April 29, 2011

Everyone's Business But Our Own

The ad industry is a mess. We don't even know who we are or what we do anymore.

This point was made embarrassingly clear in two articles this week. The first in AdAge was called "Adland's Identity Crisis Leaves Clients' Heads Spinning."

The point of the piece was that 
"...ad agencies are fighting harder than ever to stay ahead of the curve. But a funny thing has happened: They're now meeting in the middle."
The second, in Adweek, entitled "Marketers to Digital Shops: Diversify or Die" held that...
"...digital shops that don't diversify their offerings face the same creeping irrelevance as traditional agencies that give lip service to digital..."
The essence of the problem was nicely summed up by David Lubars of BBDO who put it this way:
"Everybody is trying to race up the hill from either side."
One of the things agencies always preach to clients is the critical importance of differentiating their product. And yet, in contradiction of that advice we all try to be everything to everyone.

Is there a type of business that is less competent at differentiating what it does from its competitors than an ad agency?

I have a tag line for us...

The Advertising Industry. We know how to run everyone's business but our own.

April 28, 2011

Sick Of The Click

One of the principles behind the enthusiasm for online display advertising is the idea that it is "interactive."  Advocates for online advertising make the case that interactivity between a person and an ad makes the ad more engaging to the consumer and therefore, more powerful.

It's an argument that, on the surface, has a great deal of logic to it, and is hard to dispute.

However, the argument hinges on the notion that online advertising really is substantially more interactive than traditional advertising. If it is not, then the argument falls apart.

The one factor that makes an online ad more interactive than say, a newspaper or magazine ad, is that it is hyperlinked to other, deeper material -- in other words, it is clickable.

It is in the click that the essence of interactivity resides. Without clickability, an online ad is no more "interactive" than a magazine ad.

Consequently, the argument for the power of online display advertising rests on the inclination of consumers to click. If consumers are not inclined to interact, we have no reason to believe an online ad has any more potency than a newspaper ad.

A recent study demonstrates the astounding disinclination of consumers to "interact" with online display ads.

You can find the study here. Here's a summary:
  • The study "examined the advertising interactions of over 100 million anonymous user profiles and over one billion advertising impressions served in the first months of 2011."
  • They "reviewed the action lift of 100 campaigns, and brand lift reported in 400 campaigns."
  • They found "...a tiny fraction of people ever click on an ad. In fact, 99% of stable cookies examined never click on an ad. "
  • "Nearly 20% of ads that received any click activity received multiple clicks within the same impression, suggesting that these clicks were unintentional. 
  • "An examination of who tended to click paints a picture of an audience that may not be attractive to most advertisers. 
  • They may be exactly the people you don't want. "Users who are economizing click 65% more often than users who purchase frequently online."
  • Here's one you'll love. "...optimization of campaigns to achieve higher CTR may in fact be reducing brand ROI." In other words, the higher the level of "interactivity" the lower the ROI!
  • "Conclusion: ...This study should serve to caution marketers, that relying on CTR means being comfortable targeting low income, older, technologically less sophisticated consumers and recognize that most of the click ‘leads’ will go nowhere, as they were generated by unintentional clicks or will not result in a post impression action nor brand."
It should come as no surprise that the online advertising community is running as fast as it can and as far as it can from the idea of "interactivity" as measured by clicks.

The same type of revisionism that has polluted the "advertising is dead" crowd has now infected the "interactive advertising" crowd.

What once made them click, now makes them sick.

Thanks to Terry DeVoto and Sharon Krinsky for making me aware of this study.

April 27, 2011

When Marketing Geniuses Agree, Run For Cover

Today, we are posting a few quickies...

When Marketing Geniuses Agree, Run For Cover
Some follow-up to yesterday's post about how the ad pundits have been so wrong about TV.
  • TV spending accounted for about 57% of total advertising expenditures in 2010
  • TV ad spending grew 60% faster than advertising spending in general
  • TV viewing was at its highest point ever
Social Media and Business
We all know that social media is a huge cultural phenomenon. What we don't know is exactly how much its impact on business has been exaggerated by maniacal web monkeys.

According to an article in Fast Company called "Facebook Places, Foursquare: Social Media's Tiny 2% Impact On Businesses."
...Based on new data from APT provided to Fast Company, it's clear that location-based services like Foursquare and Facebook Places have--so far--had a minimal impact on businesses.

