April 30, 2009

Legends And Rituals

From The New York Times about a week ago:

"According to a study... boomer households account for unexpectedly high percentages of sales of products considered mainstays of younger consumers. That includes beer, 59.7 percent; carbonated beverages, 58.9 percent; and candy, 54.2 percent..."

To the enlightened readers of The Ad Contrarian, this should not be surprising. On many occasions we pests here at TAC have commented on the stupidity of marketers who think they are required to target young people because everyone else does. In a post called "Aiming Low" we said,
"Of all the dumb things that advertisers do, one of the dumbest is aiming their message too young...

Some facts:

* People over 50 comprise 29% of the population
* They control 77% of financial assets
* They control 50% of all discretionary spending
* They watch 50% more television
* They are the target for 10% of all advertising

There are only two possible explanations for the above. Either advertisers are crazy, or they are hopelessly out of touch with, and prejudiced against, the people who economically control this country."
Apparently, some people are catching on.

In the NY Times piece quoted above (entitled, "The Older Audience Is Looking Better Than Ever") they extol the virtues of marketing to older people...

For decades, older consumers were largely shunned by marketers... young consumers ...were desired for what were deemed their free-spending ways, eagerness to sample new products and brand-switching proclivities. The idea that they were starting in life with a proverbial blank slate of marketing wants and needs was catnip to product peddlers...

“When you’re a 27-year-old media supervisor or a 32-year-old brand manager, what do you think the world looks like?” Jerry Shereshewsky, chief executive at Grandparents.com. “You think it looks like you..."

Among those aiming more at the older demographic are giants like...Kraft Foods, L’OrĂ©al, Procter & Gamble and Target.

Is there another industry in the world that operates on legends and rituals more than the marketing industry?

April 29, 2009

Death Fatigue

Despite all the lurid headlines, pardon me if I don't get too hysterical over swine flu.

You see, I'm living on borrowed time. I'm playing with house money.

By now, I should have been long dead from SARS, or bird flu, or mad cow disease, or ebola virus, or Legionaire's disease. You remember those, don't you? They were the other "pandemics" that were going to kill us all.

They didn't actually do the trick, but they did sell a bunch of newspapers and gave CNN lots to be frantic about.

Here's the deal.

In the U.S., 36,000 people die every year from the flu. So until the death rate from this latest "cataclysm" gets above 100 people a day, there's no story here as far as I'm concerned.

I'm getting a little tired of dying.

April 28, 2009

Advertising And The Universe

As regular readers of this blog know, I'm a former science teacher.

The downside of that for you is that every now and then I have to sneak in a little science lesson.

Today we're going to talk about the universe.

You know that stuff you learned in school about how everything is made of atoms, and atoms are made of neutrons and protons and electrons, and there are four types of forces, including gravity and electromagnetism?

Well, it turns out it's all baloney.

All those particles and all that energy apparently make up only 4% of the universe.

The other 96%? No fucking clue.

Scientists don't know what it's made of, what it looks like, or what it smells like.

They call it dark matter and dark energy and have no idea idea what the hell it is. But they do know that without dark matter and dark energy, all their theories about how the universe works fall apart.

What does this have to do with advertising, you ask?

Well, it's like this. One of our ongoing themes here at TAC is that most of what you read and hear from experts about advertising and marketing is just baloney and guesswork tarted up to look like knowledge.

If Uncle Albert and The Rocket Scientists have only been able to figure out about 4% of their subject, how much do you think Sir Martin and the Brand Babblers really know about theirs?

April 27, 2009

Play It Loud

Stop what you're doing and watch this.

Yesterday's News Today

Here at The Ad Contrarian, we try very hard to stay at least a year behind the times.

We do this to gain some perspective and avoid looking like the fools who 9 months ago assured us that Facebook apps were the new greatest thing ever, and widgets would change the world.

Today, we are going to talk about the news, and why it's so much more beneficial to read last year's newspaper than today's.

You see, reading today's newpaper you will learn about what people think is happening. In other words, you'll learn nothing.

But if you read last year's newspaper, you can compare what people thought was happening to what actually happened. In other words, you'll learn something.

