June 30, 2009

Visiting The Land Of Make-Believe

Today, once again, we visit the land of make-believe.

It's a land that is inhabited by a new species of human being. These new humans are very young and they're very different from us.
  • They don't use or believe traditional media.
  • They don't like to be marketed to.
  • They get their information online -- where they develop brand relationships and have conversations with and about brands.
  • They hate advertising.
If you want to reach this new species, you need to throw away all your stupid old assumptions about marketing and advertising.

Only one problem with this wonderful new place -- it exists only in the minds of a few web hustlers and their impressionable followers.

Here are some inconvenient facts:*
1. The current generation of teens watches more TV than any other generation in history. TV viewing among teens is up 6% in the last five years.

2. Teens spend less than half as much time on line as the average person.

3. Teens spend 1/3 less time watching online video than adults 25-34.

4. Teens do the following things more than average:
  • Read newspapers
  • Listen to radio
  • Like advertising
Facts seem to have a terrible habit of undermining everything we hear from the people who are constantly chirping at us about the land of make-believe. It might be a good idea to listen to some wise words from the Nielsen people who just released the facts quoted above:
"In media and marketing (there is a) frenetic quest to understand how teens use media, made murky by assumptions that teens somehow behave radically differently than their parents and other consumers....Our findings challenge a whole host of assumptions about the media habits of this generation — offering a few surprises as we separate myth from reality."
If you're looking to piss your advertising budget away, a really good idea is to ignore the facts and take a magic carpet ride to never, never land.

It's a land that has been dreamed up by a small coterie of online maniacs and gullible marketers who attend each other's conferences, and read each other's blogs and re-tweet each other's inanities.

Caveat emptor, baby.

*Nielsen: How Teens Use Media, June 2009. Special thanks to Michael Gass for alerting me to the study.

June 29, 2009

Congratulations, Mr. President

Congratulations President Obama on winning the coveted Titanium Prize for your presidential advertising at the Cannes Advertising Festival. I'm sure it must be one of your proudest moments.

Also congratulations are in order for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who won the Uranium Prize, and Kim Jong Il who won the Plutonium Prize.

This Could Happen To You!
Just in case you ever get the urge to to pontificate about "conversations" or "brands" take a look at this torrent of bullshit. If this doesn't bring you to your senses, nothing will.

Thanks to the great George Parker for finding this.

And Speaking Of Freaks
Talent, intelligence, and virtue are three qualities that have absolutely no correlation.

Michael Jackson's death is a good reminder of what a freak show the entertainment business has become. Michael was an astounding talent, and an alarming human being.

By the way, Michael's doctor is going to wind up in deep doo-doo.

The Bob Channel

While we're making predictions, TAC predicts that the internet will be a short-lived technology. Soon (within 20 years) we'll all have our own "channel" in which all aspects of our lives will be stored and broadcast.

My Favorite Twits
I thought it would be a nice idea to acknowledge some of the people who follow me on Twitter. So here's a little collage I put together. Sorry I couldn't get everyone in. For a larger view, click on it.

More thanks, in advance, to the great George Parker for not calling me a douchenozzle for doing this.

June 26, 2009

Disintermediating The Extraterrestrials

Apparently, there aren't enough annoying opinions about advertising. Now we have politicians weighing in.

Big Al Gore took some time off from saving the universe a few weeks ago to help us save the ad industry.

Al explained that the future of advertising is -- take a deep breath -- VCAMs: Viewer Created Ad Messages.

Al, who is co-founder of Current TV (a cable network that relies heavily on viewer created content, and has about 12 viewers) was speaking at one of those digital media conferences they have every week.

Someone needs to explain to Al that the whole "user generated content" thing was the advertising flavor-of-the-month a few years ago and we've moved way beyond that to "the conversation" or "widgets" or "Facebook apps" or "Twitter" or "the cloud" or something.

If you want to stay relevant in the advertising world these days you've got to keep your cliches up-to-date.

And speaking of out-of-date, Al also explained that...
“The Internet…is dis-intermediating long established functions."
Now, this whole "disintermediation" thing is at least 10 years past its sell-by date, but it's making a nice comeback.

For those too young to remember, disintermediation (it's a fancy word for 'eliminating the middle man') was how the internet was going to drive all retailers out of business. It was a major factor in the dotcom bubble/bust. You see, we were going to buy all our dog food and batteries on line, direct from the manufacturer. You can read more about it here.

