August 30, 2012

"My Job Is To Make Good Ads"

I am writing a novel about a creative director at an advertising agency. Or perhaps, more accurately, I was writing a novel until a few months ago when I ran out of words.

Last week I was re-reading what I had written. I found something from the novel that I thought would make good blog material. The creative director is explaining his job...
" job is to make good ads.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. Good ads are easy to make at home. They’re easy to make in ad school. They’re remarkably easy to make in bars. The one place, however, where it’s almost impossible to make a good ad is at an ad agency.
Ad agencies are staffed and structured in such a way as to put the maximal number of obstacles in the way of creating good ads. This is because agencies analyze everything there is to be analyzed about an ad. 
It has been my experience that nothing creative can survive the indignity of being broken down to its smallest constituent components. It’s like trying to decide if a movie is good by scrutinizing the frames."
One of these days I'll finish the damn thing.

August 29, 2012

The 6 Stages Of Digital Delusion

One of our axioms here at The Ad Contrarian worldwide headquarters is that in today's world of marketing, delusional thinking is not just acceptable, it's mandatory.

Digital media have been the primary cause and the primary beneficiary of delusional thinking. The fascinating thing is that the cycle of delusion has been going on for over 10 years and we still don't recognize it.

Here are the 6 stages of digital delusion:
1. The Miracle Is Acknowledged: It may be podcasting or banner advertising, YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. Whatever it is, it is going to "change everything." It will be the focus of hysterical attention in the trade press and will often find its way into the business section of the newspaper.

2. The Big Success: A company somewhere has a big success. This is where the danger starts. The success is plastered all over every trade magazine and analyzed at every conference. It is "proof" that the miracle is real.
3. Experts Are Hatched: Clever entrepreneurs gather up a Powerpointful of cliches and march them around from conference to conference. They write articles, and even books, on how not to be left behind.
4. The Bandwagon Rolls: Everyone who knows nothing is suddenly asking the marketing department, "what is our (your miracle here) strategy?" Fearing that she will be thought insufficiently trendy, every CMO is suddenly looking for an agency that is expert at (your miracle here).

5. Reality Rears Its Ugly Head: The numbers dribble in. Oops...people are ignoring our miracle 955 million at a time. The miracle seems to be working for everyone but us!

6. The Back-Pedaling Begins: "Well, it's just part of an integrated program..." say the former zealots. The experts start blaming the victims, "Hey, we never promised...We told you you had to..."
This cycle has repeated itself so many times that it is comical. Here are just some of the digital miracles that have turned out to be "just part of an integrated program..."

    ...websites... blogs... banners... podcasts... MySpace... Second Life... widgets... YouTube... Facebook... Facebook apps... Twitter... iAds...Linked In... FourSquare... Pinterest... QR codes... and now... content (whatever the hell that means.)

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Which reminds me...
...what the hell ever happened to "the conversation?"

August 27, 2012

Losing Our Contrarian Status?

One of the great joys of being an Ad Contra is thumbing your nose at the smug experts of the marketing world. But there’s always the danger that the mainstream will start accepting your ideas -- and then all the fun evaporates.

There is a disturbing trend developing. We Ad Contras are in danger of having our annoying opinions co-opted by the mainstream.

In the past few weeks there have been a number of shocking incidents that lead me to believe that our truculent points of view about online advertising and social media marketing are gaining traction in the "real" world.
  • Then Digiday published a flattering interview that was sympathetic to our point of view. Worse, it was one of their top 5 stories last week.
  • I spoke at a social media conference last week and I was not escorted out by security.
  • ComScore released a study which pretty much verified everything we've been saying about online advertising delusions.
  • Yesterday, The San Francisco Chronicle ran a piece called Big Investors Rethinking Social Media which describes the disaster that is the social media business and "the pricking of the social media bubble."
This is very dismaying. If there's one thing that annoys us Ad Contras it's suspension of hostilities.

Hopefully, there are still plenty of deluded marketing digiholics who will continue to dream on. Unfortunately, their assertions and arguments are usually so lame as to hardly  require rebuttal. They have no facts, only opinions and assertions.

Let's hope the "everything is dead" crowd and the "digital changes everything" maniacs don't go all soft on us. We still need a good fight.