Here are a few stories from The New York Times of a year ago this week, and what we can learn from these stories:
  • Hillary nails it: "Sources with direct knowledge of the conversation between Sen. Clinton and Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., prior to the Governor's endorsement of Obama, says she told him flatly, "He cannot win, Bill. He cannot win."
  • Good call! "G.M.’s chief sales analyst, Michael C. DiGiovanni said that G.M. remained upbeat about the latter part of the year, when it believed a recovery could begin. "The fundamentals are in place for a second-half recovery,” he said. “We’re starting to see the positive signs that we thought we would see.”
  • Big thumbs-up to these guys. "Stocks Mostly Up As Investors Overcome Economic Worries...investors seemed to turn their attention to broader signs...that suggested that government efforts to steady the economy were working...Tom Lydon, president of Global Trends Investments... said... “over all, things aren’t all that bad.”...a UBS equities strategist, David Bianco, said...“Business activity is strong in the U.S. and especially globally...”
  • Yeah, that did the trick. "Starbuck's Revamp Entertainment Unit... Starbucks shook up its entertainment division on Thursday in the latest bid by the company to invigorate its sagging sales."
So what have we learned by reading last year's newspaper?
  1. Politicians don't know shit.
  2. Business analysts don't know shit.
  3. Business strategists don't know shit.
  4. Business leaders don't know shit.
My advice: Stay behind the times and learn something.

April 25, 2009

Brand New Look. Same Old Bullshit.

Here at The Ad Contrarian world headquarters, we've been getting mighty tired of looking at the same old ugly layout every day.

So we told a team of designers to work on a bold, daring new look.

Unfortunately, all they could come up with was this.

Whether you're a fan of the old look or the new one, one thing we'll never compromise is our longstanding dedication to bringing you the best strongly-held, ill-informed opinions.

It's a commitment you can count on.

April 24, 2009

Across The Twitterverse

I checked today to find out what's being said about this blog in the merry old land of Twitter. Here's a sampling:
  • "Ad Contrarian = occasional smart thinking awash with a hatred for the universe." Not true. It's only the inhabitants of one little planet I don't particularly care for. The rest of the universe is awesome.
  • "Love the Ad Contrarian even though he hates everything I love."
  • "The only thing Ad Contrarian isnt sick of is sound of his own voice." Wrong. I'm sick of that, too.
  • "The Ad Contrarian book is a great read." I love this guy.
  • "Q for Brits: Ad Contrarian, a US blog, hugely popular w/ Brits who love "TV is king/SM is a fad" Luddite message. Why?" My apologies to the god Social Media.
  • "Enjoying the ad contrarian - sometimes nothing more useful than being told you're full of shit."
  • "A must-read from the Ad Contrarian - who would, I'd venture, hate to think people were tweeting about this." As long as you're tweeting about TAC, you're okay with me.
  • "Ad Contrarian hates Facebook... What a wanker." Tweeting about Facebook. The newest activity among intellectuals.
  • Read this guy: The Ad Contrarian. Ace *thumbs up*
  • "Ad Contrarian has the blog version of chicken soup for the advertising soul." Mom, is that you?
  • "I sing a song of praise for The Ad Contrarian. Hear it, and then download his excellent new book" Very poetic, my friend.
  • "Reading the Ad Contrarian e-book http://is.gd/o961 (expand) brilliant, partly b/c he dares state the obvious." I think that's a compliment.
To read lots more Twittering about TAC, go here.

April 23, 2009

Fish Still Can't See Ocean

One of the unpleasant parts of blogging is the number of comments you get from abusive imbeciles.

I guess it's to be expected, but when you see it, it's still unsettling.

There's a whole hoo-hah going on at some of the ad blogs lately over the viciousness of commenters, particularly anonymous ones. For some background, check out this from Alan Wolk guest blogging at Agency Spy.

I don't have the patience to read all the 100 or so comments that his post has engendered, but it seems like many of them are trying to analyze why there is such hostile venom.

Is it our rancid culture? Or fear? Or the insecurity of ad people? Or the stress of a lousy economy? Or what?

The whole thing seems like an argument among people suffering from overexposure to freshman sociology.

It is perfectly obvious what is motivating all this harshness -- it's the internet itself.

In my entire life I have never had someone walk up to me on the street and say "you're a fucking idiot and I hope you die." I've never gotten that in a letter. Or a phone call.

But I get shit like that every day from malignant internet commenters. The medium is motivating the message.

Since the commenters on Alan's post, by definition, are all social media enthusiasts, they can't see this. It's that "fish can't see the ocean" thing.