"In the tests we've seen, we generally haven't seen much of a lift in performance," (Jonathan) Marek (senior VP at at Applied Predictive Technologies) says. "There just isn't the reach in these things today to actually be able to drive the level of change in business..."
Shameless Self-Promotion
In addition to the agency thing, I've been doing some consulting lately. And surprisingly, I'm liking it. I've even hung a new shingle under that stupid dog cartoon at the top of the page.

My pitch is this: There's no shame in being confused by advertising and marketing -- they have become very confusing . But there is shame in squandering money on strategies and tactics you don’t have confidence in. Click here for clarity.

This Web Really Is Worldwide: Once in a while I like to check and see where readers of The Ad Contrarian come from. I'm always astounded. I checked yesterday. Here's where you came from:
United States, Peru, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Sweden, Brazil, Chile, Canada, India, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Romania, Argentina, Ireland, Slovenia, Italy, Russia, Norway, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Malaysia, Lithuania, Mexico, Switzerland, Kenya, Bolivia, Barbados, France, Japan, Singapore, Finland, United Arab Emirates, Croatia, Vietnam, Kenya, Denmark, Ukraine, Dominican Republic, Pakistan, Belgium, Philippines, Thailand, Hungary, Korea, and South Africa.
Thanks for visiting.

I've Come Up With A Name For My Autobiography
Ever since this quote from Vinny Warren appeared here Monday,"There and then I knew I had the title of my autobiography -- Marlon Brando's Monkey Is Dead," I've been thinking about what I should call my autoboigraphy. 

Last night, I got it -- "Artificial Intelligence."

April 26, 2011

Rewriting History

Here at The Ad Contrarian world headquarters, one of the great amusements of the past year has been watching the pundit digerati backpedaling and rewriting history.

It now seems that a few years ago when the New Age marketing apostles were yapping about the death of the 30-second spot and the impending demise of television they didn’t really mean it.

Joseph Jaffe in "Life After the 30-Second Spot," 2005...
"...now is the time to come out of my closet with this emphatic statement: The thirty-second spot - at least as it exists today - is either dead, dying, or has outlived its usefulness. Take your pick."
Joseph Jaffe on The BeanCast, 2011
"...what I wrote about in "Life After the 30-Second Spot"...I said of course television works, I mean, that's not the issue....
The cause of this revisionism is the amazing resilience of TV and TV advertising in spite of the rapid growth of online advertising.
  • The Wall Street Journal, yesterday: "Demand Builds for TV Ad Time. As rising gasoline prices and stubbornly high unemployment hold back the U.S. economy, one marketplace still appears to be as hot as ever: TV advertising..."
  • eMarketer, March 29, 2011: "2010 brought a major recovery in TV spending...with 9.7% growth... said eMarketer CEO and co-founder Geoff Ramsey. “While the growth of online advertising has been robust, it hasn’t stopped brand advertisers from keeping the bulk of their budgets flowing through TV sets.”
  • Thinkbox, January 27, 2011: "According to new figures from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB), in 2010 the average (UK) TV viewer watched 28 hours, 15 minutes of live, linear TV a week (4 hours, 2 minutes a day). This is an increase of 2 hours, 4 minutes a week (18 minutes a day) on 2009 and represents an all time high in TV viewing."
  • The New York Times, December 6, 2010: “The success story, perhaps surprisingly, has been television,” said Steve King, chief executive at the ZenithOptimedia media division of the Publicis Groupe. TV is, by his estimates, still gaining share of the overall advertising market...to 40.7 percent in 2010, from 37 percent in 2005."
So now we're getting a new version of history.

According to the new version, what the advertising experts actually meant was that online advertising wasn't really going to destroy everything in its path. The new orthodoxy is that online advertising is just another tool in our toolbox. You know, kinda like door hangers or hooter wobblers. And the way to use it properly is as part of a media mix along with traditional advertising.

They never meant to imply that other forms of advertising were obsolete or outdated. Or dead, or dying, or had outlived their usefulness.

Oh, heck, no. Our bad.