Which reminds me... don't miss Wednesday's upcoming post, "The 6 Stages Of Digital Delusion."

August 23, 2012

Who's Watching Television?

I have finally mustered the fortitude to wade through Nielsen's most recent Cross-Platform Report. (Okay, full disclosure -- I skimmed it.)

Nonetheless, I think I have a grasp on the salient points and, because nobody loves you like I do, here are the important things you need to know.
  • 98% of video viewing is still being done on that dead old thing in your living room. No, not that dead old thing. The television.
2% of video viewing is being done online. In the past few years online video viewing has gone from about 1% to about 2%. To me, the slow growth of online viewing is remarkable. Even a Luddite dinosaur like me is surprised at how powerful TV remains.
  • About 7% of total television viewing is time-shifted. Once again, it's amazing to me how small this number is.
Not everyone has a DVR. If we look only at homes with a DVR, the number goes up a little more than double to about 16%. This is in conflict with studies done a while back by the Duke grad school of business which reported that among people with DVRs about 5% of viewing was time-shifted and Ball State University which reported that less than 5% of total viewing was time shifted. All 3 studies used actual monitored behavior (not self-reported nonsense) so it's hard to know what to believe. I give the nod to Nielsen on this one because their study is more recent. Nonetheless, I remain mildly skeptical.
  • The average person spends over 6 times more time watching TV than on line. 
As someone who spends way more time on line than watching TV, the numbers on this are very surprising. Warning on this one though -- I suspect the real numbers are even more weighted toward TV. The "time spent on line" numbers are self-reported. People almost always under-report TV viewing and over-report other viewing behaviors.
  • Average TV viewing has dropped one minute a day.
In the previous study, Nielsen reported that live viewing plus DVR viewing had reached its all-time highest level at 4 hours and 58 minutes a day on average. In this report, live plus DVR viewing dropped by 1 minute a day. I'm sure some web lunatic will use this as evidence that TV is dead.
    That's our media lesson for today. Now you can go back to Facebook...I mean, work.

    August 22, 2012

    How To Sell An Ad

    My advertising career has included about 1 billion creative presentations to clients. I have  made many myself, and have witnessed millions of others.

    As a result of sitting through so many of these things, I have developed a list of things that make for a good presentation and things that make a presentation annoying and crappy.

    For those of you who regularly present creative work to clients, here's one guy's ideas on how to do it better.

    1. You Gotta Believe: First of all, if you are not happy with what you are going to present, postpone the meeting. An intelligent client would much rather move a meeting than get crap forced down his throat. On several occasions I have called a client and said, "Joe, I'm just not happy with what we have yet. Give us a few more days." I have never had a client react badly to that. As a matter of fact, a smart client will appreciate the honesty and the fact that you care enough not to show him stuff you're not satisfied with.

    2. Look At What You're Presenting From The Client's Perspective: Your criteria for what constitutes a good ad may be very different from your client's. She doesn't really care if your girlfriend is going to think it's cool. She needs to sell stuff and make sure her boss doesn't fire her. That doesn't mean you should change a good ad. But it does mean you need to be thoughtful about how you present and position it to her. 

    3. Don't Overcook The Set-Up. Most set-ups -- the front end of the presentation before you get to the work -- are way too long and way too full of bullshit. The purpose of the set-up is to demonstrate that  a) you see the problem from the client's perspective, and b) you have a sensible strategy that informs the creative work.  Do not let account people or planners confuse the shit out of the client or put her to sleep before you even get to the ads. The set-up should go something like this:
    • "The purpose of this advertising is to __."
    • "Our strategy is to ___."
    • "What you are going to see today is __."
    Then quit tap-dancing and show her the ads.

    4. Do Not Be Afraid To Show Several Ideas, But Have a Recommendation. There's nothing wrong with having more than one idea. But at some point in the meeting a smart client will say, "Which of these do you recommend?" There is nothing more pathetic than watching a bunch of people make furtive eye contact trying to figure out how to answer. Know what you are trying to sell and know why. Have a good explanation for why you prefer idea #1 to idea #2 or #3.

