December 28, 2010

Big Brother Has Arrived, And He's Us.

You can find my latest stab at biting the hand that feeds me in Adweek today. Here's the link.

November 15, 2010

Things Other Than Blogging

I'm going to be spending the next several weeks with my computer turned off (okay, turned somewhat off) doing things other than blogging.  I will be posting intermittently, if at all.

Keep the faith, baby.

November 12, 2010

The Facebook Enigma

An online article from The Wall Street Journal yesterday called "Valuing Facebook's Ads" reinforces the nagging doubts I have about the value of advertising on Facebook.

Amazingly, Facebook has a 24 share of all display advertising on the web. This is more than twice the share of its next rival.

The problem, though, is that it only has a 9.5 share of display advertising dollars.

In other words, advertisers want to be on Facebook, but they don't want to pay much for it. In fact, they are only willing to pay less than half of what they pay for an "average" display ad.
"...Several agencies put the average price of an ad on Facebook in the U.S. in the $2 to $8 range for a thousand views... The price is lower than the average $15 that other premium media sites can charge." 
One thing we know for sure is that Facebook is enormously popular. What we don't know, however, is its value as an advertising medium.
"...some marketers continue to question whether consumers pay attention to ads on social-networking sites, and wonder how effective they are in getting people to, say, buy cars."
The idiot wing of the ad business just naturally assumes that because Facebook has 50 zillion members it must be a good advertising medium. People with brains say, it's nice that you have all these members, but is it any good for advertising?

If, like me, you have serious doubts about Facebook as an ad medium, the numbers from the WSJ article only deepen your skepticism.

November 10, 2010

Beating Their Heads Against The Wall

For several years now, we at Ad Contrarian Global Headquarters have been ranting about the astonishing stupidity of marketers for relentlessly chasing young people and ignoring people over 50.

Just to recap the case:
  • People over 50 control over 75% of the financial assets of the US.
  • Baby boomers dominate 94% of all consumer packaged goods categories.
  • They purchase almost 40% of consumer packaged goods
  • They account for 1/3 of all TV viewers, online users, social media users and Twitter users
  • Even in technology categories, where marketers assume young people dominate, baby boomers  "are purchasing at rates just as high as other segments, and because they are often buying for their kids, many are double-dipping.
The astounding part: according to Nielsen, less than 5% of advertising is aimed at people over 50.

Apparently NBC is going to make a big presentation tomorrow to marketers and agencies about how stupid they are for ignoring people over 50. All I can say to NBC is, good luck.

For the past 10 years the lemmings in the marketing world have been trapped between the legends and rituals of the past, and the brave new world of the future. They are too busy jumping from one "thing that will change everything" to another to pay attention to the people who actually spend the world's money. They are too busy developing mobile apps for penniless 20-year olds to focus on the people who control this country economically.

According to NBC...
  • The 55-64 age group " the fastest-growing demo group in the country and now numbers 35 million people that account for close to $2 trillion in annual spending.”
  • Nielsen's demo groups...“were invented 50 years ago and are outdated.”
  • People 55-64 have..."a median household income of  $69,000, dwarfing that of those under 25 ($27,000) and 25-34 ($58,000)..."
Nielsen doesn't even report the TV viewership of people over 55.

NBC ceo Jeff Zucker said, "What we’d like to see is these companies and their agencies start targeting (the 55-64 group) as much as they do the 18-34 demo...”

Yeah. In your dreams.

Anyone who has spent one week in an ad agency knows that facts no longer matter, and the minute you start talking to clients about targeting people over 50 is the minute they start labeling you a "dinosaur."

I recently was at a meeting with a financial institution at which I tried to explain to them how ridiculous their strategy of targeting young people was. They looked at me like I had 3 heads.

The marketing industry is locked into a way-out-of-date time warp in which young people are the holy grail.

If anything, it's getting worse.

November 09, 2010

Emotion Is A Response, Not A Stimulus

In the early to mid 90's, Toyota and General Motors shared a manufacturing facility in Fremont, CA. The plant had a line that built the Toyota Corolla and the (Chevrolet) Geo Prizm. It was the same vehicle, built at the same facility, by the same people. At the end of the production line some cars got the Corolla badge and some got the Prizm badge.

At one point, the Corolla sold for $1,500 more. Yet it outsold the Prizm 3 to 1.

It is clear that if humans were logic machines, this could never happen. There is no logic that can explain this phenomenon. The only explanation is that Corolla carried an emotional value that Prizm did not.

It is an article of faith in the advertising and marketing world that some of the strongest bonds between consumers and brands are built on emotional attachments or beliefs. There is certainly a lot of truth in this.

The question for brands is, where does this emotional value come from and how do you get it?

The usual response to this question from advertisers is "emotion in, emotion out."  That's why we get a certain type of advertising from insurance companies, banks, oil companies, and misguided marketers in dozens of other categories. You've seen these ads a thousand times  -- mothers cradling newborn babies; people in wheelchairs participating in marathons; parades down Main Street; grandpa playing catch with Timmy.

These are supposedly "emotional" moments that are meant to elicit emotional responses. What they actually are are warmed-over cliches that elicit nothing but yawns and trips to the toilet.

The fallacy behind this type of advertising is the assumption that the only way to elicit an emotional response is through images rather than logic.

I can see no reason why logical, benefit-oriented advertising should be any less capable of eliciting an emotional response, and an emotional attachment to a brand, than advertising that is fact-free, benefit-challenged and crassly emotionalistic

I'll bet you if you hooked people up to an emote-o-tron and measured responses, you'd find as much emotional response to "15 minutes can save you 15%" as you would to grandma baking cookies.

This is not to say that there haven't been very effective ads that have done a wonderful job at conveying emotion. There certainly have been. But they are a minuscule minority. Most that try for this fail miserably.

It is true that humans are not logic machines. But, remember, emotion is a response. Not a stimulus.

November 05, 2010

Funky Friday

Research or Baloney?
In Nielsen's "Three Screen Report" for Q4 2009, there was a number that confused the hell out of me.

According to their data, between Q1 2009 and Q4 2009, average time spent on the internet dropped about 10% from 29 minutes a day to about 26 1/2 minutes a day.

This seemed impossible to me. For this reason, I left the number out of my post about the report.

It turns out Nielsen was wrong. According to an email they sent out yesterday to subscribers, "we are actively investigating an erroneous decline in our Internet use data." Apparently the mistake has something to do with their system not recognizing sessions on websites with long URLs. Don't ask me to explain this.

The point is, like I always say, research is no different from creative work. Some of it is excellent and valuable, some of it is worthless and dangerous.

Just because it's called "research" doesn't mean it's science.

Unclear On The Concept
Matthew Nieveen, 19, of Lincoln, NE is apparently a very creative guy. For Halloween this year, Matthew made himself up as a Breathalyzer machine.

Unfortunately, Matthew's creativity turned quickly to irony when he was busted wearing his Breathalyzer suit in his Ford F-150 pick-up.

Nieveen’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the state’s limit and a search of his truck turned up beer and a bottle of vodka.

Mr President, I Hate To Say I Told You So, But...
Back last January I wrote an imaginary letter to President Obama. In it I said...
....There are two types of voters -- Brand Loyalists and Product Examiners. The Brand Loyalists are essentially ideologues. They will vote for a Republican regardless of how corrupt he is or a Democrat regardless of how inept he is. They don't care. They're buying the brand. We need to forget about these people. They almost never decide elections.

We need to target the Product Examiners. These are people who vote for the product, not the brand. These people almost always decide elections...