It was just idiots like us who misunderstood what they were saying when they said things like this.
  • "The post-advertising age is under way. ... the present is apocalyptic. Any hope for a seamless transition -- or any transition at all -- from mass media and marketing to micro media and marketing are absurd." Bob Garfield, Ad Age, 2009.
  • "...there's plenty of bad economic news floating around. From the price of oil to Wall Street to bailouts to the death of traditional advertising." Seth Godin, 2008
  • ...the writing is on the wall...at the end of the day, people want to consume content without the friction of having to sit down in front of a television at an appointed time....People want to see the whole show on YouTube. There is a fundamental shift in consumer behavior going on..."  From TechCrunch, November 2006 Let's Just Declare TV Dead And Move On
  • "Traditional TV won't be here in seven to 10 years...It's changing so fast that I don't know if it's even going to be that long."  From Wired, April 2007: The TV Is Dead. Long Live The TV
  • One of the founding fathers of the internet has predicted the end of traditional television....Vint Cerf, who helped to build the internet... said...that viewers would soon be downloading most of their favourite programmes onto their computers.  From The Telegraph, 2007: TV Is Dying Says Google Expert
You see, these people didn't really mean that TV, and traditional advertising were dead, they just meant...uh, you know...pizza tastes really good! Yeah, that's what they meant.

The absurd part of all this is that I guarantee you there will still be some moronic comments below defending all these knuckleheaded prognostications and asserting that I'm just a dumb fart who doesn’t get it.

By the way...
...I have nothing against Joseph Jaffe, Seth Godin, or Bob Garfield -- all of whom are smart guys and good writers. Their job, like mine, is to shoot their mouths off in a way that is provocative and entertaining. And, like me, sometimes they're going to be very wrong. Nobody bats 1.000 in this league.

The losers in this story are not the provocateurs. It is the legion of  brain dead web-monkeys who bought into the baloney that the web would "change everything." As I've said about a million times in this blog, marketers always overestimate the attraction of new things and underestimate the power of traditional consumer behavior.

April 25, 2011

True Advertising Tales, #2

Today we have our second installment of "True Advertising Tales."

It comes to us via the great Vinny Warren over at The Escape Pod in Chicago. 

This tale first appeared about a year ago in Vinny's blog. Remember, all tales featured in "True Advertising Tales" are certified 100% black angus true agency stories.

I actually heard those exact words uttered in a meeting about Budweiser superbowl advertising.   It was my first Bud superbowl meeting. Not my last. I had just been re-hired by the agency to work on beer again. My first stint two years earlier had been working on Bud Light. But I preferred Bud. So I considered working on Budweiser a step up!

So I walk into a tense, packed conference room in a Chicago skyscraper a few minutes late. Just as the Group Creative Director, rubbing his brow in an exhausted tone said “ ’…Marlon Brando’s Monkey’ is dead. That’s the good news… ”. And nobody in the room even reacts to this absurd news. They just nod silently.

I burst out laughing. “Uh, what the f**k does that mean?” I exclaimed. He explained that our co-agency on the Budweiser account, fellow Omni-Comrades Goodby Silverstein, had already sold a superbowl idea that involved a chimp voiced by Marlon Brando. The chimp wouldn’t come out of its movie star trailer until it got a Bud. And the name on the door of the star trailer read “Marlon Brando’s Monkey” (Pretty funny!) And that Goodby had even gotten Marlon Brando to agree to do the voiceover of the chimp. But that the brewery didn’t want to pay Marlon’s asking price ( a million bucks) and so they had killed that idea.

I laughed my ass off at this. That this craziness was just yet another meeting to them was hilarious to me. I was fresh to all this again. I’d had a rest. They were jaded. There and then I knew I had the title of my autobiography -- 


Big thanks to Vinny. If you have an absurd "True Advertising Tale" send it to adcontrarain@gmail.com. We will protect the names, clients, agencies and monkeys... but the stories must be told!

April 22, 2011

Women With Their Shirts Off

I had a feeling that headline would get your attention.

A short while ago Adweek asked me to comment on something for them. The premise was this: They would take two ads in the same category -- one contemporary and one from a million years ago -- and have an expert (that's me) evaluate the ads to see which was better.

They wanted the piece to be provocative, so they chose the bra category. Now, honestly, I'm not really a professional on the subject of bras. But I do like to think of myself as a talented amateur.

The article, by Adweek staff writer Robert Klara, appears as a spread in the print edition this week. These people have been unaccountably solicitous and tolerant of me, so please be sure to buy their magazine or at least read the article here.

Since they had to edit my comments to fit the article, I thought I'd reprint my complete comments because there were a few good gags they had to kill.

These are the two ads. My full comments to Adweek are below.
Maidenform vs. Victoria’s Secret

I know why you selected me to comment about womens’ underwear. It’s those rumors again, isn’t it? Well, I just want to say for the record that they’re mostly not true.

Okay, now on to the ads.

