May 29, 2009

Honor Roll

I don't have a blog roll. Something about them creeps me out (although if you have a blog roll with TAC on it, there is absolutely nothing creepy about that.)

So every few months or so I like to acknowledge the brilliant and charming bloggers who have mentioned or linked to TAC in their blogs.

The TAC Honor Roll for April and May:

AdChick; AdClubReject; The Ad-Pit; AdPulp; Advance; Amarach Research Blog; aSourceOfInspiration; Attract More Customers; BabyBoomerMarketingBlog; Cheshire Cat; ClickZ; Community Marketing Blog; Dave Trott; David Kamerer's Spoonful; The Denver Egoist; drawohara; The Engagement Principles; Laughter Is The Best Medicine; Living Brands; MakeThe LogoBigger; Marblehead Blog; Mason Zimbler; Maximum Customer Experience; MineGoesToEleven; Only Dead Fish; Osmosis; OutsideInside; pauldervan; RetailSmart; Scamp; Scott Ellington's Blog; Sell Sell; Semantic Argument; SomethingChanged; Snamo; Spin City; Shiner.Clay; Tanya Holbrook; Tim's Blog

Please patronize our supporters.

If I missed you, please let me know.

To those bloggers I missed: Thanks for alerting me. I'll be posting your links soon.

Advertising Science Fair Winners

A few weeks ago we announced "The First Ever Online Advertising Science Fair."

We said:
The Editorial Board of The Ad Contrarian is looking for a few good facts. Not opinions, not bullshit, facts about contemporary advertising and marketing that are either interesting, not widely known, or misunderstood.
We invited our readers to submit entries and we have selected four winners:

First is Matt Sadler:

"Here's my entry for the advertising science fair:
Choice is good, but too much choice is a bad thing. In a US experiment, customers at a gourmet food store were invited to try and buy a selection of either 6 or 24 jams. Whilst the table with more variety attracted more customers, the table with only six options sold a whopping ten times more jam. As the saying goes, sometimes less is more.
Here's a link to the the paper showing the research."

Our second winner is Richard Butterworth:
"A 1981 experiment reported in the British Medical Journal found that a branded pain-killer was more effective than identical pills from unbranded packs. The same branding effect was found with inert 'placebo' pills.

Psychoneuroimmunological magic!"
(Here's the link. )

Winner number three is Tim Coote, who cites an article from the NY Times:
'When advertisers...try to take advantage of new “social advertising,” extending their commercial message to a member’s friends, their ads will be noticed, all right, but not necessarily favorably. Members are understandably reluctant to become shills. IDC, the technology research firm, published a study last month that reported that just 3 percent of Internet users in the United States would willingly let publishers use their friends for advertising. The report described social advertising as “stillborn.” '
Here's the link

Our final winner is Kelly Erickson.
"If you're a man, beauty is located... right in your car, say women in a recent university study....The university team showed women pictures of the same man sitting in two cars - a £70,000 silver Bentley Continental and a battered Ford Fiesta...The women, who were aged between 21 to 40, picked the man sitting in the Bentley ahead of the same man in the Ford...Even with the growing number of women in high-paid careers.... these new, wealthy women still show a preferment for high-status males...."
Kelly concludes, "Facts are stubborn things. And sometimes lead to the same ol' conclusions, in spite of our proto-feminist selves."

Here's the link.

Thanks to all who participated.

May 28, 2009

Blue Suede Shoes

Every now and then The Ad Contrarian reserves the right to abandon the horrors of advertising and write about whatever the hell he feels like. Today it's music.

I was listening to some early rock music the other day.

While I'm no musicologist, it seems pretty obvious to me that rock music was built on a three-legged stool:
Blues: Southern rural black music
R & B: Northern urban black music
Rockabilly: Southern white country music, played fast
One of the common elements in all these genres is the 12-bar blues.