To be honest, we can forgive Al for not being au courant in his ad babble. It's not really his line of work.

The thing that was a little scary, however, occurred when Al was trying to make a semi-coherent point about sustainability, and how the environment and advertising were somehow connected.

Some genius asked him if he believed..."that the extraterrestrial technology that...has been discovered at the China lake facility in California can indeed significantly reduce levels of CO2...”

According to this report, Gore was somewhat flummoxed by this question. After the man explained to him that “extraterrestrial” meant "UFOs", Al responded, “I personally do not.”


Your Ad Contrarian...
...a cheap-shot artist who's not afraid to take on the Big Guys (unless they're clients.)

The Cannes Advertising Festival of Grotesque Overindulgence...

...is over. Someone please remind me to give a shit.

June 25, 2009


Which kind of dumb are you?

Here at TAC global headquarters, we have divided the world into two kinds of people -- those who are "Facebook-dumb," and those who are "Twitter-dumb."

Facebook-dumb people think the world is interested in their pathetic lives. Twitter-dumb people think the world is interested in their idiotic opinions.

Now you can take this simple test to find out where you fit. Just answer these five questions:
1. People enjoy viewing pictures of my cat, my niece, and my hernia scar.
a) True
b) False

2. In this day and age, it's unrealistic to expect me to construct a complete declarative sentence.
a) True
b) False

3. What is more important to a healthy personality?
a) unknown friends
b) anonymous followers

4. Which is more awesome?
a) connecting with old creeps from high school
b) meeting new self-promoting business hustlers

5. Now that newspapers are dead and TV reporters are afraid to come out of their hotel suites, I can get reliable news from:
a) Tweets
b) Facebook updates
c) The Magic 8-Ball
d) um...nowhere?
If you completed this test, I'm afraid you're neither Facebook-dumb nor Twitter-dumb. You're the worst dumb of all -- blog-dumb.

June 24, 2009

Someone Please Explain

I rarely criticize other agency's work. It's too easy to be a creative genius/cheap shot artist when you don't have to deal with the problems or the clients.

But I have to say, Wendy's recent campaign has me completely baffled.
"It's waaaay better than fast food.(R) It's Wendy's."
Here's why I'm confused:
  • Everyone in the world, except apparently Wendy's, knows that it is fast food.
  • The 30% of the population who eat almost all the fast food, really like it.
So the question is:
  • Why would you say it's not fast food when everyone knows it is?
  • And why would you insult your customer base by denigrating something they like?
They can't possibly believe they can build their business by targeting non-fast food users, can they? No one's that crazy. So what's going on?

It seems to me there's only one explanation for a strategy this cockeyed. It has the smell of the tortured logic of account planning all over it.

I can just hear the presentation.
"We spent 3 months living with consumers, bathing with them, and helping them spank their children. Our unique insight is that even though they visit fast food restaurants twelve times a day, their body language tells us they have tremendous feelings of guilt and self-hatred...they want the reality of fast food, but not the idea of fast food...we can differentiate the Wendy's brand by disassociating Wendy's from fast food..."
Of course, I'm just making this baloney up. But I wonder how far off it is?

June 23, 2009

Robbie And Ruthie Talk About Pickles

The phone rings:
ROBBIE: Hello.

RUTHIE: Robert, it's your Aunt Ruthie.

ROBBIE: Hi Ruthie.

RUTHIE: Hello, darling.

ROBBIE: What's up?

RUTHIE: I'm calling to ask a favor.


RUTHIE: My pickles are selling very well, and Big Save says they'll put them in their supermarkets all across the country, but I have to do some advertising. So I thought as long as my nephew is a big shot advertising man, maybe your company could make an ad for me.


RUTHIE: So here's what I want the ad to say... Aunt Ruthie's Pickles are homemade, they taste wonderful, and we use fresh ingredients.

ROBBIE: Well, okay, but we really need to think a little more about this.

RUTHIE: Um...okay...what?

ROBBIE: Well, first we need to understand the consumer.

RUTHIE: The consumer?

ROBBIE: It's a...a person who buys things.

RUTHIE: Everyone buys things.

ROBBIE: Right...

RUTHIE: So how is a consumer different from a person?

ROBBIE: Um...it's not.

RUTHIE: So why don't you just call it a person?

