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.