December 28, 2012

What The Hell Are They Teaching? Best of 2012


Our next "Best of 2012" is from October. It was about marketing professors and the Pepsi Refresh project.

There was a piece in Ad Age last week featuring the astoundingly clueless opinions of marketing and business professors on the subject of the Pepsi Refresh project.

The amazing thing is that these people weren't from Southwest Arkansas State. These guys were from Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Penn and Notre Dame.

It makes it clear why so many young people in advertising are confused about what they're supposed to be doing. And just how out of touch these experts are.

Before we take a look at their opinions, let's review the facts:
  • In 2010, Pepsi diverted scores of millions of dollars from traditional advertising (including their Super Bowl sponsorship and their traditional TV advertising) into a massive social media project.
  • After one year of this, they had lost 5% of their business.
  • Their sales dropped by an estimated half a billion dollars.
  • They fell from their traditional 2nd place in the soft drink category to 3rd place.
  • Their sales erosion increased widely compared to the previous year
  • Their beverage ceo was so upset he said he was going to "blow up the place."
  • Many of the key players are now gone from Pepsi
  • After burning astronomical amounts of money on this, Pepsi finally killed it in March.
If that doesn't describe a complete marketing disaster, I don't know what does. So what do the academics have to say about Refresh?
"...we don't know whether it was effective or not." 
What?! We DON'T KNOW??? Maybe you need a few research assistants to do a thesis for you, then you'll know. What has to happen to convince you that it bombed? Do lab rats have to grow two heads?
"I have read that the project had over 60 million folks involved. That is a pretty impressive accomplishment."
No, the "pretty impressive" part was how they got hundreds of millions of people to buy 5% less Pepsi. Now that's impressive.
"...it has helped further the conversation about the role of purpose in brand marketing."
Oh, the f/ing conversation! That old thing still alive on campus? Here on planet Earth, professor, we buried that putrid monkey about 2 years ago. How about this -- the "role of purpose" is to sell shit. Any further questions?
"It shows the power of making a big commitment to these causes. People really responded and said Pepsi is a good company."
Yeah, everywhere I go people can't stop talking about what a good company Pepsi is. I can hardly get a conversation going about the election or football.
"It's something that will be more and more relevant and more mainstream."
Bullshit.

First of all, no company will ever again be stupid enough to listen to the delusional blather of "social media marketing experts" and do what Pepsi did.

Second, the "mainstream" doesn't need lessons from corporate America in good citizenship. We don't need lectures from white collar windbags who hide every dollar of profit they can from the tax system. We don't need holier-than-thou pronouncements from sugar-water peddlers about their high-minded principles. We don't need exhortations from overfed sharpies about our responsibilities as citizens.

You want to sell us stuff? Fine. Tell us what you got and why we need it.

Otherwise, we can do very well without your cynical gimmicks and corporate chest-pounding disguised as social virtue.

December 27, 2012

The Facebook Monster: Best of 2012


We continue our final week of "Best of 2012" posts with this one from September.

Once upon a time, there was a thing called traditional advertising. The purpose of traditional advertising was to create demand for things.

People did this with funny television and radio commercials and pretty newspaper and magazine ads and billboards and blimps and butt danglers and hooter wobblers.

Sometimes it was darn effective. And hundreds and hundreds of brands of soda pop and toys and toothpaste and cookies and cars and beer and paper towels and cake mixes and computers and sneakers and candy bars and... well, anyway, it grew and it grew.

Traditional advertising had a funny little cousin. It was called the Yellow Pages. The Yellow Pages was different. Its purpose was not to create demand. Its purpose was to fulfill demand.

So when Timmy had already decided he wanted a pair of sneakers, he went to the Yellow Pages to find out where to buy them.

It was a handy system -- traditional advertising to create demand, and its funny little cousin to fulfill demand.

And then one day the internet came along. Advertisers, who are very, very smart at understanding what used to be true, thought that the internet would be like traditional advertising. And they used it the same way. They used it to try to create demand. They put pretty ads just about everywhere you could put one.
On this kind of site and that kind of site.

In between things and on top of things.

Before things and after things. 
But there was a problem. After 15 years of doing this, not one of these online advertisers had created a single major brand of anything. No soda pop or toys or toothpaste or cookies or cars or beer or paper towels or cake mixes or computers or sneakers or candy bars or...