ROBBIE: Okay, so it's a person.

RUTHIE: Okay so you have to understand this...person. Why?

ROBBIE: So we can know how they use your product.

RUTHIE: They eat it. How else do you use a pickle?

ROBBIE: Well, yeah...but why do they eat it?

RUTHIE: Because it tastes good. (PAUSE) Robbie, are you okay?

ROBBIE: I'm fine. You see, we have to analyze who we should be talking to in our advertising. We call that a target audience. Should we talk to women 18-49 or men 25-34 or...?

RUTHIE: Why don't we just talk to people who like pickles?

ROBBIE: Well you see, the perception of your brand has to resonate...

RUTHIE: My what?

ROBBIE: Your brand...it's the personality of your product...

RUTHIE: My pickles have a personality?

ROBBIE: Well, it's not the pickles that have the personality, it's you, it's Aunt Ruthie's Pickles...

RUTHIE: My personality? I'm a pain in the ass. What the hell does anyone care about my personality?

ROBBIE: But Aunt Ruthie's is your brand.

RUTHIE: I thought Aunt Ruthie's was my name.

ROBBIE: And your name is your brand

RUTHIE: So why don't you just call it my name? (PAUSE) Robert, are you having that problem you had back in college?

ROBBIE: You know I've committed to never doing that again...

RUTHIE: So why are you talking like this? Is this how you talk in your company?

ROBBIE: Well, yes. You see, Aunt Ruthie, we believe advertising isn't really about selling your pickles. It's about developing a relationship between the consumer and your brand by having integrated communications that create advocates by over-delivering on brand expectations and creating relevant brand conversations...

RUTHIE: You know, honey, your cousin Stanley majored in English, maybe I'll just ask him to write the ad..

ROBBIE: No, no....I'll..

RUTHIE: Robbie, darling, you know I love you, right? And I would never say anything to hurt you. But listen to me, darling. You people are crazy.

June 22, 2009

Please, God, Not Again

From The New York Times, advertising column last Wednesday:

The growing prominence of the ’60s is partly a result of the election of Barack Obama, whose paeans to hope and youthful followers bring to mind the idealism associated with the ’60s.

The decade “evokes a time when young people were seeking to change society,” said Tim Ellis, vice president for marketing at Volkswagen of America in Herndon, Va., and “trying to break free from a stale, tired way of life.”

“I see a lot of similarities with what’s going on with today’s youth,” he added.

Yeah, right.

I am a child of the 60's. We were lauded and applauded as the generation that was going to change everything.

Politicians pandered to us. News magazines splashed us all over their covers. We cared. We were involved. We were different.
  • We cared about peace.
  • We cared about the environment.
  • We cared about our fellow man.
And look at what a fucking mess we made.

We turned out to be the most self-absorbed, spoiled, and narcissistic generation the planet has ever seen.

Here's what I learned:
  • It's easy to support peace. It's hard to oppose evil.
  • It's easy to worship the environment. It's hard to walk to work.
  • It's easy to love mankind. It's hard to like people.

June 19, 2009

Sure To Fail

TAC is on vacation. This post originally appeared on May 30, 2008

According to The New York Times, diving into the pool of idiotic online ideas this week is Coors Light. They are launching a "Code Blue" social media application on Facebook.
“We talk a lot internally about ‘360-ing’ our innovations,” said Andy England, chief marketing officer at Coors Brewing...
Wow. 360-ing the innovations!

And what exactly is this innovation? It's the label that turns blue when it's cold because you really have to be a fucking genius to figure out when a bottle of beer is cold.

Who said America lacks innovative ideas?
“Imagine being able to ‘Code blue’ someone on your iPhone,” (Tim Sproul, group creative director... of Avenue A/Razorfish) added, “and say, ‘I just got laid off; you better go buy me a Coors Light at the local bar.’ ”
Wow. On my iPhone! How fucking cool would that be!

Excuse me for a minute. I'm 86-ing my lunch.

Sure To Fail Update:
- This post appeared about a year ago. As of now, the Code Blue Facebook app has 212 active monthly users. Code Blue indeed.
- Is the Great Facebook Apps Scare over yet, or are there still companies pissing away money on this nonsense?

June 18, 2009

The Real Poop On Marketing

TAC is on vacation. This post originally appeared on April 15, 2008

A recent blog by AdBroad got me thinking that we may be flushing millions of dollars right down the old crapper.

