May 31, 2011

Advertising's Creative Extinction

According to biologists, over 99.9% of all the animal species that have ever existed on Earth are now extinct.

The causes of extinctions are manifold. During the history of life on Earth there have been several instances of mass extinctions caused by natural disasters. Some extinctions have been caused by devastating diseases. Recently, humans have been responsible for extinctions. Some extinctions occur when species are no longer adequately adapted to environmental conditions and reach an evolutionary dead end.

I believe advertising is reaching an evolutionary creative dead end.

For over 50 years the TV commercial has been the dominant type of advertising life-form. It has thrived and, while mostly mediocre, at times it has brought us a profusion of brilliance and imagination.

Today, however, one has only to spend an evening in front of the television to see that the form is moribund.

It reminds me of rock music in the 90's. Everything I heard reminded me of something I had heard before. It was pretty clear that new ideas had to appear or the form would die.

Unfortunately, what is evolving in the advertising world seems to be an even more emphatic creative dead end. Intelligent people can disagree about the effectiveness of online advertising. But I don't see how anyone can be anything but dismayed at the dismal absence of charm, artistry and imagination in most online advertising.

Is advertising creativity really going to devolve into writing meta tags for search and brain-dead tweets? Is the future of advertising really asinine YouTube videos and invisible display ads and the pathetic neediness of Facebook "likes?"

It was not that long ago that TV commercials were a subject that people enjoyed talking about and, yes, enjoyed complaining about. Have you ever had someone ask you, "Did you see that listing on Google last night?" or, "I saw a hilarious Facebook page yesterday." People don't even care enough to complain about online advertising.

The web has proven to be a very fertile incubator for all types of creativity, with one very big, very disheartening exception.

Contrary to all the nonsense propagated by pundits over the past few years, advertising is in no danger of going extinct. But, alas, advertising creativity -- the one thing that makes working in this business tolerable -- is.

May 26, 2011

Part Science, Part Religion

Advertising is part science and part religion.

The science part works like this. We run ads with an offer for tires -- 4 tires for the price of three, this weekend only. We know how much the ads cost. We know how much the discount costs us. We know how much revenue we would have generated without the offer. We know how much we generated with the offer. It's simple math to figure out the ROI.

The religion part works like this. We put up a billboard for our cola. We know how many "impressions" it creates, but we have no idea whether or not it really made an impression. There is no offer. There is very little, if anything, to measure. Why do we do it? Religion. We have faith that in the fullness of time those who advertise do better than those who don't. We can't prove that any given "brand" message leads to any given product sale, but we believe.

Advertising has two purposes -- sales and insurance.

The short term purpose of advertising is sales. That's what the tire ad does.

The long term purpose is insurance. That's what the cola billboard does.

The sales part is science. We measure what we put out and what we take in.

The insurance part is religion. We have faith that our efforts today will be rewarded tomorrow.

May 24, 2011

Not Eating My Own Words

There is a handy rule of thumb I use to gauge the intelligence of people I meet. It is their ability to draw distinctions.

When I say I think the designated hitter rule is an abomination, and someone takes it to mean that I don't like baseball, I know I'm dealing with a nitwit. When I say I don't like osso buco and they assume that I don't like Italian food, I know this person can't think straight.

There are subtleties and distinctions to be drawn in all arguments. I believe the better one is at this, the more intelligent she is likely to be.

Using this touchstone, the more I write this blog the more dispirited I get about the intellect of the average marketing practitioner. They seem so often to lack the ability to understand the subtleties of logic.

A case in point -- I am frequently vociferous in my denunciation of people I call "digital maniacs."

These are people who think online advertising is magic; it has replaced traditional marketing; it is the answer to every marketing problem. When it's clear that online advertising fails, they always have an excuse (for some excellent examples, see the comments on my post Social Media's Massive Failure.)

There are also a lot of brilliant, wise, and talented people working in digital advertising. I am fortunate to work with some of them. But because I am critical of the maniacs and the poseurs, who pretend to know things they don't know, I have been labeled a digital media hater. I am not. I'm a bullshit hater.