Then, one day, there came along a really smart monster. The really smart monster had a silly name -- Google. This monster realized that the internet wasn't really like traditional advertising. It was more like the funny little cousin. The monster thought that the internet wouldn't be so good for creating demand, but it would be really good for fulfilling demand.

So the monster built itself a home that was very much like the funny little cousin's -- where people could go to find things they already wanted. And the monster was right. And it grew and it grew and it grew.

Now the story gets spine-tingling. One day, another monster came along. Its name was Facebook. And everybody loved this new monster. He was way more fun and friendly than the Google monster.

Now there were two advertising monsters. And they were fighting. The winner would get lots and lots of money. The loser would get lots and lots of money, too. But not as much as the winner.

Each monster had a different weapon. The Google monster's weapon was fulfilling demand. The Facebook monster's weapon was... uh-oh, you guessed it... creating demand.

So even though everybody loved the Facebook monster, it turned out that the Google monster's weapon was 25 times more powerful!

Now here's the fun part. The people who spend lots and lots of money for advertising were so fucking stupid darn silly, that after 15 years they still didn't understand this. They still thought the internet was like television and radio and newspapers and magazines and billboards and blimps and butt danglers and hooter wobblers. They thought it was really good for creating demand. And they kept spending money trying to do this. Silly guys!

Well, believe it or not, this little misunderstanding gave the Facebook monster (known to everyone on his block as "that creepy Zuckerberg kid") the idea that maybe his weapon really was powerful after all, and that if he could just find a way to redesign it so it worked really well in a new carry-around container he could win.

But, uh-oh, the problem was not where the monster's weapon was used. The problem was, the monster had the wrong weapon.

But there's a happy ending. Even though the Facebook monster had the wrong weapon, advertising people were so fucking stupid kind and generous that he still made more money than you could ever imagine.

December 26, 2012

My Social Media Paradox - A Best of 2012


For my next "Best of 2012" selection, I chose this one called "My Social Media Paradox."

Back in August, I was invited to speak at a social media conference. The hen was in the fox house. My presentation was billed as a "fireside chat" between the organizer of the event (a guy I like and respect, Jason Falls) and myself.

The first question Jason asked me went something like this...
"You have been critical of the social media marketing world from the get-go, yet you use it… quite well I might say. What's your point of contention and how can you reconcile that with your prolific use of the medium?"
I thought it was a great question.

And I thought the answer would be worthy of a blog post. I don’t remember my exact words. And since then I have had further thoughts. So here’s a combination of how I think I answered the question and what my subsequent thoughts have been. 

Let's start with why you invited me here to address this conference. There are thousands of advertising and marketing people who are skeptical of social media marketing. I am not alone. But for some reason you chose me. Why? Let’s answer this question in marketing terms.

I would suggest that the reason you chose me is that I have created a pretty successful brand called The Ad Contrarian. The Ad Contrarian brand is clearly differentiated. When you needed a “product" in my category (someone to add controversy) you knew what brand to "buy."

In the small and silly world of advertising and marketing commentary, The Ad Contrarian is probably among the top brands. It was recently named one of the awesomest ad blogs in the universe or something by the Business Insider. When I went to bed last night my two books, The Ad Contrarian and 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising were both in Amazon's top five eBooks about advertising. I'm not saying this to brag, but to make a point.

The interesting thing, as you mentioned, is that whatever success I have had in building this brand has been done solely through the use of social media. Why then am I so vocal in my criticism of the social media industry?

The first part of the answer is that having accomplished the most difficult of marketing tasks – creating a successful brand – using social media as my medium, I know how difficult it is. I know how hard I have worked at it. And knowing this, I am outraged when I have to listen to or read the idiotic nonsense of fakers. Until they have created a successful brand using social media, they have no credibility with me.

Social media is very hard work. Very few social media programs break through. Virtually every company in the country now has some kind of social media program in place. A miniscule proportion of them are having significant impact. So when I hear social media "experts" promising the moon, I get infuriated.

For example, all the nonsense I read about “content” makes me sick. I know how difficult it is to create "content" that anyone gives a shit about. I have spent every day of my life for the past 5 years creating content. I know first hand how difficult it is to break through the billions (literally) of web pages and get anyone to pay attention to your content. When I hear idiots pop-off with their facile clich├ęs about creating “compelling content” I know they have no idea what they’re talking about

I also know how many moribund blogs, and Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds, and YouTube videos there are out there in the digi-dumpster. I know how many millions of pages of “content” are lying around like a lox.

