April 20, 2015

How Marketers Lie To Themselves

Anyone who has spent time in advertising knows that there are very few things in this world as unreliable as the numbers we throw around.

Our industry is so poorly trained in mathematics and statistics, we can be fooled by the most elementary of statistical manipulations and misrepresentations.

But our denseness about numbers is often as much about self-delusion as it is about ignorance. Often, we want to believe the lies we tell ourselves.

I remember not long ago -- during The Great QR Code Scare Of 2012 --  I was finding the following statistic being bandied about: "60% of people say they use QR codes."

This statistic was obviously total bullshit, and yet serious people seemed to be taking it seriously. Anyone who spent any time in the real world could see that no one was using QR codes. Yet this stat kept popping up to justify the implementation of this dimwit technology.

It was pretty clear to me what was going on. Someone did a survey: "Have you ever used a QR code?" 60% of some sample said yes. This lead to enormous misrepresentation and misunderstanding.

Here's how it happens. Let's say you ask people the following question: Have you ever eaten a snail? And 60% of the people say they have. Then you create a sentence -- "60% of Americans say they eat snails."

Even though the incidence of eating a snail may be once in a lifetime, the sentence in question appears to make the eating of snails a regular occurrence.

The same with the QR code. If 60% of consumers used a QR code once, the actual incidence of using a QR code while shopping might be one in a hundred thousand.

But by structuring the sentence to say, "60% of people say they use a QR code" instead of "the incidence of QR code use among shoppers is one in a hundred thousand" a truth is technically being told, but reality is being radically misrepresented.

While we in the marketing business often use slippery words and sentence structures to put a happier face on our communication to consumers, we don't realize how frequently this trick is used on us.

When an entire industry wants to believe, there is no better time to be skeptical.


April 16, 2015

Corruption And Fraud Starting To Hurt

A couple of weeks ago we posted a two-part piece that asked Will Advertising Corruption Scandal Explode?

The nub of the potential scandal is that the gullible clowns in big marketing corporations are being screwed blind by the sharpies in the global agency holding companies who are...
1. Buying online media at one price and selling it to them at another.

2. Taking kickbacks...oops, I mean "volume-based incentives"...from media vendors.

3. Buying media that is in the agency's best interests, not the client's.
My point of view was that clueless advertisers have been getting so badly date-raped by every variety of con man, digi-hustler, techno-crook, and cyber-scammer for so long that they probably wouldn't even notice a few billion gone missing to agency scoundrels.

However, it could be that I'm wrong. In the last few days a couple of influential ad industry analysts have been downgrading the big agency holding companies based on the belief that their somnambulant clients might finally be regaining consciousness and realizing what's been going on.

Brian Wieser, an influential analyst at Pivotal Research Group, had this to say...
“The volume and specificity of allegations by aggrieved media owners, former agency executives and marketers are difficult to ignore. Rightly or wrongly, there is a growing perception among marketers that agencies have been misleading, transferring value associated with media volumes without clients’ full understanding or support.”
He went on to say...
“As...more specific allegations come to light, a drumbeat of negativity will build around the sector over the course of this year....Given this risk, we’d recommend that investors move to the sidelines or exit the sector altogether while it all plays out.”
So who knows, maybe these creeps will finally get what's coming to them.

I know how hard and how diligently most people in the agency business
work on behalf of their clients. I've seen the blood and I've felt the suffering.

The online media industry is rotten to the core and a terrible discredit to our business.

And as we have documented here over the past few years, the agency component of online media fraud and corruption is only a small part of this sleazy circus. 

April 15, 2015

Where Are The Misbehaving Malcontents?

Advertising is getting more technically adept. And as it does so, it seems to be getting more spiritually colorless.

I know that advertising was never a spiritual pursuit. And I'm not one of those nincompoops who believes that things were so much better in the good old days.

But I miss the crazy people.

I used to be able to pick up an advertising magazine and read something outrageous, or at least thought-provoking.

I used to read about people who had crazy ideas about what advertising should be. Now all I read is the carefully manicured stylings of corporate mannequins.

They're wearing black t-shirts these days and sporting knit caps but they're the same old jargonistas in a new drag.

Who's crazy any more? Where are the troublemakers and the bullshit caller-outers? Where are the misbehaving malcontents?

One of my former colleagues once said that success in advertising was about "harnessing immaturity." But we seem to have wrung all the immaturity out of the business.

I guess there is a school of thinking that would assert that advertising is better off without  the bedwetters and the screaming miscreants.

But I gotta tell you...I miss them.