February 28, 2012

Social Media, Politics, and Marketing

Ad Age had a very interesting piece on the effect of social media on politics. The conclusion they reached was that social media has not had nearly the impact claimed on politics in the US.

According to Ad Age...
"...while it is tempting to believe that the size of a candidate's online fan-base is significantly helpful in getting elected, the numbers just don't add up."
Some examples:
  • In 2010, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ran against Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle for a senate seat in Nevada. Angle had seven times the number of Facebook followers. Reid won easily. 
  • In the Republican primary race, Ron Paul has six times as many Facebook followers as Rick Santorum, but Santorum is charging and Paul is going nowhere.
  • Mitt Romney has a stronger social media presence than either Santorum or Paul yet he has lost the last three primaries.
  • According to Chuck Todd and Sheldon Gawiser who wrote "How Barack Obama Won," the often ballyhooed young social-media recruits credited with carrying him to the White House had little to no effect on the election. In fact, the 2008 election was won "by galvanizing an older population of Democrats and independents, many of whom had never used social media." 
According to Ad Age, the reason for this is "People... are far more responsive to personal messages and face-to-face peer pressure" than they are to the ravings of online maniacs.

Which is another way of saying what we've been saying here for years. "Peer-to-peer" social media recommendations are not the equivalent of word-of-mouth recommendations, are not nearly as powerful, and contrary to the assertions of social media hustlers, have not nearly the marketing value.

February 27, 2012

How Success Happens

This is an amazing success story. It was told to me by a very good friend who swore me to secrecy about the names and details. It goes something like this.

Once upon a time there was an ad agency with two chief creative officers. They had two chiefs because it was a giant agency with giant global clients that proved to be too much for one person to handle.

The two chiefs were very different. One was an artistically-minded intellectual. He was thoughtful, quiet, and introverted.

The other one was much less smart, but was highly political and great fun to be around.

These two chiefs had their own accounts, their own staffs, and generally kept out of each others' way.

They weren't quite equal though. Mr. Quiet had a higher title. His title was President/CCO, while Mr. Fun's title was Exec VP/CCO.

One day Mr. Fun got an important assignment from a client. The assignment was to do a Super Bowl commercial. This was particularly important for the agency because they had a dismal record with Super Bowl spots.

The CEO of the agency called Mr. Quiet and Mr. Fun together. He told them that although the Super Bowl assignment fell to Mr. Fun, he wanted them all to agree on a concept before it went to the client.

Mr. Fun's team worked on the assignment for weeks and developed an idea they were very excited about. When they showed it to Mr. Quiet, he hated it. He thought it was stupid, juvenile, and would cost the agency dearly. Mr. Fun loved it and thought it would be a huge success.

The CEO agreed with Mr. Fun. He also called in the executive leadership of the agency and showed the idea to them. They all agreed with Mr. Fun that it was a great spot. Mr. Quiet was unmoved and fought tooth and nail against the spot.

Mr. Quiet lost the argument and the spot was presented to the client and ultimately aired on the Super Bowl.

It was a big success.

Mr. Quiet, who was well-known but lightly regarded inside the ad industry, suddenly achieved great fame. As the president and chief creative officer of the agency that produced the brilliant Super Bowl spot, he went on to achieve godlike status.

This is not actually an advertising story. But, in honor of the Academy Awards,  it is the true story of one of the most successful movies in history.

February 24, 2012

The Future of Futurology

How do you get to be a futurologist? I want that job. You just make up a lot of bullshit and by the time it doesn't happen you've already cashed the checks.

I read a truly stunning piece of nonsense by a futurologist in a brain dead article* by a Microsoft marketing big shot the other day. The futurologist had this to say: 
'Only companies that prepare for a very different tomorrow will thrive. In short, get ready for the unfamiliar and the unknown.'
Just curious, Mr. Futurologist, how exactly do you prepare for the unknown?

My Rotten Apple
Back in December I wrote a post about the ease of getting my semi-brilliant book 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising published at Amazon's Kindle Store and the infuriating obstacles to getting it published in Apple's iBookstore.