...They are losing confidence in the capability of your administration. You need to change this immediately or your party will suffer severe losses and you will become a premature lame duck.
To read the whole letter, go here.

November 04, 2010

A Book Called Dignity

I think you will enjoy a short video done by our staff in support of a book called Dignity. The book honors indigenous peoples around the world and celebrates Amnesty International's 50th anniversary. It was shot by Dana Gluckstein.

Creative Director: Miles Turpin
Art Director: James Cabral
Writers: Desmond Tutu, Oliver Albrecht
Editor: Nic Bucci
Producer: Jay Cortez
V/O: Hugh Masekela
Music: Ranga

November 03, 2010

Facts Are Old School

I was recently told an interesting story by a business associate. A woman this guy knows is an executive at one of the world's most well-known corporations.

Although she is very high up, the corporation is so big that there are a substantial number of people at the corporate level who are above her in the pecking order.

Recently she made a presentation to the upper echelon of corporate management. The presentation included a report on the state of media in the US.

Included in her presentation were some of the facts revealed in this blog last month in the post entitled  The Top 10 Double-Secret Unknown Facts About Advertising.

Nobody challenged the facts. Nobody questioned the numbers.

A few days later, however, she got word back from the corporate grapevine that her presentation was received as being "old school."

It is a measure of the state of marketing today that certain kinds of information are no longer evaluated on whether they are true or false. They are evaluated on whether they are "old school" or "new school."

If you adhere to the trendy way of thinking you are "new school." If you rely on facts to inform your judgments you are "old school."

George Orwell said it best, "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."

November 02, 2010


Congratulations to the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.

(Only 15 weeks till spring training.)

November 01, 2010

The Politics Of Advertising

Tuesday is Election Day. Thankfully, we will be rid of some of the most awful, cynical advertising I've ever seen.

Political advertising has been horrifying for a long time now. But it has reached a level of nastiness and deception that I believe is unprecedented.

Politicians of both parties rarely even bother to state their cases any more. They just focus on driving up their opponents' "negatives" with attacks and half-truths.

When brand advertisers make a specific product claim, we are required by media outlets to provide written evidence to back-up our claims. But the politicians have legislatively exempted themselves from the rules that govern the rest of us. They can say whatever the hell they want about themselves or their opponents without being required to provide evidence. This is done under the guise of "political free speech."

According to CBS News, Brooks Jackson of
The First Amendment's free speech requirements give politicians "a legal right to lie to you just about as much as they can get away with," 
The thing that should be really frightening to us ad people is that nobody studies the effects of their advertising like the political class. They test everything. They are constantly polling to see how their advertising is affecting their numbers.

They know what works and they know what is effective. They don't care about soft measures like most marketers do. They don't care if people "like" their ads, or are "aware" of their advertising. They just care about whether the polling numbers say it's working or not.

Unfortunately, we ad people have to face the reality that this horrible advertising and the strategies behind it are alarmingly effective. It's very sobering.

The other interesting thing about political advertising is that I am apparently not the only one who has come to the conclusion that the web is a weak ad medium.

While politicians have used the web very effectively to raise money from their supporters, they seem to have no confidence in it as an advertising medium.

Just two years ago, Lehman Brothers (remember them?) forecast that by this election cycle, web advertising would constitute 7.2% of political advertising spending. They were wrong. In fact, web advertising has accounted for less than 2% of political ad spending this year.

Meanwhile, TV got over 65% of political ad dollars. Even direct mail is deemed more effective by political candidates than the web. For every dollar they've spent on the web, they've spent 13 in direct mail.

October 29, 2010

The Friday Fog

Living In A Fog
As I suspected, my post on Wednesday called The True Cost Of Social Media created hysteria among the lunatic fringe of the social media set. These people have the reading comprehension of 2nd graders and analytical ability of toasters.

My point in the post was not that social media is worthless or always requires large expenditures of money. My point was that social media is not "a low cost highway to marketing success" and that the chances of success are enormously enhanced for brands that are well-established through traditional marketing.

But I've given up expecting these dullards to be able to draw distinctions or understand subtleties.

By the way, the post was one of Alltop's "Most Topular Stories" this week. 

An Interesting Phenomenon
It's interesting to me how powerful Twitter links are in generating clicks to this blog. Far more powerful than links from blogs. When I check to see where my (non-subscriber) readers come from, by far the largest number come from Twitter links.

An interesting example is Jason Falls. Jason writes the very popular Social Media Explorer blog -- and is one of the good-guy social media experts. He often links to this blog. Sometimes he links in his blog, sometimes in Twitter posts. One of his Twitter links probably generates at least 3 times as many visits as a blog link.

Another example is a post I did back in May called Why Creatives Are Always Confused. Someone tweeted the link this week and this post is having its third life.

I make fun of Twitter a lot, but there's no question that it has been a substantial factor in the growth of this blog.

By the way...
...if you don't subscribe, you should. It's free, and worth every penny. The subscribe button is up there on the right.

October 27, 2010

The True Cost Of Social Media

The great thing about social media is that it is a way for nimble brands to do significant, effective marketing without spending tons of money. Right?

Please, don't make me laugh.

Just for the heck of it, let's take a look at the 28 most popular brands on Facebook and see what they have in common.

1. Starbucks
2. Coca Cola
3. Oreo
4. Skittles
5. Red Bull
6. Victoria's Secret
7. Disney
8. Converse
9. i Tunes
10. MTV
11. Zara
12. Pringles
13. NBA
14. Starburst
15. Nutella
16. Dr Pepper
17. Monster Energy
18. Adidas
19. H&M
20. Ferraro Rocher
21. McDonald's
22. Playstation
23. XBox
24. Taco Bell
25. Puma
26. BMW
27. Blackberry
28. Nike

Notice anything?

A couple are cult brands. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, they are brands with enormous traditional marketing budgets.

This doesn't just apply to Facebook.

As reported, Anita Alberse, who teaches at Harvard Business School, found...
...The new world of social media may be a lot like the old world, if not more so...
...videos that got watched the most on the Internet are those that bought their popularity through traditional offline advertising, especially on TV.
One of the dangerous things about social media is that it gives a certain type of incompetent marketing person unprecedented opportunities to pretend they're doing marketing when they're actually doing little  of value. Here at Ad Contrarian World Headquarters, we call this "alibi advertising."

They can create spreadsheets that show 52 weeks of social media and convince the gullible and the foolish that something wonderful is going to happen.

These people who believe that social media is a low cost highway to marketing success are living in a digital dream world. They are either too naive to know, or too deceitful to tell their bosses, that with few exceptions there is a high cost to social media success.

It's called traditional advertising.

Thanks to Sharon Krinsky for the background on this post.

October 26, 2010

Gossage Must Be Spinning

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I am less than enthusiastic about the magic of web advertising and pretty impressed by the staying power of television.

This leads a lot of people to assume that I am a heavy user of television and an unenthusiastic web user. The truth is exactly the opposite. I actually watch very little television and spend way too much time on the web.

Last week, however, with the SF Giants in a riveting pennant-deciding series with the Philadelphia Phillies, I had an opportunity to watch a lot of (Fox) network TV. The advertising I saw was abominable.

I don't usually comment on spots because there are more than enough blogs doing that (and also because I've written my fair share of duds) but the effect of watching a full week of witless nonsense has me astounded. WTF is going on?

The only explanation I can come up with is that clients must be allowing the flat tires who approve websites to approve TV spots. Or maybe it's the agencies who are allowing writers trained for the web to write for TV.