It turns out that in marketing today, poop is some valuable shit.
  • A big-time Manhattan spa is offering a Japanese-style "Geisha Facial" which features all the goodness of real bird droppings.
  • Peter Jones, an upscale retailer in London, is offering the world's most expensive cup of coffee. At £50 (these days, that's about 10 million dollars) you can get a cup of coffee made with real cat excreta.
  • And finally, if rubbing it on your face, drinking it, and sending it to loved ones isn't enough, now you can live in it. Michigan State researchers have developed the Eco-Floor, a floor for your home made of -- you guessed it -- cow shit.
Brown is the new green -- or -- what can brown do for you? You pick.

June 17, 2009

The Justification Business

TAC is on vacation. This post originally appeared on March 27, 2008.

Creating advertising today consists of two very different disciplines: Making ads, and making the justification for ads.

The way ad agencies work (especially, but not exclusively, the big ones) is that most of the effort is spent making the justification for the ads: research, planning, brand analysis, meetings, presentations, strategy sessions, briefs, conference calls, downloads, uploads, deep dives, low dives, off sites and insights followed by revised research, planning, brand analysis, meetings, presentations, strategy sessions, briefs, conference calls, downloads, uploads, deep dives, low dives, off sites and insights.

After months of this stuff, when all the knuckleheads are satisfied that justification has been achieved, as an offshoot of all this activity, sometimes an ad appears somewhere.

Justification has become the business. Ads have become the by-product.

June 16, 2009

Twitter Saves The World

First, the obvious.

Twitterers in Iran have been sending us some pretty amazing stuff about what's going on there. This is the kind of unfiltered, real time, first-hand citizen reportage that is compelling in a way that traditional news sources rarely are. It was impossible before the internet.

Now the gripe.

The way some twitter maniacs are using this as a kind of justification for the idiotic goings on that represent 99% of the activity on Twitter is a joke. It's like equating my grocery list to a Hemingway novel because we both used a pencil.

Cookie Monstrosity

TAC is on vacation. This post originally appeared on November 27, 2007

One thing you can say about the internet with absolute certainty -- there has never been another invention that has spawned more idiotic ideas.

The latest comes from Pepperidge Farm. From some retro universe they have launched a campaign called Connecting Through Cookies (I kid you not.) The centerpiece is a website called The Art of the Cookie.

You see, this website is going to be a social network (apparently there aren't enough online social networks) and lonely housewives are going to get together on line and talk about their cookies. And if you think I'm going to make a cheap joke here, I want to remind you that my daughter reads this blog.

Anyway, the marketing genius behind this had this to say...
...the company conducted ethnographic research by “going into our consumers’ homes, sitting down with them, talking to them about how they use our products.”
Hope you didn't pay too much for your ethnographic research, Mr. Pepperidge -- they use your products by eating them. No charge.

And, by the way, if there are any lonely housewives out there who want to connect through their cookies, I have a very nice single friend.

When re-posting this, I went back and checked on the links. Apparently not very many women wanted to connect through their cookies. The "Art of the Cookie" is no longer anywhere to be found. The only thing left is a very ordinary website. Maybe this social media thing ain't all it's cracked up to be. Yes, that's sarcasm.

June 15, 2009

Account Planners Gone Wild

TAC is off the grid for a week. To keep the blog-addicted entertained, I will be re-posting some oldies but goodies. This post originally appeared on September 17, 2007

The same day I posted "Smelly Volvo Families" an article appeared in Ad Age about the new Volvo campaign.

The article focused on how Volvo's agency developed the idea for its new campaign. According to the article, the agency interviewed valet car parkers to find out what Volvo owners are like. I swear this is not a joke. Valet car parkers.

I wonder which planning genius came up with this idea.

According to the article, they enjoyed many deep insights about Volvo owners from this exercise.
"They are users not havers; they use what they have," says the agency's account director.
Apparently the rest of us don't use what we have. I know I haven't been using what I have lately.

Their director-global advertising added,
"Safety is about enhancing the quality of life for people inside and outside the car."
Uh...excuse me, moron. Safety is about saving your childrens' fucking lives, okay?