    5. Do Not Be Afraid To Be Honest. If the key agency people in the room don't agree on the recommendation, go public with it. Give the client the arguments for and against and give her credit for understanding that intelligent people of good will can disagree. Say, "we recommend idea #1 but Jack and Jill actually prefer #3." Then let Jack and Jill make their case. I'd much rather have a conversation about which ad is better than a conversation about whether any of them is good.

    Oh, and one more thing. It helps to have quality shit.

    August 20, 2012

    My Social Media Paradox

    Last Friday, I was invited to speak at a social media conference. The hen was in the fox house. My presentation was billed as a "fireside chat" between the organizer of the event (a guy I like and respect, Jason Falls) and myself.

    The first question Jason asked me went something like this...
    "You have been critical of the social media marketing world from the get-go, yet you use it… quite well I might say. What's your point of contention and how can you reconcile that with your prolific use of the medium?"
    I thought it was a great question.

    And I thought the answer would be worthy of a blog post. I don’t remember my exact words. And since then I have had further thoughts. So here’s a combination of how I think I answered the question and what my subsequent thoughts have been. 

    Let's start with why you invited me here to address this conference. There are thousands of advertising and marketing people who are skeptical of social media marketing. I am not alone. But for some reason you chose me. Why? Let’s answer this question in marketing terms.

    I would suggest that the reason you chose me is that I have created a pretty successful brand called The Ad Contrarian. The Ad Contrarian brand is clearly differentiated. When you needed a “product" in my category (someone to add controversy) you knew what brand to "buy."

    In the small and silly world of advertising and marketing commentary, The Ad Contrarian is probably among the top brands. It was recently named one of the awesomest ad blogs in the universe or something by the Business Insider. When I went to bed last night my two books, The Ad Contrarian and 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising were both in Amazon's top five eBooks about advertising. I'm not saying this to brag, but to make a point.

    The interesting thing, as you mentioned, is that whatever success I have had in building this brand has been done solely through the use of social media. Why then am I so vocal in my criticism of the social media industry?

    The first part of the answer is that having accomplished the most difficult of marketing tasks – creating a successful brand – using social media as my medium, I know how difficult it is. I know how hard I have worked at it. And knowing this, I am outraged when I have to listen to or read the idiotic nonsense of fakers. Until they have created a successful brand using social media, they have no credibility with me.

    Social media is very hard work. Very few social media programs break through. Virtually every company in the country now has some kind of social media program in place. A miniscule proportion of them are having significant impact. So when I hear social media "experts" promising the moon, I get infuriated.

    For example, all the nonsense I read about “content” makes me sick. I know how difficult it is to create "content" that anyone gives a shit about. I have spent every day of my life for the past 5 years creating content. I know first hand how difficult it is to break through the billions (literally) of web pages and get anyone to pay attention to your content. When I hear idiots pop-off with their facile clich├ęs about creating “compelling content” I know they have no idea what they’re talking about

    I also know how many moribund blogs, and Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds, and YouTube videos there are out there in the digi-dumpster. I know how many millions of pages of “content” are lying around like a lox.

    The idea that consumers want to interact with advertising is the grand delusion of the banner advertising crowd. The idea that consumers want to interact with content is the grand delusion of the social media set.

    I do not come at this (as my critics contend) as some doddering old fool who does not understand social media and consequently does not believe in it. I come at it as someone who has had far more success at it than most of my "expert" critics. I have used it successfully and have accomplished more with it than most of them will ever accomplish. I have used social media to create a brand. The only thing most of these “experts” have created is a powerpoint presentation.

    The second part to my answer is this. In addition to being a reasonably successful social media “entrepreneur,” I also have this little $100 million ad agency which I run.

    I don’t think there are too many social media entrepreneurs who also run an ad agency. I don’t think there are too many agency CEOs who are also social media entrepreneurs. Consequently, I think it is fair to say that I have a reasonably unique perspective.

    So when I hear digital hustlers and social media phonies shooting their mouths off about how advertising is dead, and television is dead, and marketing is dead, and everything else that isn’t online or social is dead, I want to expose them. That is, after I strangle them.

    They are clowns and charlatans. They are undermining the credibility of the social media industry and they are causing damage to you and to their clients.