How else can you explain the Burger King "epic flute solo?"

Or this abomination from State Farm?

Something's rotten in the state of TV advertising.

October 25, 2010

Touched By A Genius

The horrors of the advertising business, a compelling National League pennant race, and an obsession to re-write every one of these goddamn posts five times, have conspired to give me a nice variety of unwholesome reasons for not doing any serious reading lately.

However, last week on vacation I picked up Philip Roth's Pulitzer winning novel American Pastoral. It is simply a work of amazing brilliance.

Anyone who's ever tried to earn a nickel writing knows that if in your lifetime you can come up with one truly original insight into human behavior you're ahead of most. Roth seems to be able to accomplish this ten to the page.

I think there's a part of all of us that wants to believe we are somehow connected to extraordinary people. Like the girl who tells you that a rock musician went to her high school, as if that was some kind of achievement on her part or validation of her worth.

I had a similar experience with Roth.

In the beginning of American Pastoral he comments extensively on a baseball novel written for kids by John R. Tunis called The Kid From Tompkinsville. As it happens, this was my favorite book when I was young. I have never met anyone else who's ever heard of it, no less read it.

I spent the better part of one summer reading all of Tunis's sports books. I would hit my local library every week in the insane hope that in the preceding week Tunis had turned out another novel. Hey, it only took me a few days to read 'em, why did it take him so damn long to write 'em?

When I read Roth's reminiscences of The Kid From Tompkinsville I was thrilled.

I pictured an 11-year old Roth lying in bed in a hot apartment on a still summer night reading about The Kid, just as I had done. Somehow, in my senile imagination, the idea that Roth and I shared The Kid created a bond between us.

Me and my man Phil. BFF.

October 22, 2010

Freakin' Friday

Bullshit Artists At Work
According to Bloomberg, Google (whose motto is "Don't Be Evil") cut its US taxes by over $3 billion in the past three years by using sneaky but legal off-shore tax gimmicks. That's billion with a b.

The report claims that Google's overseas tax rate is about 2.4%. Between federal and state taxes, my company pays about 45% of our profits in taxes.

Do you wonder why small companies have no chance against global monstrosities? These guys have 50 ways to screw people we haven't even heard of.

Unclear On The Concept
Earlier this month, the head of the Delaware Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement, Siobhan Sullivan, resigned after being arrested for drunken driving. She's scheduled to be arraigned today.

Dumb vs. Dumber
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is fighting for his political life against a genius named Sharron Angle. Recently, Angle told a bunch of Hispanic students that she thought they looked Asian. Not to be outdone in the competition for astonishing stupidity, yesterday Reid told MSNBC, "But for me, we'd be in a worldwide depression." Say goodnight, Harry.

Aliens Messing With Our Nukes
According to 7 former US military personnel, aliens have landed in the US and Great Britain and deactivated our nuclear weapons. According to The Telegraph, the military men claim, "The beings have repeated their (UK) efforts in the US and have been active since 1948... and accused the respective governments of trying to keep the information secret."

Message to aliens: Next time you're around deactivating stuff, don't forget my Twitter account.

October 21, 2010

3 Secrets Of Creativity

After 100 years in the ad business I think I've discovered the secrets to being a good creative person.
  • Insomnia -- Good ideas come at odd hours. You've got to be awake when they show up. 
  • Fear of embarrassment -- If you're not afraid of your friends making fun of your work, you'll never be any good. 
  • Will -- A lot of people have talent. Only a few have the will to impose their talent. These people are a pain in the ass and drive everyone around them crazy. But they don't quit till they get it the way they want it.
But TAC we're all creative!

TAC is on vacation. This was re-posted from a few years ago.

Huge Thank You... Bob Knorpp, creator and host of The BeanCast (the best marketing podcast anywhere) for a stunningly generous profile on his blog yesterday. You can find it here.

Another Huge Thank You... Simon Billing, author of the wonderful blog The Grumpy Brit, for his lovely comment.

October 20, 2010

The Loud Get Louder. The Meek Get Meeker.

Not long ago, the only people who had to listen to my aberrant ramblings were the 90 or so people who worked with me. Now there are several thousand people who suffer my opinions four or five times a week. The internet is a great medium for opinionated loudmouths.

One of the problems, however, is that while the web serves as an amplifier for a certain type of person, it also serves as a muzzle for people who may be a lot smarter, but a little quieter.

The issue for marketers is how to separate signal from noise.

A perfect example is the recent flap over the Gap logo. Just between us girls, while I agree with critics that the new logo looks like something designed in Powerpoint, I think it would have had about the same effect on Gap's sales as re-painting the men's rooms.

But there is a type of person who knows how to stir up a hubbub on the internet. We've all met them. They know how to do everyone's job but their own.  They know how to live everyone's life but their own. They are self-appointed guardians of aesthetics and morality, and the web has given them a voice way out of proportion to their worthiness.

Meek marketers are going to have more and more trouble with these prissy nuisances.

There are a few marketers who don't care what the loudmouths think, who are confident in their identity and their decision-making, and aren't afraid to be themselves. They are a tiny minority.

Most marketers have become alarmingly timid and use the ravings of these blowhards as an excuse for their lack of spine. They are already meek, and can now hide their gutlessness behind a convenient facade of sensitivity to consumer sentiment.

They are confusing consumer sentiment with the taunting of bullies.

October 19, 2010

The Digital Dream World

My column, The Digital Dream World, can be found here today, in Adweek's online edition.

October 18, 2010

Attack Dogs On The Loose

As predicted here recently in Is The Pendulum Swinging?, web maniacs are going bonkers over Malcolm Gladwell's piece in The New Yorker called "Small Change."

From the Huffington Post to the most obscure dirty-basement bloggers, the digi-nutjobs are coming out in full force against Gladwell.

Gladwell dared to question the orthodoxy of web fundamentalism and is paying the price.

These people are like attack dogs. You can question the existence of God; you can question the right of free speech; you can question their mother's legitimacy; but if you dare question the primacy of the internet in all human endeavors they will jump you and maul you.

I have seen it with alarming regularity on this blog.

I can poke fun at planners and they'll take it with a laugh, I can criticize creatives and they'll have some perspective, I can joke about account people and they'll roll their eyes. But if I dare to say something unflattering or unorthodox about the web -- and in particular social media -- I am subject to torrents of abuse.

Well, it's nice that for at least a few weeks these lunatics are jumping on someone else.

Have fun, Malcolm.

Look For My Article...
"The Digital Dream World" in the online edition of Adweek tomorrow. It should get the attack dogs all nice and lathered.

And Speaking of Attack Dogs... 
If this was the old Gap logo...
and this was the new one...
...the same yapping web poodles would have been barking and foaming at the mouth.

October 13, 2010

The Future Is Behind Us

Memo To Staff:
For several years now, we have been known as the agency of the future. How can we claim this? Because it says so right on our website!

It has not been easy being the agency of the future. But thanks to our commitment to empowering our empowerment, and tearing down walls, and breaking down silos, and updating our Facebook page, and Content Technology, Search, CMS, WCM, MRX, ECM, Multilingual, E20, KM, and XML we are at the forefront of agencies whose websites say they are the agency of the future!

Of this we can be proud.

But the world is changing rapidly. Today the consumer is in charge. In the past, nobody knew who was in charge. Sometimes people with nice suits were in charge. Sometimes it seemed like Wolf Blitzer was in charge. Then there was the time when the Spice Girls were in charge.

