June 12, 2018

The Power Of Talent


Today, about a million or so people will pack the streets of my home town, Oakland CA, for a parade to celebrate the Golden State Warriors who last week won their 3rd National Basketball Association championship in 4 years.

This is a phenomenal achievement that has been equaled by very few teams in the history of the NBA.

The NBA has a few things in common with the ad industry. For one thing, management people and coaches are highly mobile. Steve Kerr, head coach of the Warriors, was once General Manager of the Phoenix Suns. Alvin Gentry, head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans (who the Warriors defeated in the Western Conference semi-finals) was most recently assistant coach under Steve Kerr with the Warriors. As a result of management and coaching mobility there are very few secrets in the NBA.

The systems, the data, and the tactics are all well-known to everyone and are easily interchangeable. While there are some management groups and some coaches that are certainly superior to others, by far the biggest difference between winning and losing boils down to one thing - the talent of the players on the court.

As Steve Kerr said after the Warriors' victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers,  
"We had more talent than they did, and talent wins in this league."
This is a lesson that has been lost in the ad industry. We have become obsessed with systems, data, and tactics. If we got a peek behind the curtain, I'm sure we would find that the systems, the data, and the tactics of one agency group are substantially interchangeable with those of another. We have forgotten that what makes one organization superior to another is the talent of the players.

Imagine if Publicis had taken the $20 million it is spending on its "Marcel" AI gimmick and instead had invested it in hiring 20 or 30 of the best creative people in the world (I don't know? What does a top creative make these days?)

Imagine the impact on the organization that this would have had. Imagine what this type of talent could have done for them.

But no. To Publicis, systems and woolly ideas about "co-creation" and "collaboration" are more important than talent. They'd rather spend $20 million to have some mediocrities in Paris be able to connect with some mediocrities in New York than spend the money to hire 20 or 30 brilliant creative people who could establish an unprecedented powerhouse of talent.

Is it any wonder that the ad industry is viewed as an industry in extremis? Any industry that values systems and processes over talent is an industry in decay.


June 05, 2018

Advertising's Edifice Of Nonsense


There is evidence all around us that advertising is in a downward spiral, characterized by...
  • Consumer disgust with advertising
  • Loss of confidence in agencies
  • Massive confusion by brands about how and where to advertise
  • Widespread belief that advertising has become less effective
  • Uncontrolled fraud and corruption
One of the reasons for this nosedive is that the ad industry is in a cycle of stupidity that it can't seem to extricate itself from.

The longer the silly fantasies of online advertising go unchallenged, the more entrenched they become. The more entrenched they become, the more they seem axiomatic. The more they seem axiomatic, the less willing people are to challenge them. The less people are willing to challenge the childish nonsense that marketers have to come to accept as fundamental to their strategies, the further the ad industry will deteriorate.

Here is some of the foolishness that brands have come to believe, and that few are willing to challenge...
  • Consumers want to "join the conversation" about brands, and co-create with brands, and become brand ambassadors by sharing their enthusiasm for brands
  • Consumers are smitten with "brand love"
  • "Personalized" advertising (meaning advertising delivered by ad tech) is more "relevant" and therefore more effective
  • More credibility is given to dubious "research" that supports these fantasies than is given to  actual facts
So let's have a look at some down-to-earth reality, which I have stolen from a previous post, and see how it aligns with the platitudes of online advertising.

First, I want you to think about your refrigerator. Think about all the stuff that's in there: The cheese, the juice, the jelly, the butter, the beer, the soda, the mayonnaise, the bacon, the mustard...

Now think about your pantry. The cereals, the beans, the napkins, the flour, the detergent, the sugar, the rice, the bleach, the paper towels...

Next your medicine cabinet. The toothpaste, the pain relievers, the shampoo, the soap, the band-aids, the deodorant, the cosmetics...

Now your closet and dresser. Your socks, your underwear, your shirts, your pajamas, your swim suit, your t-shirts, your sweaters, your jeans, your sneakers...

Now your garage. The battery, the tires, the wiper blades, motor oil, gasoline, the air filter, the muffler...

Now answer these questions:

    •    Do you “share branded content" about any of this stuff?
    •    Do you feel "personally engaged" with these brands?
    •    Do you "join the conversation" about any of this stuff?
    •    Do you ever "co-create" with any of these brands?
    •    Do you feel like you are part of these brands' "tribes" or "communities?"

Now answer this: If you don't, why in the fucking world do you believe anyone else does?

May 31, 2018

The Glossary Of Marketing


If you’re new to the business world, you may soon find yourself in a marketing meeting and become very quickly disoriented. This is because marketing people speak a language that is disconcerting to the human ear and mystifying to the human mind.

To help you through this bewildering experience, here at The Ad Contrarian Global Headquarters we have created a glossary of terms that can help you understand what marketing people actually mean when they talk:
Engage - bother
Brand architect - account executive
Authentic - true sounding

Transparent - natural looking

Content - anything on the web

Branded content - anything on the web with a logo

Compelling content - content

Conversation - retweet

Follower  - stranger who wants something for nothing

Advisor - LinkedIn term for unemployed

Community - strangers who once clicked

Meaningfulness - (no one knows)

Branding - anything with a logo on it
Activation - when marketing people actually do something

Workshop - meeting

Roundtable - meeting

Summit - meeting

Town hall meeting - meeting

Training session - powerpoint-induced napping opportunity

Webinar - digitally delivered powerpoint-induced napping opportunity

Traditional - stuff we don’t do well

Brand advocate - customer

Brand ambassador - customer

Storyteller - copywriter

Passionate - opportunistic

Evangelist - inflexible bore

Data-driven - unimaginative
Brand purpose - something our CEO’s spouse is into

Disruptive - something our CEO’s daughter is into

Target audience - people like us