We don't have a new breed of human beings. We have a new medium. And it's a wonderful medium for nasty, ignorant, cowards -- of which there has never been a shortage.

All the gee-whiz zealotry aside, there's a lot about this medium that is ugly and dangerous.

April 21, 2009

I Was Hoping For A Centerfold

Yesterday, the great David Burn of AdPulp posted an interview with your charming host. That's me, by the way. Here it is.

Dracula Visits The Blood Bank

Earlier this week I was invited to a conference to participate in a panel about social media. Bad casting, or what?

The good news is that the panelists were all smart and articulate and we kept the digi-babble to a minimum.

Panelists were all bloggers -- John January of American Copywriter, Kristin Gissaro of TalentMash, Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer, and Andy Gould of Small Agency Diary, who was the moderator.

I’m not sure we reached any earth-shaking conclusions about social media other than no one knows what the fuck they’re doing (okay, maybe someone does, but I sure don't) and social media is probably more like pr than advertising...

Life in the Age of Twitter

One night at the conference, eight of us were sitting at dinner. We didn't all know each other. A guy was explaining how he was following the tweets of one of the conference’s guest speakers, and how lame they were.

The tweeter was sitting at our table.

You can’t make this shit up...

The Sad State of the Ad Industry

The comment I heard most at the conference: “I am so sick of all this social media bullshit…”

But, sadly, people only said it to me in private, and in hushed tones.

The emperor's new medium.

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You

1. The hotter the climate, the colder the conference room.

2. The smaller the account, the larger the committee.

3. The dumbest person in your agency will someday be your client.

4. The consumer has become resistant to marketing, right? Bullshit. Here’s what the consumer has become resistant to: generic, undifferentiated products supported by smug, benefit-free advertising.

5. Retailers have learned a lot about advertising from manufacturers. Manufacturers have learned nothing from retailers. The recession is going to change that.

6. Most people don't realize the enormous difference between a million and a billion. A million seconds is about 10 days. A billion seconds is over 30 years.

April 20, 2009

A Dead Kind of Car Company. A Dead Kind of Car.

Advertising that is really good gives you a reason to prefer a product when there is no reason.

That's what Hal Riney did with Saturn.

He took a mediocre vehicle from a sclerotic manufacturer, and brilliantly turned it into a desirable quantity. He did it with his unique blend of plain-talk, humor, beauty, and bullshit.

At one point Saturn had owners from all over the country driving to Spring Hill, Tennessee just to be with other Saturn owners.

He did what all the smarmy brand babblers talk about but never come close to accomplishing -- creating a brand.

On Friday The New York Times reported that Saturn was essentially dead. Since January 1st, Saturn dealerships have closed in 45 cities while GM, typically, can't figure out what the hell to do with it.

In fact, Saturn was dead the day they fired Riney. He understood the brand better than the imbeciles who paid him and ultimately released him. He had to -- he invented it.

Great advertising cannot survive the stupidity of large corporations unless there is someone at the top keeping the ignorant jackals at bay. The day the head moron at Saturn let the dogs loose on Riney, the game was over.

If ad agencies had any integrity, when Saturn went shopping for a new agency, they would have said, "We're not pitching. Here's our advice. You have one valuable asset and one only. It's your advertising. Change it and you will die."

April 17, 2009

It's Vegas, Baby, And Your Nose Knows

I've spent the last few days at a business meeting in my least favorite place on Earth -- Las Vegas. Some observations:
  • Those who think advertising is dead should come here and see the future. Every square inch is covered in promotional material.
  • The average tourist in Las Vegas is a 60-year-old woman, 30 pounds overweight, wearing a tank top.
  • Las Vegas has a bad version of every good restaurant in America.
  • There are two types of gambling. The first type is real gambling which is fair, unfixed, and gives you as good a chance to win as anyone -- like a game of poker. The second type is not really gambling at all -- it is fixed, unfair, and you have little to no chance of winning. Casino gambling is the second kind. The phenomenon I find fascinating is that all the rubes who come to piss their money away prefer to do it in the most extravagant environments, as if they're getting more value if they're throwing away their salary beneath a faux crystal chandelier.
  • In Las Vegas there is no white space.
  • Nobody not looking for a tip is smiling.
  • Only in Las Vegas: a drunken dwarf walking arm-in-arm with two hookers.
  • Unlike 99% of marketers, the hotels and casinos here understand their heavy users. I'm staying at a large hotel and every elevator you step into is playing baby boomer hits. Contrast that with the clueless NBA that markets to their players. The average season ticket holder is a 50-year-old fat-ass white guy and the NBA blasts hip hop music all night.
  • What happens in Arkansas stays in Las Vegas.
  • No matter how much glitz and cheesy opulence they try to build in, your nose tells you the truth. Every hotel and every casino has the cigaret-induced smell of a low dive in Brooklyn.