Despite the fact that the woman in the Maidenform ad…
a) has a Mouseketeer hairdo
b) is holding the pool cue like a cigar
c) has cups so alarmingly pointy they could cause permanent damage to a guy just trying to cop a little feel
…the Maidenform ad is about a thousand times better than the Victoria’s Secret ad.

You see, back in the 1960’s when the Maidenform ad ran, advertising had a secret ingredient. That secret ingredient was called a “concept.” A concept was an idea about a product that was at the core of every ad.

The concept for the Maidenform campaign was expressed in this line of copy: “I dreamed I (DID SOMETHING) in my Maidenform bra.”

Now let’s be honest here. It was a silly concept. Silly and mildly scandalous.

The silliness was forgiven by the “dream” contrivance. The scandalousness was a little more subtle. It wasn’t the first time America saw a model in a bra. But it may have been the first time we saw a model in a bra in a social situation.

What made the campaign so powerful was exactly this juxtaposition of incongruities.

The campaign, I believe, was enormously successful. In today’s dreadful parlance it had great “cultural currency” and became part of “the conversation” (God forgive me.) I can almost hear Johnny Carson cracking wise about it.

The Victoria’s Secret ad, on the other hand, has absolutely nothing going for it. It is a generic ad, featuring a model --she’s probably some super-famous super-model I’ve never heard of -- in a coquettish pose that looks like a zillion other super-models in coquettish poses. The typography is virtually unreadable. And it lacks the one thing that differentiates an ad from a catalog page – that quaint old thing called a concept.

The Maidenform ad was unmistakable. The Victoria’s Secret ad is unrecognizable.

And that, my friend, is the difference between great advertising and advertising.

By the way...
... I learned something from this exercise. When I was growing up in NYC, there was a girl in our neighborhood we used to call "pencil tits." She looked like she had two pencils standing up in her sweater. I finally know how she got that look.

April 21, 2011

The Cost Of Being First

What was the first company to do a banner ad? Who was first with an iAd? Who had the first YouTube video channel? What company had the first website, or Twitter feed, or Facebook page?

Nobody knows and nobody cares.

There are some areas of business in which being first can mean the difference between life and death. Advertising is not one of them.

While everyone wants to say they are at the “leading edge” of digital media technology, it seems to me that there is little or no advantage to it. In fact, with so many new advertising and marketing technologies evolving, there may be a greater potential risk than reward in being at the leading edge.

According to published reports, Apple has recently dropped the buy-in cost of iAds from $1 million to half-a-million. Wouldn't you just love to be the bozo who got there first?

The advertising industry has become obsessed with anointing every new media technology “the thing that will change everything.” Don’t be stampeded by this baloney.

You have plenty of time to analyze what is working and why. Digital technology is not going away. Understand the options and implement them prudently. The people who develop them will be happy to sell them to you fifteen minutes after they are proven successful

Remember one of my axioms: There is no bigger sucker than a gullible marketer convinced he’s missing a trend.

Yesterday, someone tweeted a link to something I wrote about a year and a half ago called "The Cluefree Manifesto." It was a spoof of "The Cluetrain Manifesto." I had forgotten all about it, and when I read it I got a few laughs (me? narcissistic? no way.) Anyhoo, I thought some new readers might enjoy it so here's a link.

April 20, 2011

The Surrender Continues

About a year ago, I wrote a piece called Gutless Ad Weasels.  In it I said...
"There is a growing movement among self-hating ad people to declare failure and join the army of digital dimwits."
Well, the movement has gathered momentum and has now lead to its logical absurdity. You can find it in an Adweek article called Good Advertising Doesn't Sell. A Manifesto.

I've read this "manifesto" three times and I still can't believe what I've read. It starts with this...
"..It’s time for ad agencies to get out of the selling business....The old selling claim—that brilliant creative work and clever media placement could convince any consumer that he or she needed a product—was always pretty shaky anyway..."
Really? In one alarmingly presumptuous statement he has dismissed all the work and wisdom of Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy, Lee Clow, Hal Riney, Jeff Goodby, Dan Wieden...

Has this guy ever heard of Coke? Or McDonald's? Or Nike? Or Toyota? Or Apple? Or Budweiser? Or Absolut? Or Subway? Or Geico? Or...

And this guy is in the ad business? What the hell has this business come to?

Then he goes all wobbly over people using their cell phones at point of sale. He uses the typical digi-trick of giving pseudo-impressive numbers out of context, and hoping no one will analyze them...
"....Shoppers worldwide are using their phones to rack up purchases that will shortly surpass $100 billion annually—nearly 8 percent of the total ecommerce market..."
Wow. Nearly 8% of the total ecommerce market!