There is no shortage of baloney in the advertising and marketing world. I am no more or less skeptical of online media baloney than I am of any other form of advertising or marketing baloney.

I think I know when online media is appropriate and when and how it can be used effectively. In fact, I've written about it here often. Nonetheless, my reputation as a web hater is solidly established among people who are incapable of understanding distinctions.

In case you've been wondering, this is all leading to a point.

Recently, I came upon a blog post from several months ago. The post was in praise of a successful and highly creative online campaign done by our St. Louis office (shameless plug -- if you're in the mid-West and you need help, they do great work) for the city of St. Louis.

The author spoke very highly of the campaign and ended with this...
It’s a truly integrated campaign – although the funny thing is, Bob Hoffman, one of the shops founders, constantly rants on his blog about how Social Media is a waste and no one watches online video. Bob? Are you eating your own words?
No. Those are not my words and if you want them eaten, you'll have to do it yourself.

May 23, 2011

Enhancing Your Global World, One Awesome Click At A Time

Subject:  Your Ads

Yo Steve,

We are reaching out to you because you (obviously) need help with your advertising.

Apple advertising looks just like it did 20 years ago. It's a product surrounded by a white background and some copy. You call that creative? Hello?

Dude, in case you haven't noticed, the world has changed in 20 years! Ever hear of the iPod? Or the iPhone? Oh, wait a minute...

Well, anyway, maybe your ads haven't changed but the consumer sure has!

Consumers now want to have a conversation with you in the digital space. Engagement  is created when you systematically engagify with the values of consumers within the system of their engagement ecosystem.

Today's hyper-connected consumers do not want a one-way monologue from brands that talk down to them. Today, the consumer is in charge (then comes Donald Trump, and then the Speaker of the House.) 

Dude, you don't even have a blog or a Facebook page or a Twitter feed. My mother has those. Maybe you know her. She's an old dinosaur, too (just kidding!)

Apple is still trying to force-feed a brand identity to digitally savvy consumers who, nowadays, are in control of your brand whether you like it or not. There is not even an RQ code on any of your ads (and by the way, a couple of honeys with big ones like those babes in those awesome beer ads wouldn't hurt either!)

Now the good news!

Using our proprietary method for consumer insight development called the Consumer Engagement Metric Globulator we have developed an awesome ad campaign for Apple. It will create a tsunami of consumer engagement and brand resonance and social currency and all the rest of that stuff.

It will be a totally integrated campaign (with the exception of television which, as you know, consumers have no use for anymore.) The concept is:
Apple. Enhancing Your Global World, One Awesome Click At A Time!
Yes, it is awesome! We have tested this campaign concept with an online panel using our proprietary research methodology known as the Consumer Research Metric Globulator and it has blown away all our previous standards of metric globularity.

This campaign has it all. First, it's not just about the products anymore. We've laddered up the hierarchy of benefits so the campaign is about your world! (And what a world it is when you engage with the Apple brand in the Apple ecosystem!)

Second, by using the phrase "one click at a time" we are demonstrating that we are totally in tune with today's hyper-connected post-millennial consumer!

The campaign will take all that money you're wasting on TV and billboards (traditional media) and put it where your customers are (the coolest new thing -- social media!)  Do you know that there are now more people on Facebook than there are in the entire world?

The campaign will be centered on a consumer-facing social media initiative called "The Awesome Apple Click That Enhanced The Global World." It will be anchored by a website in the digital space and a Facebook page in the digital space where consumers in the digital space can nominate someone in the digital space who made an awesome difference with his Apple product. In the digital space.

Then we'll let consumers vote for the entry they think was most awesomest. They can vote on Twitter, or Facebook, or on a mobile device or at a Mobil gas station. They can make videos and post them on YouTube. My mom can make the popcorn.

For the first time ever, Apple will be leveraging the online mobile social media ecosystem to create inter-active social currency among engaged consumers in the conversational ecosystem! That's two ecosystems in one sentence!