But now we know who’s in charge, and it’s the consumer. Just send out a tweet asking, “Who’s in charge?” You’ll soon get back plenty of replies telling you that it’s the consumer. (Ignore the tweets from my cousin Sheldon who thinks he’s in charge. He’s not.)

We are living through a very tumultuous era. It is time for us to realize that the future is behind us.

We can no longer be satisfied being the agency of the future. Today, we have to look beyond the future, to a time when the future will be but a distant memory.

We must realize that in today’s inter-globally connected world, inter-connectivity is globular. And maybe not just globular, but inter-globular! Our clients expect that our inter-globularity will exceed their expectations and create the opportunity for a multi-channel globuverse.

Those who do not respond to the changes that are happening all around us will be left behind to do radio spots and pay for their own football tickets.

Recently, your management team had its annual retreat.  The theme was Preparing For The New Future By Being Prepared And Looking Forwarder 3000

We tackled this thorny subject head-on. We spent three no-holds-barred days discussing the branding of our brand in light of the new realities of the digital revolution and all that mobile stuff. We had Powerpoint presentations, and "conversations," and everything. 

After one particularly penetrating session, a deep insight was revealed.

We have to realize that it is not enough to execute sound strategies. We have to have a strategy for our strategies --  how will our strategies be strategically different from the strategies of our competitors?

In other words, we need a strategy strategy.

To accomplish this, I have appointed a team from our executive committee. They will be known as “The Team From Our Executive Committee.” Their first job will be to find a consulting firm to help us develop our strategy strategy.

In order to accomplish this as rapidly as possible, we have hired a consultant to help us identify the consulting firm that will help us develop our strategy strategy.

I am very excited to be part of an exciting effort to leave the old future behind and develop a new future for us all. We can all do our part by Preparing For The New Future By Being Prepared And Looking Forwarder!

October 12, 2010

Is Facebook Hurting Web Advertising?

I have another crazy theory.

I think Facebook is having a negative effect on the development of web advertising.

I think that most of us who do not have a vested interest in promoting web advertising believe that, with the exception of search, it has thus far been a disappointment. For obvious reasons, few of us are willing to stand up and say this out loud.

Nonetheless, I have very little doubt that someday the web will be a substantially more effective advertising medium than it is today. But that day may be farther away than we think.

My reason for believing this is found in my hypothesis that the enormous popularity of Facebook has been a setback for web advertising.

Here's the logic.

As I've mentioned previously in this blog, one of the problems the web has as an advertising medium is that it is too many different things. It is a medium of communication, a medium of information, and a medium of entertainment. This may be big fun for us web-addicted ADHD sufferers, but it is not good for advertising.

A medium of communication is generally not very effective for advertisers. Nobody wants to pick up a telephone and hear an ad instead of a dial tone. When we are in communication mode, we don't want to be slowed down.

A medium of information is also generally not very good for advertising. Nobody wants to open a dictionary and see an ad. Once again, when we are looking for information, we usually want it now.

As a rule, the best type of medium for advertising is a medium of entertainment. We are used to having our TV and radio programming interrupted by ads. It may be annoying, but we have come to accept it. (Believe it or not, there is even a pretty convincing study that indicates that advertising improves the enjoyment of TV watching.)

It is my hypothesis that until the web comes into its own as an entertainment medium, it will not fulfill its promise as a powerful advertising medium.

Over the past few years, the dominant emerging website is Facebook

Facebook is a vehicle for communication. It is like a "broadcast telephone." It broadcasts our thoughts to our "friends" and those of our "friends" to us.

I go to my Facebook page at least 2 or 3 times a day. I can't imagine a less impactful advertising medium. I can honestly say that I don't think I can remember seeing a single ad on my Facebook page in the last month. (As a matter of fact, I just went to my Facebook page to make sure that there actually are ads there.)

The problem is, the success of Facebook is making the web a far more compelling medium of communication than of entertainment. Other very popular emerging websites, like Twitter and foursquare, are also about communication.

Meanwhile, entertainment sites are popular but not dominating. Although 2 billion videos are viewed on YouTube daily, according to Nielsen video viewing on the web accounts for only 1% of total video viewing. Television still commands 99% of video viewing.

The more that the web is used as a medium of communication, and not entertainment, the longer it is going to take for it to reach its promise for advertisers.

That's my oddball theory, and I'm sticking to it.

Special Note...
To all you "advertising is dead/the consumer wants to have a conversation with us/the web changes everything" adherents, please don't feel compelled to leave a comment reminding me that I just don't get it. I know I don't get it. I haven't gotten it for years.

October 11, 2010

How Social Media Controls Everything

A reader has written to me and said,
"Dear Ad Contrarian,
I go to marketing meetings every day. Often there are very bewildering slides presented. Just between you and me, I have no idea what these slides mean.  But all my bosses keep nodding their heads and saying, "Hmm, that's interesting."

I am afraid that if I don't have intimidating slides pretty soon, I'm going to be thrown out of the marketing department and sent to a department where people have to work. Can you help me?"

-- Misty in Sunnyvale
Yes, Misty, I think I can help

In the world of marketing, the super-best subject to have complicated slides about is social media. If you have perplexing slides about social media, not only will you be admired and respected by friends and colleagues, you will also be considered an expert. Then, anytime someone has a question about social media, you can just make something up. It's the law!

I have created a nice slide about social media for you. I have used pictures and boxes and arrows and dotted lines and colors and even more arrows. Not only will this impress your bosses, it will also prepare you for a lifetime of  brain-damaging Powerpoint presentations.

Oh, and if anyone questions the validity of anything on this slide all you need to do is adopt your best condescending voice and say, "You just don't get it, do you."

You can print your own personal copy of How Social Media Controls Everything to pin on your wall or send to a loved one.  It's here.

October 08, 2010

I Hate The iPhone

Everything I Don't Need, Nothing I Do
I have been an iPhone user since its inception. As I've written before in this space, I hate the damn thing. It is the most unreliable, frustrating, crappy piece of shit Apple has ever made.

Unfortunately for me, everything else in my office is an Apple product and for the sake of connectivity I'm stuck with using the iPhone.

It has all the stuff I don't need and none of the stuff I do need. I don't need an app that tells me what my sperm count is. I need a phone that freaking works. Got that, Steve?

Recently I bought the newest iPhone. It is even worse than its predecessors. I don't think I've ever made a call that it hasn't dropped. I was recently on a conversation with a client and the call was dropped 3 times. The same client left me a voice mail message. I got it a week later.

All along, Apple and its fanboys have been blaming AT&T for the problems. Now that Verizon will soon be selling iPhones, we'll see.

Where Are The Good Guys Hiding?
Yesterday I wrote a a post called Junk Research, Shabby Journalism, and Social Media. In it I reported on a piece of alarmingly unreliable "research" about social media marketing.

I want to be clear that I do not think that all social media marketing people are incompetent or dishonest. There are very hard-working, intelligent people with lots of integrity working in social media marketing.  A few of them actually work for me. And while I am still far from convinced that social media marketing is anywhere near as effective as it is purported to be, I have no question at all that most of the people working in the field are honest and trustworthy.

What I don't understand is why they put up with the hustlers and the know-nothing jargonistas? Why do they allow these people to continue to give them a bad name? 

To protect its reputations, the social media marketing community needs to call out the hustlers and the con men -- so that pricks like me don't have to.