The idea that consumers want to interact with advertising is the grand delusion of the banner advertising crowd. The idea that consumers want to interact with content is the grand delusion of the social media set.

I do not come at this (as my critics contend) as some doddering old fool who does not understand social media and consequently does not believe in it. I come at it as someone who has had far more success at it than most of my "expert" critics. I have used it successfully and have accomplished more with it than most of them will ever accomplish. I have used social media to create a brand. The only thing most of these “experts” have created is a powerpoint presentation.

The second part to my answer is this. In addition to being a reasonably successful social media “entrepreneur,” I also have this little $100 million ad agency which I run.

I don’t think there are too many social media entrepreneurs who also run an ad agency. I don’t think there are too many agency CEOs who are also social media entrepreneurs. Consequently, I think it is fair to say that I have a reasonably unique perspective.

So when I hear digital hustlers and social media phonies shooting their mouths off about how advertising is dead, and television is dead, and marketing is dead, and everything else that isn’t online or social is dead, I want to expose them. That is, after I strangle them.

They are clowns and charlatans. They are undermining the credibility of the social media industry and they are causing damage to you and to their clients.

My experience has proven to me that social media can be a valuable marketing tool. But it is not magic, it is not a miracle, and it cannot and will not replace everything that came before it.

The people who are out there making outrageous and preposterous claims, who are deploying unreliable and misleading research, who use anecdotes to masquerade as facts, whose insularity renders them devoid of perspective, and who are disrespectful toward and ignorant of the power of traditional advertising, are undermining your credibility and are giving credence to those who refer to you as the snake oil salesmen of the marketing world.

So, yes, you are right. Despite the fact that I have used social media very successfully, and although I know there are lot of talented and hard-working people in social media, I have a healthy amount of disrespect for a certain element of the social media industry.

For your own good, you and the other responsible people in your industry need, once and for all, to shut these fools and con men up.


By the way, you can find a video of my talk with Jason online at his website here.

December 20, 2012

Best of 2012: How The Higgs Boson Can Help You Build Customer Engagement


In July, during the frenzy over the purported discovery of the Higgs Boson I wrote the following silly piece, among my choices for one of the Best of 2012.


Executive Summary: Start by creating a Boson-link (Blink). Then co-create by sharing Blinks about your brand with a million billion trillion zillion other Blinks and, like, then those Blinks will, like, totally connect and grow exponentially and before you know it you're delivering brand messages and branded content and branded branding to everyone online without having to give a penny to that creepy Zuckerberg kid. 

Yes, the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson by scientists at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN changes everything for marketers.

First, it poses a huge challenge. How will you use the Higgs Boson to build stronger engagement between your brand and your customers?

Scientists tell us that without the Higgs Boson matter would have no mass. There would be no stars, no galaxies, and no cinnamon raisin bread. Without mass, we would have no mass media and no mass transit. Massachusetts would be called achusetts.

The calcified old-world thinking of Madison Avenue, with its TV commercials and display ads, relied on dreary, clunky electrons to deliver a one-way message to a passive viewer. But now, electrons are dead!  Today's particle-wave-connected consumer or, as we like to call him, the average schmuck, is just another bump in an ever-expanding Higgs Field.

Messages embedded in a Higgs Boson bounce right off the average schmuck and create an immediate channel connecting him to someone else -- in many cases, a below-average schmuck.

Here's an example of how Higgs Boson marketing works in a worldwide, inter-globulated ecosystem of engagement: Let's say a Higgs Boson  passes through my arm. In the next instant it may pass through your foot. Or it might pass through some super-hot nympho's tiny skirt and go bouncing around in her thong. How awesome would that be? (We'd finally get some data-driven insights we could really use, if you get my drift.)

Today, the consumer is dead! I mean, she's in total control (unless she's had wine at lunch, then look out!) Scientists now estimate that somewhere between 14 and 600 million billion trillion zillion Higgs Bosons penetrate a typical consumer's body every moment. Can you imagine how many would penetrate it if she was totally naked?

According to one theory proposed by physicists at the Very, Very Small Teflon Collider in Rhode Island, there are actually more bosons in the universe than social media experts in Brooklyn.

Three Ways To Incorporate The Higgs Boson Into Your Marketing Plan Right Now!
1. Remember, activating Higgs Boson technology is only one part of your 360 degree marketing mix. It's actually about 154 degrees. So you still have 206 degrees to play with. Don't neglect all your other important marketing activities like tweeting, podcasting, crank calling, and going to Cannes to snort coke with Swedish account planners.

