December 31, 2011

Reviews of 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising

The following are excerpts from reviews at Amazon. You can read the full reviews here.

Brilliant stuff, funny as hell.,
Stephen McGill
Stumbled across the Ad Contrarian blog a while ago and… it is by far my favourite blog. I grabbed this wonderful book as soon as I could as I wanted to have the best of Bob close at hand…. As a long time ad guy who cut his teeth on the work of Ogilvy, Bernbach et al, I just love the way Bob thinks and writes about our crazy business and even more crazy world. This is take no prisoners kind of stuff that is just superbly written always. Buy it, read it. If you are like me it will make you laugh, make you cry and shake your head in wonder.
~5.0 out of 5 stars

George Tannenbaum
Bob is one of the smartest guys in the business. His thoughts are not obscured by fads, what's au courant or quotidian bs. He is a straight-shooter. Honest, to the point and fact-based. Qualities sorely missing in the world today.
~5.0 out of 5 stars 

You like "Mad Men"? You'll love this book.
This book is an insightful, hilarious look at what's wrong with advertising agencies, with marketing in general, and maybe even the world overall. But it isn't just for people who work in ad agencies. It's for anybody who ever saw an ad that sucked and wondered how it got that way. It's for anybody who works in any kind of job involving generation of new ideas. And yes, it's for anybody who enjoys "Mad Men." Bob Hoffman is smarter than Don Draper. He's funnier than Don Draper. And he's better looking than... Okay, like I said, Bob Hoffman is definitely smarter and funnier than Don Draper.
~5.0 out of 5 stars 

I highly recommend this book
Michael Gass
Bob Hoffman's take on the advertising industry is refreshing, insightful, amusing and discerning. He keeps us grounded when our industry is in a state of flux and upheaval. He is blantantly honest and he wont be appealing to everyone. But to those who are drawn to him, find him to be a 'straight-shooter', a person who will cut through all the agency B.S. and tell you what he really thinks.
~5.0 out of 5 stars

We need more contrarians.
Jason Fox
Bob Hoffman may call himself the Ad Contrarian, but in reality he's a font of common sense.
~5.0 out of 5 stars

Funny book and even better you'll also learn something.
Len Tillem
I loved this book. I am not, thank God, in advertising but this book taught me a lot about how to avoid the BS that comes from working with other people. If you work with more than two people you should read this book.
…it's an easy, clever read and it will help you feel OK about tuning out and spacing out at office meetings. We all need that kind of help.
~5.0 out of 5 stars

This is a great book. It is better than Cats.
David A. Brown
I am going to read it again and again.

…I like Bob's perspective from the trenches of advertising. His writing is witty and has a no-nonsense attitude… This is a great book about advertising for people who don't like advertising.
~5.0 out of 5 stars

1,000,001 pieces of refreshing logic
Mark Trueblood
Bob Hoffman is an ad agency owner and a popular advertising blogger at "The Ad Contrarian." He is known for his hilarious skewering of the BS that inundates the advertising industry. Over the years, he has become my favorite advertising blogger because of his ability to think critically. Critical thinking and logic are two faculties in short supply in our industry, and Bob is always a refreshing read.

…Bob Hoffman's perspective is terrific because he continually digs into various heaping piles of advertising hype to discover nuggets of truth. And if he doesn't find any, he's not afraid to say how bad it stinks.
~4.0 out of 5 stars

What the boss needs to know
By Rodgersrocks
Every boss I have ever had would be better off for reading this.
~5.0 out of 5 stars

Hoffman: The Iconoclastic Craftsman,
Michael Concannon
…Bob is like a master craftsman you find in a small town that builds and sells elegant and structural sound three legged stools that will last 100 years... A handbook for smart marketers. Did I mention he is funny as hell?
~5.0 out of 5 stars

The world's second best book on advertising.

George Parker
It gives me great pleasure to review Bob Hoffman's new book… The book is a classic, a compendium of some of Bob's better posts on his blog. They are all gems…
~5.0 out of 5 stars

A must read for advertising professionals
Edward Flynn
I've been a fan of Bob's blog for a long time. His wit and insight into the business of advertising is spot on. If you, like me, have worked in the industry long enough to see the shenanigans done by agencies and clients, you will laugh at plenty of the contents of his book. Advertising is a business that is always ripe for satire and criticism which is what Bob does in spades.
~5.0 out of 5 stars

Quite possibly the best $2.99 book out there!
Sharon Krinsky
A funny, enlightening, clear-eyed look at advertising and marketing. Pleasantly didactic and cheerfully challenging of the fables and fantasies that pass for advertising principles.
~5.0 out of 5 stars

December 26, 2011

The Year In Contrariana

Every year about this time the editorial board of The Ad Contrarian gets together for its annual year-end analysis. This consists of large plates of pasta, several pitchers of martinis, and an afternoon of irresponsible betting on bowl games.