    My experience has proven to me that social media can be a valuable marketing tool. But it is not magic, it is not a miracle, and it cannot and will not replace everything that came before it.

    The people who are out there making outrageous and preposterous claims, who are deploying unreliable and misleading research, who use anecdotes to masquerade as facts, whose insularity renders them devoid of perspective, and who are disrespectful toward and ignorant of the power of traditional advertising, are undermining your credibility and are giving credence to those who refer to you as the snake oil salesmen of the marketing world.

    So, yes, you are right. Despite the fact that I have used social media very successfully, and although I know there are lot of talented and hard-working people in social media, I have a healthy amount of disrespect for a certain element of the social media industry.

    For your own good, you and the other responsible people in your industry need, once and for all, to shut these fools and con men up.

    August 17, 2012

    As Predicted

    As I predicted before it went public, then again in June and again two weeks ago the Facebook massacre continues. Some Facebook shares became "unlocked" yesterday and the stock dropped about 6%, reaching a new low, closing below $20.

    There are over 1 billion more shares still to be "unlocked" before year's end. This could get really ugly.

    Update: Facebook seems to be in free fall, dropping another 4% today.

    To my Charming and Loyal readers:
    As you may know, I have been having a nightmare with my 3rd-party commenting system. I have gotten rid of it and have reverted to my old system. I'm sure this will create enormous new problems, but what the hell can I do? I am going to try to convert to the Blogger native commenting system as soon as I can. Please be patient and I'm sorry for the millions of comments I have lost. TAC

    August 16, 2012

    Social Media: With Friends Like Facebook...

    Here at The Ad Contrarian Global Worldwide Nerve Center Headquarters we pride ourselves on fairness and accuracy. I mean, considering it's a blog.

    So today, we are going to the defense of social media. You heard that right -- we're defending social media.

    What is the reason for this temporary loss of sanity? Facebook.

    You see, the Facebook IPO disaster may turn out to be a tipping point for social media -- a bad tipping point. And it may not be fair.

    For almost 5 years, consumer interest in social media has grown at a phenomenal rate. Facebook and Twitter have become international sensations. Social media marketing, on the other hand, has had a less than brilliant history.

    Nonetheless, the marketing industry blindly embraced the magic of social media marketing. The Facebook debacle is changing that. Marketers are now saying out loud what they only whispered a year ago -- how much of the miracle of social media is real and how much is bullshit?

    The irony in all this is that Facebook may be a social media venue, but as a business it is nothing more than another medium for selling display ads. To be more succinct, Facebook does not sell social media, it sells display ads. And as we know, the record of online display advertising is below dismal.

    Investors think of Facebook as a social media play. It is nothing of the sort. Facebook makes about 85% of its income selling crappy little ads that no one notices. The press has portrayed the Facebook face plant as an indication that the business community has lost confidence in social media. While this may be true, it is not really relevant to Facebook's business problem.

    I have been more than critical of the hype surrounding social media marketing. But let's be fair. Let's judge social media marketing on its ability to create results. Not on Facebook's ability to sell display ads.

    Thank you!
    When I put this post to bed last night, "The Ad Contrarian" was #2 and "101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising" was #4 on Amazon's advertising ebook best-seller list. Thanks! We're taking over the publishing world 99¢ at a time.

    August 15, 2012

    Today In Digiday

    Be sure to read my interview here.

    Festival Of Flagrant Self-Promotion

    One upon a time -- a long, long time ago -- when Twitter was only 1 year old, I wrote a book called The Ad Contrarian.
    Since then it has been downloaded thousands of times. It has even been cited by several (thoroughly greased) sources as among the best of the recent advertising books. It has been used as a university text -- but don't let that frighten you. It's good anyway.

    The third edition is now available. I have added a few pieces, removed a few of the stinky ones, given it a very green cover with my annoying upside-down "contrarian" logo, but mostly left it alone.

    It is now available in Kindle format at Amazon. If you're an Apple person, just calm down. All you have to do is download the free Kindle app and you can read it on any Apple device.

    I will try to make it available at the iBookstore but, frankly, I have had nothing but aggravation dealing with those freaks.

    A print version should also be available soon.