...to readers who have emailed me recently. I'm traveling and might not be able to return emails till late next week.

April 15, 2009

Someone's Gotta Do It

Lately this blog has managed to piss off just about everyone.

It pissed off account managers with this:
"I learned very early that my interpretation of the meeting was usually better than what was written up in the notes and the brief."
It pissed off creatives with this:
"Does this mean it’s impossible to create advertising that rises to the level of art? No. Every generation has a few people who can do that. But trust me on this one, it ain’t you."
It pissed off planners with this:
"I'm sick and tired of strategists. Can you please send me some people who can do shit, not talk about it."
It pissed off clients with this:
"Any agency person who's ever participated in a new business pitch has been asked this question: 'What is the process you use to develop advertising ideas?' Any agency person with an ounce of integrity has answered thusly: 'Schmuck, there is no process.'
It pissed off web evangelists with this:
"... the one thing I have absolutely never experienced in an online social environment is the one thing the social media marketing maniacs think we're doing -- having conversations about brands."
Yes, it's been a good few weeks.

My New Credo For Bloggers:
If you're not pissing someone off, you're not doing your job.

April 14, 2009

Ad Awards Are A Good Thing

I've been listening to all the arguments for and against advertising awards for a hundred years. Count my vote as a yes.

Here's why. Creative people get surprisingly little satisfaction from their work. If they can get some from an award, it's a good thing.

Nobody who has not worked in a creative department understands how hard it is or how much it takes out of you. No matter how good the final product is there is always someone you admire who hates it. You could create Hamlet and there will always be one smart person who thinks it stinks. In your mind, the opinion of the person who hates it always carries more weight than all the opinions of the people who like it.

I've judged ad awards and I know there's a lot of bullshit involved. I know the bad effect they can have on arrogant dicks.

I've won ad awards and I know how often they reward entertainment instead of effectiveness.

But I also think that more often than not they do reward good work and do motivate agencies to try harder.

Mostly, I think creative people deserve a little gratification.

I vote yes.

April 13, 2009

I Never Argue With Graphs

"Ad Contrarian," people often say to me, "how come you're always so relaxed and nonchalant while the rest of us are so aggravated?"

I say, "Sit down my friend and let's talk." Then I light my pipe, kick off my slippers, and lean back in my rocker.

"We humans have been around this sorry planet for about 200,000 years. The planet has been around for 4.5 billion years. So what measure of the Earth's life have we been part of? The answer is .00004. This is not a large number ."

Then I take out the graph you see above. "You see this graph above?" I say. "This shows human population over the past 12,000 years. For most of that time we were just a minor annoyance. But a couple of hundred years ago we started multiplying like, um, humans. And we became an epidemic.

"There is no way in hell, or more to the point, on Earth, that this growth is sustainable. None.

"Just for a moment, I want you to forget all the nonsense that politicians and poets and holy men and newspapers fill you full of, and take another look at the graph.

"No graph of anything ever in history was able to continue up a straight line. It just doesn't work that way. And this one won't either. I promise.

"Which means catastrophe is coming. It may be environmental, or cosmic, or nuclear, or medical. I have no idea. It may be quick or it may be long and drawn out. Who knows? It may be tomorrow or a hundred years from tomorrow. Can't tell. But the graph says it's coming, and I never argue with graphs.

"So, why am I nonchalant? Sure I want the A's to win the American League West, but I'm not going to get too aggravated if they don't. Yes, I wouldn't mind getting the Nobel Prize, or the Coke account, but I'm not going to go all pissy if they don't come through. And if my candidate doesn't win the next election... well, I never really believed he could stop the graph anyway.

"Oh, and while you're up, would you mind bringing me some ice?"

This is a repost.