I started the process with the iBookstore in early November. It is now almost March and I've gotten nowhere. It took months to get it "approved" for publication. Now I am in a tangled web of insanity with their amazingly unhelpful "iBookstore Team" to get it uploaded.

Lest you think that this is the disgruntled whining of a techno-idiot, I want you to know that an IT guy has been holding my hand every step of the way. Not only can't we get answers, it takes a month to get a useless reply.

Power Trip
Ad Age has something called the Power 150 in which they rank about 1,100 advertising blogs in terms of... I don't know, they just rank them.

Well, I checked yesterday and this thing was ranked number 59 in the whole freakin' world. It's a frightening thought.

Most of the top 59 aren't even about advertising. They're about unpleasant things like search engine optimization and social media and PR and web strategy and colonoscopies and just about every marketing activity except advertising. Just kidding about the colonoscopies.

Anyway, when you take away all the blogs that aren't really about advertising, we're way higher up than we have any right to be. Especially after yesterday's dumb-ass post about politics.

Spring Training
Heading down to Phoenix to do some cactus league shooting next week. Yes, it's work-related. Yes, I have the world's best job.

*Thanks to Vic at Sell! Sell! for this

February 23, 2012

The Dumb-Ass Blogger's Presidential Platform

One of the dumbest things anyone can do is waste his time with politics. It is almost always a no-win situation and no matter what you say half the people think you're an idiot.

In other words, it's perfect for this blog.

Since this past weekend was President's Day, and I've never had the pleasure of running a country, I thought I would publish my presidential platform so you can see how a dumb-ass blogger would govern this mess of a nation.

First, let's take a look at what's wrong with all our politicians. The answer here is simple. They are all ideologues. Not one of them has any practical new ideas about fixing the mess we're in other than "spend less money" or "spend more money" or "God wants us to do this or that."

I don't care about ideology. Ideology never fixed a damn thing. Ideology is for suckers. I am only interested in practical solutions to clearly defined problems.

So, next we need to define the problems. Here is my interpretation of what the core problems are:
1. Our economy sucks and there are too many people out of work.
2. We have a particularly bad problem with unemployed young men. Some are bright, responsible and just can't find work. Some have no skills, no education, and no reasonable hope for a productive future. They commit most of the crime and have been and will continue to be a drain on our society for decades.
3. As all the God botherers are quick to point out, we have a changing social fabric with over half of babies born to women under 30 born out of wedlock. I'm not in the business of making moral judgments, but there is a practical issue here. Kids born out of wedlock have a distinct disadvantage. According to the NY Times..."Researchers have consistently found that children born outside marriage face elevated risks of falling into poverty, failing in school or suffering emotional and behavioral problems." According to a study by Bowling Green University kids born into a married household “experience better education, social, cognitive and behavioral outcomes.”
Next we need to derive a set of principles to deal with these problems. Being a dumb-ass ad guy as well as a dumb-ass blogger, the principles I will apply are the ones that my agency applies to advertising problems. We call it Performance-Based Advertising (you can find it here) but for the purpose of my dumb-ass presidential platform I am going to call it Performance-Based Politics. The principles are the same, just re-purposed for a different set of problems.

Here are the 3 principles:
1. Politics is most effective when it is focused on changing behavior, not attitudes.
2. Politics should be centered on influencing the high-yield target (the group who will make the most difference.)
3. Politics should be practiced "bottom-up," with practical solutions not ideological fairy tales.
Applying these principles, we can start to see a clearer definition of what needs to be done. In one simple sentence, the best strategy for dealing with our problems is to focus our attention on creating a way to provide young people (especially young men) with marketable skills.

It is pretty obvious that everything we have tried along these lines is failing: the education system is a disaster, and providing social services makes us feel better but has little practical effect.

My presidential platform is based on a simple solution to this problem. It will not solve all the problems of the country, and there are a million little details that need to be hammered out. But it will make a huge difference and it will be the most effective single thing we can do to bring the country back around. 

We should immediately institute mandatory military service for all males over 18 years old. No exceptions, no excuses.

The first thing it will do is get millions of young men off the streets and out of trouble

The second thing it will do is give us a framework for teaching skills to young men whether they want it or not. Unlike civilian life, in the army you do what you're told.