It's not just the foundation of its eponymous form, it's essential to R&B and Rockabilly as well. Early R&B players like Chuck Berry and Little Richard built their songs almost exclusively on the 12-bar blues structure, as did early rockabillys like Elvis Presley (Hound Dog, Jailhouse Rock) and Buddy Holly (Peggy Sue, Oh Boy)

One of the songs from this genre, Blue Suede Shoes, is a very typical 12-bar blues rockabilly tune (except for the two weird 6/4 bars at the very beginning.) It became a classic of its type. It was written and recorded by Carl Perkins, and covered quickly by Elvis Presley and then by every band in existence.

However, there's something about Blue Suede Shoes that makes it special. Listening to it last week, it occurred to me that it might have been the first song with pure rock 'n roll attitude.
You can knock me down
Step on my face

Slander my name all over the place

Do anything that you want to do

But, uh uh, honey lay offa my shoes

Most early rock music was about the usual stuff -- love, hurt, dancing, sex (the double entendre kind) and money.

But Blue Suede Shoes is totally about attitude. It's about who he is, and proclaims that being who he is is more important to him than all the crap everyone else cares about.
Well you can burn my house
Steal my car
Drink my liquor from my old fruit jar
Do anything that you want to do
But, uh-uh, honey lay offa them shoes
While couched in pseudo-comic lyrics, its tone is unambiguously defiant with the silly shoes a metaphor for individuality. It delivers the kind of clear, rebellious message that ignited rock attitude and that continues to be a key component of popular music even today. The message: Don't f**k with me.

Carl Perkins with an amazing back-up band and an equally amazing hairpiece.

May 27, 2009

Why They Think We're Idiots

If you've been in business for a while, you've probably noticed that a lot of people in finance, operations, production, and engineering think that we in marketing and advertising are one small step above reptiles.

They smile condescendingly when we talk. They give each other "the look" when we haul out our patter. They speak to us as if we're mildly retarded 8-year-olds.

Unfortunately, they have some good reasons for this.

We have a pretty remarkable track record of focusing on the wrong things. We get mesmerized by the most frivolous aspects of our business, by the shiny new objects, and ignore the important issues.

At the core of the practice of advertising lie some critical questions that all agencies should have a passionate point of view about. Here's one example -- is advertising most productive when it's focused on changing consumer attitudes or consumer behavior? What should the priority be? Does it differ by category? How should this affect our strategies and our work?

I don't see how you can even begin to create a campaign until you've answered these questions. And there are so many more that affect the efficacy of advertising and the productive use of our clients' money.

Yet, as I go through the websites and literature of ad agencies, I don't see any attempt to answer these questions -- or other questions of substance -- in a mature, serious fashion.

I find a cornucopia of cliches, a tsunami of jargon, a blizzard of bullshit, but I can't find a serious discussion on the truly significant issues that face advertisers.

Marketing managers at client organizations are no better. They not only let us get away with our glib baloney, they've adopted it themselves and are every bit our equal in spouting dreadful, impenetrable brand babble.

As I read the trades, and the blogs, and the websites, I can find a thousand facile opinions on the creation of a Facebook page, but almost nothing about the serious, fundamental questions that loom about the practice of advertising.

These days, there are profound concerns about advertising and marketing that need to be addressed. And all we do is blather on and on about Twitter.

A lot of serious business people think of us as idiots because, to a substantial degree, we deserve it.

May 26, 2009

The Most Powerful Force In Marketing

Think of all the amazing new products that have been introduced in the past few years.

In the digital realm alone, there have been thousands of them. Every day I stumble on new offerings on the web that I had no idea existed, and that amaze me with their utility and creativity.

The startling fact, however, is how few of them become successful businesses.

The reason so many new products and new ideas do not succeed is a function of human psychology -- the reluctance of consumers to do something new and different.

Most companies either don't understand this or choose to ignore it.

Marketers always overestimate the attractiveness of new things and always underestimate the power of traditional consumer behavior.