According to the article,
"The results were enough to build a campaign showing Volvo drivers as 'we' people as opposed to 'me' people."
To this I would just like to add, Give Me A Fucking Break! I know agencies are brilliant at coming up with this bullshit, but what kind of nitwit client actually believes it?

This account planning thing has gotten way out of control (see Salesmen and Sociologists). We've got to kill them all and start over.

Real Time Update...
Looks like one of our posts from last week has gone semi-viral. 5 Fashionable Myths About Advertising has been excerpted in the British ad pub Campaign (June 12, "Best of the Blogs, P.5) and also featured in the Aussie online news website Crikey.

June 12, 2009

The Revolution That Never Happened

If you're a frequent reader of this blog you know that one of our ongoing themes is that marketers and advertisers always overestimate the appeal of new things and underestimate the power of traditional consumer behavior.

This is one of the reasons there is always so much hyperventilating about every new thing that comes along.

A very good example of this is TiVo.

TiVo looked like a slam-dunk from the minute it was announced. How could it not be in every home? How could it not destroy the tv ad industry?

And yet, 11 years later, the impact of the DVR on television viewing and advertising has been modest, if not marginal.

DVR's are now in a little over 1 in 4 homes. However, the real story is not how many homes they are in, but how often they are used.

Two recent studies agree that about 5% of total tv viewing is DVR playback.

A study by Ball State University found that the average adult was exposed to 324 minutes of tv a day, 15 of which were DVR playback. That comes to 4.6 percent.

A study by Nielsen showed that Americans averaged 153 hours of tv watching a month during the first quarter of this year, 8 of which were DVR playback. That comes to 5.2%. (Of course, Nielsen stuck to the narrative that the media has all agreed on, and instead of pointing out that 95% of viewing was live tv, they asserted that DVR viewing had "soared" -- soared to 5%!)

Ten years ago, if you would have said that DVR viewing would represent only 5% of total viewing today, you would have been called a fool and a Luddite.

Although the Ball State and Nielsen numbers are remarkably close, I trust the first set a little more, even though the sample is smaller. The Nielsen numbers are self-reported, which I never trust. The Ball State numbers are based on actual observed behavior.

If you believe the estimate that people with DVRs skip ads about 50-60% of the time when they time-shift, then less than 3% of total ads are being missed.

One of the interesting things about DVRs is that the early adopters bought the machines for convenience and specifically to skip ads. Newer adopters are different. Many are getting a DVR because it is bundled with their digital cable box.

In other words, the early owners of DVRs are probably the heaviest time-shifters. As DVR penetration grows, the incidence of time-shifting and ad-skipping per DVR user may actually drop.

June 11, 2009

What They Say and What They Mean

As everyone in advertising knows, there are two kinds of clients.

The first kind is the good kind. They speak in plain English and give simple, clear direction.

Then there is the second kind. They're watching a channel we don't get. They speak a language we don't understand.

It sounds and looks like English but it's not. It has vowels and consonants just like English, but somehow they don't work the same way. It uses the same words we use, but they mean different things.

It's kind of like looking at a toothbrush and finding out it's called a hat.

In our ongoing effort to explain the world of advertising to our thoughtful and charming readers, the staff here at TAC has taken it upon itself to create a little guide book that will help you understand what those "Type 2" clients mean when they are talking to you about advertising.
When they say, "We need to make an emotional connection with the consumer" they mean, "Put a one-legged marathoner in the spot."

When they say, "I don't see how this differentiates us" they mean, "Add some bullshit about quality and value."

When they say, "Does this carry enough branding?" they mean, "Make the logo bigger."

When they say, "Will this ad stand out?" they mean, "Make the package bigger."

When they say, "We need a more holistic approach" they mean, "I just met with a social media consultant. Make a Facebook page."

When they say, "Have you thought of any non-traditional elements?" they mean, "Paint our logo on a big truck and drive it around town."

When they say, "We need to thoroughly re-evaluate our brand architecture" they mean, "Our ceo just met with a branding consultant, get ready for a three month Powerpoint festival."

When they say, "We're evaluating all our marketing resources" they mean, "You're fired."