The third thing it will do is give us a platform for teaching civic and personal responsibility to those who don't have it.

Finally, it will give them less time to get teenage girls pregnant.

It meets our 3 criteria.
  • It's about changing behavior.
  • It focuses on the high-yield target (young men)
  • It is a practical solution, not an ideological one.
It will cost a lot of money, but will also provide zillions of jobs. People will be needed to build infra-structure and a support system for this new army. They'll need housing, clothing, food, equipment, transportation. It will stimulate spending, and therefore economic activity, in dozens of industries.

Hopefully, we have finally learned not to get ourselves involved in any more unnecessary wars. With Iraq and Afghanistan drawing to a close these young men will not be sent off to fight, and can be doing productive work.

Strangely, young men coming out of the armed forces now have a higher unemployment rate than those who don't. This makes no sense to me and I'm counting on the fact that the economic stimulus that my dumb-ass platform will create will reverse this. When our young men come out of the army they will have been taught a skill; they will know how to get their ass out of bed in the morning and do something; they will have bypassed some of the most dangerous years of their lives; they will have hope for a productive life.

This is my story and I'm sticking to it. Vote the dumb-ass party!

February 21, 2012

Nike's Digital Revolutiion

We ad contras are always being accused of being anti-digital or pro-traditional. In fact, we are not anti-anything except failure and bullshit. We are not pro-anything except success and truth.

Unfortunately, so much of digital advocacy is simply assertions without proof, nonsensical pronouncements about the death of this or the end of that, and anecdotes that prove nothing, that we are often put in the position of appearing to be anti-digital.

One of the things I am always looking for here at The Ad Contrarian is evidence of mainstream, non-web native companies who have transitioned out of traditional advertising into digital advertising successfully. Recently I read about one such company. That company is Nike.

According to a story in CNN Money 
"There's barely any media advertising these days for Nike," says Brian Collins, a brand consultant and longtime Madison Avenue creative executive.

Says Jon Bond, co-founder of Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners who now runs a social media agency: "Clearly they think they can get by without big television campaigns anymore."
According to the writer of the story… 
“They're quietly engineering a revolution in marketing.” 
“So is it working?” is the question that the article poses. Instead of sales data, they give us a quote from some executive director of something or other. Nonetheless, the stock price has been growing nicely so I guess it is fair to assume that sales have been good.

The only problem with the article is that it gives us numbers but fails to give context to the numbers. Here is some context:
  • Nike’s marketing budget is 2.4 billion dollars. Yes with a b.
  • Nike spent over 800 million last year on non-traditional advertising alone
  • According to the article, Nike spends over 10% of its sales on marketing
  • Virtually every pro or college sporting event on TV features athletes wearing the Nike logo
  • Nike’s digital marketing division alone has 200 employees
While Nike’s transition from traditional advertiser to digital marketer may prove to be a big step in proving the concept, I’m afraid at this point their experience doesn’t contain much that is relevant to the average company.

With a $2.4 billion marketing budget, I'm pretty sure they could do nothing but door hangers and hooter wobblers and be successful.

February 16, 2012

Targeting's Diminishing Returns

In the past few weeks I've written a couple of posts (here and here) about the lousy record of "hyper-targeting." My bottom line on this has been... 
"As we have developed the ability to target people more and more precisely on the web, click-through rates of these hyper-targeted ads have dropped dramatically."
The question is, why? If you believe conventional advertising wisdom, being able to target people based on individual behaviors, attitudes, and demographics ought to make advertising substantially more effective. And yet no one's smarter than the facts. It hasn't made online ads more effective. So what's going on?

A thoughtful friend of mine, Bob Knorpp, who hosts the BeanCast, wrote the other day to offer his opinion. Bob said,
"The trouble with targeted marketing is no one is really willing to do it. We take a few data points, hit lame demographic messaging and call it one to one. Then people like you (correctly, I might add) point out that it isn't as effective as mass.
Obviously mass is effective. Targeted marketers who claim otherwise are full of shit. But saying that targeted marketing doesn't work based on the fact that no one is doing it effectively is not proof against the practice, as much as an indictment against marketers' improper use of the tools."
If I may paraphrase Bob's point, it is this: The problem is not with the theory of hyper-targeting, the problem is that it's not being executed very well. Only time will tell if Bob is right about this, but I'm unconvinced.