Let's do a little 4th grade math. According to the US Department of Commerce, ecommerce constitutes 4% of US sales. So 8% of 4% equals... not even one percent. Not even half of one percent. Golly, that's huge!

I don't know about you, but I'm in at least 10 different stores every day of my life and I have yet to see anyone use a cell phone to do anything other than call his wife to ask what she wants on her pizza.

As usual, we get the full compliment of worn-out cliches and digi-babble.  Everything is going to increase either "geometrically" or "exponentially;" we get nonsense like "Linear has become nuclear;"  we learn that we need "nuclear integration" and "mobile connectivity" and, of course, what would a "manifesto" be without a little "paradigm shifting."

All this baloney may go down nice and smooth in a new business pitch with the current crop of marketing nitwits but, please -- don't kid a kidder.

April 19, 2011

Wouldn't It Be Great

Wouldn't it be great if there were hundreds of different YouTubes?
And they were technologically advanced so the video didn't start and stop and drive you crazy while it was loading and bufffering?
And the content wasn't 99% home-made crap, but was actually professionally done?
And you could watch long-form stuff, like movies?
And you didn't have to fuss with it and waste time searching for stuff?
And, in addition to video, you could see stuff happening in real time?
Wouldn't that be great?

Oh wait a minute.
There is something.

Never mind.

April 18, 2011

True Advertising Tales

Today we introduce a new feature here at The Ad Contrarian called "True Advertising Tales." These are all certified 100% black angus actual agency stories.

Today's True Advertising Tale comes to us from an agency creative director who overheard and documented the following conversation.

Account Supervisor:  So, we got 11.6 million impressions for the online campaign.

Account Director:  Great! How many emails did we capture?

Account Supervisor:  Nine.

Account Director:  Nine?

Account Supervisor:  Yeah.

Account Director:  Wait...nine?!?! The number nine? Like...nine?!?!?

Account Supervisor:  Yeah.
Account Director:  You mean nine percent?

Account Supervisor:  No. Nine.
Account Director:  You're shittin' me?... Nine?!?!?
Account Supervisor:  Yeah.

Account Director:  Hold on...nine?!?!? We got 11.6 million impressions and NINE people opened the fucking email?

Account Supervisor:  Yeah.
Media Supervisor
:  Well that wasn't really our goal...

Account Director:  It wasn't our goal?? If it wasn't our goal, why the fuck did we do it? So people could IGNORE it? (PAUSE) What the fuck are we gonna tell the client?!?! Nine?!?!? Really?!?!? Nine?!?
Account Supervisor:  Yeah.

Account Director::  Oh my fucking god...NINE???!!!
If you have a True Advertising Tale, please send it to adcontrarian@gmail.com and if it's insane enough we will publish it here, anonymously. We will protect the names, clients, and agencies... but the stories must be told!

April 15, 2011

Speaking Words Of Wisdom

It's been a long, hard week.

Then you had to pay your taxes.

You deserve something spiritually uplifting to start your weekend.

Take a deep breath and click "play."

If this doesn't cheer you up, nothing will.

April 13, 2011

Here Comes The Government

Back in December I wrote a piece for Adweek called Big Brother Has Arrived, and He's Us. In the article I talked about the dangers of tracking on the internet.
"There’s no reasonable way that this is a good development for a free society. There is no realistic vision of the future in which this will not lead to appalling mischief.
It’s time for us to say no. It’s time to put aside our petty self-interest, take a step back and see where this is leading. We need to stop tracking people and their behavior now."
Of course, this will never occur. There is way too much money being made on digital advertising for anyone to act responsibly.

So inevitably what happens in circumstances like this is that the heavy hand of government steps in to regulate. The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week that...
"...legislation (that) would call on the California attorney general to force affected businesses to provide users a way to avoid having their personal information and online activity tracked..." was being introduced into the state legislature.
According to the 4A's...
"...the Judiciary Committee of the California State Senate has tentatively scheduled a hearing on April 26 to consider a new proposal... which seeks to become the country’s first do-not-track consumer privacy law."
There is an outrageous amount of personal data being collected. It is too accessible, and anyone who takes promises of internet privacy and security seriously is an idiot.

But you can bet by time the knuckleheads in government are finished with this, the regulations they enact will be way more daunting than if the greedy bastards in the industry had just acted sensibly and responsibly in the first place.

