save you some time and money.

Here's what your new cmo will say:
1. We need to get more digital
2. We need to get younger
It doesn't matter what the problem is, the answer will be...
1. We need to get more digital
2. We need to get younger
You have a crappy product?
1. We need to get more digital
2. We need to get younger
You have no discernible strategy?
1. We need to get more digital
2. We need to get younger
Your advertising is a stupid pile of shit?
1. We need to get more digital
2. We need to get younger
Your stores are filthy, your people are morons?
1. We need to get more digital
2. We need to get younger
If you're looking for a marketing job, repeat after me:
1. We need to get more digital
2. We need to get younger
It's the universal marketing strategy and will get you hired by any dumbass corporation in America.

You'll only last 18 months, but that's ok. There will always be another big dumb corporation that needs your keen insights.

August 06, 2015

Agency Business Committing Suicide

The advertising industry is well on its way to convincing the business community that advertising doesn't work.

Our obsessive desire to curry favor with the feckless trendy obsessions of the marketing industry -- interactivity, precision targeting, social media, big data, technology -- at the expense of the basics of brand building, is hurting marketers and killing advertising.

We have pounded marketers over the head with relentless bullshit about the miraculous power of digital communication. We have spent 10 years telling marketers that "advertising is dead." We have persuaded them that the "interruption model" is no longer viable.

The result is that they are now thoroughly convinced that the fairy tales we sold them are true. And because we are not delivering on the fairy tales, they are firing us right and left.

An article in Forbes last week, entitled "How The Big Shift To Digital And Data Marketing Is Getting Agencies Fired" gets the result right and the problem wrong.

Let's be clear -- it's not our capabilities that are the problem. The problem is the bullshit we promised. We told them we could make them fly and they believed us. Now that it's clear that we are incapable of making them fly, they're looking for someone who can perform the miracle we promised them.

According to the Forbes article:
  • 83% of clients say they are looking for skills and capabilities not found in most agencies 
  • 95% of CMOs do not have confidence in agency performance
  • 70% say they have no confidence in agency ability to manage or analyze data
These numbers are appalling and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

The article concludes that
"To regain their footing agencies should become highly flexible and constantly adapt"

Agencies have only one hope. We need to stop bullshitting and get back to the basic truth about advertising.

We need to quit blathering about the false gods of interactivity, precision targeting, social media, data, and technology... and convince marketers that the most effective way to build brands and businesses is through the unique and unmatched power of mass media and brilliant advertising.

August 05, 2015

Radical Simplicity

I am getting started on a new book entitled Radical Simplicity.

Radical Simplicity is intended to be a prescription for ridding our business of the immaterial, wasteful and frustrating practices, people, and behaviors that are confusing the shit out of us and undermining the effectiveness of what we do.

It will try to strip away all the bullshit of our industry. What's left will be a radically simple way to think about and practice advertising.

Any sensible person working in marketing and advertising knows there’s something deeply wrong. We can’t quite put our finger on it, but we can feel it.

My belief is that it stems from a downward spiral of oppressive, unnecessary complexity that has infected our culture, our thinking, our systems, and our organizations.

It is manifest in several ways:
  • a feeling that a great deal of what we are doing is a waste of time and money
  • systems that obstruct the carrying out of assignments rather than facilitate them
  • organizations that encourage vagueness to protect egos
  • a sense that the waiters are doing the cooking, and the umpires are running the bases.
  • non-productive jobs that are 80% meetings and presentations and 20% doing something
  • data, measurements, and processes that have names but no value
  • a culture drowning in false goals
  • a deep distrust by marketers of the people creating their advertising 
  • thinly disguised contempt among agencies for their clients 
  • media practices that are so alarmingly arcane, no one knows where their advertising is running, how much they are paying, or even if it is running
  • a profusion of dreadful, pompous corporate titles that sound ridiculous and mean nothing 
  • a constant drumbeat of anxiety 
We are very confused.

Radical Simplicity will aim at finding a simple path through the woods. It will aim at freeing us from the relentless torrent of bullshit and worthless legends and rituals that are ruining the advertising and marketing industries, and sending talented people running screaming from us.

If advertising were religion, Radical Simplicity aims to be a type of Reformation.

In keeping with its promise Radical Simplicity will be under 25 pages.

It's a tall order. Wish me luck.

August 03, 2015

Humans Out At MCR

NEW YORK, NY (UPA) -- Marketing communications firm MCR announced today that they will be revamping their staffing practices in 2016 to eliminate the need for "non-digital" staff.

"We think we have identified a new way to look at marketing communication that will create deeper value for our clients by eliminating unnecessary cost factors, such as personnel," said Rich Mandrake, ceo of MCR.

MCR's plan is to utilize technology-based resources such as software, virtual robots, and media algorithms to create and implement advertising and marketing programs for its clients.

"We will need to keep a few tech people on staff to insure that our systems are functioning well and are properly integrated. But that's it. Last-century resources like account managers, copywriters, art directors, and media planners -- in other words, people -- will be replaced by digital resources."

Susan Rottingham, Executive Director of Marketing Matrix, another advertising and marketing firm in East Wilting, PA expressed admiration for the concept.

"I believe this is a first step toward advertising's future. We can drive creative content strategy and design experiences into a highly curated, customized experience across the digital ecosystem by eliminating non-essential pathways."

Thomas Train of A&P Partners in Phoenix was less enthusiastic. "It comes down to this," Train said, "algorithms can't buy lunch."

But Mandrake is unshaken in his confidence in the new system.

"We have developed what we call 'virtual robotics' that can actually understand a client brief when it is converted into code via a proprietary algorithm we have developed. The robot program then goes online and hunts down previously created advertising and marketing campaigns in similar categories which it 'borrows' from -- much like a traditional creative team does," he explained.

Using existing software, a "virtual account manager" then relays the creative content to a newly developed media package called "Planner Z" which generates a media plan and transmits the plan via secure lines to a programmatic buying service or trading desk.

According to Mandrake, the development time from the moment a new client brief is received until a new advertising campaign starts appearing in media can take less than 30 minutes.

MCR was formed in 2002 by the merger of Mandrake & Partners and C.R. Lewin Associates. With offices in Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo, it currently employs 260 people and is the largest advertising agency in upstate New York.

You can learn more about the new technology here