November 20, 2018

The Zuckerberg File

Over the years this blog has written a lot of nasty things about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. As the world is coming to realize what a toxic pile of crap Facebook is, I thought we'd collect some of our favorites in one place.

Here you go:

On responsibility...
"It's very simple. Facebook is way too powerful to be run by a jerk like Mark Zuckerberg. He has... 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."
On leadership...
"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."
About Zuckerberg's testimony in Washington...
"Zuckerberg will be strung up for ignoring the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of people by clowns who have been ignoring the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of people. There's no one to root for in this cage match."
On lying...
"It becomes harder and harder to overstate the corruption and treachery of the online ad industry. Lord knows I've tried...Facebook has become famous for its lunatic metrics and bizarre rationalizations...This week it was reported that Facebook was claiming to reach 41 million Americans between the ages of 18-24...There are only 31 million of them."
On duplicity...
One good thing about Facebook - their duplicity is so transparent that anyone who claims he "didn't know" has to be an idiot....After Zuckerberg promised our bewildered representatives in Washington two weeks ago that Facebook would abide by the "spirit" of the GDPR privacy regulations... this week Facebook moved 1.5 billion accounts out of Europe to the US to avoid the consequences of those regulations.
On surveillance...
  • FB maintains the right to collect your phone number and other information about you when anyone, including people you don't know, upload their contacts that may include you.
  • Even when you turn off location services, FB tracks your location through Wi-Fi access points, cell towers and IP addresses.
  • You probably think FB is collecting data about you from the device you're using. Silly you. If you are anywhere near any other devices on your network they are collecting info from those devices as well. It's magic!
  • FB tracks you through third parties whether or not you are logged into Facebook.
  • And the pièce de résistance -- Facebook's new data policy asserts that they track you even if you don't have a Facebook account.
On transparency...
FB's terms of service and privacy policies are longer than the US Constitution...this week they increased the language of their data policy by 55%, you know, just to make things more convenient for us. 
Technology vs Wisdom...
" in the marketing industry we have foolishly equated technology with wisdom. The result is Mark Zuckerberg."

October 22, 2018

Totalitarian Marketing

This post is adapted from my book "BadMen: How Advertising Went From A Minor Annoyance To A Major Menace."

Advertising used to be concerned with imparting information. Today it is concerned with collecting information.

Online advertising, the predominant form of marketing communication, is largely reliant on "tracking" to accomplish this. Tracking is just a pleasanter word for surveillance. Our web browsers, our search engines, and the sites we visit use invisible software to keep track of everything we do and everywhere we go on line. Our emails and texts are read and archived by the providers we use.

All this information is collected, stored, and sold to third parties. Usually without our knowledge or consent. It has proven to be easily accessible to hackers, foreign governments, and other malefactors.

The preposterous rationale for all this abuse of our privacy is that it helps marketers provide us with more relevant advertising. As if the citizens of the world are taking to the streets demanding more relevant advertising.

We were taught to fear totalitarian governments. We feared they would know everything about us, follow us everywhere, know who we were talking to and what we were saying, and keep secret files about us which could be used to influence our lives in ways that were only vaguely visible to us.

We are well on our way to such a nightmare. Except it isn't our government that knows everything about us, follows us everywhere, knows who we are talking to and what we are saying, and keeps secret files about us. It is the marketing industry.

We know where totalitarian government leads. It lead to Iron Curtains, Gestapos, and Killing Fields. It leads to the trivialization of personal freedoms and the unchecked power of tyrants.

But we don't know where totalitarian marketing leads. It's hard to come up with a scenario that isn't frightening.

Surveillance marketing is little more than 10 years old but has already played a significant role in undermining our confidence in the legitimacy of our elections and the credibility of our news media.

It is time for us to demand that as a first step toward a reformed, credible web, tracking must be stopped. Tracking is a danger to democratic societies and to individual citizens.

The privacy rights of individuals are far more important to society than the convenience of marketers.

And, as you may have noticed... posts on the blog have become rather sporadic. I have been focusing my attention on books and on my weekly newsletter. If you like the blog, I suggest you sign up for The Ad Contrarian newsletter here. I'll continue to post on the blog, but the newsletter will be more timely and consistent. 

October 15, 2018

The History Of The Future

If you go to marketing or advertising conferences the first thing you notice is that every genius with a Powerpoint deck is an expert on the future.

I attend way more conferences than is healthy.  I've been averaging about 12 of these a year, as speaking at these things is part of my business. I hear all kinds of hysterical and provocative predictions for the future. The one thing I don't hear is anything that turns out to be true.

The history of these future-hustlers is pretty rotten.

So here's a little exercise. Here are a dozen of the biggest advertising stories of the past couple of years. Go back and see if you can find any marketing geniuses who predicted any of the following:
  • Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal (here)
  • Martin Sorrell shown the door at WPP (here)
  • Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress (here)
  • Google fined over $5 billion by EU for illegal activities (here)
  • ANA study finds "pervasive" corruption in media (here)
  • Justice Department/FBI launch investigation of ad agencies (here)
  • Fake news dominates political discussions (here)
  • "Voice" shopping bombs (here)
  • "Brand safety" becomes major issue (here)
  • P&G dumps on digital (here)
  • Major fraud in social media (here)
  • Iconic Y&R evaporates (here)  
The reason you won't find anyone who predicted any of this stuff (okay, maybe there was one guy) is that no one is ever held accountable for their bullshit. Consequently, marketing experts feel free to say whatever the hell sounds good, cash their checks, and know there will never be any consequences.

If you're a marketing genius with a terrible track record, the future is a great place to hide.

This Wednesday night (Oct. 17) in NYC, some smart ad people (and one dumbass blogger) will be talking about heretical ad stuff to support a great new ad book called "Eat Your Greens."  I am told  there aren't too many seats left, so go here now for info.

And, as you may have noticed... posts on the blog have become rather sporadic. I have been focusing my attention on books and on my weekly newsletter. If you like the blog, I suggest you sign up for The Ad Contrarian newsletter here. I'll continue to post on the blog, but the newsletter will be more timely and consistent.