2. Collecting "likes" on Facebook is still a great way to stay busy without actually accomplishing anything. But it's not too early to start accumulating "Bosos." A "Boso" is like a "like." It occurs when a Boson interacts with another particle and then something amazing happens and your score goes up and you can win a new dining room set.

3. Three words: Gamify your bosons!
One warning. If you haven't activated your Higgs Boson integrated worldwide artisanal strategy already, it's too late and you and your brand and all your colleagues and friends and their families and pets are dead!

December 19, 2012

Advertising's 5 Biggest Lies: Best of 2012


For today's "Best of 2012" selection we go back to June for this piece.

Among our fellow citizens, it is commonly believed that we ad hacks get paid to lie. While I am not prepared to stipulate, I do concede that sometimes we don't quite tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

So when you set out to write a piece entitled Advertising's 5 Biggest Lies, you are begging for trouble. It's like writing Las Vegas's 5 Worst Buffet Dinners or Pepsi's 5 Dumbest Marketing Ideas. No matter what you pick, someone's got something to top you.

Nonetheless, trouble is my business. So here we go -- advertising's 5 biggest lies:

1. We're all creative.
We're not all tall. We're not all handsome. We don't all have nice complexions or charming personalities. But, according to the lore of advertising agencies, we're all creative.

A good idea can come from anywhere, is the mantra. Yet, remarkably, good ideas seem to come from the same people over and over again. And, similarly, so do bad ones.

If you believe that we're all creative, I'm afraid you also have to believe that it's just a coincidence that Shakespeare wrote dozens of brilliant plays and Whoopi Goldberg didn't.

Not only are we not all creative, even most of us who are paid to be creative aren't.

2. The big idea is dead
Among the many really dumb platitudes that the age of digital marketing has spawned, one of the dumbest is the claim that a lot of little ideas are better than a big one.

This is what's known in the trade as making a virtue of necessity. You see, agencies have been so lousy at coming up with big, successful online advertising ideas that the only defense is to claim that big ideas are no longer necessary -- or even desirable.

It tries to sneak by us the preposterous notion that a weakness is actually a strength -- that web advertising (specifically content marketing and social media) are more effective because of their low impact.

Of course, the question is -- where are they hiding all these brands that have been built with little ideas? I'm having a hard time finding them.

As I've said previously, we are a culture that is hooked on stimulation. We like our stimulation loud and we like it in hi def.

In this environment, little ideas have little chance.

3. The consumer is now in charge
The people who keep hitting us over the head with this cliche tend to be callow digi-crusaders who know very little about the history of marketing, and have a skewed perspective on the current state of things.

There are two parts to this lie. The first is the assumption that sometime in the dim past -- say, way back before Twitter -- the consumer wasn't in charge. Somewhere these people got the idea that there was a time when consumers were helpless zombies who did whatever we told them. I must have been sick that week.

The quickest way to disabuse yourself of this notion is to look at the failure rate of new products. As long as I've been around advertising (which is hundreds of years) the failure rate of new products has been in the 90+% range. Not exactly a monument to us crafty marketers leading submissive consumers around by the nose.

The second dumb part of this lie is the startling blindness to the dangers of digital marketing . Businesses are now collecting shockingly large quantities of information about us. Unprecedented amounts of personal data are in their hands.

To believe the consumer is in charge you also have to believe that knowledge is not power.

Fanboys often tell us that Facebook is worth $100 billion because of the enormous amount of powerful data at their fingertips. Then, in the next breath, they tell us the consumer is in charge. Sorry, fellas, you can't have it both ways.

4. Online advertising is interactive
The thinking went like this: People like to interact with the web, therefore they'll want to interact with advertising on the web.

This has turned out to be a massively toxic delusion. No one, and I mean no one, wants to interact with web ads. Banner ads have a click-through rate under one in a thousand. And if the average web user is like me, that one click is the exasperating result of faulty eye-cursor coordination.

But this hasn't stopped advertisers from pouring money into display advertising. This year in the US, advertisers are poised to spend about 9 billion on banner ads.

This lie has legs.

5. It's all about the work
It's not just the digital crowd that's delusional. Traditional agencies are just as susceptible to silly nonsense.

If you hang around agencies for about 15 minutes you're sure to hear that "it's all about the work." It's a pleasant little fantasy, but a fantasy nonetheless.