    Because I am amazingly generous, and I don't make shit on these things anyway, I am offering the eBook edition of The Ad Contrarian temporarily at 99¢, and also temporarily lowering the price of the 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising eBook to 99¢ as well.

    So forget your back-to-school shopping and buy these things instead. They're cheaper than school books and you might actually learn something useful.

    PS: If you write a nice review on Amazon I will buy you a brand new Lexus or a beer. Whichever is less.

    In Other News: A good friend is looking to hire 2 talented marketing people for his marketing department. It's in the telecom category. If you're interested and are in the Bay Area or willing to move, send me an email with your creds at

    August 13, 2012

    Marketing's New Fundamentalists

    It is depressing being involved in marketing these days.

    Marketing has always been a magnet for clowns and con men. But these days the clowns and con men aren't just lurking in the weeds. They are the grand marshals of the parade. They puff themselves up, put on their pretty uniforms, and march down Main Street with hordes of baton twirling followers in lock step.

    It doesn't matter that everything they have hectored and lectured us about has been wrong. It doesn't matter that...
    • TV advertising is more pervasive than ever 
    • The DVR has not had a significantly negative effect on TV advertising or any effect at all on consumer buying behavior 
    • The TV and the PC have not converged
    • Last year was not the "year of mobile." Nor was the year before, nor was the year before that. Nor will next year be.
    • The Facebook disaster and concomitant melt down of most social media equities has given us a pretty good idea of what the real world thinks of our social media marketing delusions.
    None of this matters.

    These dimwit evangelists live in a world of their own creation where anecdotes substitute for facts, where all they do is read each others' blogs and attend each others' revival meetings... I mean, conferences.

    They have created a world of hype and baloney in which they sell miracle cures to credulous goobers. In this infantile culture, everything that does not fit is "dead."

    The latest slice of rancid baloney in this genre appeared last week on the Harvard Business Review website. It is called, of course, Marketing Is Dead. The author of this pathetic nonsense is some consultant who is no doubt selling this tired old snake oil to gullible CMOs everywhere.

    His evidence for the death of marketing? Three things which have nothing to do with his hypothesis.

    First, a study that shows about 75% of CEOs think CMOs are knuckleheads. Well, guess what? They're wrong -- 90% of CMOs are knuckleheads.

    What I'd like to know is, how is this evidence that marketing is dead? If 75% of restaurant owners think chefs are knuckleheads, does this mean eating is dead?

    Second he trots out all the dreary, dreadful assertions about "communities" and "social capital" which we have read 100 times before by equally deluded zealots. These cliches sound like they were lifted directly from the Pepsi Refresh Project powerpoint pitch.

    Finally, he gives us some anecdotes about social media successes. 

    In their arrogance and myopia, the digital theocrats cannot accept a successful social media marketing program without asserting that it is proof that everything else is dead.

    These people are the marketing equivalent of religious fundamentalists. They cannot stand the idea that there is any truth other than their own. For their god to live all others must die.

    August 09, 2012

    Apple Goes a-Branding , Part 2

    A year ago I wrote a post called Advertising And the Future Of Apple. The theme of the piece was that one of the early indications that clumsy hands were at the wheel at Apple might show up in the advertising.

    Since then I've been watching their advertising fairly closely. I haven't written anything about it until this week because I didn't want to rush to judgment. But I think it's time to say it's getting to be a mess.

    Since Jobs' unfortunate passing I have been aware of 3 major campaigns for Apple: The new iPad intro, Siri (iPhone), and the "Genius" campaign.

    There is nothing that these efforts have in common other than the logo. The more they are doing, the farther away they are getting from the traditional Apple sensibility.

    The iPad TV spots were typical Apple demo spots. The billboards for the new iPad also followed the typical Apple template, but were strangely confusing. The Siri campaign is uninspired, unconvincing, and rests on the borrowed interest of celebrities. The "Genius" campaign, while not as bad as some critics would have you believe, has the smell of formulaic advertising thinking. 