I have watched digital media people do what they do, and as far as I can tell, they're pretty damn good. I don't think that's the problem. I think the problem is deeper and falls into two areas.

First, I think that the smaller we slice and dice populations the quicker the returns are diminished. Once we get beyond a certain point, we are just playing math games and are not really increasing effectiveness. Vinny Warren says his old boss once told him,
"You can’t parse humanity." While Vinny's ex-boss may have overstated his case a bit (there's no future in trying to sell golf balls to tennis players) I do believe there is an inverse relationship between the granularity of our targeting and its productivity. 

Second, I think that the quality of the message provides us with far more opportunity than the meticulousness of the targeting. The marketing industry seems to have bought into the fantasy that media strategy -- not the message -- is where the leverage is. It is pretty clear from the results that, so far, this hypothesis has been wrong.

Maybe Knorpp is right and we just need to execute more effectively. I'm officially skeptical.

February 15, 2012

Hats Not Tats

In my hometown of Oakland there is a neighborhood called Temescal. Temescal is one of those transitional neighborhoods that is being infiltrated by highly-educated, under-compensated twenty-somethings.

I'd be surprised if there is a more diverse neighborhood anywhere in the country. It is a true melting pot of black, white, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight and every other flavor of human life you can imagine.

It has a lively arts scene. It is sprouting high quality, but moderately priced restaurants. And it has the best fried chicken sandwiches anywhere. At a corner hole-in-the-wall called Bakesale Betty's (which doesn't even have a sign) people, including me, stand in line for up to 30 minutes on a Saturday afternoon to get a $9 chicken sandwich.

I've noticed something in Temescal recently. Hats. Lots of hats. Lots of different kinds of hats. And especially, lots of weird hats.

For a little context here, Oakland has to have one of the most temperate climates in the universe. If the mid-day temperature falls below 60 degrees or rises above 72, we're talking severe weather. If a light drizzle is falling, people run for cover and Priuses start slamming into each other.

In Chicago, you may really need a hat. In Oakland, a hat is worn for effect, not effectiveness.

At the same time that hat futures are rising, I also think I have detected a noticeable drop in the average tattoo-per-resident quotient. Can it be that now that every hipster's Aunt Gladys has a tattoo, body art is being replaced by that old school identity marker, the hat?

If so, I think our hipsters may find themselves right back in the same box.

Nobody has more weird hats than your Aunt Gladys.

February 14, 2012

Of Bozos And Businesses

My partners and I operate a small business. We have about 75 people in our company. We try to run our business in a prudent manner. We take our responsibilities to our colleagues and their families seriously. This sometimes means doing unpleasant things and making difficult decisions, but we try to keep as many people employed as we can.

Politicians in Washington and in City Hall like to use small businesses as a symbol of their concern for the average citizen. They are forever using Wall Street as their symbol for the bad guys and Main Street as their symbol for the good guys. As a small business owner, I find this offensive in the extreme.

The reason I find it offensive is that it is cynical and hypocritical. In fact, when the cameras are turned off, the influence of big business on government policy is immense, and the thought given to small business is nonexistent.

Recently The New York Times ran an article about the absurd and insane barriers one city put in the way of a person trying to start a small business. You would think that in an era in which people are losing their homes and their savings because they can't find work, the idiots who run our lives would try to make it easier to start a business and create jobs. You would be wrong.

You can read the complete Times article here. But a synopsis goes like this:

A woman in San Francisco wanted to open an ice cream parlor. Here's what she had to go through:
  • It took her two years to get the permits to open her ice cream parlor
  • The permit fees alone cost her $20,000
  • During that two year period she had to pay rent on her retail space, even though she couldn't use it
  • The city demanded that she create a detailed map of all existing businesses in the area because they didn’t have one
  • The city charged her $11,000 just to turn on the water
Or, as The Times put it
"...it took two years to open...due largely to the city’s morass of permits, procedures and approvals required to start a small business. While waiting for permission to operate, she still had to pay rent and other costs, going deeper into debt each passing month without knowing for sure if she would ever be allowed to open.
(The owner) would not say exactly how much it all cost, including construction, but smiled and nodded when asked if it was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars."
We're not talking about a nuclear power plant here. We're talking about a fucking ice cream parlor.