Steve, I know what you're thinking... "sounds good, but how do we make this idea experiential?"

Dude, we're one step ahead of you... again! We take it to retail!

Every time one of your "geniuses" fixes a problem at the Genius Bar, we'll have all the other geniuses say (in unison) "Well, that was an awesome click that enhanced the world" (not in a snotty way, you know, in a kind of playful way.)

And we'll convert your customers into brand ambassadors by giving them buttons that say "With Apple, The Whole World Is Now Global!"

Plus, we haven't forgotten about the girls with big ones. We'll hire some (stripper?) street teams to invade restaurants and bars with "I've Been Globally Enhanced" t-shirts (really tight!)

As you can see, Steve, the hard work is already done. All we need to do now is activate this concept. It's time for Apple to crawl out of its cave and wake up and smell the conversation! We're ready to go right now. You can reach us by clicking here.

I think it will be The Awesome Click That Enhanced Apple's Global World!

May 20, 2011

The 2 Most Important Words In Advertising

Because I am a lazy bastard and the thought of writing five posts a week is a constant source of terror, I have decided to introduce a new policy around here. From now on, on Fridays,  I'm going to recycle old posts that I like and that are still relevant. Today is our first Recycled Friday. It's a post from about 2 years ago called "The 2 Most Important Words In Advertising."

I've never been to ad school or art school.

I've never taken a course in copywriting or design.

I've never read a text book about marketing or strategy or account planning or media.

So I have no idea if what I'm about to say is commonly taught in classrooms and how-to advertising books, or if it's just some heresy I made up.

Creativity is very important in advertising. Strategy is very important in advertising. But, I'm sorry people, there is something much simpler and much more basic that is more important in producing successful advertising.

It's this: Be specific.

We have all seen advertising that is ugly and stupid succeed. We have all seen advertising that is lovely and intelligent fail. I would suggest to you that if you go back and look, you will find that the successful ugly and stupid advertising said something specific about the product and the unsuccessful lovely, intelligent advertising was full of platitudes and generalizations.

That's why horrible car dealer advertising is sometimes more effective than beautiful car manufacturer advertising.

The best advertising is strategically wise, creatively pleasing, and specific.

Perhaps my favorite example of this is the idea the iPod was launched with:

Not "world class mp3 player."

Not "a whole new way to enjoy music."

But this: "A thousand songs in your pocket."

May 19, 2011

I Hate When This Happens

What if I told you that I could prove that TV advertising is twice as effective as online advertising at "creating and extending brand equity?"

What if I could prove that it was 10 times more effective?

How about 25 times?

Well, according to a new study released by Innerscope Research, Inc. and Fox Broadcasting Company, TV advertising is actually 38 times more effective than online advertising. You read that right, 38 times more effective.

There's only one problem with this study. I don't believe it for a second.

Even though I believe that online advertising, with the exception of search, has proven to be disappointing, and I have stated often that I think TV advertising is substantially more powerful, I have no confidence at all in the validity of this research.

There are two reasons for this. First, I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent fellow. I believe that at some level you should be able to explain anything to me. Einstein once said, "It should be possible to describe the laws of physics to a barmaid."

When people cannot explain things to me in a way that is comprehensible, I get the suspicious feeling that either they are not clear on what they are saying, or are intentionally obfuscating. I have read the press release about this study a number of times and I still can't understand what they are measuring or how they measured it. I don't think either Einstein or a barmaid could make sense of this:
"The model accounts for the complex intersection of environment, content engagement, screen size, platform approach and flexibility, as well as how these factors affect the creation of emotional connections to brands. "
Second, one of the axioms about research here at Ad Contrarian laboratories is that we never trust research conducted by, or on behalf of, interested parties. Fox Broadcasting is an interested party.

Consequently, not understanding the methodology, not understanding what is being measured, and knowing that behind this study lurks an interested party, I have no confidence in this research.

As much as I'd like to be able to say "I told you so" regarding my belief that TV advertising is measurably more powerful than online advertising,  I have to be a big boy and reject this study as hopelessly flawed.