Sometimes we even talk about the blog.

2011 was an interesting year here at Ad Contrarian world headquarters. Here are the highlights, as chosen by the editorial board.
  • One of the websites that measures these things had us listed as one of the world's top 50 advertising and marketing blogs (there are apparently 100 million of 'em and 99% are devoted to search engine optimization, datametrics, or some other bloodless chatter.) 
  • We passed our one millionth reader. 
  • According to the finance committee, I still haven't made my first nickel from this goddam thing. 
My Top 10 New Years Resolutions appeared on January 3rd. The first of which was... "I will not slow-dance with Eliot Spitzer." I'm proud to say that I have stuck scrupulously to this resolution. One of my personal favorite posts of the year entitled The Legend Of Marketing Man appeared on Jan. 17th.
    In February the ad blogosphere, as always, was dominated by the Super Bowl. We had 4 different posts about Super Bowl advertising. The bottom line was this: "...The game kept getting better and the spots kept getting worse." In a post called Slow Company, we had fun ridiculing the most laughable idea of the month which appeared in Fast Company and claimed that iAds (remember those?) could double the impact of Super Bowl advertising. "...Apple's iAds appear to be twice as effective as a TV spot." Yeah, right. 

    March was Pepsi-bashing month here at TAC. Our most oft-quoted post of the year, called Social Media's Massive Failure, appeared on March 21. It was about Pepsi's disastrous "Refresh Project." It received over 100 reader comments, drove social media maniacs up the wall, and became something of a viral hit with dozens of marketing blogs referencing it.

    We started April with a wonderful line from a social media expert, "We're less likely to be successful if we try to create something where people already aren't." It appeared on April Fools Day but, unfortunately, wasn't a joke. On the 26th we had a piece on how our chattering marketing geniuses were Rewriting History.

    In May, we focused on one of our favorite topics: brand babble. First we posted Brand Babble Battles Back then later in the month Now Branding Saves the World. 

    The best post from June was called How Apple Does It and was about the strategies behind Apple's marketing success and how "... It would be hard to draw-up a set of behaviors that more thoroughly repudiate contemporary marketing dogma."

    In July we celebrated our 4th anniversary of writing this thing. I can remember the day it started. I was in Arizona, it was about 250 degrees outside, and I was sitting in my hotel room with nothing to do. I decided to start a blog.

    In August, we published the most widely-read piece that has ever appeared on this blog. It was called Advertising And The Future Of Apple. The premise was that, with Steve Jobs having stepped down, advertising might be a bellwether for how Apple would face the future without his creative genius. The piece was picked up by The Wall Street Journal, CNN and others.

    The dismal record of display advertising was the subject of a piece in September entitled Clicking Toward Oblivion. Referencing the tremendous growth of display advertising despite the shockingly low click-through rates, the piece concluded that"...if we can just get the click-through rate down to zero, we'll all be rich!" 

    October featured a post called Bulletin: Ad Campaigns Are Now Dead, Too. It was a commentary on a piece in Ad Age by some social media dimwit who claimed there was no longer any need for campaign ideas. The post concluded that... "Social media madness has reached the point where the best idea is no idea."

    One of the most popular posts of the year ran at the end of November and was called My Overnight Social Media Success. It was about the launch of my second book 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising. The storyline: "I have built a social media brand. I know what it takes. I know how useless most social media bullshit is and how hard the people work who do it right."

    We ended the year in December with a guest post from God called The Ten Amendments. It was a satirical piece about religion. I was reluctant to post it because I was afraid it would draw a lot of nasty comments. Happily, it didn't. 

    Our editorial board wishes you a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year. See you next year. 

    By The Way...
    Let's face it. You're not going to do any work this week. You might as well read a good book. And if you can't find a good one, you might as well read this.

    December 21, 2011

    The Ten Amendments

    Since Christmas and Hannukah are this week, I am publishing this guest post I received recently from a Very Important Being.

    I am starting to get annoyed with you people. The universe is a large territory to cover and I’ve got a lot on my plate. I take my eye off you for a couple of thousand years and what do I find when I get back? You’re putting rings through your eyebrows and pineapple on your pizza.  What the hell is wrong with you?

    I have been reading the books that I’m supposed to have dictated. Are you kidding me? I asked some guy to knife his baby? I let my son get hung up with nails? What would I do that for? (Okay, maybe if he was Donald Trump or something.)