April 10, 2009

Some Thoughts For Freelancers

At one point in my career I spent three years freelancing.

In lousy economic times you'd think freelancers would do well. Agencies can hire them on a part time basis and save the added costs of full-time employees. (Health insurance, unemployment insurance, and other benefits can cost add up to 35% more for a full-time employee.)

Nonetheless, in bad economies, freelancers do lousy.

Freelancers have to make up for not working all the time by getting paid a premium when they do work. So even though the annual cost of a full-time employee is higher, on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis the cost of a freelance is usually higher.

As a result, when times get tough, agencies cut off freelance and add to the workload of the staff.

If you're a freelancer you have an important decision to make. It's the same decision that every marketer and every business has to make. How important is it to hold your pricing when demand is diminishing?

One way around this is to price your services differently.

Agency managers hate is open-ended arrangements. If they're paying a freelance on an hourly or daily basis, they can never accurately gauge how many days something is going to take and therefore can never know what the final cost is going to be.

One way to make your freelance services more attractive is to price them on a project basis, or on a longer term basis. Instead of quoting an hourly rate or a day rate, quote a project rate or a monthly rate.

You may make less on a daily basis, but more over the long term.

April 09, 2009

The Emperor's New Podcast

You remember podcasting don't you?

It was the first of the over-hyped social media genres. Turned out to be just one more marketing thing that was going to change everything. Closely followed by Second Life and MySpace and Facebook.

Here's the thing about social media -- it's all just electronic pen pals. Have you ever thought of pen pals as a promising advertising medium? As a marketing opportunity?

Social media might be nice for a handful of "prom king" brands. But for the average floor wax or motor oil? For an insurance company or peanut butter? For cheese or socks? For TVs or toasters? Bagels or toothpaste? You gonna write your pen pals about that?

I'm a member of several online social communities and here's what we're about: we waste as much time as is legally permissible talking about the stupid shit we're doing. We're having conversations about sex, and booze, and sports, and politics, and, parties, and dinners, and music and did I mention sex?, and just about everything else you can imagine that's irresponsible and silly. However, the one thing I have absolutely never experienced in an online social environment is the one thing the social media marketing maniacs think we're doing -- having conversations about brands.

When it comes to product "conversations" the web is quickly becoming a cruel joke. It's being spammed by interested parties, jammed by morons, and laughed at by people who really know their stuff.

Does anyone with an ounce of knowledge about food take "peer-to-peer" restaurant reviews on the web seriously? Or hotel recommendations? Or car recommendations?

The trustworthy, knowledgeable online recommendations come from the pros on their sites, not the pathetic wankers on Twitter or Facebook or CitySearch.

If you want a peer recommendation, and you have a brain in your head, you'll go ask a real fucking person -- you remember them, right? -- not some fictitiously-named nitwitters.

Of course, from time to time there is a big social media success that everyone makes a fuss over and uses as an example. And for every big success there are ten thousand little failures you never hear about.

For most companies, social media is the biggest online non-starter since podcasting.

Attention Web Maniacs...
I have noticed an epidemic of low reading comprehension lately. Before you send me hysterical comments about how I hate the web, or I don't understand social media, let me just say this slowly... this post is not about the popularity of social media. It is about the wisdom of spending large sums of money to use it as an advertising/marketing medium. Everyone got that? Okay, now you can send me hysterical comments.

April 08, 2009

The Thing That Will Change Everything

Marketing and advertising people always overestimate the impact of new things and always underestimate the power of traditional consumer behavior.

Memorize that sentence.

My first experience with this phenomenon came with the advent of cable TV. When it was first introduced there was a flood of hysteria in the ad world about how cable would "change everything." Clients were going around to agencies looking for agencies that "really understood" cable. What was there to really understand? The signal came through a wire, not the air. Yeah, so?

Then the VCR was going to change everything. People were no longer going to watch live TV. They would tape their favorite shows and play them back at their convenience (sound familiar?) And worst of all, they would fast forward through the commercials (sound familiar?) Naturally, hysteria ensued.

Then the computer was going to change everything. Agencies would be able to produce TV spots right on their desktops. And then agencies would disappear because clients could create spots right on their desktops.

Then the web was going to change everything. Brick and mortar stores were dead. We were all going to buy our cat food and our batteries on line.