I have been involved in the development of many new products and a lot of advertising campaigns for new products. Almost every new product I've been associated with has been either a reasonably good idea or an improvement on what went before. But most weren't compelling enough to overcome consumer attachment to doing what they always do.

One of the biggest mistakes a marketer can make is taking too seriously what consumers say about a product in the development stage. When consumers are exposed to it, they will tell you it's a good idea. But what they can never tell you is whether it's a good enough idea to eclipse the inertia of their habits.

The most powerful force in marketing is not price, quality, distribution, advertising, or branding -- it's the resistance to change.

May 22, 2009

The Power Of Social Media

According to the New York Times, Starbuck's has...
..."1.5 million fans on Facebook and 183,000 followers on Twitter. On the Saturday before the presidential election, Starbucks sponsored a single 60-second television commercial on “Saturday Night Live” advertising a coffee giveaway on Election Day. Starbucks then posted the video online. By Tuesday, it was the fourth-most-viewed video on YouTube, and people were mentioning Starbucks on Twitter every eight seconds."
The result?
"Same-store sales were down 8 percent in the first three months of the year."
Are We Dead Yet?
I'm kinda missing the swine flu. Those people at the airport actually looked a lot better with masks on.

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far
After reading TAC for a while, my college-age daughter wanted to know more about social advertising. I directed her to some social media blogs. Here's what she wrote to me:
"...after reading all those bullshit social media blogs and learning what they are trying to get me to do (talk to my friends about laundry detergent), and just listening to people who think that facebook is some god-send social revolution, i have decided to delete mine. if this is the future of socializing and media, count me out. i'd rather stick to human interaction..."
A Tweet Worth Reading
"If you're really worried about your 'branding,' try to stop thinking about life as a press release and just focus on making something " hotdogsladies

Science Fair Winners
Will be announced next week. You will learn:
1. Which are more effective -- branded pharmaceuticals or generics?
2. How viable is "social advertising?"
3. Do fancy cars make men more desirable to women?
4. Is it better to give customers a lot of choice or a little?

3 Things I'm Greatly Suspicious Of
Piety. Propriety. Sobriety.

Have A Nice Holiday
And remember, Memorial Day is for remembering the shit some brave people went through to give us what we've got.

May 21, 2009

A Rare Pleasure

It's a rare pleasure these days to find an expert on digital media who has perspective and is not a web maniac or a zealot.

It's an even greater pleasure when he has nice things to say about this blog.

If you have a chance, take a click over to Adam Cahill's post today at ClickZ.

8 Recent Observations About Twitter

I've been on Twitter for a little over a week now and I have some early observations.

1. Twitter is a much more civilized place than the rest of the web. There is far less hostility and anger. Maybe we should restrict all human communication to 140 characters.

2. Twitter needs a "hide" function. There are some people you may be following who are way too prolific or way too dull and it would be great to be able to shut them down for a day or two. (Is there such a function that this novice doesn't know about?)

3. Amazing fact: 1% of Twitterers account for 35% of all tweets. (Correction: 1% of Twitterers account for 35% of all visits to Twitter.)

4. Anyone who actually reads all the tweets he gets is completely and utterly insane. I'm convinced that most people follow other people not because they're interested in what they have to say, but in the hope that they, in turn, will be followed.

5. Twitter is far more "self-promotional media" than "social media." There is very little about it that is actually social. In my circle, the heavy Tweeters tend to be self-employed business people -- especially consultants and other entrepreneurs -- directly or indirectly looking for contacts or business.

6. Also, in my circle of twits, there is far more forwarding of links than expressing of ideas.

7. To be honest, if I wasn't interested in promoting this blog and promoting my agency, I wouldn't spend another minute on Twitter. Whether, in fact, it has any value as a promotional vehicle is the experiment I'm now engaged in. My early take is that it may have some promotional value for small organizations and individual entrepreneurs, but very little for larger businesses.