    Let’s get this straight. I didn’t write any of those books that I’m supposed to have written, okay? That stuff you're always killing each other over was written by people who thought I talked to them— in other words, crazy people.

    I don’t have any favorite people or favorite countries or favorite religions or favorite anything. To be honest, you're all mostly just a pain in my ass and I don’t really care that much for any of you. Although sometimes I root for the Steelers.

    Can I explain something else? I didn’t invent you. You’re here because all those little amoeba and bacteria I made needed a way to move around faster. Some of them evolved into you. Now you carry billions of them around with you everywhere you go. Mostly, you’re just rapid transit for bugs. So get over yourselves.

    The more I watch you, the more I believe you’re completely crazy and unreliable. Consequently, I have written this essay in the hope that you’ll stop acting like morons.

    I know you have your “Ten Commandments” so I’m going to call this The Ten Amendments. You can consider these amendments to the commandments. I think it’s kinda cute. Agree?

    Okay, so here are The Ten Amendments. Pay attention please:

    Amendment #1: Be Nice.
    Now how difficult is that? Quit yelling at each other and shooting each other and writing nasty anonymous comments on blogs. Would it kill you to smile a little?

    Amendment #2: Stop Whining.

    You call it praying. I call it whining. Isn’t it obvious by now that I don’t pay attention to any of that stuff?

    Amendment #3: Keep Your Stupid Opinions To Yourself.
    With all due respect, you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, so button it. Shooting your mouth off just annoys everyone.

    Amendment #4: Eat Your Salad Before The Meal

    What’s with this salad-after-the-main-course thing? What are you, French or something?

    Amendment #5: Do more screwing

    It’s a nice, inexpensive way to have a good time. And you’ll sleep better. Just one thing – close the windows so you don’t alarm the neighbors’ children.

    Amendment #6: Don’t Change Lanes So Much
    You drive like idiots. Stay in your damn lane.

    Amendment #7: Quit Watching So Much Crap

    "Kim's Fairytale Wedding?" Are you crazy?

    Amendment #8: Take Those Bluetooth Things Out Of Your Ears
    Do you really want to look like the biggest jerk at the airport?

    Amendment #9: I Don’t Think It’s So Terrible To Put Parmesan Cheese On Seafood Pasta.
    I know some people make a big fuss over this, but I wouldn’t worry about it.

    Amendment #10: Clean Out Your Closet

    You’ll feel better. Trust me.

    So that’s all you have to do. I’ve got bigger things to worry about than what you eat, and what songs you sing, and whether you kneel down or light candles or wear a hat. I’ll leave that up to you. Also, don’t  pay any attention to those people who say they represent me -- I don’t need agents.

    One last thing. Try to be helpful, okay?

    Your friend,

    December 20, 2011

    Comparing Apples and Amazons

    My recent foray into publishing an ebook has been a real eye-opener.

    I am a very big fan of Apple products. I believe they make beautiful products that are generally easy and delightful to use. The service in their retail stores is usually outstanding.

    Dealing with "corporate" Apple, however, has been a complete nightmare. They are the epitome of everything that's wrong with the tech industry. Trying to get a response from them is next to impossible. Trying to get an answer to a simple question is useless. When you get a response, trying to decipher it is beyond the abilities of mortal men. Attempting to get a live human on the phone is out of the question.

    Here's my story.

    A few weeks ago I published an ebook with Amazon. It was a pleasure. The instructions on their website were clear. Once I had it formatted, it took just a few minutes to upload it and then just a few hours for it to appear in the Amazon store.

    Having heard that publishing something to Apple's iBookstore was more complicated, I started the process weeks before Amazon. I filled out the necessary forms on line. Then I waited.

    After a few weeks I sent several emails inquiring about my application and trying to get acknowledgement that it had even been received. I heard nothing. I waited a few more weeks. I sent another email on Dec. 7th asking about the status of my account. One week later I received a return email that was completely incomprehensible.

    Not only could I not understand it, our IT guy, who manages the computer needs of 72 people spread out over 2,000 miles couldn't understand it. Not only could he not understand it, the Apple business team (we are an Apple business customer) that handles our account couldn't understand it.

    It has now been well over a month and I have no idea what the hell is going on, what the status of my book is, or where to go to find an answer.

    My opinion of Apple has taken a very significant dive. It seems that when you get beneath the surface they are no different from the rest of the tech industry. All they want to do is sell you something. Once they do, you can go screw yourself.

    By The Way:
    Thanks to everyone who has bought the book. It has been a consistent best-seller in its puny little category. If you haven't bought it yet, remember: Kim Jung Il didn't buy it either. Look what happened to him.