June 10, 2009

I Don't Have To If I Don't Want To

Giving a talk today to a group of broadcast execs in a fancy ballroom, and all I can think about is going on vacation Friday, and I have a headache, and I have acid reflux, and the A's are losing 10-0, and I have not been able to hit the greens consistently with my approach shots, and I think my good blazer is in the cleaners, and the world just isn't fair, and I can't find the goddamn remote, and I have a good, funny post about Al Gore but I can't run it because two of his employees are being held by that lunatic in North Korea, and I'm getting fat, and I'm tired of writing the same posts over and over, and I wish I could sing better, and I haven't had a decent pastrami sandwich in almost a year, and I'm sick of this fucking recession or whatever the hell it is, and there hasn't been anything watchable on television in about 20 years, and a Viagra commercial just came on so I really want to kill someone, and I'm tired of reading moronic comments from web maniacs, and the weather has been awful here lately, and the battery in my laptop is good for about 20 minutes but I can't replace it because Apple just introduced another fucking iPhone and it'll be 3 weeks before I can get near one of their fucking stores, and I'm fed up with the ad business, and my daughter is growing up way too fast, and the "check engine" light has been on in my car for about 6 months, and my dog smells like dog food, and so I don't feel like writing a post today and I don't have to if I don't want to.

June 09, 2009

5 Fashionable Myths About Advertising

There is so much nonsense about advertising being promulgated these days that it's hard to keep your head on straight. Here are five fashionable myths that need debunking:

1. Consumer Behavior Is Difficult To Understand
Marketers spend enormous amounts of time and money looking for arcane reasons behind consumer behavior. In fact, about 90% of consumer behavior is perfectly obvious. They buy stuff because it tastes better, looks nicer, is more convenient, or costs less. Just like you and I do.

Marketing executives and ad agencies like to pretend they don't know this and they focus on the 10% of consumer behavior that actually is mysterious. It makes them appear to have some magical knowledge and insight.

Most marketers would be way better off sticking to the 90% we understand and forgetting about the 10% we don't

2. Mass Marketing Is Dead
Tell that to Wal-Mart and McDonald's. This nonsense is being perpetrated by new age marketing gurus who need something new to sell (usually something related to the internet.) If they tell the truth -- marketing is pretty much what it's always been, plus search-- they're out of business.

3. The Purpose Of Advertising Is To Change Consumer Attitudes
Wrong. The purpose of advertising is to change consumer behavior. You don't make a nickel until someone buys something. The fact that they think highly of your brand is lovely. But until they buy it, you haven't done a thing. (Shameless plug alert: More about this can be downloaded free from Hoffman/Lewis principles of advertising, here.)

4. The Future Of Advertising Is Online
No one knows what the future of advertising is. Not me, not anyone. Those who say they do are full of shit.

But I do know what the current status of advertising is, and it ain't online. The only online advertising methodologies that have proven to be consistently effective are search and email. The rest is all talk, ideology, and wishful thinking.

5. Consumers Want To Have Conversations With Brands
Most consumers, wisely, don't want to have conversations with their husbands. Why in the world would they want to have conversations with the makers of mufflers and vegetable oil?

I'm a member of several online social communities and here's what we do: we waste as much time as is legally permissible talking about the stupidest stuff we can think of.

We're having conversations about golf, and beer, and sex, and sports, and parties, and music and -- did I mention sex?-- and just about everything else you can imagine that's irresponsible and silly.

The one thing we absolutely never do is the one thing the social media maniacs think we do -- have conversations about brands.

June 08, 2009

The Twitter Quiz

Now that Twitter has officially changed the world as we know it (see Time cover) it's time to see how much you know about Twitter.

A revealing study of Twitter users was published last week by Harvard Business Publishing. Before I give you the link, take this little quiz derived from the study and see how you do.

1. Among Twitter users, the median number of lifetime tweets per user is:
a. 1
b. 55
c. 600
d. 2,800
2. In a typical social network, the top 10% of users account for 30% of total activity. The top 10% of Twitter users account for what percent of total activity?
a. 5%
b. 45%
c. 70%
d. 90%
3. How much more likely is a man to follow another man, rather than a woman?
a. Less likely
b. About the same
c. 30% more likely
d. 100% more likely.
4. How much more likely is a woman to follow another woman, rather than a man?
a. Less likely
b. About the same
c. 30% more likely
d. 100% more likely.
You can find the answers here.

You can find the study at Harvard Business Publishing.

June 05, 2009

Flop Sweat

There's a wonderful term that comics use to describe their physical reaction when they're bombing -- flop sweat.

Everyone in advertising who has to make presentations to large groups -- especially creative presentations -- knows the feeling.