I hate when this happens.

May 18, 2011

What Not To Believe

This has been a pretty good week for vindication here at The Ad Contrarian World Headquarters.

On Monday, we reported that The New York Times had uncovered a deep dark secret that we've been screaming about for years -- that old people have more money than young people and the amount of money marketers are wasting on young people is insane.

Today we find that The New Yorker magazine agrees with us about the Pepsi Refresh Project.

First, a little background. About 2 months ago I wrote a piece called Social Media's Massive Failure. It was about the failure of the Pepsi Refresh Project. It was the most popular piece I've ever posted and was read by tens of thousands of otherwise sensible people.

It was also the most controversial piece I've posted. If you read the 95 or so comments on the post, you'll probably find that about 2/3 of the comments disagree with my conclusion that the Refresh effort was a failure.

This week The New Yorker published an article called Snacks for a Fat Planet. It isn't specifically about the Refresh project. It is about PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi's attempt to transform the company from the world's largest maker of soda and crappy food into a company with respectable standards and values.

It is actually a very interesting article and Nooyi comes off as an intelligent, thoughtful but somewhat jargon-y leader.

The article talks about Refresh as part of Pepsi's desire to be perceived as a "good" company.
...the strategy was to use social media to promote the image of PepsiCo... to bring the flagship brand more in line with PepsiCo's "performance with purpose" agenda...
Then it goes on to note that Pepsi's share had dropped 4.8% since the program was introduced.
... the Refresh campaign garnered more than eighty million votes, got three and a half million likes on Pepsi's Facebook page, and drew some sixty thousand Twitter followers... But the campaign didn't sell Pepsi.
Which to my ear sounds an awful lot like this paragraph from Social Media's Massive Failure...
....Over 80 million votes were registered; almost 3.5 million "likes" on the Pepsi Facebook page; almost 60,000 Twitter followers. The only thing it failed to do was sell Pepsi.
Contrary to all the proof-free assertions that awesome social media experts have been making, the article concludes...
It appears that hearing about all the good things that PepsiCo is doing to help make the world a better place does not tempt you to down a Pepsi.
As we know, there are many in the marketing world who cannot see the limitations of social media, no matter how compelling the evidence. Consequently, those of us with open minds and functional synapses need to remain skeptical and vocal about the "magic" of social media.
"Man's most valuable trait is a judicious sense of what not to believe." -- Euripides

More on this subject tomorrow. Big thanks to Sue Ream for pointing me to The New Yorker article.

May 16, 2011

Someone's Been Reading This Blog

On August 1, 2007 The Ad Contrarian published its very first post. It was a momentous day in the great history of digital whining.

The post was called Aiming Low. It was about the massive stupidity of marketers who feel compelled to target young people because everyone around them is doing likewise. Since then I have whined and bellyached about this subject frequently.

Last week, The New York Times ran a piece called, In Shift, Ads Try to Entice Over-55 Set. The story is about the dimwits in the marketing industry who are finally starting to wake up after all these years. As I read the piece, I got the strange feeling I had read it all before. Or even worse, written it all before.

So I went back to some pieces I'd written called Culture LagThe Amazing Blindness of Marketers, and Beating Their Heads Against The Wall. I compared them to the ideas expressed in the NY Times piece. Here's what I found:

Ad Contrarian:
"In 1964, the first of these Baby Boomers turned 18. These people provided marketers with an astounding and unprecedented marketing opportunity... Forty years later, this is now an old way of thinking."
New York Times:
"After 40 years of catering to younger consumers, advertisers and media executives are coming to a different realization..."
Ad Contrarian:
"The social phenomenon called the Baby Boom required a new way of thinking."
 New York Times:
"This amounts to a reversal in thinking that took hold during the 1960s, when advertisers first started aiming for baby boomers..."
Ad Contrarian:
"Economics and demographics tell us that young people are no longer a terribly attractive target for most marketers."
 New York Times:
"...the reasons for the shift are not just demographic, they are economic." 
Ad Contrarian:
"For several years now, we at Ad Contrarian Global Headquarters have been ranting about the astonishing stupidity of marketers for relentlessly chasing young people and ignoring people over 50"
New York Times:
"For decades, television has been the most determined proselytizer on behalf of the premium value of reaching consumers aged 18 to 49..."
Ad Contrarian:
  • Baby boomers dominate 94% of all consumer packaged goods categories.
  • They purchase almost 40% of consumer packaged goods
  • They account for 1/3 of all TV viewers, online users, social media users and Twitter users.
  • Even in technology categories, where marketers assume young people dominate, baby boomers  "are purchasing at rates just as high as other segments, and because they are often buying for their kids, many are double-dipping." 
New York Times:
"Mature consumers also seem to be spending on categories not traditionally associated with older people... they spent more than the average consumer on categories like home improvement, large appliances, casual dining and cosmetics"

They have also become heavy spenders on electronics and digital devices. The study also showed that members of the 55-to-64 age group were just as likely as those ages 18 to 34 to have high-definition televisions, digital video recorders and broadband service.
Now the Times may be brilliant when they see things as I do. But if they believe for a second that because a few marketers have crawled out from their caves and seen the light of day there's going to be a mass realization in group-think-land that they've been wrong all these years, forget about it.

I'll stick with something I wrote six months ago:
"The marketing industry is locked into a way-out-of-date time warp in which young people are the holy grail...If anything, it's getting worse."

May 13, 2011

The Monster That Wouldn't Die

(Apparently, Blogger lost this post yesterday, so I'm re-posting it today.) 

According to the geniuses of marketing punditry, TiVo was supposed to have killed off live TV and TV advertising by now.

If anything, it is the opposite.

Nielsen released its "State of the Media" report a few week ago and, as usual, they buried the lead.

The key story here was, once again, the remarkably small effect that time-shifting has thus far had on TV viewing and advertising.

According to their study, about 7.7% of total TV viewing was time-shifted in 2010. Since DVR users skip ads about 60% of the time, this means that a little over 4% of total TV spots were missed. Which, by the way, is about the same percentage of spots that are missed by live TV viewers going off to make a tinkle.

As small as Nielsen's numbers are, I am officially skeptical of them. I think they may be overstated.

As reported here earlier, a study released by the Duke University last May showed that people with DVRs time-shifted their viewing only 5% of the time. Since 38% of the population has DVRs, this would yield a result of about 2% of total viewing being time-shifted and only about 1.2% of spots being missed.

Since the introduction of DVRs in the late '90s, TV viewing has grown over 20%. So even if Nielsen's numbers are correct, the positive effect of more TV viewing is five times the negative effect of spots being skipped.

I'm just curious. How come I never see this statistic reported anywhere?

Relentlessly refusing to die, TV advertising continued its dominance. While all advertising spending grew about 5%, TV spending grew 8% and accounted for about 57% of total advertising expenditures.

May 10, 2011


Just like your local helicopter news team, bloggers are always looking for the local angle.

In assessing last week's news about bin Laden, I think I've found a way to connect it to the ad business.

The Navy Seals, the people who actually did the work, seem to have put in a nearly flawless performance.

On the other hand, all the other parties associated with the raid -- the politicians and their jabbering monkeys -- screwed everything else up royally. They couldn't get their stories straight. Everything they said at the beginning turned out to be wrong. They tripped in their underwear, contradicted each other, and seemed to be making it up as they went along.

Which, of course, reminds me of the ad business.

There are two kinds of ad people. The ones who make the ads, and the ones who stand on the sidelines and tell them how.

The results would usually be a whole lot better if the people who made the ads were just left alone and allowed to do their jobs without the "input" of the executive knuckleheads, the account ringmasters, and the sidewalk sociologists.

Of course, there are some people on the sidelines who do, from time to time, add value. But they are the exception. For the most part, all the jabberers are good for is complicating the living shit out of everything and getting the story wrong.

And just like our feckless politicians, they know how to do everyone's job but their own.