    December 19, 2011

    Advertising, Education, and Science

    I love science. The reason I love it is that unlike marketing and advertising, science does not obediently accept the word of "experts."

    In science, it doesn't matter what your title is, or how many awards you've won, or how many conferences you've spoken at, or how big your weenie is. If you can't prove your premise, you're done.

    No proof, no dice.

    Even today, Einstein's ideas about gravity and the speed of light are still being tested and scrutinized.

    Not so in advertising and marketing. If enough big mouths say the same things loud enough and often enough they quickly become facts.

    As most readers of this blog know, I am highly skeptical of many of the claims made about the magical powers of digital advertising.

    While I believe that people searching for products online are very good prospects for advertising (e.g., Google), 95% percent of time spent online is not spent searching for products (that's a guess) and advertising that is directed at people during that 95% is overwhelmingly ignored (that's a fact.)

    I was insomniating the other night and it occurred to me that perhaps a good analogy for the effectiveness of digital communication in advertising is the effectiveness of digital communication in education. While there are obviously some huge differences, there are also some similarities.

    Marketing experts have been warning us that unless we commit ourselves fully to digital technology, we will die. Shiv Singh, head of digital for Pepsico America Beverages, says "There's no questions that we live in an age of do or die."

    Similarly, education experts have been saying that digital communication technology is the only way to dig ourselves out of the education mess we have created.

    In 1997, a committee appointed by then President Bill Clinton, which included Charles Vest, president of MIT and Charles Young, ceo of Hewlett-Packard, warned us that we had an urgent need to bring computer technology to our classrooms. The fact that there was  inadequate research on the effectiveness of classroom computers didn't bother them. They concluded...
    “The panel does not... recommend that the deployment of deferred pending the completion of such research.”
    They, too, were in a big "do or die" hurry.

    In addition to issuing hysterical warnings about the dire consequences of not adopting their pet panaceas, educators and marketers also face challenges that are similar.

    First, they have to decide what to do with a fixed and limited budget. Would a school district get better results for its money by hiring more teachers, putting computers in classrooms, paying for more teacher training, buying more books, or doing any number of other things with its budget?

    Similarly, would a marketer get better results by hiring more sales people, buying a spot on the Super Bowl, doing trade incentives, creating an online advertising program, or doing something else with their money?

    A second resemblance is that digital technology seems attractive in both cases because not only does it promise a new way of communicating, it also promises a more engaged participant. The undeniable allure of technology is assumed to create a more engaged individual -- whether that individual is a student or a consumer.

    Finally, in both cases digital technology also presumably provides a more interactive experience -- an end to the one-way communication style of teacher-to-student or marketer-to-consumer.

    With those parallels in mind I started to do some research to see how wired classrooms were doing. The results were enlightening.

    From a paper called "No Access, No Use, No Impact: Snapshot Survey of Educational Technology in K-12" issued jointly by researchers from the University of Michigan and The University of North Texas, we learn...
    There is general agreement that computing technologies have not had a significant impact on teaching and learning in K-12 in the U.S., even though billions of dollars have been spent in purchasing, equipping, and supporting the technology.
     From The New York Times piece entitled "Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops" we learn...
    ...the Liverpool Central School District, just outside Syracuse (NY), has decided to phase out laptops starting this fall, joining a handful of other schools around the country that adopted one-to-one computing programs and are now abandoning them as educationally empty — and worse...
    “After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none,” said Mark Lawson, the school board president...
    ...the United States Department of Education released a study showing no difference in academic achievement between students who used educational software programs for math and reading and those who did not...
    In one of the largest ongoing studies, the Texas Center for Educational Research, a nonprofit group, has so far found no overall difference on state test scores between 21 middle schools where students received laptops in 2004, and 21 schools where they did not. 
    In a second NYTimes article called "In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores", we learn...
    ...the Kyrene School District (in Chandler, AZ) as a whole, offer what some see as a utopian vision of education’s future...
    ...the district’s use of technology has earned it widespread praise. It is upheld as a model of success by the National School Boards Association, which in 2008 organized a visit by 100 educators from 17 states who came to see how the district was innovating. 
    The digital push here aims to go far beyond gadgets to transform the very nature of the classroom, turning the teacher into a guide instead of a lecturer, wandering among students who learn at their own pace on Internet-connected devices.
    Advocates for giving schools a major technological upgrade — which include powerful educators, Silicon Valley titans and White House appointees — say digital devices let students learn at their own pace, teach skills needed in a modern economy and hold the attention of a generation weaned on gadgets.
    But The Times points out that there is one little problem...
    Since 2005, scores in reading and math have stagnated in Kyrene, even as statewide scores have risen.
    There is one big difference between educational usage of digital communication and advertiser usage. Because educational usage is publicly funded, there is substantial pressure to provide evidence of effectiveness. This is not the case in advertiser usage in which positive results are often trumpeted and negative results are usually buried.