October 07, 2010

Junk Research, Shabby Journalism, And Social Media

Recently, a colleague sent me an article from Fast Company called What Women Want: Facebook Ads!
The article was about the amazing ability of Facebook to influence female consumers.
"Businesses may have once had to guess how their ads are being received, but no longer..." how Fast Company put it.

The article ran in January of this year and at first glance offers a pretty impressive array of statistics about the power of marketing to women by using Facebook.

On second and third glance, however, it is a very good example of boosterism disguised as journalism, and self-serving manipulation masquerading as research.

Here are some of the quotes from the Fast Company article:
"Half of the respondents said they bought a product in 2009 because of something they'd seen on a social networking site."
"...a whopping 80% of the women polled said they had (become fans of brands or products)"
" is excellent data for retailers searching for clues about competing in this pinched consumer world."
Well, this is pretty convincing stuff. And there was more. So I decided to explore a little further.

As the source of its information, the Fast Company article linked to an article called Women Warm Up to Brands on Social Sites on a website called eMarketer Digital Intelligence.  From this article I learned that:
"80% of female Internet users said they had become a fan of a product or brand on a social network."

"One-half of female Internet users had brought (sic) a product because of a social network."
Being a semi-open-minded kind of guy, I started thinking that maybe I needed to revise my opinion about the effectiveness of social media marketing.

But something was bothering me. Neither of the articles was very clear about the design or analysis of the research. Who designed it? Who interpreted the results? Who were the women they studied? How were they selected?

In the case of Fast Company, the respondents were characterized as "the women polled" or the "respondents." In eMarketer, the respondents were identified as "Internet users."

The article at eMarketer attributed the research to SheSpeaks “Annual Social Media Study.”

So I went to SheSpeaks to find the study. What I found was startling.

Here's what SheSpeaks says about itself.
"Our community engagement programs help brands start conversations with target consumers. We introduce your brand to consumers, create and sustain conversations, capture honest and authentic feedback, and identify and nurture brand advocates.

We help your brand story become part of her conversations."
In other words, SheSpeaks seems to make its living by finding women who are actively engaged in online social activities and signing them up. Then they further encourage these women to use social media tools to advocate for their clients' brands. 

And the only women who took part in this "research" were members of SheSpeaks!

If you intentionally set out to create a sample skewed to produce a certain result, you couldn't have done better.

There is not a reputable researcher in the world who would use a sample like this to be representative of anything.

How can you possibly study this group -- and only this group -- and not get results that are hopelessly skewed? The answer is, you can't. It's like doing research on milk consumption by polling dairy farmers.

And yet, in all the reporting I read, and in the study itself, nowhere is it made clear that this group is way outside the profile of average women and the results should not be considered indicative of average behavior. In fact, quite the opposite is implied.

There is a certain aspect of the social media marketing culture that gives it an aroma of sneaky unreliability. It's like listening to a 16-year old explain how the car got scratched. This is the type of stuff that does it.

The shame is that gullible clients and naive "digital strategists" are being sold this baloney every day. 

As An Example Of How These "Facts" Spread... are a few excerpts of misleading reports about this survey from online "news" outlets:

According to Biz Report..."SheSpeaks' latest Social Media Study has been released and it shows that almost 90% of women are using popular social networks. Of interest to marketers will be their figures showing how social media is becoming a strong driver of purchase behavior." 

"A majority of U.S. women use social networking sites, and half of them say social networking sites influence their shopping habits. These are some of the key findings from a new study on online socials networking among women performed by social media platform SheSpeaks," says the website Marketing Vox.

"...Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, have emerged as key drivers of purchase intent among women, with one-half (50%) of social media users reporting they have purchased products because of information on social networking sites." says United Business Media's PR Newswire.

There are dozens more, but I'm getting hungry and you get the picture.

October 06, 2010

The Creativity Of Criminals

The songwriter Randy Newman once composed a song called "Naked Man." The song was inspired by a true criminal case.

A woman was walking down a street in New Orleans. Suddenly, a completely naked man came charging at her, grabbed her purse, and ran away with it. A few minutes later, and a few blocks away, the police nabbed the naked man with the purse.

At his trial, he put up an astonishingly creative defense. He claimed it was a case of mistaken identity.

How then did he happen to be running down a street naked with the woman's stolen purse in his hands?

Well, you see, he was going down the street naked when out of nowhere another naked man came dashing around the corner, handed him the purse, and ran off.

I was reminded of this while reading a recent crime story.

In Bradenton, Florida last week, Raymond Roberts was pulled over for speeding. The Manatee County Sheriff's Deputies who pulled him over noticed a strong scent of marijuana coming from his vehicle.

They searched Roberts and found two plastic bags in his anus. That's right, his anus.

One bag contained marijuana, the second contained crack cocaine.

Roberts claimed that the marijuana was his, but the crack wasn't. It belonged to a "friend." How did his friend's crack happen to wind up in his crack?

Well, you see, his friend had borrowed Roberts' car and absent-mindedly left the plastic bag full of crack cocaine on the driver's seat. When Roberts saw the police, he got all nervous and grabbed the crack, stuck it down his pants and up his ass where, coincidentally, he happened to be storing his marijuana.

Not guilty!

October 05, 2010

The Clients Have Won

Since I started in the agency business back in 1776, I've been aware of a subtle but undeniable tension between clients and agencies over who would control the culture of advertising.

Because the agencies make the advertising, they feel they should control the ethos. Because the clients pay for the advertising, they feel they should control it. Nobody ever comes out and actually says these things, but the strain below the surface has always been pretty obvious to anyone who wanted to see it.

I've always felt it was a healthy tension. The industry needs both the imagination of the agencies and the real-world pragmatism of the clients. The pendulum is never at rest and it is always swinging back and forth giving a little more or a little less influence to each party.  For the most part, however, it has remained within a range in which each party has had a reasonable share of power in determining what the ad industry is, and what it isn't.

I am now starting to feel that the competition is coming to an end and that the clients have won. There are three factors that make me feel this way.

The first is size. Size affects culture. Large entities tend to behave differently from small ones. As agencies have grown to global proportions to match the needs of global clients, agency cultures have undeniably changed to resemble the cultures of the clients. I don't think this has been done consciously. I think it's just a by-product of size.

The tangible manifestations of this are the development of internal hierarchies, the compartmentalization of  functions, and the inflation of titles (is there anyone left who isn't a C-Something-O?) Because the intangible manifestations are less, um, tangible, they are harder to describe. But anyone who's spent some time in the agency world will, I believe, agree that internal agency behaviors and attitudes have a different feel in recent years.

The second factor is people. With the exception of the creative department, it would be hard these days to pick agency people out of an agency-client line-up. They look, talk and act the same. This is not a criticism of either side, it's just an observation.

As for the creative people, they still have bad haircuts and unnecessarily expensive eye wear, but I've been reading lately that we are losing some of our best and brightest to, among other things, the lure of new media. This is alarming. A while ago, in a past post entitled  Crisis of Advertising, I wrote something like this...
Put yourself in the place of a young, talented person. You can work for a big, clumsy ad agency that is toiling for huge corporations.  You'll have dozens of meddlers sticking their sweaty fingers into everything you do. Or you can work for yourself, or a smaller entity, where you don't just use your imagination to sell things, you use it to actually create things.
Our clients may think they need us for our dashboards and our analytics, but the only thing they really need us for is creativity. If we can't deliver that, we may as well close up shop.

The third factor is focus. Agencies seem not as singularly focused on the advertising part of the advertising business as they once were. Each day there seem to be new priorities and different disciplines that closely mirror client-side functions. This has not been helped by the obsession with technology and data.