There is no excuse for this. Pandering politicians are forever telling us that small business is "the backbone of America" and that it provides 2/3 of the jobs. It's all bullshit. Utter bullshit.

The tax codes are rigged in favor of big businesses and against small businesses. Our thousands of pages of tax laws are just thousands of pages of special pleading for corporate big shots and other pressure groups with influence in Washington (nobody is even sure how many pages the federal tax law consumes. The best guess is about 17,000 pages.) I'll bet you $10 that if you examined the tax returns of Omnicom or Interpublic Group they pay less than half the taxes that my company pays as a percent of revenue. As a matter of fact, I'd bet $10,000.

The knuckleheads in federal, state and municipal government make it as difficult as possible to start and run a small business. And the people who suffer most are the people who are out of work.

Now that the ice cream parlor has opened, there are 14 more people who have jobs. And if it wasn't for inexcusable stupidity they could have had jobs 2 years ago.

February 13, 2012

What Makes An Ad Person Exceptional?

I went out to dinner the other night and got food poisoning. Consequently, I spent the remainder of the night in a cold sweat crawling between my bed and my bathroom.

Fortunately there were some moments that were free of both gastric distress and prayers for a quick death. During one of these moments I had a flash of insight.

For years I have been trying to figure out what makes a good ad person better than an average ad person. There are some people who are just better at it than others.

They seem to have an intuitive understanding of what's going to work and what's not going to work. They are not deluded by marketing cliches or expert opinions. They draw their conclusions from a kind of personal understanding rather than conventional wisdom. I've spent a lot of hours trying to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes them exceptional.

My previous theories about this have been too intellectual. I have hypothesized that they have a deeper psychological understanding of human motivation. But I've never really been happy with this explanation. It seems very much like a tautology.

Then the other night, slithering on hands and knees from the bed to the bathroom, it struck me. There's a much simpler and more satisfying explanation. The attribute that makes people exceptional at advertising is that they're better at noticing things. They're good noticers.

They notice what people really do. They notice what people have in their refrigerators. They notice the little lies that people tell themselves and each other. They notice the contradictions between attitudes and behaviors. They notice the small, seemingly irrelevant things that most people don't notice.

Average advertising people are good listeners. Exceptional advertising people are good noticers.

Good musicians have an intuitive quality that is hard to explain. To an average person, a song is a pattern of rhythm and a series of notes. But a good musician can hear and understand the hidden structure of a song. She intuitively understands how the music is built. She can listen to it once and play it.

Good ad people can do the same. They can hear people talk about their buying habits and intuitively understand the hidden structure of their behavior.

I believe this is the result of a heightened ability to notice things.

I now understand the origin of deep insights -- food poisoning. Next time I get the Hershey squirts I'm going to direct my focus toward figuring out where the hell the universe came from and win myself a Nobel Prize.

February 09, 2012

The Mass Marketing Zombie

“You’re seeing the end of the era of mass marketing." Jim Nail, Principle Analyst for Forrester Research, The New York Times, 2004.
A few weeks ago, in a post entitled "Does Targeting Work?" we explored the popular idea that "the era of mass marketing" has ended as a result of our new found ability to target individual consumers. We concluded that not only has our ability to target individuals not lead to better results, it has actually lead to substantially worse results.
"As we have developed the ability to target people more and more precisely on the web, click-through rates of these hyper-targeted ads have dropped dramatically."
Facts, however, never seem to bother ideologues. They just re-arrange their justifications.

A second part of the theory of the death of mass marketing is that consumers are no longer susceptible to mass-delivered marketing messages (code for ads) and what they are really finding compelling is "content" -- whatever the hell that means -- that lives on the web. Once again, this belief is more a product of ideology than facts.

In fact, mass marketing, as enabled by mass media, is becoming frighteningly ubiquitous.