    Regarding the investment of large sums in digital learning  technology, “There is insufficient evidence to spend that kind of money. Period, period, period,” says Larry Cuban, education professor emeritus at Stanford University.

    According to the Times, when faced with the dismal record of digital learning, proponents pull out an argument very familiar to marketers: "engagement."  The Times reports...
    But the research, what little there is of it, does not establish a clear link between computer-inspired engagement and learning, said Randy Yerrick, associate dean of educational technology at the University of Buffalo.
    Yerrick says "engagement is a 'fluffy term' that can slide past critical analysis."

    And according to Professor Cuban at Stanford: “There is very little valid and reliable research that shows the engagement causes or leads to higher academic achievement.”

    Obviously, education and advertising are very different endeavors. But, when it comes to the power of digital communication, advocates in both fields are so sure of themselves that they are immune to facts. Or, as the astoundingly clueless director of technology at the Kyrene school district said, “If we know something works, why wait?”

    The techno-crowd in both the education and advertising industry have a lot in common.
    • They are very strong in their assertions, and very weak on proof. 
    • They continue to inflate the hysterical threat-of-not-accepting-their-solution language, despite contradictory data.
    • They think anecdotes are evidence.
    • When data does not support their position, they jump to false goals -- like the dubious "engagement" argument.
    There is a lesson to be learned here. Whether you are selling cheeseburgers, trying to lift the educational achievement of children, or operating in any other field of endeavor, technology has so far proven to be no substitute for strategy.

    December 16, 2011


    Christopher Hitchens had such an original mind that it was almost impossible to agree with him on everything. But even when you disagreed, you continued to be in awe.

    I still can't get used to the idea that people really die.

    The wise understand by themselves; fools follow the reports of others”-- Tibetan proverb.

    Just In Time For The Holidays -- Contrar-A-Thon!

    I read an article in The Wall Street Journal last week that said the way to get a best-selling ebook is to sell it for 99¢.

    Since it doesn't cost me anything to print the book -- it's just a bunch of electrons or pixels or something -- I thought, what the hell, let's sell it for 99¢ and see what happens.

    So for the next five days, you can get my new book 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising for just 99¢. Now this isn't just some ordinary dumb-ass ad book. This is a very special dumb-ass ad book. Go to Amazon and you'll see that some of my best friends really brilliant people have written rave reviews about it. This is a book that once held the #2 sales position among all advertising ebooks (it's like being the smartest kid in the dumb class.)

    Now, being an ad guy, I figured I needed to brand this special one-time offer. So we're going to call it (drum roll) Contrar-A-Thon! -- yeah, that sounds like advertising.

    The good part -- no 0% APR financing or $500 cash back. You don't need a good credit score. All you need is a stinkin' buck.

    The thing is, I bust my ass everyday (okay, a few days a week) looking for stuff to write (okay, type) about advertising that isn't the usual crap (I like to think of it as unusual crap.) The least you can do is scrape the pennies out from under the driver's seat of your car and invest 99¢ in this book.

    I'm not going to make any money on the deal, but you'll make me feel good.

    Part 2: How To Read A Book
    Surprisingly, I have gotten quite a few emails from people who would like to read 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising but don't know how to do it if they don't have a Kindle.

    You can also read it on an iPad, a Mac, or a PC. It's very simple. Step by step instructions follow.

    If you have an iPad:
    1. Just go here.
    2. Click the blue "View in iTunes" button.
    3. Click OK.
    4. Once the Kindle app downloads, go here to download the book.
    5. Once downloaded, it will appear when you click on the Kindle button on your iPad.

    If you have a Mac
    1. Just go here.
    2. Click the blue "Download now" button
    3. The Kindle app will download to the applications file on your computer.
    4. Then go here to download the book.
    5. Once downloaded, it will appear when you open the Kindle app on your Mac.

    If you have a PC:
    1. Just go here.
    2. Click the blue "Download now" button
    3. Once the Kindle app downloads, go here to download the book.
    4. Once downloaded, it will appear when you open the Kindle app on your PC.

    December 15, 2011

    The Facebook Dilemma

    As Facebook prepares to go public, they face some significant problems. Like most web-based businesses that don't sell anything, they need to find a way to monetize their user base -- in this case, a base that is both enormous and loyal.

    They are obviously not the first to face this problem. The history of non-sales focused websites with large user bases achieving their assumed potential (as money earners) is not encouraging.