And Speaking Of Knowing Everyone's Job But One's Own...
I'm speaking at Stanford today. Is it ironic that I'm smart enough to be a teacher at a place where I'm not smart enough to be a student? Just askin'.

May 09, 2011

Brand Babble Battles Back

So far, 2011 has been a very good year for web-monkey jargonistas. But we've been uncharacteristically short on brand babble.

As a matter of fact, I was starting to think that under the relentless pressure of social media claptrap, the whole art of brand babble was losing steam.

I am happy to report, however, that a treasure trove of recent brand babble has been unearthed by an ever-vigilant ad contra. It's an article called "10 Ways Your Brand Can Be Meaningful" -- and everything about it is delicious.

First of all, it's located at the perfect spot -- a website called You couldn't ask for better provenance than that.

Second, it's written by someone who's a partner in Emotive Brand. Now, to be honest here, I have no idea who or what Emotive Brand is. For all I know, they're a fine group of wonderful people. But if the name doesn't make you cringe, you've been in marketing way too long.

And third, it provides us with an excellent vision of the future of marketing jargon. It manages to create a lovely amalgam of classical brand babble, sociological double-talk, and new age digi-drivel.

The article is deeply concerned with the "meaning" of brands. In a true tour de force, using just two short pages, it manages to incorporate the word "meaning," or some derivative of it, 53 times. 

Among the plenitude of platitudes, we are exhorted to...
"Take in more. Grow. Pursue new paths. Climb new mountains. Swim new seas. Cross new deserts. Plow new fields..."
Yup, I'll get right on that.
"It behooves your brand to move people to a new level of consciousness--about your brand, their own lives, and the connection between the two."
Really? Can't we just sell them shit? Exactly what new level of consciousness has Bud Light taken us to? Or Victoria's Secret? Or Toaster Strudel?
"The pursuit of meaning consolidates what's already there in the abstract into something more tangible, more understood, more usable. With an agreed meaning, a brand starts to evolve into a meaningful brand."
Would someone please notify the tautology police.
"You are on the road to meaning. You roll down the windows and let fresh air replace the old, stagnant ways of the past. You put down the convertible top and see the big sky above. You step on the gas and feel how much easier it is now to move forward..." put a loaded gun to your head and say, what in the world has this business come to?

May 05, 2011

Meet The Schmo

There is a new variety of cmo I have encountered recently. Maybe you've met him.
  • My title is cmo, but my job is advertising coordinator
  • My primary responsibilities are to manage meetings and get approvals
  • I always agree with the highest ranking person in the room
  • My favorite topic is the great things we did at my last job
  • The dumbest person in the world is the person who had this job before me
  • The dumbest agency in the world is the agency she hired
  • I am highly skilled at making pronouncements, but far less skilled at making decisions
  • When I do make a decision, it rarely lasts more than 48 hours
  • I am excellent at delegating responsibility. I am even better at delegating blame
  • I manage the budget, but I don't control it
  • I will be here for 18 months
  • I am an expert on using the latest marketing terminology
  • I don't care if it's good, as long as it's cutting edge
  • I am very well-groomed and very well-fed
  • I am a schmo

Obligatory Chicken-Shit Disclaimer...
....before you start writing feverish emails, there are obviously some very bright and talented cmo's. This is meant to describe a certain variety of the species. Okay? (Sigh.)

May 04, 2011

Maybe Social Media Isn't Magic

The great thing about being a blogger these days is that there are now so many ponderous studies about so many piddling subjects, you can pick your way through them to prove just about anything.

Today I'm going to prove how smart I am by referencing a study by Forrester Research (whose research I never trust except when it vindicates my prejudices) and GSI Commerce ("Take advantage of our leading e-commerce, multichannel retailing and interactive marketing services on a modular basis or engage us to support your end-to-end operations.") Yeah, I'll get right on that.