You're standing up there. You've rehearsed your presentation. You've prepared a few gags. You're going through it just like you imagined. And you're getting nothing. Just stone faces.

Then, at some point, someone in the audience turns to someone else and gives him "the eye." You see the exchange of "the eye" and you know you're dead.

They don't just hate what you're doing, they're making fun of you silently.

You start to perspire. It's a cold, drenching kind of sweat. And you still have 20 minutes to go.

You make a vow to yourself: I'm going to quit advertising and take a job in a hardware store.

Hysteria Update
Despite all the hysteria in the trade press about ad agencies being behind the curve in digital advertising, our readers disagree. According to a fabulously unscientific poll conducted here earlier this week, agencies are more enthusiastic than clients are about online advertising by a margin of over 3 to 1.

By the way, you can place this in the archives of interactivity. In my experience, about 5% of visitors to blogs take part in polls, even if it only requires one click. Interactive, my ass.

The Long News
Good friend Kirk Citron (founded Citron Haligman Bedecarre, precursor to AKQA) is now writing an interesting blog called The Long News which is hosted on The Long Now Foundation website. The idea is to identify and make accessible news stories that are likely to be of long term consequence to us.

Less Talk, More Yelling.
Great post over at Chronic Fatigue on one of my favorite subjects, the "conversation."

June 04, 2009

Knuckleheads And Geniuses

One of the good things about working in advertising is that we touch lots of different kinds of businesses. If you have a curious mind, you are in a position to be constantly stimulated.

In my current capacity I have to know something about the automobile business, the restaurant business, insurance, wine, beer, spirits, travel, golf, dairy, energy, and finance. And I have to know enough about these businesses to speak credibly about them with experts -- my clients.

It keeps me on my toes. A friend of mine once said that if you're in the ad business long enough, you'll use everything you know.

Because we touch so many different industries, and because we're at the intersection of art and commerce, we also come into contact with a great many different types of people.

Despite all I have read by management gurus, I have noticed no correlation between personality type and business success. In my experience, none of what they say about the personalities of successful people is true in the real world.

Some are delightful, charming and open-minded.
Some are nasty little pricks.
Some are brilliant and creative.
Some are dumb as dirt and devoid of imagination.
Some are independent thinkers.
Some jump on every bandwagon.
Some are magnetic.
Some are repulsive.
Some are like compassionate mothers.
Some are like alcoholic fathers.

The only universal traits I have found are these: powerful ambition and a strong ego.


June 03, 2009

The Volume Knob And The Tone Knob

Let's say for a minute that social media maniacs really believe all the noise they make about consumers wanting to have relationships with brands, and conversations about them.

Let's also say that all these wonderful relationships and conversations are happening online, like the maniacs say.

Now let's have a listen to The Grumpy Brit...

"If I think about brands with which, for the sake of argument I’ll acknowledge I have some sort of relationship, it’s akin to the ‘relationship’ I have with a good waiter. He doesn’t drone on about his kids or tipping trends, he doesn’t ask me what I think of his new apron or recite his resume. He’ll share his thoughts on the menu or the wine list but spares me his ideas on solving the crisis in the Middle East. He’s there when I need him and melts into the background when I don’t...."

I've been on Twitter for about 3 weeks now and I've noticed something alarming.

Among my circle of twits there are a few people who are unusually annoying. They bombard me with an unrelenting torrent of unfiltered stream-of-consciousness nonsense and thinly disguised self-promotion.

The scary part? They're all social media consultants and experts. Not some, all.

These are the people who are supposed to be expert at "managing brands" online through social media.

I "friended" them originally because I thought they were interesting and would have something valuable to say.

My opinion of them has plummeted in the past few weeks. As far as I can tell, they are abysmal at managing their own "brands" on line.

You'd think someone claiming to be an expert in this area would understand the difference between the volume knob and the tone knob.

Three short weeks ago, I was someone who thought highly of them. Today I am totally annoyed with them and sick of their pestering.

And they've done it all through the miracle of social media.

All the annoying ones are social media experts. But not all the social media experts I follow are annoying. Everyone got that?

June 02, 2009

Whiners Never Quit

This is a warning. I'm going to do some major whining today. If you don't like to listen to overfed ad brats whine, I don't blame you. Now would be a good time to abort.