Agency leaders may be crazy, but they're not stupid. In a time of enormous change and uncertainty, they can see what the winners look like and what the losers look like. The winners look more and more like their clients. The losers look more and more like ad agencies.

In logic, there is something called the fallacy of composition. The fallacy of composition occurs when it is mistakenly assumed that what is good for the individual is good for the group. For example, it is good for the individual to save his paycheck. But if everyone saved their paychecks, our economy would collapse.

It is probably good for the survival of each individual agency if it yields to the pressure to mirror the values and behaviors of its clients.

However, it is terrible for the industry.

October 01, 2010

Ridiculous Old Idiot Jackass

On Monday I wrote that there are very few activities more futile than trying to talk sense to a zealot.

True believers don't need facts. They've already made up their minds. They know.

They don't practice critical thinking, they're already convinced. They don't have skeptical minds, they're committed.

So if all their friends, and all the authorities, and all the people they come into contact with agree on something, the case is closed.

In the past few weeks I published two pieces that questioned the orthodoxy of current marketing thinking. One appeared in Adweek and one was on this blog.

In one of the pieces, all I did was list some facts that had been developed by others -- like the U.S. Department of Commerce, Duke University, Nielsen, DoubleClick, and similar reputable sources.

Here are some of the comments I got for my effort:
"...I think it's pretty clear how ridiculous your "facts" are."

" should shut down your WEBsite and start your own talk show. Maybe you can fill Oprah's spot. Jackass."

"'re an old idiot."
"... I (don't) give a shit about what you have to say." 
Some days it's just no fun being a ridiculous old idiot jackass.

Floyd Thursby
A free drink goes to i2Partners LLC for a proper identification of Floyd Thursby, and another free drink goes to Mike M for a good explanation of who Thursby was.

If my recollection is correct, Thursby never actually appeared in the film (The Maltese Falcon.) The cops suspected Sam Spade of Thursby's murder, but he was actually killed by Wilmer, the baby-faced gunslinger. One of the great lines of all time was Spade to Wilmer, "the cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter."

I think you could say the same about social media experts and bloggers.

I'm Ready For Oktoberfest
Septemberfest totally sucked.

September 30, 2010

Is The Pendulum Swinging?

I'm sure web maniacs must be having a hysterectomy over a piece in the New Yorker by Malcolm Gladwell called Small Change.

Gladwell challenges some of the nonsense of social media zealots about the web's power to affect important social changes.

I am not going to waste your time by writing a crappy abbreviated version of it. Instead you should read it.

Also, I suggest you read "The Rise of Skepticism" by Stuart Thursby on the Applied Arts Wire.

Thursby writes very cogently about how finally some people within the advertising and marketing community are starting to question the new orthodoxy.

I hope Thursby is right, but I'm afraid he is a little too optimistic in his expectation of a "tipping point into stability."

I think the trend toward unquestioned faith in new age marketing doctrine is actually gathering momentum and those of us who question it will be further marginalized.

Nonetheless, it's nice to see that there are people who are starting to ask questions.

Win A Free Drink...
Speaking of Stuart Thursby, a free drink to the first person who can identify Floyd Thursby. No Googling!

September 29, 2010

Take Me To Your Head Of The Office For Outer Space Affairs

Mazlan Othman, a Malaysian astrophysicist, is head of the UN’s Office for Outer Space Affairs. According to published reports, Ms. Othman is going to be responsible for co-ordinating mankind's response when extraterrestrials land.

Now, if you ask me, when the little green men come calling, they're going to talk to whomever the hell they want.

While the naive plans of the bureaucrats at the U.N. are beyond silly, they do raise a serious question.

One thing we know for sure about the universe -- it ain't nothing like what we thought it was just a few decades ago.

The universe is enormous beyond any human ability to comprehend. To say that our little planet is a speck of dust is to exaggerate its size a billion fold.

By the time the next decade is over, I believe science will have found reasonable evidence for life elsewhere in the universe. It may just be a bacteria-like organism on a meteorite, or remnants of a virus-like form somewhere else. Or something else we have no clue about.

Regardless of how simple or tiny it is, it will create a crisis for theologians.

How will this fit into contemporary theology? How will the world's religions interpret and explain finding life elsewhere?

It's going to be interesting.

September 28, 2010

The Results Are In

Here are the results from the poll we did last week. The results are listed in descending order from most surprising to least.

Question: Which of the "Top 10 Double Secret Facts" surprised you most?

1. (17.35%) TV viewers are no more likely to leave the room during a commercial break than they are before or after the break.

2. (16.69%) Baby boomers dominate 94% of all consumer packaged goods categories. 5% of advertising is aimed at them.

3. (15.90%) 96% of all retail activity is done in a store. 4% is done on line. 

4. (12.05%) DVR owners watch live TV 95% of the time. 5% of the time they watch recorded material. 

5. (9.88%) 99% percent of all video viewing is done on a television. 1% is done on line.

6. (8.19%) Since the 1990s, click-through rates for banner ads have dropped 97.5%. 

7. (7.71%) TV viewership is now at its highest point ever.

8. (5.30%) Since the introduction of TiVo, real time TV viewing has increased over 20%.

9. (5.06%) The difference in purchasing behavior between people who use DVRs to skip ads and those who don’t: None.

10. (1.93%) 99.9% of people who are served an online display ad do not click on it.

Thanks for voting.

As you'd expect, a couple of web maniacs have had fits over this. They think that any reporting of facts casting doubt on the magical properties of the web is an attack on them. The interesting thing is that the facts about web advertising seem not all that surprising to most people. 60% of the votes went to 4 facts that have nothing at all to do with web advertising.

Personally, the fact that surprised me most was that 95% of the time homes equipped with TiVo watch live TV.

Also, almost a thousand people have printed the sheet we provided that listed these facts.

In a recent post..
...called The Amazing Blindness of Marketers, and in other posts over the years, I  have commented on the stupidity of marketers whose knee-jerk target audience is always "young people." For an interesting piece on this topic, I recommend this.

September 27, 2010

The Religion Of Marketing

Societies go through cycles of tolerance and intolerance. We see this phenomenon most clearly in the areas of politics and religion.

The cycle is often magnified in highly stressed systems, like the old Soviet Union. There would be periods of Stalinism followed by periods of glasnost.

One of the interesting aspects of the phenomenon is that the most severe forms of intolerant orthodoxy are often imposed by former radicals. It is no great insight to note that people looking to overthrow oppression have an alarming tendency to become oppressors themselves. The Iranian revolution is about as perfect an example as you'll find.

It also happened in the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution. In early America, the Puritans came to America to escape religious intolerance, only to institute their own brand.

For the first time in my experience, we are going through a period of unhealthy parochialism in advertising and marketing. It's hardly the kind of nasty oppression you find in political or religious fanaticism -- and the good news is that nobody is being guillotined or burnt at the stake -- but the bad news is that our new brand of orthodoxy has an uncomfortably low tolerance for dissent.

One has only to attend a conference on advertising or marketing to hear the same endless feedback loop of dogma repeated ad nauseum with virtually no dissenting opinions. And if you dare to challenge this orthodoxy in a public forum, like a blog (now who would be foolish enough to do that?) you'd better be ready for a barrage of vitriol from the defenders of the faith.

Why this should occur at this time is not surprising. The advertising industry is a highly stressed system. It has gone through a revolution. Not long ago it was an industry characterized by smallish, entrepreneurial organizations. Today it is an industry dominated by four or five enormous global corporate enterprises. Not long ago it was an industry run by craftspeople. Today it is an industry run by financiers.