    As I wrote a few weeks ago in Facebook And Advertisers, they are substantially underperforming Google in generating ad dollars per time spent with them. People spend almost four times more time with Facebook than Google, but it generates about 1/7 the percent of online ad revenue.

    The problem has been that to businesses, the free part of Facebook -- a Facebook page -- is way more attractive than the paid part -- a Facebook ad.

    The other problem is that a Facebook ad currently does not fit well into either of the traditional models for successful advertising. It does not fit the "interruption" model (like a tv spot that interrupts your viewing) because the ads are small and off to the side, where they verge on invisible. As a result, the click-through rate for Facebook ads is a dismal 2 to 5 clicks per 10,000 ads served.

    Neither does it fit well into the "permission" model in which you give active permission for an advertiser to market to you -- like an opt-in -- or like search in which you give tacit permission by doing research from the site.

    On the other hand, Facebook has an enormous amount of information about an enormous number of people. The problem here is to utilize the information in a prudent way that does not scare the shit out of their customers. Fortunately for them, while they have spooked a few users from time to time, most Facebook enthusiasts have shrugged off the privacy issue.

    It is my belief that there are two ways for Facebook to grow revenue. The first is a value-added b2b or b2c product. The second is by making advertising on the page more intrusive.

    The difficulties here are obvious. How do you charge businesses for what you used to give them for free? There's not a lot of precedent for doing this successfully on line. And second, how do you make ads more intrusive without turning off your loyal users?

    Facebook has some significant obstacles to overcome to justify what is likely to be an enormous initial valuation.

    December 14, 2011

    Wrong Again

    As regular readers know, I very rarely make statements about the future. The reason is simple. I'd rather make fun of stupid predictions than generate them. Here's a perfect example.

    Over four years ago I wrote a post called "The Backlash Is Going To Come." I was about as wrong as I could be. In it I wrote...
    It's not going to take advertisers long to figure out that on-line display advertising has been a failure as an interactive medium. It can't sustain its growth for long with a response rate under two-in-a-thousand unless it's willing to take big cuts in cpm.. they will face a backlash. It may not be this week or this month, but it's coming.
    Well, since I wrote that, display advertising has boomed.
    • According to Kantar Media, display advertising grew 14.6% in the first quarter of 2011
    • eMarketer predicts display advertising will grow 24.5% for the entire year
    The amazing thing about all this is that in the intervening four years, the overall click-through rate for display advertising has dropped by half from about 2 in a thousand to less than 1 in a thousand.

    I can understand why people rushed into display advertising when it was supposed to be "interactive." But now that we know that "interactivity" is mostly an illusion, it's hard to find a logical explanation for the enthusiasm.

    But that doesn't make me any less wrong.

    I predict that in the future I will make even fewer predictions.

    December 12, 2011

    Think Like A Prussian General

    In his famous essay, Principles of War, Major-General Carl von Clausewitz postulated that one of the key principles of winning a war was to apply a preponderance of physical force and material advantage to a decisive point of conflict.

    This principle is also applicable in marketing. Sadly, however, it is rarely understood these days. Instead, we are living in the era of "360-degree touchpoints."

    The current media landscape is kaleidoscopic as never before. There have never been so many media options, or options within options. The term "online advertising" alone means so many different things that it has simply become a short-hand for twenty or more different types of advertising which have nothing in common, other than they are all delivered over the web.

    What does a Google listing have in common with a YouTube video? What does a Twitter feed have in common with a website? Nothing except the delivery system.

    In their never-ending rush to cover all their bases and produce impressive looking media flow charts, clients and agencies have forgotten Clausewitz' principle. The key to winning any battle is not spreading yourself so thin that you apply a little force in many directions. The key is to concentrate your forces so that you break through. We call this impact. Advertising that does not have impact is a waste of money.

    There are two ways to have impact. First, by doing great creative work. Second, by buying your way into the public consciousness. The first is obviously preferable, but the second also works.

    The most wasteful way to spend advertising dollars is by doing invisible creative work and diluting your media presence over "360 degree touchpoints" so that you're everywhere and you're nowhere.

    Nobody, and I mean nobody, has enough money that they can spend effectively in every medium. In fact, the whole science of media planning and buying is based on the presumption that there are ways to maximize the effect of media dollars and also ways to piss them all away.

    It's time to bury the "360-degree touchpoints" nonsense and start thinking like a Prussian general. You don't want to do a little of everything. You want to do a few things well.

    No one will ever say it better than David Ogilvy, "The essence of strategy is sacrifice."