Advertising is like baseball, and "the work" is like pitching. It's the most important element, but it's far from "all." Advertising is a very complicated and unpredictable business. In order to be successful you have to be able to pitch, hit, play defense, sell hot dogs and give away bobbleheads. 

The fact that some of our most famous creative agencies also seem to have the highest turnover of clients has not penetrated the consciousness of the people who believe this simple notion.

If you could get inside the heads of our clients, I'm pretty sure you'd find that as far as they're concerned, it's not all about the work. It's mostly about the money.

December 18, 2012

The Restaurant For People Who Don't Like Food: Best of 2012


We continue my selection of the 10 best posts from 2012 with this piece from April called "The Restaurant For People Who Don't Like Food"

In my hometown of Oakland, California, there’s a restaurant I hate.

It’s very chic, and popular with a certain type of person – a person who likes restaurants, but doesn’t like food.

Everything about it is unappetizing. It has a cheerless austerity that appeals to the guilty wealthy. The food is very artfully arranged twigs and pebbles. It’s as if the chef learned his craft working with Tinker Toys.

They are afraid to use any ingredient that might add flavor to one of their precious concoctions as it might also taint its virtue.

Today we have agencies like this. They are agencies for people who don’t like advertising.

They are post-advertising agencies. They have no interest in the art, no passion for the craft.

They have no zeal for selling. They tell us that today's human does not want to be sold to. As if any human ever did.

They want to co-create, and have conversations, and share values.

Everything about them is unappetizing. They, too, have a cheerless austerity. They believe that persuasion is an insult to their relationship with the consumer. They believe that selling will taint their virtue.

They are bloodless, timid, and unenthusiastic.

Not me. I like selling. I like persuasion. I like advertising. I like food.


December 17, 2012

Best of 2012: Realism vs Nihilism


Continuing with our Best of 2012 lazinessfest, here's a piece from May in which the "everything is dead" crowd is taken to task. 

By the way, as of yesterday "101 Contrarian Ideas..." was #2 on Amazon's ad book chart. Only you can get me the big foam finger for Christmas. 

I like to think of myself as a realist.

I put little faith in the pronouncements of people with fancy titles or a shirtful of medals. I like to see proof.

Having spent some time on the outskirts of science (I taught science to middle-schoolers for a few years and served one year as Special Assistant to the Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences) I try to practice rational analysis to the degree possible in advertising. I try to have a healthy regard for the difference between a fact and an opinion.

This leads me to some unorthodox beliefs.
  • While I believe social media has been a remarkable worldwide phenomenon, I have seen little evidence that social media marketing is the magic it is purported to be.
  • While I believe in the power of brands, I believe strong brands are best built on product advertising, not branding.
  • While I believe there are times that online advertising can be effective, I believe it has been vastly over-hyped; most of it is invisible; and "interactivity" with online advertising is overwhelmingly a delusion.
  • While I believe in the importance of marketing strategy, I believe most people who call themselves marketing strategists are dead weight or flat tires.
Having these and other unpopular opinions, it is no surprise that there are people who find it off-putting and difficult to work with me. I understand this.

But I am not a nihilist. I believe in advertising. I believe in the importance of marketing strategy. And I believe in the primacy of ideas.

What I can't understand is how people in advertising can work for someone who does not believe in these things.

There is an ultra-hip, nihilistic point of view* circulating in the agency world these days that asserts that because of the web -- and particularly, social media -- strategy is dead, ideas are dead, and marketing is dead. This point of view has been expressed most recently by the ceo of a very large global ad agency.

I don't understand how you can  be working in a creative department, busting your ass every day to come up with ideas to excite and satisfy your clients, and read in the trades that the ceo of your agency believes that big ideas are worthless.

I have a hard time understanding how you can be spending hours every day searching for  marketing leverage or strategic insight for your clients and hear your boss say that these no longer have relevance.

At best, someone making comments like this is guilty of poseur bullshit to grab some headlines. At worst, he is undermining the efforts that his employees put forth on his behalf every day.

Anyone with an open mind can see that the fantasy of the internet killing everything in its path has turned out to be fatuous nonsense. That idea is two years past its sell-by date.

The buffoonery of the "everything is dead" nihilists has to come to an end. It has become tiresome and destructive. It makes our whole industry look even sillier than it already is. It's time for these people to shut the hell up.