The world's most successful brands have learned to use mass media to achieve share-of-mind ascendancy and make it immensely difficult for new entries into a vast swath of consumer goods and service categories. You want to introduce a new brand of toothpaste or peanut butter? Good luck.

The ability to utilize and influence mass media has become as important as manufacturing and customer service in creating successful marketing enterprises.

You don't have to dig very deep to find examples of awful companies (think banks, telecom, airlines, food) whose reputations among consumers are abysmal, but whose size has allowed them to dominate media and consequently dominate marketing in their categories.

The people who keep insisting that mass media and mass marketing are dead are brilliant at seeing all the trees, but are blind to the forest. They know about every app, widget, and website, but they can't see that it's all melding with TV, print, and radio to create an even more pervasive mega-media that is infecting and affecting everything we say and do.

To emphasize my point, here is a list. Can you tell what it's a list of?
The iPhone
Casey Anthony
Kim Kardashian
Katy Perry
Jennifer Lopez
Lindsay Lohan
American Idol
Jennifer Aniston
The earthquake in Japan
Osama bin Laden
    The answer is, it is a list of the top ten Yahoo searches in 2011. But it might as well be any other list of what fascinated pop media in 2011. The idea that the web is different in kind or superior in some way to the rest of the mediaplex is absurd. It's just another delivery system for the same crap.

    The fact that the web has become so big so fast was supposed to mean TV would shrivel and eventually die. In fact, TV viewing is at its highest point ever. The web has just added to -- not replaced -- the amount of media we are gorging on. And that amount is alarming.

    If you believe that mass marketing is going to disappear, then you must also believe that by some miracle mass media will defy every precedent in history and become more pervasive but less influential.

    There will be emails arriving later today explaining to me how I just don't get it. How people no longer trust advertising and are relying on peer-to-peer recommendations to make buying decisions.

    Before you write that email, let me reply: No, you don't get it. Sure people use the web in a social way to find stuff and get information. But the peer-to-peer stuff is the tip of the web iceberg. It is dwarfed by the way the web has become just another engine for spreading the media gospel of what we are supposed to believe and how we are supposed to behave. Once again, we are seeing a tree and missing a forest.

    Right now, YouTube is producing a slew of new "channels." They have a decidedly familiar ring to them: sitcoms, sports, scripted series, celebrity showcases. Although the long-promised convergence of the web and TV has not yet arrived there is one thing we can deduce from YouTube's effort -- no one wants TV to be more like the web. They want the web to be more like TV. 

    In fact, if there is one thing that last Sunday's Super Bowl orgy should have taught us it is that TV is driving web usage and the web is driving TV usage. They are joined at the hip. Defining one as a mass medium and the other as a peer-to-peer social medium or a marketer-to-consumer personal medium is a game for fools.

    It is never wise to draw straight lines between the present and the future. History and culture don't move in straight lines. (This is why the predictions of experts are so often laughable from a distance.) Nonetheless, if the trends that exist today continue on their current trajectories, mass media -- including the web -- will dominate marketing as never before. They may ultimately result in "the end of the era of mass marketing." And usher in a new era of hyper-mass marketing.

    February 08, 2012

    My Dysfunctional Super Bowl Spot

    During my creative director days I was a pretty good copywriter. By no means a great one, but usually pretty good.

    My one shot at Super Bowl glory came in the mid-90's. I was commissioned to write a Super Bowl spot -- but not just any Super Bowl spot. I believe I may have written the world's first TV spot for erectile dysfunction. You can only imagine how proud how I am.

    It was the year before Viagra was introduced. The product was called Muse. It was a tiny little suppository pill. Now, I'm not going to tell you where you put this tiny little suppository pill because this a family-friendly blog. Use your imagination and try not to scream.

    Remember, this was a time at which nobody had ever even said "erectile dysfuntion" out loud on television. Consequently, we did a very modest, demure spot. No creepy, horny old people in bathtubs.

    Ed Asner did the voice over and visually it was simply typography reinforcing Ed's copy points. We bought time on the Super Bowl and were ready for a firestorm.

    A few days before the Super Bowl, however, the network decided that America was not ready for erectile dysfunction. They canceled the spot.

