September 08, 2019

A Conspiracy Of Silence


For several years the advertising industry has been engaged in a conspiracy to deceive its clients and the public about online advertising.

It is not the kind of conspiracy you get when bad people get together to plot a crime. It is the kind of conspiracy you get when greedy, frightened people individually decide it is safer to keep their mouths shut than tell the truth.

For the last few years we have been flooded with scandals and revelations about corruption, fraud, and lies in the online advertising ecosystem. Here is just a partial list in no particular order:
The terribly damning part is that there are only two possibilities: Either agencies are remarkably stupid and don't know what is going on, or they know and are keeping their mouths shut. It's hard to decide which is worse.

I believe they have been engaged in an unspoken conspiracy.

Not a single one of the scandals involving online media were brought to light by a media agency. Not one. Let's put this another way -- not one of the scandals about online media were exposed by the people whose job it is to scrutinize online media.

Agencies, particularly media agencies, are as close to the online media industry as you can get. They are analyzing online media 24 hours a day. They are responsible for seeing to it that hundreds of billions of online advertising dollars are spent properly every year. They work very closely with media. They have the facts at their fingertips. They are assessing online media opportunities on behalf of their clients every day.

How can it be that reporters, who are not trained in media, have not nearly the resources to scrutinize media, and have no expertise in analyzing media, were able to sniff out scandal after scandal while the "experts" were not able to do so? It is not possible. It doesn't even pass the giggle test. As one very highly regarded media analyst commented to me recently, "agency bigwigs are notoriously paranoid and fearful. There's a strong code of silence..."

If it were left to the leaders of the ad industry, we would know nothing about any of the appalling stories listed above. By concealing their knowledge of deceit and dishonesty in online media, the ad industry has failed at one of their most consequential responsibilities - being trustworthy stewards of their clients' money. Instead, they have been responsible for wasting billions of client dollars. Why?

  • Because they're afraid to admit they've been played for fools by online media.
  • Because they get fees or commissions on most of the wasted billions.
Is it any wonder marketers are moving media functions in-house? One can only wonder what additional sleaze the media "experts" know of and are keeping quiet about.

The ad industry has allowed itself to crawl into bed with the squids at Facebook and Google and the rest of the devious adtech weasels. It makes us look like fools. Every week there are alarming reports of fraud, corruption, privacy abuse, and security failures in online media and we shrug our shoulders and duck for cover.

The ad industry, controlled by misguided and incompetent leadership at trade associations and holding companies, had better get its act together. By being lapdogs to the corrupt and dangerous online media we are quickly squandering what's left of our credibility.

We are on the wrong side of history and will continue to stay there until the silent conspiracy to protect online media ends.


July 24, 2019

Three Reasons To Like Gary Vee


If you ever tell anyone I said this I'll deny it, but I kinda like Gary Vee. I know he's full of shit but I can't help liking the guy.

Here are three reasons I like him:

1.  He gives hope to those suffering from DDD (Delusional Disrupter Disorder.) These meatballs think that Gary's "just a poor boy with a vision" hooey is a model for success. They don't understand probability. They have about as much likelihood of gaining success from Gary's homilies as I have of winning a hugging contest. Nonetheless, he gives them hope.

2. Our business has two kinds of bullshit - the cold bullshit of the data weasels and the hot bullshit of the Gary Vees. You can have your Powerpoint-addled jargon-spewing data-monkeys. I'll take Gary's hot bullshit any day.

3. He had to grow up in New Jersey with the name Vaynerchuk. You try it.



June 24, 2019

The Only Test Of Brand Purpose


The message from Cannes this year is very clear. Every brand in the world is now trying to woke-wash itself to appear more acceptable to socially conscious consumers. Much of it is cynical bullshit.

The key to understanding which companies are truly doing the right thing, and which ones are using token "brand purpose" as a PR gimmick is very easy. There is only one conclusive touchstone to knowing who is truly committed to social welfare and who is a cynical poseur...

To what lengths do they go to avoid paying taxes?

The most serious attempts to create a better society are substantially funded by tax dollars: education; affordable housing; civil and personal rights; job training; infrastructure; health care. Companies who take unusual and excessive measures to pay little or no taxes are depriving our citizens of the tools we need to improve our societies.

The hitching of a brand purpose initiative to a politically fashionable cause while behind the scenes going to great lengths to avoid paying a fair share of taxes is a deplorable and cynical manipulation of public perceptions.

The fact that these tax gimmicks may be technically legal does not impress me one bit. It is perfectly legal for me not to support charitable causes, but as a responsible citizen I choose to be better than the law requires.

As far as I'm concerned, corporations who use advertising and marketing dollars to pound their chests about their trendy brand purpose cause-du-jour, but employ legions of lawyers to avoid the true cost of improving society are nothing but scum.