Clowns to the left of me,  jokers to the right...

April 12, 2011

How To Improve Your BS Detector

In high school, we were taught that everything in the world is made up of just a few elementary particles like electrons, protons and neutrons.

It's the same in advertising. As I've said on other occasions, the advertising industry is made up of just two elementary components -- ads and bullshit.

Consequently, one of the most valuable skills today's busy ad professional needs to develop is the ability to differentiate between bullshit and not bullshit.

There are a number of methods that work well. One that I have been utilizing recently is what I call the "for example" method.

Here's how it works.

Let's start with something that's not bullshit. Tom says, "There are a lot of crappy shows on TV." Jane challenges that and says, "Give me an example." It's hard to say what show Tom might give as an example. This is because Tom's statement is true and there are an abundance of stinky TV shows Tom could cite.

Now let's take a look at something that is bullshit and see how a similar scenario plays out. Tom says, "Twitter is a great way to generate big sales." Jane challenges that and says, "Give me an example." We absolutely know, in advance, what example Tom will give -- either Zappos or Old Spice. How do we know this? Because Twitter is not a reliable way to generate big sales, and the only serious examples that exist are a tiny number of cases that are far outside the normal range.

I found this method to be valuable during the great account planning scare of the '90's. Whenever someone would make some outrageous claim about the magical power of account planning, I would ask for examples. I would always get the same example -- "got milk."

So here's the "for example" principle of bullshit detection: If you know -- in advance -- the only examples an advocate for a general proposition can cite, then what he's advocating is probably bullshit.

And speaking of BS......scientists now say that what we were taught was wrong. Electrons, neutrons, protons and the like are not the elementary particles that everything is built with. As a matter of fact, most of the universe is constructed of stuff we can't even detect called "dark matter." The universe is strange. Even stranger than advertising.

Apologies... for a goof in yesterday's post. Usually when I screw something up I can fix it quickly. Yesterday I was on an airplane all day and couldn't.

April 11, 2011

Test Your Online Advertising Knowledge

Here's a quiz to test your knowledge of online advertising and marketing.

1.  How many ads does Facebook serve on a daily basis?
a) 64,000
b) 640,000
c) 64,000,000
d) 64,000,000,000
2. You are twice as likely to be over 95 years old than to...
a) click on a Facebook ad
b) be on the first page of a Google search
c) have more than 100 viewers of your YouTube video
d) have more than 100 Twitter followers
3) 8% of internet users:
a) have accounts at Amazon.com
b) have never done a Google search
c) account for 85% of all ad clicks
d) cannot read
4) The percent of consumers who say they want to interact directly with companies online:
a) 13%
b) 33%
b) 46%
d) 70%
5) The number one reason people "unlike" a brand on Facebook is:
a) the brand posts too many updates
b) the brand's Facebook page has too many ads
c) the brand tries to sell them something
d) the brand has a negative story in the news
6) When you go to Dictionary.com to look up a word, how many tracking files do they install on your computer?
a) None
b) 7
c) 18
d) 234
7) 1/4 of all search engine requests:
a) are misspelled
b) are for pornography
c) are for a restaurant
d) concern pop music
8)  66% of US marketers track increases and decreases in friends, fans, and followers for their social media efforts. What percent track sales for their social media efforts?
a) 12%
b) 29%
c) 56% 
d) 83%
9) 84% of Internet users:
a) never buy anything online
b) never click on an ad
c) never empty their email trash
d) have at least 4 different email accounts
10) What percent of US commerce is conducted on line?
a)   4%
b) 11%
c) 26%
d) 38%

1) Facebook serves up 64 billion ads a day. The correct answer is d.
2) One in a thousand Americans is over 95 years old. 5 in ten thousand Facebook ads get clicked on. Therefore, a person is twice as likely to be over 95 than click on a Facebook ad. The correct answer is a.
3) 8% of internet users account for 85% of all clicks. Another 8% account for the remaining 15%. The correct answer is c.
4) Only 13% of Americans say they want to interact with companies. The correct answer is a.
5) The number one reason people say they "unlike" a brand on Facebook is that brand "overshares." The correct answer is a.
6) According to The Wall Street Journal, when you look up a word on Dictionary.com, they place 234 tracking files on your computer. Correct answer, d.
7) According to Brigham Young University, 25% of all internet searches are for pornography, b.
8) While 2/3 of all companies with social media programs track friends, followers, etc., only 29% track sales, b.
9) 84% of internet users never click on an ad. The correct answer is b. (see #3 above)
10) According to the US Department of Commerce, 4% of commercial activity occurs online. 96% occurs off line. The correct answer is a.