    In last year's post I suggested there were 5 danger signals to look for in the advertising after Jobs left. Here's what I said at the time:
    1. Creeping Brandism: The Apple brand was built bottom-up. That is, the products defined the brand. Virtually every Apple ad was about a product, not  the brand (okay, there was "Think Different" but that didn't last.) Keep an eye out for the erosion of this discipline.
    2. Agency change: Vapid marketing people relegated to the background all these years by Jobs' dominance may suddenly start flexing. They wouldn't dare contradict Jobs' legacy, but they could accomplish the same thing by undermining the agency.
    3. The Tortured Logic of Account Planning: Look for ads about you the consumer instead of Apple products. Look for moronic online "engagement" gimmicks. Or look for social media pandering.
    4. Complications: Part of the brilliance of Apple advertising has been its simplicity.  Keep an eye out for complicated ideas or ads with more than one product.
    5. Media: Apple has used online media sparingly. The preponderance of its advertising has been conducted in traditional media -- TV, print, and outdoor. Watch to see if Apple suddenly starts going all trendy and new age in its media choices.
    Already I am sensing the appearance of 3 of these 5 warning signs. The "Genius" campaign is archetypal "branding." As far as I can tell, it is about nothing in particular. People I have spoken to are unclear on what the campaign is about. People think it is about a) the retail stores, b) software, c) the iMac d) "service." This is the antithesis of Apple's traditional advertising which was always clearly about a product or a benefit.

    I am also sensing the logic of account planning at work. Where did the idea come from that the "Genius" was an iconic representation of the Apple brand? My money is on a planning "insight."

    I am definitely seeing complicated messages. Below you will find an example of an email I recently received from Apple. It looks like Apple, but it doesn't sound like them. It is about two different things: Their new operating system, and their laptops. And even worse, it is not about a laptop, it is about their line of laptops. This is not Apple.

    I am not surprised that the creative work has suffered. As I said at the time, genius is non-transferable. But I am surprised that whoever is calling the ad shots now at Apple seems not to understand the principles that Jobs operated under.

    Apple has two important advertising tasks ahead of it. In the long run, they need to get back to doing great advertising. This is not easy.

    But first, they need to do something very much simpler. They need to start sounding like Apple again.

    Apple Goes a-Branding, Part 1 can be found here.

    August 07, 2012

    Apple Goes a-Branding, Part 1

    Once in while, a visionary business leader comes along. This person has an inherent understanding of who and what the business is because to a large extent the business is the extended shadow of this individual.

    Once in a while, this type of visionary also has a great feel for advertising. He or she understands it in a way that no one else in the organization can. This is because the advertising is, in effect, for him.  If advertising is a company's public personality, only he knows what he wants his public personality to be.

    The strange part of this is that the people all around him don't comprehend what he is doing. Even after they've watched him for years, they still don't understand it.
    When the visionary is gone, what happens to the advertising? Usually, one of three things.

    First is that the person who takes over the visionary's job inherits the advertising. This usually doesn't last long because the person in question rarely has the creative understanding that the visionary had. She may be better at operations or finance, but it would be a miracle if she had the creative instincts of the visionary.

    The second possibility is that the responsibility for advertising defaults to its usual place in the corporate structure -- the marketing department -- with the usual results: uninspired, witless advertising.

    Third is that a committee of "wise men" is assembled to oversee marketing and advertising. This is often a disaster. It's like trying to replace one Otis Redding with six Justin Biebers.

    I don't know which of the three is happening now at Apple, but whatever it is, it stinks.

    Last year about this time, upon the retirement of Steve Jobs, I wrote a piece called Advertising And The Future Of Apple. In the post I wrote the following: 
    "The product pipeline will take years to screw up. But the ad pipeline can be screwed up in no time....About a year from now, with Jobs in the background, the knuckleheads at Apple (there are knuckleheads everywhere) will have a chance to get their sweaty hands on the advertising."
    Well, it's a year later and unfortunately my prediction has turned out to be accurate.

    Apple's latest campaign, featuring an Apple "genius" is being roundly ridiculed throughout the advertising and marketing world. While I think this campaign is pedestrian, I don't think it is the disaster that the blogocracy would have you believe.

    However, I do think it is symptomatic of something much more dangerous than just one bad campaign -- it is the third Apple campaign in a row (since Jobs' unfortunate death) that indicates to me that the new regime at Apple is not very good at "Apple" advertising.