* Roll Call Of The Dead
Strategy, Ideas, Marketing, and Management Are Dead: Here 
Television Is Dead: Here
Advertising Is Dead: Here
Ad Campaigns Are Dead: Here
Broadcasting Is Dead: Here
Copywriters Are Dead: Here
Marketing Is Dead: Here

December 14, 2012

The Reviews Are In


Tis the season of shameless self-promotion. I've been thinking that a book makes a great holiday gift, and if it doesn't, it makes wonderful kindling for the fireplace.

Anyway, in order to convince you that you really should be buying my book this season, I thought I'd take one line from each of the 17 reviews on Amazon and make myself feel really good by posting them. These are real excerpts and you can read the full reviews here.

We're now sitting at #3 on the Amazon advertising paperback chart, and I'm hoping to get one of those big foam fingers for Christmas.

From Amazon...
"Funniest thing I have read all year"

 "Bob Hoffman's perspective is terrific because he continually digs into various heaping piles of advertising hype to discover nuggets of truth."

"The world's second best book on advertising!"

"I loved this book."

"A handbook for smart marketers. Did I mention he is funny as hell?" 

"I've been a fan of Bob's blog for a long time. His wit and insight into the business of advertising is spot on"

"Pleasantly didactic and cheerfully challenging of the fables and fantasies that pass for advertising principles"

"As an advertising professional who has been in this business for some 30 years, I found this one of the most refreshing reads on advertising in many years."

"Order more than one copy - you'll want to hand these out as a "gift" because it is just that." 

"Every boss I have ever had would be better off for reading this."


"Bob Hoffman may call himself the Ad Contrarian, but in reality he's a font of common sense."

"Bob is one of the smartest guys in the business. His thoughts are not obscured by fads, what's au courant or quotidian bs."

"...real truths about marketing and advertising. I would describe the book as "engaging" but not in a dirty social media way." 

"Bob Hoffman's take on the advertising industry is refreshing, insightful, amusing and discerning."

"This book is an insightful, hilarious look at what's wrong with advertising agencies, with marketing in general, and maybe even the world overall".

"This is a great book. I am going to read it again and again."

"Buy it, read it. If you are like me it will make you laugh, make you cry and shake your head in wonder."
Buy it in either Paperback or eBook format here. (Paper burns so much more nicely.)

December 13, 2012

Best of 2012 - Interactivity: Get Over It


Here's my 3rd post in The Ad Contrarian Best of 2012 collection. This is getting to be fun. Instead of having to write every night, I just copy and paste. So much less troublesome. It's called "Interactivivty: Get Over It" and it's from March 12, 2012

From CNNMoney, last week...
"Imagine if Joe Smith, in need of a new car... presses a button on his remote and instantly receives more information about a Ford F150, including where he can buy one. Meanwhile, Joe's wife, Sally, watches a later ad for a Sony phone. The product on the screen is sleek and modern, and Sally wants it. She can turn her emotion into ownership, purchasing the phone with the click of a button."
Yeah. Imagine if monkeys flew out of my butt.

A decade ago, paragraphs like the one above were appearing all over, promising us that interactive TV (ITV) would be the latest thing that would change everything. People would be watching a TV spot, and they'd see something they liked and they'd click and be taken to some long-form info-something. Then they'd click again and buy right from their screen.

Also, interactive web ads would be so much more appealing. engaging and enticing than traditional advertising. People would see our banners on the web and be fascinated by them and then click to learn amazing new things about our products and then order right from the page.

And our adoring customers would come to our Facebook page and engage with our brand and comment about how much they love us and share it with all their friends.

Only one problem: It's all bullshit.
It turns out that people on line react to ads the same way people off line react to them -- mostly they ignore them. And when they do bother to read them, they overwhelmingly do not interact with them.

Characterizing these ads as "interactive" isn't a description of consumer behavior, it's an  illustration of advertiser delusion.

Delusional thinking isn't just acceptable in marketing today -- it's mandatory.

While people are interactivatin' like crazy with each other, interactivity with ads is miniscule. Unappreciative bastards. Don't they realize we built all this shit just to sell them something?

The latest group to fall victim to the siren song of interactivity is Canoe Ventures, a consortium of  Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and four other cable companies that tried to resurrect ITV. Last week they shut their doors and laid off 120 people.

This is the last time I'm going to say this, so pay attention. In the digital world, people are passionate about interacting with each other -- not brands, not ads, not you, not me.

Get over it.