How did you do?

Correction: When I first posted this, in Question #1 I mistakenly had "YouTube" instead of "Facebook." You see, even bloggers aren't perfect.

April 07, 2011

Let The Strategy Breathe

One of the eternal problems for agency creative directors is the question of strategy versus execution.

How much of advertising should be strategy -- the left brain part, and how much should be imagination -- the right brain part?

In a perfect world creative directors would never have to face this issue. Every brief would contain a glorious strategy and every execution would be brilliant. I am sad to report, however, that the world is not yet perfect.

Way over on the left brain side of the argument we have the strategy slaves (see point 2 here.) These are the people who think advertising is all logic, and the soundest argument wins. They want to turn every ad into a court case.

Way over on the right brain side we have the overfed art students who think the average consumer gives a shit about how cutting edge their ads are.

So what's the answer?

My advice is this. If you are the lucky receiver of a brilliant strategy, you have little to fear. Brilliant strategies often suggest brilliant ideas. But even if you can't develop a great creative idea, a terrific strategy gives you the freedom to just be clear.

Sadly, the chances of you being presented with a brilliant strategy are slim. 97.48% of ad strategies are actually absence of strategy. They are cleverly disguised derivatives of one of these non-strategies:
a) Quality and value
b) We're young and cool
c) We're just like you!
If you do not  have the benefit of a brilliant strategy, your only weapon is creativity.

Err on the side of imagination. Don't be a slave to a mediocre brief. Interpret it loosely. Let the strategy breathe.

April 06, 2011

4 Questions For The Digerati

Let's face it. Digital advertising has been a godsend for the advertising industry.

Three years ago, when the recession hit, the ad business was dead in the water. Digital saved our ass.

For those naifs who believe the nonsense that ad agencies were slow to adopt digital because they could make more money on TV, I can only say forget it. I'll be clearing up that baloney right here next week.

So, to those digital wizards who helped bail out this industry, I say thank you from all of us.

But I have few questions for you.

1. Be honest. If last year Pepsi-Cola had dumped a significant social media effort and instead spent tens of millions of dollars to launch a new TV campaign, and in the ensuing year Pepsi had lost 5% of it's market share, had dropped from second to third place in its category, had seen its market share erode at 10 times the rate of its rival, would you not --after a year -- call this TV campaign a failure? I think we know the answer. If so, why are you unwilling to apply the same standards to social media that you do to traditional media, and call Refresh a failure?

2. Often advertisers will launch multi-million dollar TV campaigns. Often enough these campaigns will fail. When they fail, why do I never hear anyone say that you can't blame TV? Why do I never hear anyone make the excuse that because TV is only part of the media mix and you need an integrated media effort, TV is not to blame? Why, in my over 200 years in the ad business, have I never heard this excuse for failed TV campaigns, but I hear it weekly for failed social media and digital advertising efforts?

3. After a decade as mainstream media, radio and television advertising had each built scores, if not hundreds of mainstream consumer brands. The web has been a mainstream medium for over a decade. Everytime I ask a digital advertising advocate to name me just one non-web-native brand that has been built by digital advertising -- just one brand of butter or soap or mayonnaise or underwear or bread or tires or clocks or frozen pizza or shampoo or cereal or batteries or golf balls....any consumer-facing non-web-native brand... why do I get a blank look and a sneer?

4. When are you going to start being honest and admit that the outrageous claims that were made about the power of digital advertising and social media were wrong? When are you going to stop using the same old handful of online advertising success stories (Zappos, Old Spice..ad nauseum) over and over again as if they were representative? When are you going to stop picking and choosing the data you provide based on its persuasiveness rather than its relevance? When are you going to come clean that, with the exception of search, online advertising has so far proven to be a tough nut to crack?

You did a great job of bailing out an industry. But unless you start talking straight and toning down the bullshit, you'll be known as the aluminum siding salesmen of the marketing world faster than you can imagine.

April 05, 2011

Passion Is A Terrible Thing to Waste

Every now and then, when I have too much time on my hands, I do a Twitter search for "adcontrarian."

It helps me gauge what people are saying about this blog. But what I find more interesting is that it gives me a sense of the type of person who is tweeting about it.

Since I am highly skeptical of the magical properties of digital advertising -- and often whine about it publicly --  I am surprised to find that a very large proportion of tweeters and retweeters of my material describe themselves as somehow involved in digital advertising or marketing.

