January 06, 2020

Facebook's Year Of Disgrace

Here are 29 ways the "move fast and break things" jerk-offs soiled our lives in 2019.

1. January: It was discovered that Facebook-owned WhatsApp was being used to spread illegal child pornography.

2. January: Researcher Aaron Greenspan, former running mate of Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard, said that Facebook's claim of reaching 2 billion people is a lie and said Zuckerberg "may be the greatest con man in history."

3. January: Zuckerberg writes a Wall Street Journal op ed defending Facebook and gets roundly roasted for it.

4. January: British health minister threatens to close down social media after 14-year-old girl commits suicide after seeing disturbing content on Facebook-owned Instagram.

5. February: It was discovered that Facebook was paying kids as young as 13 to install spyware on their phones.

6. February: A committee of Parliament in England denounced Facebook as "digital gangsters" and said, "Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalised ‘dark adverts'..."

7. February: The Wall Street Journal discovered that people were entering private information into apps and, unknown to them, the apps were feeding the info to Facebook.

8. March: Federal investigators summoned a grand jury to investigate criminal implications of Facebook's agreement with over 100 tech companies to provide them with information about 100s of millions of FB users without their knowledge or consent.

9. March: Facebook leaves hundreds of millions of user passwords unencrypted.

10. March: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sued Facebook for allowing "advertisers to exclude people from seeing housing ads based on their race, religion, background and other characteristics"

11. March: In the wake of the massacre of 50 people in New Zealand which was live-streamed on FB, the Prime Minister of Australia threatened to jail social media execs.

12: April: It was discovered that a Mexican company had stored over 500 million Facebook records in plain site on the Amazon cloud for anyone to access.

13: April: Bloomberg reported that almost 400,000 crooks have been using Facebook for as long as eight years as a marketplace to buy and sell criminal materials.

14: April: The Daily Beast reported that "Child Brides in Africa Are Advertised on Facebook and Sold to Old Men."

15. April: The New York Times reported that "Regulators on four continents are preparing for a long-awaited showdown with Facebook..."

16. May: In an article in the NY Times, Chris Hughes, one of the founders of Facebook, called for its breakup.

17: July: FTC fines Facebook $5 billion for Cambridge Analytica scandal.

18: August: Netflix airs "The Great Hack" about the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal. PBS airs "The Facebook Dilemma," savaging the company and claiming it has blood on its hands.

19: September: TechCrunch found another unprotected data base online which contained the phone numbers and user IDs of 419 million Facebook users.

20: September: The BBC reported that a study by Privacy International determined that "Intimate data, including when people have had sex, is being shared with Facebook."

21: September: Massachusetts attorney general found that Facebook lied when they said they suspended 400 apps to remediate after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In fact, they suspended 69,000 questionable apps.

22: September: A study conducted by researchers at Oxford University found that "Facebook remains the No. 1 social network for disinformation...Organized propaganda campaigns were found on the platform in 56 countries."

23: October: Facebook agreed to pay a group of advertisers $40 million to settle a  suit which claimed that Facebook had inflated its video metrics by as much as 900%.

24: October: Zuckerberg gave a speech at Georgetown University defending Facebook's policy of airing political advertising they know to be false.

25: October:  BuzzFeed reported "How A Massive Facebook Scam Siphoned Millions Of Dollars From Unsuspecting Boomers."

26: October: P&G announced that they had built their own data base of 1.5 billion people because they don't trust the numbers of Facebook or Google.

27: November: Aaron Sorkin, writer of the movie "The Social Network," savaged Zuckerberg's "free speech" hypocrisy in a NY Times op ed.

28: December: CNET reported "more than 267 million Facebook user phone numbers, names and user IDs were exposed in a database that anyone could access online."

29: December: In response to an inquiry from two U.S. Senators, Facebook admitted it can track peoples' location even if they opt out of tracking.

My favorite Zuckerberg quote: "I've developed a deep appreciation for how building a strong company with a strong economic engine and strong growth can be the best way to align many people to solve important problems." 

I can't help but wonder what important problems Mr. Zuckerberg thinks he's solved.

December 28, 2019

Imbecile Of The Decade

We have double torture this year. Not only are we ending a year, we're also ending a decade (pettifogging killjoys will take great pains to instruct us that the decade doesn't technically end until next year. I don't care. I'm celebrating this year. Next year we could all be dead. In fact, at the rate we're going, we probably will be.)

The torturing part is the dumb lists. It's bad enough when we have to endure The 10 Best Everything of the Year, but this year we have also to endure the The 10 Best Everything of the Decade.