One of the characteristics of blogging that makes it different from most other forms of writing is that you get almost instantaneous feedback.

Each night, I post the next day's blog at midnight PDT. I wake up each morning at about 6:45. After I do a few of those nasty things you do when you wake up, I go over to my computer and check on how many visitors I've had.

By checking my visitor count at 7:00 a.m., I can predict pretty accurately how many visitors I'll have to the blog that day.

Yesterday morning I woke up and was very disappointed. I spent a good part of Saturday writing yesterday's post. I actually re-wrote it three times. I had a very good feeling about it.

I thought it was both interesting and entertaining. I thought it was controversial and snarky enough to attract attention, but thoughtful enough not to be dismissed as just immoderate bluster.

In other words, I thought I had written something good for a change.

While it did get a lot of comments, it did not attract a lot of readers. I was surprised and disappointed.

I could have written one more "5 Reason Why Twitter Sucks" post and gotten 50% more readers (those posts always get big numbers.)

Writing can be a very frustrating experience. Sometimes you write something you think is good, and no one pays any attention. Sometimes you write something very trivial, and you get massive response.

Can you imagine how real writers feel, who spend 5 years on a novel that no one ever notices?

Somewhere deep inside I know I'm supposed to believe it's the quality of my readership that counts and not the quantity. But I guess being in advertising all these years makes me a little uncomfortable when something I do doesn't get a good response. I mean, besides foreplay.

To atone for all this whining, I have posted something less self-indulgent below.

Eye Rolls And 'Yes, Buts'

I keep reading in the trades that the ad industry has been slow to adapt to the digital world and if we're not careful we'll be left behind.

My experience has been different.

My experience is that very often when we recommend digital solutions to sophisticated clients we get eye rolls and polite 'yes, buts.'

My theory is that because I'm located in San Francisco, where digital is not such a shiny new thing, many clients have 5 years of online advertising experience under their belts already and are not quite as sanguine about its miraculous results as others may be.

I'd be curious to hear from other agency people and marketers.

Let's do a little survey:

June 01, 2009

It's A Wonderful World

"Advertising is a failure. When you don't have that good relationship, then you have to advertise..."
Did you know that Coca-Cola is failing? And Apple is failing and McDonald's is failing and Proctor and Gamble is failing?

You didn't know that? Where have you been?

It's obvious. They have to advertise. Advertising is what you have to do when you're failing.

This is because the internet has created a new species of human being. And these new human beings live in a wonderful world in which they have relationships with all the companies that make the products they use.

And the only time companies need to advertise to these people is when that relationship is broken and failing.

You see, these new humans don't buy things for practical reasons -- like, it works better, or it's cheaper, or it looks nicer. It's all about the relationship.

These new humans want a direct relationship with their peanut butter maker and their muffler manufacturer. They want a relationship with the company that makes their socks and their chairs. And their pickles, and their half-and-half, and their mayonnaise, and their cookies, and their tires, and their chewing gum, and their toothbrush, and their umbrella, and their dishwasher, and their napkins, and their toaster, and their gasoline, and their horseradish, and their dental floss, and their paper towels, and their golf balls, and their shoes, and their pillows, and their pencils, and their deodorant, and their books, and their nail clippers, and their furniture polish, and their frozen chicken strips, and their lamps, and their potting soil, and their bathing suits, and their glasses, and their clocks, and their fungicide, and their dishes, and their cat food, and their sun block, and their cookie dough, and their motor oil, and their light bulbs, and their burglar alarm, and their ironing board, and their fire insurance, and their coffee filters, and their pillow cases, and their allergy pills, and their mouthwash, and their vacuum cleaner bags, and their shower curtains...

So you needn't bother telling them that your product works better, or is cheaper, or looks nicer. That's just a sign of failure. It's just a sign that your relationship is failing.

These new humans live in a wonderful world. It's a world in which their minds are free to evaluate the relationships they have with all these companies. They don't have to worry about their jobs, or their children, or how they're going to pay the mortgage.

They don't need to wash their bath tubs, or have mammograms, or go to work, or apply for loans, or bail their kids out of juvenile hall, or fold the laundry, or take their parents to the doctor, or vacuum the carpet, or make dinner.

They have all the time in the world to develop relationships with brands. And then, when they're finished building these relationships, they go on line to social media sites and have conversations about them.

It's a wonderful world.

Someday I'd like to visit it.