Another interesting thing is that in the brief personal description that Twitter allows, there is a large number who describe themselves as "strategists." Apparently, the digital industry is swimming in strategists.

The adjective that these strategists use most often to describe themselves is "passionate."

If you can believe their descriptions, however, they seem to be passionate about dismaying activities like "consumer engagement," "social branding," and "web evangelism." In the good old days of advertising  all this passion might have been directed at more worthwhile pastimes like drinking and screwing. I guess social media is replacing social behavior.

On the other hand, one Twitterer succinctly and courageously described himself as a "Schmuck." You've got to admire that kind of honesty.

And for all you digital strategists out there, a tip from an old guy -- don't fritter away your passion on foolish crap like "consumer engagement," "social branding," and "web evangelism." Passion is a terrible thing to waste.

April 04, 2011

Let's Save Pepsi $10 Million

Here at The Ad Contrarian World Headquarters, we are sometimes accused of being too negative. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. Nonetheless, as Marvin Gaye once famously said, "we're all sensitive people."

Consequently, we've decided to do something positive for our friends over at Pepsi. Their Pepsi Refresh project may have turned out to be a pig's breakfast for them, but it's been a source of great material for us. And we'd like to thank them by giving them a gift of 10 million dollars.

So we gathered all the marketing professionals here at TAC World Headquarters together, and said, "We'd like to give our friends at Pepsi a gift. We need a marketing idea that's worth $10 million. Who's got one?"

We decided to call it the Pepsi Replenish project. We worked on it all week (okay, 10 minutes.) And today we are proud to announce the winning idea.

Before we do I'm afraid we're going to have to start with a little math. It's copywriter math -- always a dicey proposition -- but necessary in this case. We figure the Pepsi Refresh project cost Pepsi at least $40 to $50 million last year.

First, there was the $20 million they gave away. Then there were the TV spots and print ads they had to produce; the websites, videos, and other online assets; the printed materials including POS; the sponsorships they paid for; the cost of buying TV, print, radio and online media to support the project; the cost of evaluating the entries; the PR program; the cost of all the people managing the thing (just sending all their chief doubletalk officers to pontificate at every social media whack-a-thon alone must have cost millions.)

So, let's use the more conservative estimate and say they spent $40 million last year on Refresh.

And what did they get for their $40 million? Well, let's see...they lost 5% of their market share...they dropped to third place in their category... hmm...oh, yeah... they got about 3 million Faceboogers to say they "like" Pepsi.

As every social media expert will avow, that's a fabulous success and a brilliant use of marketing dollars. Well, believe it or not, the Pepsi Replenish project has unearthed an even brillianter idea.

Next year, Mr. Pepsi, cancel all the media, take down all the websites, tear up all the marketing materials, fire all the marketing geniuses, and send some interns out onto the street with ten dollar bills.

They can give a $10 bill to anyone who promises to "like" Pepsi. After they've handed out 3 million $10 bills, you will have another 3 million people who "like" you. But this time, it will cost you only $30 million instead of $40 million -- a savings of $10 million!

And the best part is, the 3 million people you give the 10 bucks to won't just say they like you, they really will like you. And, who knows, they might even use the money to buy some Pepsi.

Apropos today's post...

Last time I acknowledged someone for sending something he got in trouble for being mentioned in this heretical blog. Consequently I'm only going to use a first name and thank Chase for sending this cartoon. The cartoon can be found on this site, but I'm not really sure who to attribute it to.

April 01, 2011

Why You Need An MBA

I often don't post on Friday. But a post of ours from over 10 days ago called Social Media's Massive Failure continues to generate lots of attention, with thousands of people reading it every day this week.

I thought today I'd provide a few links to a few interesting writers who have also had something to say on this subject.

From AdAgeDo Campaign Failures, High-Profile Firings Signal the End of Social Media? Written by Jonathan Salem Baskin.

From Digital Tonto: Who Killed Social Media Marketing? Written by Greg Satell

From The CMO SitePepsi's Market Slide Throws Doubt on Value of Social Media Marketing. Written by Keith Dawson

And since it's April Fool's Day, let's all thank Chuck Nyren for this great video. It is a wonderful example of the type of insightful thinking that is flourishing among today's highly paid social media marketing professionals. My favorite line: "We're less likely to be successful if we try to create something where people already aren't."  

By the way, if you would like to be this confused, I'm afraid you must first earn an MBA.