    December 09, 2011

    The Gold Medal In Jargonomics

    Congratulations to Sprint's CMO for winning The Ad Contrarian first Gold Medal in Jargonomics. He managed to cram a remarkable stinking, reeking heap of CMO double-talk into one sentence yesterday as he announced he had fired Goodby.

    Before we get to the winning sentence, let's talk about the context. Apparently this ninny fell for the oldest agency gag in the book -- the "integrated network alliance." Publicis conned this rube into believing that by pulling in agencies from across their network and branding this hodgepodge "Team Sprint" they would be getting some extra-special double-secret agency goodness. This doesn't even pass the giggle test.

    Anyone who's ever spent 15 minutes in one of these holding company fusterclucks knows that he'll get two weeks of smiley play-acting and then a lifetime of back-biting, petty jealousies, and internecine warfare.

    But I digress...

    And now, the winning entry:
    "Team Sprint, a brand-dedicated agency ecosystem, provides an integrated, collaborative environment where the focus is on consumer needs today and in the future." 
    This guy is seriously demented. First of all, how do you write such mind-numbing bullshit and think anyone is going to believe you're anything but a clown? Then, how does he knows what Team Sprint "provides?" It doesn't even exist yet.

    He has written what is essentially a PR release for the agency that, if the agency had written it, would get them laughed out of any self-respecting bar in America.

    Here's how our judges scored him:
    • 10 points for "ecosystem"
    • 10 points for "collaborative"
    • 9 points for "brand-dedicated"
    • 9 points for "integrated"
    • 8 points for "environment"
    • 5 points for "today and in the future"
    That's 51 points in one sentence. A very impressive performance.

    I'm sure there are CMO jargonistas all over the world seething with envy.

    December 08, 2011

    Festival Of Shameless Self-Promotion

    It has come to my attention that some of you have not yet purchased 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising. I'm afraid this is not acceptable.

    Consequently, I have created, for your reading pleasure, a list of quotes about the book that will convince you of your need to read it.

    First, some quotes from the reviews on Amazon:
    "This is take no prisoners kind of stuff that is just superbly written always. Buy it, read it. If you are like me it will make you laugh, make you cry and shake your head in wonder. "

    "A handbook for smart marketers. Did I mention he is funny as hell?" 

    "His thoughts are not obscured by fads, what's au courant or quotidian bs. He is a straight-shooter. Honest, to the point and fact-based. Qualities sorely missing in the world today."

    "The book is a classic, a compendium of some of Bob's better posts on his blog. They are all gems..."

    "His wit and insight into the business of advertising is spot on. If you, like me, have worked in the industry long enough to see the shenanigans done by agencies and clients, you will laugh at plenty of the contents of his book. ..It's a really quick read and at three bucks on kindle it's well worth it."

    "Pleasantly didactic and cheerfully challenging of the fables and fantasies that pass for advertising principles..."
    But wait...there's more. Here are some reviews from bloggers:
    From Ben Kay's blog If This Is A Blog Then What's Christmas?
    From George Parker's blog AdScam

    From Vinny Warren's Escapology

    From Mark Trueblood 
    So, please, I know this is really obnoxious. Don't make me do it again.

    5 New Ideas For Stimulating Sales Of "101 Contrarian Ideas..."
    1. Now with easy-to-bake holiday cookie recipes.
    2. The part about the really resourceful Swedish girl
    3. Pictures of Kim Kardashian's ass
    4. Write your "101 Contrarian Ideas..." true story about how it changed your life and put it on our Facebook page and, I don't know, we'll give you 20 million dollars or something.
    5. Change the title to "Steve Jobs"

    December 06, 2011

    First Comes The Sale. Then Comes The Social.

    Now that I'm an Official Social Media Expert, I thought I'd give you a little lecture -- because that's what we Social Media Experts do. 

    The subject of today's lecture is this: Where does social media marketing fit into the marketing "ecosystem." See, now I even talk like a knucklehead.

    Social mediacrats, agency trendsetters, and marketing conference blowhards have been assuring us dumb bunnies for years that traditional forms of advertising are essentially extinct and social media is the future.

    It has been my opinion that, professionally speaking, they're full of crap. I happen to believe that you have to be seriously demented to risk the future of your business on your customers' inclination to talk you up. Does social media lightning strike every now and then? Sure. But are you going to take gobs of money (like Pepsi did) and bet the house on it? Good luck.

    Unless you've already built a strong social media foundation over a period of years, social media is mainly a good way to maintain healthy customer relations and provide your business with some nice sales promotion opportunities.

    But it's important to keep reminding yourself that social media marketing is not magic and most of what is written and said about it is nonsense. There is very little evidence that it has much value as a brand builder or customer acquisition driver.