    TBWA/Chiat/Day has done so much great advertising for Apple for so long, that I have a hard time believing they are responsible for this. My experience with large organizations going through a change in leadership leads me to believe that this is an Apple problem, not an agency problem.

    Sadly, I have seen this movie before. I have been involved with companies that had a brilliant leader who demanded good advertising. And I have been there when the flat tires took over and turned the advertising to crap.

    There is a lot wrong with what Apple has been doing for the last year. Later this week, in our next exciting episode -- Apple Goes a-Branding, Part 2 -- we'll look at what they are doing wrong and why.

    August 06, 2012

    Curvin O'Rielly, R.I.P.

    Curvin O'Rielly died last week. Curvin was a wonderful copywriter -- which, in my opinion, is about the highest compliment you can pay to an ad person. Curvin worked at many of the world's best ad agencies

    I never met Curvin, but I knew him by reputation and from his astute comments on George Parker's blog (AdScam.)

    Curvin wrote to me once. He had just finished my book (101 Contrarian Ideas...) and wrote to say that he had enjoyed it. He also wrote that it contained a serious error.

    In the book I have a piece about Saturn, the car. In the piece I credited Hal Riney with creating the brilliant campaign that transformed a mediocre car into a great brand. I wrote, "He did it with his unique blend of plain-talk, humor, beauty, and bullshit."
    Curvin wrote and said, "It wasn't Hal Riney who created the Saturn brand. When I arrived at his agency in Feb. 1990, he didn't have squat."
    So let me belatedly, officially correct the record. 
    And credit Curvin with possessing the gift of all great copywriters -- the unique blend of plain-talk, humor, beauty, and bullshit.

    Curvin O'Rielly, R.I.P.

    August 02, 2012

    More Pressure On Facebook

    Facebook shares are falling faster than panties on prom night.

    They started life at $38 just a few weeks ago and, as I write this, are selling at a little over $20. A lesser man than I might remind you, for the umpteenth time, that he predicted this would happen.

    While I take no pleasure in seeing innocent dumb-shits lose stacks of money in this contemptible hustle, I have to admit that I do take a certain pleasure in seeing social media con artists and their credulous disciples getting the shaft.

    It seems to me, however, that Facebook's problems are just beginning. There are two reasons for this.

    The first is qualitative. Before the IPO debacle, it was taken as an article of faith among the great marketing lemmingocracy that social media was magic. They couldn't exactly explain why -- other than nonsense syllables like "engagement" and "conversations" -- but they knew they had to do it because everyone else was doing it. As I've said many times, there's no bigger sucker than a gullible marketer convinced he's missing a trend.

    But now it's different. A con game falls apart very quickly when doubts start creeping in. And the Great Social-Media-Marketing-Miracle con has been severely undermined by the terrible performance of so many of the players recently.

    The second big problem is quantitative. It's the old supply and demand imbalance. As I said in my post of June 5th, Facebook is going to be in some real deep snow as "locked-up" shares (shares that early owners are forbidden to sell by law) become unlocked.

    According to The Wall Street Journal, about 2 billion new shares of Facebook will become "unlocked" and available for sale before the end of this year. To give you an idea of how that will affect the supply-demand relationship, there are currently only about 400 million shares available for trading. In other words, the potential number of tradeable Facebook shares will sextuple.

    The best case scenario for Facebook is that early owners, hoping for an upturn at some point, will hold on to their shares. But if early owners start selling off their shares when they become unlocked, there could be a pretty nasty massacre.

    There's only thing worth knowing about economics -- when big supply meets small demand, it means low, low factory-direct prices.

    August 01, 2012

    Being Fair To Facebook

    No one's been tougher on Facebook than this blog (and we will continue to be tomorrow.) But we also believe in being fair.

    Yesterday I must have received at least 10 emails from people linking me to a story widely reported in the ad/marketing news and blog feedback loop about Facebook. The story said that a small company found that 80% of the clicks on its Facebook ads were not real people, but were bots.

    This is a very damning and dangerous claim for Facebook, and potentially all online media, if legtimate. However, we have nothing but the company's statement as evidence.

    I have no reason to doubt the company's veracity, but no way to know whether their assertion is true or whether it's just a weird aberration. Before we rush to judgment, let's see what others, including Facebook, have to say about this.