For some reason that I can't fathom the advertising and marketing industries seem to be particularly fond of these idiotic lists. I guess it has something to do with click bait. The trade rag publishers have probably discovered that everyone wants to know who they have dubbed The Best Influencer Marketing Follower Fraud Celebrity of the Year or something.

Not being one to miss out on an opportunity to be stupid, I have a list of categories that I don't think have been covered. So here we go... The 10 Best Remaining Marketing Subjects for 10 Best Lists of the Decade.
  • The 10 Most Frightening Retweets of the Year
  • Best Use of Metaphor in an Email Subject Line of the Year
  • 10 Most Incomprehensible Unsubscribe Pages of the Year
  • Best Insincere Facebook Birthday Wish of the Year
  • The 10 Most Fascinating Articles About CMOs of the Decade
  • 10 Most Memorable Privacy Policy Updates of the Year
  • 5 Most Poetic LinkedIn Articles about Blockchain of the Decade
  • 10 Best Mutilations of the Name "Zuckerberg" of the Year
  • 10 Most-Unemployable-People-Who-Started-a-Podcast-this-Decade of the Year
  • 10 Best Years of the Decade
And, as always, the most heartfelt use of the term...Happy New Year!

December 10, 2019

The Annual Invisible Advertising Awards

It's holiday season which means it's time to give awards for the "_______ of the Year"

Every advertising and marketing organization, publication, and media interest group is giving awards to The Real Time Online Digital Media Analyst Of The Year, as well as other heroic marketing and advertising practitioners. Since it's also a year that ends in a 9, they're also giving awards to The Same Truckload Of Brilliant Geniuses Of The Decade.

I would like to start a new way to think about awards. I would like to recognize an ignored and underserved minority -- the invisibles.

My thinking goes like this. Having spent hundreds of years in the advertising business, there is no doubt in my mind that the advertising and marketing industries generate far more bad ideas that never get produced than good ideas that get produced. Anyone who has spent 10 minutes in an agency will agree with me.

This is why we have creative directors, account managers, and CMOs. Someone has to separate the wheat from the shit.

As a former creative director, I would estimate that for every ad I approved I turned down at least 10 (I'm sure some of my former colleagues will get a good hearty chuckle from that estimate, but for the sake of this essay, and in the spirit of the Holiday Season, let's assume I wasn't quite as big a prick as they might claim.)

The point I'm trying to make is that if the ratio of bad to good is somewhere near ten to one, there is a very large gap in our appreciation of the importance of saying no.

We celebrate the people who create good ideas, but we do not celebrate the people with the good sense to shit-can the bad ones. And yet, bad ideas may have as much potential to do harm as good ones have to do good.

Some valuable activities are highly visible -- like the creation of a wonderful ad idea, or a brilliant media idea. But other valuable activities are invisible -- like the rejection of dumb ones.

Imagine if someone at Pepsi had quietly said no to the Kendall Jenner monstrosity of a few years ago. That person would have invisibly delivered an enormous benefit to Pepsi, but she would never have been recognized for it. Imagine if someone at Peloton had the sense to say no to their dumbass spot. The invisible person would never be known, no less win an award, but would have contributed mightily.

So let's just take a minute to thank all the brilliant, creative, brave, and invisible people who, in the face of often strident and self-righteous opposition, had the good sense and balls to say no to stupid fucking ideas.

Then, of course, there is the other kind of invisible excellence. It is the wonderful work of highly talented people that does not get approved.

Among the ranks of the aforementioned creative directors, account managers, and CMOs there is no shortage of imbeciles. As anyone who has ever worked in business is surely aware, a highly-placed idiot can kill or cripple the excellent work of dozens of people. 

A good deal of excellent, award-worthy work gets killed every year by the arbitrary stupidity of dimwits. (Once again, I'm sure some of my former colleagues are getting a good hearty chuckle from that but, again for the sake of this essay, and in the spirit of the Holiday Season, let's assume I wasn't quite as big a moron as they might claim.) The result is that there appears to be a much smaller pool of excellent ideas than there actually is. 

I think there's a term for this called "survival bias." In other words, we believe there isn't much excellent work being done because only a fraction of it survives. The excellent work that gets killed or mutilated is invisible.

Imagine all the good ideas for Pepsi that must have died so that Kendall Jenner could live.

It is my belief that the invisible marketing and advertising contributions are at least as important to our industry as the visible contributions. The only problem is, well, they're invisible.

So to all the talented, sensible, and invisible people who contributed to our industry this year by saving us from bad ideas, and to the creatively excellent people with wonderful ideas that suffered ignominious invisibility at the hands of nitwits, thank you.

This column is your award.