February 26, 2015

Brand, Bullshit & Beyond


Lately, the Ad Contrarian blog has been breaking all kinds of attendance records.

In trying to analyze the reason for this sudden popularity, I've noticed something. People seem to love posts with the word "bullshit" in the title.

Being the kind of guy who likes to give the customers what they want, from now on every post title will contain the word "bullshit." I think this is what CMOs call "best practices."

Last week, I really gave it to the "Global CEO" of a huge ad agency concerning a video he did in which he invoked the genius of Steve Jobs for his own purposes -- and got it 100% wrong.

The guy was lecturing on his theory called "Why Your Brand Is More Important Than Your Product" which, of course, is the constant mantra of the world's professional brand babblers. To bolster his theory he invoked the name of Steve Jobs and proclaimed that the reason for Steve's great success was that he, too, put brand first.

Only problem was that Mr. Global was absolutely, positively, laughably wrong. In fact, Steve was such a believer in the power of the product, that according to Allison Johnson, his VP of Worldwide Marketing, at Apple "brand" was a "dirty word" and Steve "dreaded, hated" the word branding.

Now we get an equally powerful repudiation of the misrepresentations of this global loudmouth, this time from the man who was closest to Steve at Apple, Jony Ive.

The New Yorker has a lengthy and interesting profile of Ive in this week's edition called "The Shape of Things to Come: How an industrial designer became Apple’s greatest product."

Here are some quotes from the piece juxtaposed with some of the assertions of Mr. Global.
Steve Jobs: "If I had a spiritual partner at Apple, it's Jony. Jony and I think up most of the products together and then pull the others in and say 'Hey, what do you think about this?' He gets the big picture as well as the most infinitesimal details about each product. And he understands that Apple is a product company."
Global CEO: "Product first, I think, is very retro and very 1980's." 
Jony Ive: "I can't emphasize enough: I think there's something really very special  about how practical we are. And you could, depending on your vantage point, describe it as old school and traditional, or you could describe it as very effective."
Global CEO: (About Jobs) He started with an idea that consumers want to be bespoke...and he back-filled into a product
Ive: "We put the product ahead of everything else."
Don't you love it? There is so much bullshit in our business. Most of it arrives in the form of an opinion or an anecdote. Consequently, it is very hard to actually catch a bullshitter red-handed like this.

I don't know why this thrills me so much, but it does. Despite all my tantrums, I really do feel deeply about the ad business and I'm sick at heart from watching it being diminished and dismantled by financial manipulators and insufferable blowhards.

I'm also completely fucking tired of these over-fed meatballs undermining the credibility of our industry with their trite, cunning theories and pompous pronouncements.

Thank you Allison Johnson and Jony Ive. 


February 25, 2015

Ad Contrarian Cruelly Dumped


Lots of big things happening here at Ad Contrarian Worldwide Headquarters.

Type A Minus
I've been dumped again.

Big congratulations to my business partner in Type A Group, Sharon Krinsky. Sharon's been named President and Chief Creative Officer of RESO, an amazing online kids' activities resource site.

RESO just launched in the San Francisco area in the past few weeks and has aggressive growth plans. Sharon will soon be an internet billionaire and I'll still be going for cheap laughs at the expense of social media dorks.

I'm thinking of looking for a new partner for Type A. Qualifications: Cute; drink too much; laugh too loud.

Better Than The Movie
My new book was supposed to be ready in September. Then it was supposed to be ready early in January. I've postponed this thing more times than my next prostate exam.

Well, I think it's almost ready. I've changed the title and direction a few dozen times, but I think I'm actually happy with where it is. The title is Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey. 

Should be on sale at Amazon by May 15th. What's the over/under on that?

Can't Shut Up
I'll be doing two speaking gigs in the next few weeks.

The first is next week in Brussels at UBA Trends Day. The title will be "Advertising Needs Troublemakers."

The second will be a seminar in Chicago at the American Society on Aging's Aging in America conference. Title: "The Battle For The World's Most Valuable Customer."

Several more talks coming up in Canada, New York, and London. I'll keep you posted.

And remember, if you need a speaker for a conference or sales event, I know a good one.

Update: WAB just announced I will Keynote at their 81st Annual Conference. Read about it here.

February 24, 2015

Advertising's Greatest Sin


I am an advocate for advertising. I believe it helps create wealth, and creating wealth is what economies are about.

But I am not a blind propagandist. Having worked in the industry for 41 years, I believe advertising has had some troubling effects on society.

Advertising apologists usually trot out the "we just reflect what is going on in society" defense. While this may be true in certain cases, there is one offense in which advertising has maintained a leading role -- the marginalization and belittling of the old.

In its foolish and unrelenting worship of youth, advertisers and marketers have unwittingly created a barrier between generations and done damage to society.

There was a time when several generations in a family would be close, understanding toward each other, and respectfully engaged. Now, too many young people are embarrassed by their parents and treat older people with thinly disguised contempt. Advertising has played too large a role in this.

Young people constantly see themselves glamorized in advertising, and older people dismissed as fools. Here are some recent examples:



This is not a new phenomenon. It has been going on for decades. The effect is cumulative. And it is accelerating.

It seems that tech savvy-ness is now a proxy for wisdom, in the language of marketing.

In the real world, we understand that there is no correlation between tech fluency and wisdom -- in fact, some of the most bizarrely maladjusted people we know are basement dwelling web troglodytes.

But in this imaginary advertising world, those who are enthralled with "connectedness" -- i.e, mainly the young -- are portrayed as wise. Those who are not, are dopes and clowns. In this unhealthy, insulting advertising world, older people can't figure out how to turn on a computer or operate a thermostat.

Advertisers wouldn't dare dismiss women or black people or Jews as clueless fools, but dismiss older people as fools on a regular basis.

The aggregate effect of this is more harmful to society than we imagine.