8. Twitter is like golf. I feel like an idiot for doing it, but I have to admit that sometimes it's fun. I stand by my earlier estimate that 5% has value and 95% is worthless.

May 20, 2009

Maybe I'm Not So Stupid

Here's a report that confirms everything I've been saying about social media.

Why Is Twitter Free?

I was once trying to sell my house, but decided to take it off the market. My neighbor, who was a real estate agent, asked me why. I told him there were no buyers.

He laughed and called me an idiot.

Then he asked about the price. I said $400,000. He said, if you were asking 5 bucks do you think you could sell it? I said, of course. Then the problem, he said, is not that there are no buyers, the problem is you're asking the wrong price.

His point was that somewhere there was a true value for my home which someone would pay. I could have quickly discovered what that value was by lowering the price until someone was willing to pay it. But I took my home off the market because I didn't really want to know what the true value was.

This got me thinking, recently, about why Twitter is free.

Does it have no value? Or do they not want to know what the value is?

It's obvious to me that it has some value because millions of people are using it. It's not like news sites which can't charge because they are essentially commodities. And it's clearly better to make money than to not make money. So why do they refuse to charge?

I believe that the longer Twitter goes without charging, the harder it will be to ever charge. And as time goes by, the more likely they are to lose their competitive advantage (as MySpace did.)

You may not be willing to pay $1 a tweet, but you'd certainly be willing to pay a penny for a lifetime of tweets. Somewhere between those two extremes lies the basis for the true value of Twitter.

I'm sure they have all kinds of business school/web 2.0/futurama rationales for not charging. But my guess is the real reason they're not charging is because despite all the hype right now they don't really want to know.

May 19, 2009

Advertising Today: A Parody Of Itself

A few days ago, college teacher and fellow blogger Christopher (Kit) Simpson sent me a satirical piece he had written about something he made up called "the brand footprint."

The "brand footprint" was a concoction of marketing gibberish and double-talk Christopher invented to parody all the insufferable branding bullshit we have to contend with every day from phonies who can't think straight or talk in plain English.

Little did he know that the ad industry has become such a parody of itself that the "brand footprint" actually exists.

"I swear on Bibles, Korans, and (even more sacred) old Batman comics, not only did I just make up the term, I almost decided against it as being too over-the-top," says Christopher. But, of course, there is no bullshit too stinky for the contemporary world of brand babble.

"Never dawned on me to actually look it up online, but a friend just sent me a link..."
Prioritize your brand...

Brand Footprint utilizes sales, brand health and market data as the backbone, while the axis are based on the priorities for your brand. We aim to set business, social, brand and product performance benchmarks that are critical to the holistic performance of your brand.
No, that is not the parody, that is the real thing.

As Christopher says..."There is no way to satirize the 'new advertising.' "

May 18, 2009

"Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Plagiarism"

Here at Ad Contrarian global headquarters, our editorial board is delighted when other bloggers quote us, link to us, or reference us.

However, believe it or not, we work hard on this blog and don’t take kindly to it when people steal our stuff.

In October of 2008, a post appeared here called “Top 10 Bullshit Professions”. It was a semi-hilarious romp through the world of dubious occupations. It has proven to be one of our most popular posts.

Imagine our surprise recently when we came across a post on a blog called Innovation Playground dated March 17, 2009 entitled: "What's The Value Of Bullshit? What Are The Top Bullshit Professions?"

Reading through it, we couldn't help but notice some astounding similarities to our post of 5 months earlier:
Me: "...I used only one criterion in creating the list: Do they really know anything or are they just making shit up"
"The criterion in creating the list are based on: 1/ Do they really know anything?... 3/ Do they just making shit up?"

Me: "The Ad Contrarian Top 10 Bullshit Professions"
Him: "My view of the top 10 bullshit professions"

Me: "Financial Advisors: Monkeys throwing darts."
Him: "Investment Managers… Monkeys throwing darts…"

Me: "Career Counselors: If they knew anything they'd find themselves better jobs."
Him: "Organizational Change Consultants: If they knew anything they'd transformed themselves first."