A few days ago these two issued a report about the effectiveness of social media in generating retail sales during the holiday season last year. Here's what Mashable had to say about the study:
"All those marketers who are rushing to increase their social media spend take note: A new study says social media has almost no influence on online purchasing behavior."
What?! But consumers want to have conversations with marketers! They want relationships with brands! They want to engage with us! Don't these people know that the consumer is now in charge!? This report can't be right! What the hell is going on here?
"The report found email and search advertising were much more effective vehicles for turning browsers into buyers."
Hmmm...seems I've heard that somewhere before.
(Fiona Dias, executive vice president of strategy and marketing for GSI Commerce) says she isn’t surprised by the survey’s results because she’s been telling retail clients for some time that social media outreach is a waste of time and money. Says Dias: “It’s been a mystery to me why the media is excited about social media. From a retail and commerce perspective, it seems to have no effect.”
Oh, c'mon Fiona, you old dinosaur. Don't you read the news? Social media is magic. Just ask any CMO.

May 03, 2011

The Great Pretender

The price you pay for reading this blog is that every now and then I go off the rails and write about things I have no right to write. Right?

Well, today I want to write about the meaning of life.

No, I'm not kidding. What is the darn meaning of life?

It's a question that has puzzled mankind since, well, at least since I was in junior high school.

Now the truth is that deep down inside we all know the answer. We pretend we don't know, but we know. The answer is that there is no meaning. Our primary job is to turn food into fertilizer.

When a cat dies do we ask what the meaning of its life was? How about a guppy? Does a guppy's life have meaning?  How about all the life forms that existed for hundreds of millions of years before we showed up?

Our species has been around for about 200,000 years, and we know next to nothing about the first 195,000 of those years. What was the "meaning" of those lives?

What gives us any reason to believe that our lives have more meaning than theirs? The fairy tales we've invented?

So then what are we to do?

I think that in order to live happy, healthy lives we need to pretend that our lives have meaning. We need to pretend that lawns are worth mowing and that advertising is worth doing. You see what I'm getting at here?

Even if it's all a bunch of meaningless nonsense and in the blink of an eye it will blow away like a mote of dust, we still have to pretend it means something.

Because if we don't, then all hell breaks loose. And we can't let that happen. It might be too much fun.

And speaking of too much fun... are The Platters singing The Great Pretender.

May 02, 2011

Pepsi Introduces "Social" Vending Machines. This Is Not A Joke.

Pepsi's obsession with all things "social" is quickly turning from tragedy to farce.

It would be one thing if these endeavors actually were "social" -- you know, like personal interactions between real human beings. But they are only "social" in the jargon-y web-monkey sense of the word.

Now they are introducing "social" vending machines. Apparently, you can buy a can of Pepsi and send a text or video message from the vending machine.

I don't know about you, but this is something I've always dreamed of. I don't think there is anything that would enhance my soda-buying experience like being able to send a video message from a vending machine.

Does Pepsi know who buys soda? Do they have any idea what kind of messages these people are likely to send? Do they have any idea how thirsty people -- who actually want a Pepsi -- are going to react when they are standing there waiting for 14-year old imbeciles to finish making their videos?

Pepsi is pulling out every cliche in the brand-babble playbook to justify this nonsense. The purpose of the new vending machines is...
" empower consumers and create new ways for them to engage with our brands"
True that. Up until now I've felt powerless. But now that I can engage with Pepsi brands by sending vulgar messages from a vending machine... I am so darn empowered, I just might...I don't know, what the hell do you do when you're empowered?

About 100 years ago I worked on a Pepsi brand. I had the opportunity to attend a bottler convention in Las Vegas. There were thousands of people jammed into a huge hotel ballroom.

After the usual parade of corporate knuckleheads, they introduced the advertising for the upcoming year. BBDO was the agency. They rolled one incredibly great spot after another. The crowd went wild. I thought that would be the highlight of the evening.

But then the real star of the show was introduced -- a new vending machine. The audience went absolutely stark-raving bonkers. I had never thought of a vending machine as anything other than a pay-refrigerator. Apparently to these people it is some form of mystical deity.

If Pepsi's wacky mania for social-ism screws up its vending machine operations like it has screwed up everything else, there will be blood in the hallways.