New gods require new mythology.

The new orthodoxy is not good for the industry. But more importantly, it can be personally hazardous. It is a dangerous time to be a dissenter.

While a lot of what you see and hear on a daily basis may stimulate your gag reflex, my advice to you, gentle reader, is to remember that discretion is the better part of valor. The new high priests of marketing don't like wise guys.

September 24, 2010

Good News Friday

It's Friday and I have good news!

Good News For Gals
In case of emergency, just take your bra off!

This week a great new product was introduced called the Emergency Bra. It's a bra that turns into a gas mask.

That's right, you can't make this shit up.

"You have to be prepared all the time, at any place, at any moment, and practically every woman wears a bra," said the inventor of the patented device.

The Emergency Bra website says, "The goal of any emergency respiratory device is to achieve tight fixation and full coverage (and who doesn't like tight fixation and full coverage? --TAC). Luckily, the wonderful design of the bra is already in the shape of a face mask and so with the addition of a few design features, the Emergency Bra enhances the efficiency of minimizing contaminated bypass air flow."

Okay, but I don't care what they say, I am not going to wear an Emergency Jock.

Good News For Murderers
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that San Quentin has unveiled their beautiful new "lethal injection center" this week.  "Lethal injection center" is my new all-time favorite euphemism. It sounds so much pleasanter than "chamber of death."

According to the Chronicle...
"The spacious $853,000 center has three brightly lit witness viewing rooms, and each gives a considerably better view than the cramped gas chamber's lone, poorly illuminated viewing room."
Didn't you just hate that cramped old viewing room? If there's one thing I can't stand, it's getting all prettied up for an execution and then being stuffed like a pimiento into a dingy old viewing room. It can take all the fun out of the darn thing.

This is going to be so much better. Now all I need is a large popcorn and some Raisinettes.

Good News For America
The recession is officially over! That's the word out of Washington from the National Bureau of Economic Research. Not only is it over, it's been over for 15 months! I must have been napping.

Meanwhile, Warren Buffett said that by his own "common sense" definition, the United States is "still in a recession."

Common sense? In Washington? Warren, wake up, dude.

The Most Unnecessary Words In The English Language
"Please ignore previous email"

September 23, 2010

Analyzing Everything And Understanding Nothing

Sometime in the near future, advertising pundits will look back at the current era and reach the conclusion that we blew it.

They'll say we were focused on everything but the problem.

We had dashboards and metrics and click-throughs and webisodes and branded entertainment and a whole galaxy of new and used media outlets...but what we didn't have was very good advertising.

It seems silly to have to say this, but our industry has reached a point of such grotesque confusion that I'm going to say it anyway -- the business of the advertising business is advertising.

If the advertising isn't very good, what difference does the rest of it make?

We analyze everything and understand nothing.

We have forgotten that some of the best advertising ideas weren't the result of algorithms and analyses. They were the result of someone sitting on the toilet with a yellow pad and coming up with a great idea.

I'm not advocating throwing caution to the wind and doing whatever the hell sounds like fun, but I am saying that we need to temper our arrogant belief in our analytical abilities with the realization that there is a great deal about how advertising works that is about imagination, not facts.

Our clients may think they want dashboards and data, but what they really need is ideas.

The longer we stay focused on gee-whiz technologies and media gimmicks while our creative work languishes, the more our value to our clients will erode.

With all the startling innovations in communication, technology, and media, one would think that creative innovation would follow as a natural offshoot. But it hasn't. Creativity doesn't work that way. It has its own timetable and its own mind.       .

Let's not forget why we're here.

September 22, 2010

I Heart NY

My favorite New York City joke goes like this:

A visitor to NYC is lost and walking down Broadway. He stops a New Yorker. "Excuse me," he says, "can you tell me where the Plaza Hotel is or should I go fuck myself?"

Last week, two of my partners and I were in New York for some meetings.

One evening, about midnight, on the way back to our hotel after a lovely dinner, one of my partners slipped on 6th Avenue and fell to the sidewalk. Instantaneously her ankle swelled up like a balloon and she was in great pain. We thought her ankle might be broken.

In about a minute there were people offering us help. Cab drivers stopped to ask us if we needed an ambulance. Passersby asked us if we needed them to call 911. A hotel security guard came out and helped us get her into a cab and off to a nearby emergency room.

It was a truly inspirational display of niceness.

As someone born and bred in New York, it made me proud.

The good news: A bad sprain, no break.

September 21, 2010

Just The Facts

Some digital genius in New York is trying to hitchhike his way to glory on the back of my Top 10 Double-Secret Unknown Facts About Advertising. He claims to refute "every one" of my 10 points.

What he is actually doing is not refuting the facts at all, but creating the usual excuses and explanations and digressions to account for the facts.

First he spammed my blog with a link to his brilliant post. Then he started sending out tweets saying I was wrong.

Like all of his ilk, he talks about everything but the point. He gives us his opinions and his analysis and tries to blind us with off-the-point sidebars and data that isn't quite relevant to refuting the facts I quoted. He accuses me of fudging.

Normally, I don't bother answering annoying gnats, but this guy accused me of cheating. I spent a lot of time on this and was painstaking in getting my sources.

For the record, just so people aren't taken in by this guy, here are the facts I stated in "Top 10 Double-Secret Unknown Facts About Advertising" and the sources for them.

Fact #1) 99.9% of people who are served an online display ad do not click on it.

Source: DoubleClick Benchmark Report 2009, Executive Summary U.S. campaign performance norms for 2009 across DoubleClick image,
"Flash, and rich media campaigns are as follows: Click-through Rate (CTR) 0.10%"
Fact #2) TV viewership is now at its highest point ever.

Source: NielsenWire, November 10, 2009
"For the 2008-2009 TV season, the amount of television watched reached an all-time high as Americans spent four hours and 49 minutes a day on average in front of the TV, up four minutes from last year and up 20% from 10 years ago. The average household watched eight hours and 21 minutes a day on average, also at an all-time high."
Source: Nielsen Three Screen Report 1st Quarter 2010
"The amount of time spent watching television is still increasing: viewers watched two more hours of TV per month in Q1 2010 than in Q1 2009"
Fact #3) 96% of all retail activity is done in a store. 4% is done on line.

Source: U.S Census Bureau News, U.S. Department of Commerce. May 18, 2010
"E-commerce sales in the first quarter of 2010 accounted for 4.0 percent of total sales."
Fact #4) DVR owners watch live TV 95% of the time. 5% of the time they watch recorded material.

Source: Duke University News and Communication, Duke Research Advantage, May 4, 2010
"TiVo households still watch the huge majority (95 percent) of their TV live, meaning few commercials can be skipped."
Source: Journal of Marketing Research, Dec. 22, 2009 "Do DVRs Influence Sales?"
"We find that 3,486 of the 70,389 shows watched (5%) were viewed after being recorded."
Fact #5)  99% percent of all video viewing is done on a television. 1% is done on line.

Source: Nielsen Three Screen Report, Q1 2010
Weekly Time Spent in       Hours:Minutes   
On Traditional TV                35:34
Watching Video on Internet  0:20
Fact #6) The difference in purchasing behavior between people who use DVRs to skip ads and those who don’t: None.

Source: Duke University News and Communication, Duke Research Advantage, May 4, 2010
"In partnership with Information Resources Inc. (IRI) and TiVo, Mela and colleagues from The University of Chicago and Tilburg University conducted a multimillion-dollar, three-year field study in which some households were given a DVR and their shopping behavior was compared to those without one. The authors tracked purchases of new products, advertised products and store brands across 50 categories as well as the viewing behavior of those with the DVRs.