Me: "Branding Consultants: Why didn't I think of this scam?"
Him: "Motivational Gurus: Why didn't I think of this scam?"

Me: "Psychotherapists: Practitioners of the world's most advanced form of pseudoscience".
"Psychotherapists: ...practitioners of the world's most advanced form of pseudoscience."
Here's a lesson for you, pal. It's a small web after all.

Bloggers: Has this happened to you? What have you done about it?

The Brilliant Oscar Levant...
is the author of the quote that entitles this post.

Slime Ball Update:
As of 8:20 am PDT, this "Innovation Playground" creep has taken all the negative comments he received this morning off his website and closed it to comments.

May 15, 2009

Looking For Volunteers

Advertising is a minor annoyance, at best.

Traditional advertising causes forced exposure – if you’re going to watch Monday Night Football you have to see my beer spot whether you want to or not.

Web advertisers have tried the forced exposure model (banners and display ads) with very limited success.

Because forced exposure on the web has not been terribly successful, the advertising community is trying to convince itself that the answer is social media. But there's a big problem. Social media is not like traditional advertising. Consumers have to volunteer for it.

The idea that people will voluntarily "interact with your brand", or can be tricked, coaxed, or charmed into interacting with it, is a highly suspect proposition for most brands.

Unless you compete in a very high interest category (sports, wine, entertainment) the probability that large numbers of consumers have the time or inclination to interact with your brand is close to zilch.

It is a fantasy propagated by naivete, ideology, and wishful thinking.

TAC predicts that when the frenzy over Facebook, Twitter, and other social media calms down and the dust clears, email and search will continue to be the dreariest and most productive forms of online advertising.

May 14, 2009

Leveraging The Brand

Now that The Ad Contrarian is a huge brand (yes, we spent almost a full day on the AdAge Power 150 just last week. Unfortunately, since then we've been dropping like a dead rat who swallowed a bowling ball) the board of directors here at Ad Contrarian global headquarters is convinced we need to monetize our brand.

We've got the TAC book and the TAC blog (together they have earned us a nifty little $0.00.) Now we're going to leverage the brand and take it into new channels where we expect to experience massive monetization.

Here are some of the line extensions we're thinking about:
  • Ad Contrarian Fragrance for Men
  • Old Acapulco-Style Ad Contrarian Margarita Mix
  • Ad Contrarian Lunch 'n Munch Snackin' Meats
  • Ad Contrarian Non-Greasy Styling Gel With Aloe
  • Ad Contrarian Luxury Retirement Townhomes and Condominiums
  • Ad Contrarian Bar Mix With Wasabe-Crusted Peas
  • Ad Contrarian E-Z Start Fireplace Logs
  • Your Very Own Ad Contrarian Action Figures (this collection would include all our regular commenters except Jimmy Cabral)
  • The Ad Contrarian's Mom's Organic Home-Style Frozen Meatloaf
  • Ad Contrarian 'Herni-Sta' Hernia Care Products
  • Ad Contrarian Asian-Style Dipping Sauces
I'm accepting investors.

Hypocrisy Update...
I've tried Twitter a couple of times and thought it was useless and pathetic. However, I am often reminded by my readers that I am a narrow-minded, reactionary, old ferret. Consequently, I am going to suffer for my art and re-establish my Twitter account for a while. You can find me here.

May 13, 2009

They're Old. They're Dead. They're Back.

In October of 2008, in a post called "The Web: TV With Its Hat On Backwards" about making the web a more effective advertising medium, I said:
"I'm starting to get the feeling that the web's killer app is television."
Well, it's not that far-fetched.