Then all of retail was going to be dead. The web was going to create "disintermediation" which meant we would buy all our goods on line directly from the manufacturer, and there would no longer be a need for distributors or retailers.

Then ten years ago there was TiVo which, of course, was going to change everything. And we all know that story.

Why are marketers and ad people so hysterically attached to the belief that the next flavor-of-the-month will change everything? A few reasons:
1. We have an image of ourselves as visionaries. The more that advertising has embraced "branding" in lieu of "selling" as its primary purpose, the more mysterious and abstruse the art of marketing has become. Consequently, we marketing and advertising professionals have talked ourselves into believing that we have unusual powers of insight into human behavior. This, we believe, allows us to foresee the future with great clarity.

2. We love new things and hate old things. Just look at the advertising we create.
  • People over the age of 50 control 77% of the wealth of this country. Please show me one Super Bowl ad this year that was directed at them.
  • The average American buys 13 cars in his lifetime -- 8 of them after the age of 50. When is the last time you saw an old person in a car ad?
3. Advertising and marketing people are the early adopters of just about everything. Being ahead of the curve is our badge of honor. Marketing has changed from finding an insight and communicating it, to finding the next trend and pouncing on it. Jumping on a bandwagon is so much less taxing than thinking.

4. Nobody ever made a nickel predicting that things would stay pretty much the same.
Well, my friends, now there is -- ta-da -- social media. And, guess what? Social media is going to change everything!

Or will it? We'll see tomorrow in our next exciting adventure, "The Emperor's New Podcast"

April 07, 2009

I'm Tired Of Strategists

I'm sick and tired of strategists.

Can you please send me some people who can do shit, not talk about it.

Da Vinci didn't need a strategist. Neither did Newton. Or Einstein. Or Gershwin. Or Hitchcock. Or Riney, for that matter.

They just did brilliant things. They didn't need people chattering at them about what they should do or how they should do it. They just did it.

I'm tired of business strategists.
And marketing strategists.
And advertising strategists.
And media strategists
And web strategists.
And social media strategists.
And editorial strategists.
And content strategists.
And copy strategists.

I'm tired of people who know how to do everyone's job but their own, and agencies who know how to run everyone's business but their own.

This industry needs more doers. We have more than enough fucking chatterers.

April 06, 2009

Opening Day

The economy is in the toilet. The ad industry is a disaster. Asteroids are heading toward Earth. Web pornography is warping the minds of our children. Grown men and women are relentlessly Tweeting each other.

Yes, my friend, the end is near.

But who gives a shit?

It's Opening Day. I'm going to have a hot dog and a beer. I'm going to sit in the sunshine till the back of my neck is red and raw and my ass stings like a shot of tequila on a bad patch of strep throat.

What the hell, I'm having two hot dogs.

Once a year, every aspect of life should have an Opening Day. Every business should have one. Every friendship should have one. Every family should have one.

A day when everything starts over. When all of last year's successes and failures go into the record book, never to be discussed again. A day when the slate is clean and the possibilities are unlimited. A day when you call in sick-and-tired; when you leave the fucking Blackberry in the glove compartment; when you go somewhere where the grass is perfect and the people are unaccountably cheerful.

It's Opening Day. Play fucking ball!

April 03, 2009


I was raised in New York City where people are annoying but tough. Now I live in California where people are pleasant but insane.
OK, Maybe TV Is Dead
The New York Times reported yesterday that The Guiding Light has been canceled by CBS. The Guiding Light has been running continuously for 72 years. It started in 1937 on NBC radio and then moved to CBS TV in 1952.

The Tree Is Proud Of The Apple
hey dad,

after reading some of your blog posts, i decided to visit the twitter website, to see what it's all about [the people i know don't use it for the most part -- it's for old people and web geeks]. i found a bit of text on the site that i found comical. twitter claims it "puts you in control and becomes a modern antidote to information overload." the ANTIDOTE to information overload? more like the epitome of it!

The Future Of Advertising
I was reading George Parker's The Ubiquitous Persuaders (cheap-ass old fuck finally sent me a copy) and something he said sparked an idea. You know how everyone says "no one knows where the ad business is going?" Well, I may be kidding myself, but I think I know where it's going. A new book has been conceived. Thanks, George (by the way, he used to write radio episodes of The Guiding Light.)

Moderating The Immoderate
One of the unfortunate consequences of blogging success is that the more readers you get the more squids, spammers and imbeciles feel the need to comment.