December 12, 2012

Best of 2012: What Makes An Ad Person Exceptional?


Today we continue my pseudo-intellectual quest to avoid work by publishing my second selection among my 10 favorite posts of 2012. It's from February 13, 2012 and it's called "What Makes An Ad Person Exceptional?"

I went out to dinner the other night and got food poisoning. Consequently, I spent the remainder of the night in a cold sweat crawling between my bed and my bathroom.

Fortunately there were some lucid moments that were free of both gastric distress and prayers for a quick death. During one of these moments I had a flash of insight.

For years I have been trying to figure out what makes some ad people so much better than  average ad people. There are some people who are just so superior at it than others.

They seem to have an intuitive understanding of what's going to work and what's not going to work. They are not deluded by marketing banalities or expert opinions. They draw their conclusions from a kind of mysterious personal understanding rather than conventional wisdom. I've spent a lot of hours trying to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes them exceptional.

My previous theories about this have been too intellectual. I have hypothesized that they have a deeper psychological understanding of human motivation. But I've never really been happy with this explanation. It seems very much like a tautology.

Then the other night, slithering on hands and knees across the bedroom floor, it struck me. There's a much simpler and more satisfying explanation. The attribute that makes some people exceptional at advertising is that they're extraordinary at noticing things. They're prodigious noticers.

They notice what people really do. They notice what people have in their refrigerators. They notice the little lies that people tell themselves and each other. They notice the contradictions between attitudes and behaviors. They notice the small, seemingly irrelevant things that most people don't notice.

Average advertising people are good listeners. Exceptional advertising people are good noticers.

Good musicians have an intuitive quality that is hard to explain. To an average person, a song is a pattern of rhythm and a series of notes. But a good musician can hear and understand the hidden structure of a song. She intuitively understands how the music is built. She can listen to it once and play it.

Good ad people can do the same. They can hear people talk about their buying habits and intuitively understand the hidden structure of their behavior.

I believe this is the result of a remarkable ability to notice things.

Also, I now understand the origin of deep insights -- food poisoning. Next time I get a poop smoothie I'm going to direct my focus toward figuring out where the hell the universe came from and win myself a Nobel Prize.

December 11, 2012

Best of 2012: Conscience Of A Contrarian


Since we are approaching the time of year when everyone does top 10 lists; and since I am way too busy right now to be writing blogs posts; and since I am a lazy-ass bastard, I have decided to select 10 of my favorite posts from the past year and re-post them between now and the end of the year. I know, it's a totally bullshit idea, but my brain needs a rest. So here's the first one I've selected. It's from January 18, 2012 and it's called: Conscience Of A Contrarian

I have mentioned on many occasions that my first job was to teach science in middle school.

The one thing that science imbues you with is a high regard for the difference between a fact and an opinion.

In science, establishing something as a fact is a daunting process. First you need convincing experimental data. Then you need to establish the reliability of your data by repeating the experiment several times and getting the same results. Then other scientists will "peer review" your experiment by trying to duplicate the results. Or, more likely, by trying to disprove your results.

Science doesn't just accept something as a fact because someone with a big name, a chest full of medals, or a fancy title says so. Even after a hundred years, scientists are still questioning and testing Einstein's ideas about gravity and the speed of light.

The world of advertising and marketing couldn't be more different. If enough loudmouths say the same thing enough times at industry conferences or in trade magazines, facts are born. These "facts" are rarely if ever validated and they are often repeated ad nauseum in meetings and conference rooms.

While in most fields there is a great gap between an opinion and a fact, in advertising and marketing a "fact" is usually just the elongated shadow of some blowhard's opinion.

The result of this is that we have an industry without reliable principles. We have trendy "solutions" that blow with the wind. We have charlatans successfully masquerading as experts. We have a vocabulary of dreadful jargon that passes for insight. We have a class of leaders called "CMOs" who can't seem to hold a job. We have ad industry titans who have never actually created an ad.

Our industry has reached such a level of effete confusion that making a self-evident statement like "the purpose of advertising is to sell something" is now controversial, and can get you into a heated argument.

Frankly, in the current environment, I don't know how anyone in our industry who can think straight can be anything but a contrarian.


December 07, 2012

U Is The Dirtiest Letter


Overheard In A Berkeley Diner
"What is the granola sweetened with?"

World's Record For Bad Acting In A Single Commercial
Peyton Manning and Papa John


Gen. David Petraeus
Why is anyone still surprised about the stupid things guys do with their weenies?