According to an article in MediaWeek, called "Web to Soon See :30s",
"David Payne wants to radically alter what online ads look like...
And guess what they're going to look like?
"This summer, Payne’s company ShortTail Media will initiate a beta test of what it’s calling the Digital 30 (D30), a full-screen, deliberately intrusive placement built to showcase traditional 15- and 30-second TV spots."
In other words, those things the digerati keep telling us are dead -- 30-second spots -- are all of a sudden new again.

TAC predicts this will fail unless it's tied to unique and compelling content.

What online media zealots and brain-dead "conversationalists" still don't understand is that nobody will ever volunteer to watch advertising (more about this in an upcoming post.)

The only way to get people to watch online :30's is to force them to. You wanna see my content? You gotta watch my spots.

Just like tv does.

Big thanks to Randy Shiozaki for this.

Hypocrisy Update...
I've tried Twitter a couple of times and thought it was useless and pathetic. However, I am often reminded by my readers that I am a narrow-minded, reactionary, old ferret. Consequently, I am going to suffer for my art and re-establish my Twitter account for a while. You can find me here.

Not Everyone At My Agency Is An Opinionated, Narrow-Minded, Old Ferret Like Me...
Some are actually thoughtful, moderate, and reasonable.

May 12, 2009

Bigger And Badder

As I've said here previously, the agency business is comprised of two primary elements: ads and bullshit.

Pretty much everything we do that is not related to the creation or distribution of ads is bullshit.

There are many reasons why the globalization of the agency business is a bad thing. But worst of all is that the bullshit component, which was always secondary, has now achieved primacy.

Anyone who has worked in a large organization can tell you that bigness breeds bullshit. It's not that bullshit doesn't exist in small organizations, it's just that it flourishes in big ones.

Read their press releases. Listen to their leaders. Watch what they do compared to what they say. Talk to the people who work for them. For every ounce of advertising, they produce a pound of bullshit.

There was a time in this industry when all you had to worry about was making great ads. If you made great ads, smart companies would find you and you'd be successful.

Those days are gone.

The bullshit artists have created a culture of trendy nonsense, obfuscation and false goals.

And we all have to pretend to believe in it or we can't compete.

The agency business has become like politics: You are permitted to say everything but the truth.

Hypocrisy Update...
I've tried Twitter a couple of times and thought it was useless and pathetic. However, I am often reminded by my readers that I am a narrow-minded, reactionary, old ferret. Consequently, I am going to suffer for my art and re-establish my Twitter account for a while. You can find me here.

May 11, 2009

Even Online Brands Prefer TV

Could it be that the press and ad agencies and consultants are all besotted with online advertising, but people whose businesses live or die on the effectiveness of their advertising are putting their chips on a different number?

And could it also be that even online marketers
are losing confidence in online advertising?

It seems that way. Apparently some online marketers have eschewed online advertising and decided that the best way to promote their online brand is on, gulp, television.

Yeah, old, dead, useless television. The stuff that no one pays any attention to anymore. The symbol of everything that's wrong with marketing.

These are online people and they're not relying on social media; they're not running banner ads; they're not counting on Twitter or Facebook.

They're running tv spots.

Are these people crazy? Don't they read the trades? Don't they know that the traditional stuff doesn't work anymore?

Don't they realize that the interruption model is dead? Don't they understand that they need permission to market to online users? Don't they get it that consumers want to have conversations with their brand?

Let's see what one of these pathetic fools has to say about all the money he's wasting on television and all the brilliant marketing strategists he hasn't hired.

Big thanks to Michael Gass and Jason Headley for this.

Hypocrisy Update...
I've tried Twitter a couple of times and thought it was useless and pathetic. However, I am often reminded by my readers that I am a narrow-minded, reactionary, old ferret. Consequently, I am going to suffer for my art and re-establish my Twitter account for a while. You can find me here.

May 08, 2009

The Advertising-Swine Flu Connection

The idiocy of the past 10 days over swine flu is not an isolated episode.

We are living in an era of hysteria -- health hysteria (swine flu, SARS, mad cow); political hysteria (terrorists, Wall Street); and, yes, advertising industry hysteria.