No matter how the researchers looked at it, DVRs did not affect what people bought. This conclusion astonished the researchers."
Fact #7) Since the 1990s, click-through rates for banner ads have dropped 97.5%.

Source: Li, Hairong; Leckenby, John D. (2004). "Internet Advertising Formats and Effectiveness" & DoubleClick Benchmark Report 2009

Fact #8) Since the introduction of TiVo, real time TV viewing has increased over 20%.

Source: NielsenWire, November 10, 2009

Fact #9) Baby boomers dominate 94% of all consumer packaged goods categories. 5% of advertising is aimed at them.

 Source:  Marketing Daily,  July 22, 2010
  "Nielsen's research says Boomers dominate 1,023 out of 1,083 consumer packaged goods categories...Nielsen estimates that only 5% of advertising dollars are currently targeted toward adults 35-64 years"

Fact #10) TV viewers are no more likely to leave the room during a commercial break than they are before or after the break.

 Source: Council for Research Excellence, May 10, 2010
 "A similar pattern emerges with room changes: 19% change rooms in the four minutes before a commercial break; 20% during; and 21% in the four minutes after programming returns."
Once again, let me state what I've stated a thousand times already. I have nothing against the web. As a matter of fact I am a web junkie. What I try to expose in this blog are the outrageous claims and  misleading data of web hustlers.

There are very few activities more hopeless than trying to talk dispassionately to a true believer.

What Surprised You Most?

Last week, we ran a post called Top 10 Double-Secret Unknown Facts About Advertising. It was quite popular and was tweeted and re-tweeted a lot.

I am curious to know which of the facts surprised you most?

Please take a minute to click on the facts you found most surprising. You can select up to three.

You can also send this poll to others by clicking on the "Share This" button near the "Vote" button. Thanks.

I'll report back with results later this week.

September 20, 2010

Wankfest 3000

If you're like me, you get about 5 emails a day imploring you to go to some horrifying conference about The History of Search Engine Optimization or some equally terrifying subject.

Usually, these conferences are produced by amateur bullshit artists like the 4As, and feature speakers who are also amateur bullshit artists -- like agency CEOs and digital masters of the universe.

But what if professional bullshit artists put on an agency conference? That's right, I mean bloggers!

If ad bloggers put on an advertising conference imagine the fun.

It would be like a toga-party version of a 4As convention. I even have a name for it (which I stole from the great George Parker) Wankfest 3000.

We'd have it at some dreadful sink-hole in Las Vegas. 

We could have expert panels on topics like...
  • I Got Your Digital Solution Right Here
  • Social Media Consultants: Is Waterboarding Enough?
  • 5 Surefire Ways To Nail The Receptionist
    I think we'd kick it off with a little parade. Then we'd have a "come-as-your-favorite-agency-holding-company" party. Next we'd have an account planner pie-throwing contest.

    Finally, we'd gather up everyone in the industry with the word "Global" in their title and make them walk down to Dairy Queen in their underwear and bring us back Blizzards.

    Then everyone could get shit-faced and spend 2 days sleeping it off. And it would all be tax-deductible!

    Who's in?

    September 16, 2010

    Top 10 Double-Secret Unknown Facts About Advertising

    As all AdContras know, the marketing and advertising industries have been hijacked by web-addled digi-maniacs who don't know a fact from a fart.

    Those of us who like to operate our businesses on the basis of facts, not "buzz"' and baloney, are in an ongoing state of war with web marketing hustlers and their endless feedback loop of misleading information.

    So, as a service to my loyal, long-suffering AdContras, I have put together the Top 10 Double-Secret Unknown Facts About Advertising. It is a little crib-sheet to help you fight the forces of ignorance and trendiness wherever you may find them.

    Top 10 Double-Secret Unknown Facts About Advertising
    1) 99.9% of people who are served an online display ad do not click on it.

    2) TV viewership is now at its highest point ever.

    3) 96% of all retail activity is done in a store. 4% is done on line.

    4) DVR owners watch live TV 95% of the time. 5% of the time they watch recorded material.

    5) 99% percent of all video viewing is done on a television. 1% is done on line.

    6) The difference in purchasing behavior between people who use DVRs and those who don’t: None.

    7) Since the 1990s, click-through rates for banner ads have dropped 97.5%.

    8) Since the introduction of TiVo, real time TV viewing has increased over 20%.

     9) Baby boomers dominate 94% of all consumer packaged goods categories. 5% of advertising is aimed at them.

     10) TV viewers are no more likely to leave the room during a commercial break than they are before or after the break.
    If you would like to print a nice, clean copy of this list and pin it up on your boss's wall, you can find it here.

    Here are my sources:
    1. DoubleClick, Benchmark Report, 2009
    2. Nielsen Three Screen Report, Q1 2010
    3. U.S. Department of Commerce, Q2 2010; Nielsen Three Screen Report, Q1 2010
    4. Duke University, Do DVRs Influence Sales?
    5. Nielsen Three Screen Report, Q1 2010
    6. Duke University, Do DVRs Influence Sales?
    7. Li, Hairong; Leckenby, John D. (2004). "Internet Advertising Formats and Effectiveness". Center for Interactive Advertising. And DoubleClick, Benchmark Report, 2009
    8. NielsenWire, Nov. 10, 2009
    9. Marketing Daily,  July 22, 2010
    10. Council for Research Excellence, May 10, 2010

    September 15, 2010

    September 14, 2010

    Ad Contrarian Sells Out

    The other day I did a little calculation of the benefits I have accrued from writing this blog.  Here's how it turned out:
    • Dollars earned...........................................................0
    • Clients won................................................................0
    • Fabulous tables at elegant restaurants.....................0
    • Invitations to be on "expert panels".........................0
    • One-nighters with super-hot nymphos....................0
    • Nasty looks from my business partners............8,812
    As a result, I've decided it's time to drop my pretensions of integrity and sell out.

    Now, honestly, I've been trying to sell out for years, but nobody wanted to buy. Consequently, when Adweek called and asked me to adapt one of my posts for a column for them, I thought, "Hello, golden goose!"

    Images of dollar signs, and beach houses in Hawaii (I'd love to have you join us, but there just isn't room) went dancing dreamily through my mind. Fantasies of elegant meals on Park Avenue and cocktails with Barbara Lippert (I've always imagined she'd drink Bombay Sapphire martinis, straight up, with an olive) appeared before me, making me giddy or woozy or dippy or one of those silly words.

    Then, like a bucket of cold water, reality reared its ugly head.

    Not only do they pay bupkis, they don't even have a beach house in Hawaii! Cheap-ass bastards.

    But I have a plan. It's essentially the drug dealer strategy applied to publishing. I'll give them the first column free. When their readers scream for more, or my readers bombard them with glowing comments (which I would never encourage, but certainly wouldn't want to stand in the way of, if you get my drift) then I'll really stick it to 'em.

    Here are some of the non-negotiable demands I'm thinking of making:
    • A new magazine called Adcontrarianweek.
    • A guarantee that they'll publish my next book, which has been sitting on my desk for a year like a dead moth turning to dust.
    • Drinks with Barb
    So be sure to look for my column Advertising in the Age of Hysteria in the online edition of Adweek tomorrow.

    After years of wallowing in the putrid puddle of blogging, I'm gonna get everything I deserve!