The Real Poop On Holiday Shopping
Have you ever wondered why so many of your Christmas gifts are so crappy? According to The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch, one in six smart phone users buy holiday gifts while in the toilet.

U Is The Dirtiest Letter
It occurred to me recently that u is the dirtiest letter in the English alphabet.

It appears in perhaps 5-10% of all our words, but in a significantly higher percent of our most powerful dirty words:  fu**, su**, cu**, pu***.

Not only does it appear in these words, but it's the only vowel in them.

This seems a highly unlikely coincidence. I think there's just something dirty about that letter.

Picture the word masturbate. I think it would be a lot less naughty with an e instead of a u.

And Speaking Of That
Guy goes to the doctor for a check-up.
Doctor tells him, "You have to stop masturbating."
Guy says, "Really? Why?"
Doctor says, "So I can take your blood pressure."


December 06, 2012

How Much BS Can You Write About BS?


It's Christmas time. So in the great American spiritual tradition, it's time to start selling.

My latest book, 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising, which you can see right over here -------------------------------------------------------------------> peaked at #2 and has been hanging around the top 10 on Amazon's list of advertising paperbacks since its publication back last April.

Can you believe there are 19,856 paperbacks about advertising at Amazon? 19,856! How much silly nonsense can you possibly make up about advertising? Or, to put it another way, how much bullshit can you produce about bullshit?

Come to think of it, I do that just about every day, don't I?

Anyway, here are 4 good reasons you should buy this book:
1. It's semi-hilarious
2. It's quasi-informative
3. It's way too cheap
4. I have this weird thing on my nose and I think I'm gonna die
Order it now and it will arrive long before the stockings are hung. I will exercise great restraint at this point and not make puerile jokes about things being hung.

And if you're looking for something useful for yourself, it's a great way to look busy while you're lying around in a drunken stupor. You hear that, George?

Happy holidays and buy my damn book. 


December 05, 2012

Truth Is Stranger Than Satire


I have watched this thing three times and I am convinced that these people are serious.

I'm a peaceful man, but I have to be honest here and say I had disturbing fantasies of violence.

The marketing industry has gone completely bat-shit, pants-down, weenie-waving crazy.


I quit. No, I mean it. I quit.

Big thanks to Matt Jay for pointing me to this

December 04, 2012

Unsolicited Advice For Large Corporations


It is not enough these days for the overfed fat cats of large corporations to make billions of dollars. Now they want to be loved and admired. Here's some advice for them and for the poor fools who have to implement their delusional PR and social media plans.

1. When will you be loved? Um…never. I know, people just don’t understand how much good you do and what a wonderful company you are. Oh, and your people are the best! Well, guess what? Nobody gives a shit. There are going to be a substantial number of people who think you are a criminal enterprise and that the world would be better off without you. Stop whining and get used to it. It’s the price you pay for being big and successful.

2. Do good things and shut up.
It’s fine to speak modestly about the generous things you do, but don’t pound your chest and don’t rub our noses in it. You are expected to do good things. Generosity and community-mindedness are not extra-credit projects, they are your responsibility. Be charitable and generous because they are the right things to do, not because you want bouquets.

3. Put your money where your mouth is. There is a fashion among large corporations and pandering politicians to glorify small business -- while they're stomping all over it. If you really believe in small business, hire them as suppliers. Have an officer whose job it is to identify small companies that can do a better job for you than the big dumb oafs you are currently using. You’ll do a lot more for small businesses by employing them than by your patronizing lip service.

4. Refrain from social media egocentrism.
You’d be amazed at how little consumers care about your “philosophy.” I know, your agency has shown you research that proves that consumers want to do business with companies that share their values. This is, to a large degree, a bunch of hooey. Consumers do business with companies that provide them with good products, good service, and good value. End of story. Sure, when you survey them they'll tell you they prefer companies that are “good, like me.” What do you expect them to say? That they want to do business with creeps and perverts? And whatever you do, don’t talk yourself into the Pepsi narcissism trap.

5. Results by indirection. While you will always be resented and disliked by a certain component of the population, there is a group of people who can be influenced by reason. The best way to influence these people is indirectly. Let them hear about your good works from third parties. Don’t try to force feed your righteousness to them. By not pushing too hard on the virtue button, but by having a strategy that employs discretion and unpretentiousness you may actually get some people to like and appreciate you.