The hysteria is fueled by frenzied media agitation, promiscuous experts, and a gullible audience.

The common denominator is absence of perspective.

The ad industry is rightly spooked by the awful consequences of the recession and the uncertainties of the digital revolution.

The hysterics tell us that advertising is dead -- despite the obvious fact that every square inch of the planet is covered in it.

The answer is not hysteria. The answer is remembering that circumstances change but principles don't.

The laws of human behavior have not been repealed. People still want stuff. People are still receptive to relevant messages. People still respond to their own self-interests.

Advertising and marketing success will not be achieved by jumping from one fad to the next. It will be achieved the way it has always been achieved -- by intelligent strategic thinking and imaginative ideas.

Hypocrisy Update...
I've tried Twitter a couple of times and thought it was useless and pathetic. However, I am often reminded by my readers that I am a narrow-minded, reactionary, old ferret. Consequently, I am going to suffer for my art and re-establish my Twitter account for a while. You can find me here.

May 07, 2009

Hey, It Could Happen

The World Health Organization said today that 2 billion people could get the swine flu.

Here are some other things that could happen:
  • Chickens could learn how to yodel
  • Cool Ranch Doritos could be dried-up aliens from another galaxy
  • Wolf Blitzer could dance the tango naked
  • Automobiles could run on pretzels
  • The World Health Organization could be clueless hysterical bureaucrats who don't know when to shut the hell up

Too Big For Our Own Good

Here at The Ad Contrarian global headquarters, we don't know what to make of this.

Yesterday we were ranked #145 in the Ad Age Power 150 marketing blogs listings. We're used to hovering around #637 or something.

Part of the fun of being a contrarian is being on the outside and throwing rocks through the window. But when you're in the "Power 150" do you lose your outsider status? Do you compromise your standing as a contrarian?

It's like the rebellious copywriter who gets promoted to creative director and all of a sudden has to behave himself.

On the other hand, we won't pretend we don't like being popular.

But maybe we're making too big a deal over this.

Most of the blogs on the Power 150 list are unreadable. They're about things like web analytics and search engine optimization and other stuff that makes your brains fall out.

Also, being number 145 isn't exactly like being the Queen of France or something. If you were at a ballgame and you wanted to hold up big foam fingers indicating "we're number 145", you'd have to grow another hand.

May 06, 2009

Announcing The First Ever Online Advertising Science Fair

Are you sick to death of bullshit masquerading as facts?

Are you tired of smarmy-young-things and their bounty of hyperbolic new-age marketing jive?

Then you, my friend, are ready for First Ever Online Advertising Science Fair.

Here's the deal.

The Editorial Board of The Ad Contrarian is looking for a few good facts. Not opinions, not bullshit, facts about contemporary advertising and marketing that are either interesting, not widely known, or misunderstood.

Here's what you need to do. Scour the net for interesting factual stories about advertising or marketing. No "expert" opinions; no tired "how to's", just the facts, ma'am.

Write a brief one-paragraph description and include a link. Send it to

We'll publish it with a nice byline for you that will make you famous among the jaundiced and cynical bastards who read this blog.

As an Advertising Science Fair winner, you will be entitled to several adult beverages next time you're in SF.

I will kick-off The Advertising Science Fair today with an interesting story courtesy of James Hipkin.

Want to sell french fries? Put salads on the menu.

Duke University conducted a study that showed that people with high levels of self-control normally avoided french fries in restaurants. But when a salad was added to the menu, they were far more likely to order fries.

They call this effect "vicarious goal fulfillment" -- if the person considers the salad, even if he doesn't order it, he feels free to order fries.

For a narrative version of this research, look here; for Duke's press release look here.

Okay, it's your turn. Be a part of the First Ever Online Advertising Science Fair.

Remember, you have to enter to win.