Most bloggers either have some rules about the type of comments they will accept or they "moderate" (blogger code word for censor) comments before they post them. I have had no policy about this but I'm afraid I soon will.

As you can tell from this blog, I'm hardly a prude and I actually enjoy sparring when smart people disagree with me. However, we really don't need to put up with abusive cretins.

If I start "moderating", please don't let that keep you from commenting. Especially if you agree with me.

Nice People Saying Nice Things About The Ad Contrarian Book
You say what we all say when we're together in a room and the doors are shut: total common sense.

Then we open the doors and walk out and slot straight back into our ''Omigod what if clients or the press heard what we just said?" voices.

Then we all talk publicly exactly the same crap we railed against in private.

Thanks for restoring a bit of my sanity.
... I wanted to email and thank you for the book which I have just put down. It was like reading some of my own thoughts over the last few years and a whole bunch of useful new thoughts that had not occurred to me.

The book is everything advertising itself should be; relevant, pragmatic, iconoclastic and passionate...

I used to just get our clients to read "Eating The Big Fish" by Adam Morgan, I will be emailing your book to a bunch of clients this evening.

Would you be interested in coming to Ireland and giving a talk to the industry over here?
Robert Coyle

...I just wanted to say that I absolutely loved reading the Ad Contrarian. It was refreshing, poignant and in my opinion, spot on.
Miles McIlhargie

I just read “The Ad Contrarian” book over lunch. Loved it...
Matthew A. Filippi

You can download it free here.

April 02, 2009

Report: Everything Officially Dead Except The Web

NEW YORK -- Officials at the Online Institute of Life and Death reported today that everything except the internet is now officially dead. The Institute released a partial list of dead things:
  • Television is dead
  • Newspapers are dead
  • Advertising is dead
  • Magazines are dead
  • God is dead
  • Paul is dead
  • Hidden Valley Fiesta Ranch Dip Mix is dead
  • Grateful is dead
  • Death itself is dead
  • Everything else is dead
To make up for the death of everything, certain necessities of life will be made universally available on the web.
Food: Food can now be downloaded in 140-calorie packets called Tweats.

Sex: Sex is also available on line in several varieties. Gay sex is available at Flitter.com; oral sex is available at Spitter.com; married sex is available at Bitter.com; and mental masturbation is available, as always, here at The Ad Contrarian.

Social Notworking: Social media worldwide conferences will be held every day -- just as they are now. Except they will be conducted on line, so web weenies can Twitter each other about how great social media is and do even less fucking work.
Additionally, officials at the Institute reported that they think they may be dead, but are awaiting confirmation from Advertising Age, which is also dead.

April 01, 2009

Why There Are So Many Stinky Ads

You're not going to get into too many fights if you contend that most of the ads we have to endure are pretty stinky.

Just about every ad looks like something you've seen before, sounds like something you've heard before, or smells like something you've done before.

There are a whole lot of theories about why this is so. Most of them center around the unwillingness of agencies or clients to take risks. This is true. But I think there are even bigger reasons.

1. Making good ads isn't all that easy. The reason most songs, books, paintings, and movies are crappy is that making good ones is really freakin' hard. It's the same with advertising. Most ads stink because making good ones is a bitch. My experience is that very few creative people set out to make stupid, annoying ads. They just mostly turn out that way.

2. Clients have no authority. It used to be that there was a client person who was responsible for the agency relationship and had the authority to approve advertising. It seems to me that this authority no longer exists (is this your experience? I'd love to know.) As the titles have grown grander, the authority has grown weaker. When it come to advertising, most of these guys are nothing more than coordinators who bicycle the ads around to the real decision makers to get them approved. It is possible to sell an unusual idea to one person -- it's impossible to sell it to 20. Particularly when a surrogate on wheels is doing the selling.

3. Consumers don't care. One of the harsh realities of life on Earth that I still haven't gotten used to is that most people don't really give a shit about advertising. Simon Veksner (Scamp) wrote a piece recently about how real people view advertising so differently from us. The stuff we like they don't get. And the stuff they like requires farts and talking animals. If we had consumer demand for intelligent advertising, we'd be able to force our clients to do it. But when the demand is for more farts and talking animals...hey, hey, wait a minute...I have an idea...what about a chipmunk that can sing out of his ass...