    You might say that, yes, I wrote a Super Bowl spot. But because of NBC, I never got it up.

    The Best Super Bowl Spot That No One Saw
    This spot for Old Milwaukee beer ran in only one market during the Super Bowl --  North Platte, Nebraska, the 2nd smallest TV market in America. It is by far the funniest and most memorable Super Bowl spot I have seen. It puts to shame all the big, loud, and witless inanities that tried to pass for creativity on Sunday.

    Thanks to David Burn at AdPulp for this.

    February 06, 2012

    The Waiters Are Doing The Cooking

    Okay, I watched the Super Bowl.

    The ads this year were a disgrace. A cacophony of recycled ideas, third-rate celebrities, and pathetic 8th-grade naughtiness.

    Donald Trump? Are you kidding me? Betty White? Again? Motley Crue? Really? Dogs? Polar bears? Monkeys? Does anyone have an idea anymore?

    It was such an awful display of juvenile sensibility that what passed for the intellectual highlight of the evening -- It's Halftime In America -- was a Ronald Reagan commercial recast as a football analogy.

    If that's the best we can do, it's time for the ad industry to pack it in. Let's just stop pretending we're in a creative business and all get down to writing tweets.

    This could be a turning point. It could be the year that the ad industry throws in the towel, admits it is bankrupt, and hands the keys over to the metrics maniacs.

    I am afraid the advertising industry has been infiltrated by people who don't really believe in advertising, don't care much for it, and are not very good at it.

    I am very disheartened by what I saw on Sunday.

    February 05, 2012

    Take My Survey, Please

    I will be pontificating about Super Bowl advertising on a TV show tomorrow and I'd like to be able to reference the opinions of ad and marketing "professionals" (that's you!)

    If you wouldn't mind,  I'd appreciate it if you would answer these 5 questions for me. Thanks.

    February 03, 2012

    Super Bowl Survey

    I will be pontificating about Super Bowl advertising on a TV show on Monday and I'd like to be able to reference the opinions of ad and marketing professionals (that's you!)

    If you wouldn't mind, after the game I'd appreciate it if you would come back here and answer these 5 questions for me. Click on the link. Thanks.

    February 01, 2012

    Does Targeting Work?

    In 2004, a guy named Jim Nail, Principle Analyst for Forrester Research, had this to say to The New York Times...
    “You’re seeing the end of the era of mass marketing."
    In the intervening eight years, it has become an article of faith among the marketing and advertising lemmingocracy that mass marketing as we know it is moribund.

    According to this hypothesis, the holy grail of advertising is now targeting. Technology has provided marketers with the ability to deliver  advertising messages targeted to individual consumer profiles and needs. This is typified by web advertising served to us based on a stunning amount of personal information which is collected about us. Soon, the theory goes, cable TV will also be able to find us down to the level of the node that carries our signal and likewise deliver personalized advertising messages. This, according to Mr. Nail and his cohort, has reduced mass marketing to irrelevancy.

    The facts, however, tell a very different story.

    It is certainly true that we know a lot more about people as individuals then ever before. In fact, we know a frightening amount. It is also true that we have the ability to serve ads based on what we know about individual behaviors, attitudes, demographics, and finances. Yes, we have the technology.

    There's only one problem. It ain't working.

    As we have developed the ability to target people more and more precisely, click-through rates of these hyper-targeted ads have dropped like a pearl onion in a dry martini. According to Google, click-through rates, on average, have fallen below one in a thousand. And the poster child of personal information gathering and targeting, Facebook, has click-through rates about 5 in ten thousand.

    These rates are remarkably -- one is tempted to say -- astoundingly low.

    In fact, since the infancy of the web, in the mid-to-late 90's -- when the web had far less detailed personal data on us -- click-through rates have declined by over 95%. Not a fabulous record of success.

    There seems to be little convincing data that the new age of hyper-targeted advertising is having the miraculous effect promised to us. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

    Maybe advertising success isn't as much about targeting as our newly-anointed media geniuses would have us believe.  Maybe it's about having something interesting to say and somewhere intrusive to say it.

    Maybe it doesn't matter how good our aim is if all we are shooting is marshmallows with slingshots.