May 05, 2009

Didn't Take Long

Yesterday I wrote about 3 lines of nonsense we would hear this week from people trying to cover the asses over the imaginary swine flu "crisis." The first was this:
"Now is not the time to get complacent."
Sure enough, from the AP:
"Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters Monday that now is not the time to rest..."

You Just Don't Get It, Do You?

From TVWeek:
"Although research shows viewers are spending more time watching TV and surfing the Web, many marketers are reluctant to integrate their traditional and online efforts. Clients often don't fully understand the digital world..."
Let's clear something up here.

Simply because a client is reluctant to do an online campaign doesn't necessarily mean she doesn't "fully understand the digital world..."

In fact, it may mean she understands it all too well.

Many clients -- particularly here in California where digital marketing is not such a shiny new thing -- have experience with digital advertising and have found it to be substantially less miraculous than promised. As a matter if fact, the number of advertisers who are in this boat is growing every day.

The smug attitude among digital evangelists that everyone who does not worship at the Divine Church of the Internet "doesn't understand" gives me a real pain in the ass.

It reminds me of the first generation of web maniacs.

During the height of dotcom silliness, every knucklehead with a black t-shirt and a rich uncle was coming around to agencies trying to get us to work on their stupid account.

When we told them they were crazy, they'd look at us pityingly and say, "You just don't get it, do you?"

By The Way...
...there is no web domain called There was a time, not that long ago, when I could have claimed it and sold it to some "new economy" schmuck for a million dollars. I miss those guys.

May 04, 2009

Clueless And Cluelesser

Last week, 800 people worldwide caught a cold and you'd have thought the freaking bubonic plague was sweeping the planet.

The brilliant and sensible readers of TAC, however, called bullshit on the lurid coverage of swine flu right at the beginning of all the hysteria.

This week look for the media to start covering their asses. There will be three major lines of nonsense:
1. "Now is not the time to get complacent." Scare-mongering lite: "Swine flu is still spreading and everyone still needs to take precautions." Bleccch.

2. "Did the press go too far?" The inevitable navel-gazing analysis featuring the usual parade of lame-o's from Some Bullshit Institute for Responsible Journalism.

3. "What Can We Learn From This?" Every "expert" with a stupid opinion will be required to express it. Including marketers who thought the communication industry hysteria over the "crisis" was a good thing.
Epicenter of Hysteria
Traveling through airports last week, it seemed pretty clear that SF leads the league in deranged health maniacs, with many smug-young-things in surgical masks. In LA airports the only people with masks were coming off flights from SF.

Is There Anything Stupider Looking...
...than a guy with a surgical mask and a Bluetooth earpiece?

By The Way...
...the answer to #2 above: Yes, the bozos in the press went way too far, just like they always do.

I'm Still Waiting...
...for the Twitter angle. There's got to be one somewhere.

May 01, 2009

Hysteria Update

World Health Organization, yesterday: "All of humanity under threat."

LA Times
, yesterday: "In fact, the current outbreak of the H1N1 virus...may not even do as much damage as the run-of-the-mill flu outbreaks that occur each winter without much fanfare."


"Authorities in Mexico urged people to avoid hospitals unless they had a medical emergency, since hospitals are centers of infection." Huh?

Told Ya So:
Months ago we characterized Twitter as "How The Narcissistic Keep In Touch With The Feckless." If the Ashton Kutcher-Oprah extravaganzas don't prove that, I don't know what will.

Teamwork: Train Wreck:
Apparently, if the latest plan goes through, Chrysler will be owned jointly by the U.S. Government, Fiat, and the UAW.

Can't see how that can fail.

More Swine Foo:
It's Christmas for hysterics.

Is There A Site Called Assbook?:
A genius in Switzerland called in sick claiming she was too sick to sit in front of her computer screen and needed to be in the dark. Only problem, her employer found that she had spent the day Facebooking. She was fired.

Here's a tip: If you're home scamming your boss today, don't leave any comments.

And Never Forget

Einstein is spinning.