    Of course, we are in a post-evidence world, and if enough pompous twits say something often enough and loud enough, it becomes truth.

    According to the aforementioned twits, advertising has a new tripartite purpose -- to create engagement, to foster conversations, and to build communities. In other words, to support the allegedly new "social" nature of marketing.

    Let's slow down and think about it for a moment.
    • When is the last time you were engaged with a product you hadn’t yet used?
    • When have you ever spawned a conversation about a brand you had no experience with?
    • When have you joined a community devoted to goods you’ve never tried?
    The answer is, probably never.

    That's because the twits have it all backward. Engagement, conversation and community don't lead to buying, they follow it. You don't recommend things you've never tried. Duh.

    And that's why the purpose of advertising remains, as it has always been, to sell someone something.

    First comes the sale, then comes the social.

    December 05, 2011

    TV Just Won't Stay Dead

    It's been a long time since we checked in on the death of television.

    In about 2007, as the economy was going into the tank and the ad industry was bleeding money our chattering marketing geniuses, pundits, and visionary journalists developed a "narrative" that television was dying. Of course, TV was being killed by the web. Why would we watch TV anymore when we had YouTube and Hulu and TiVo?

    Well, from time to time the investigative staff here at Ad Contrarian world headquarters likes to check up on the imperious assertions of our chattering experts and see how they're doing.

    The big story last week was that Nielsen is predicting that the number of US households with TVs is going to drop next year for the first time in history. All the way down to 97% -- ohmygod!

    So to get the real story we did something that takes exceptional courage and determination. We read all the way through the 2010-2011 Nielsen report on TV viewing. If you've ever attempted this, you know it's not for the faint of heart.

    Wading through 32 pages of charts, graphs, columns, percentages, distributions, circles, arrows, pies and bars we were able to actually find some interesting facts that you'll never read because they're out of sync with what the media decided 5 years ago

    During the 2010-11 season:
    • Average household TV viewing increased more than an hour a week from the previous year
    • Average household TV viewing increased to 59 hours and 28 minutes a week (when do these people sleep?)
    • Average household TV viewing reached almost 8 1/2 hours a day (when do they work?)
    • Average household TV viewing has increased almost 12% from 2000
    • Average household TV viewing has reached its highest point ever
    Sound dead to you?

    Book Update:
    Several people have asked about a print version of the book. It is in the works and I hope it will be available before Christmas. Thanks to all the people who have written and tweeted nice things about it. Remember, you're allowed to write a glowing customer review right here.

    December 04, 2011

    Keeping Poetry Alive

    Allow me to tell you the fable
    Of a story I followed on cable
    'bout a fellow named Herman
    Who had the girls squirmin'
    Apparently this Cain was able

    If you liked the poem, you'll love the book.

    December 02, 2011

    Random Thoughts On A Friday

    Some Thoughts About Apple
    • The Steve Jobs book is terrific. Jobs was apparently a total pain in the ass and a complete dick -- as some brilliantly creative people are. (I only got to meet him once, for about 15 seconds.) Jobs was a walking, talking warehouse of contradictions. My only gripe with the book -- a little repetitious.
    • Why does Apple make things so hard? Last week my book 101 Contrarians Ideas About Advertising was published at Amazon in the Kindle format. It was a breeze. I published it in less than an hour. At this writing it's the #2 advertising eBook at Amazon. (Fucking Tipping Point.) On the other hand, about 4 weeks ago I sent in my red tape "paperwork" to Apple to get the book published at the iBookstore. Not only have I not heard from them, there is no way to even find out if they received the paperwork or what the status is. What a pain in the ass.
    • I bought a new MacBook Air about 2 months ago. After a few weeks it started randomly running out of memory when there should have been 100's of gigs left. I struggled with this for weeks. It disrupted my work and cost me hours of frustration and anxiety. Finally our IT guy discovered that this was a "known problem" to Apple. If it was a "known problem" I'd like to know why they didn't let us buyers know so we wouldn't have to go through the torture that I went through? They have fixed it, but that doesn't take away the time I wasted or the aggravation I suffered. By the way, I hate Lion.
    Tips For Authors
    This week I stumbled upon a blog post by Seth Godin called Advice For Authors from a few years ago. I wish I had found it several months ago. Some great advice in it if you are a writer.

    The Herman Cain Affair
    This whole thing makes me sick. I don't give a damn about Herman Cain and would never have voted for him, but the hypocrisy of this country on the subject of sex is just appalling. If sexual purity ware a condition of employment the following people would never have been president: Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson. Not to mention probably every other president we've had. Can't we just stipulate that everybody lies about sex and get on with it?