October 31, 2012

Triumph Of The Anti-Language

There is a talk I give to groups from time to time called "The Golden Age Of Bullshit."

The talk has a few basic themes. One of which is that we are living in an age in which business bullshit artists have invented an anti-language. Its objective is to confuse rather than clarify. This is the opposite of what language is supposed to do.

Yesterday I received an email from from Oracle. The headline said:
Architecting Business Continuity Essentials for Enterprise Applications
Eager to find out how my enterprise applications could be architected for business continuity I read on.

I learned that I could...
Facilitate capacity planning and performance tuning. And effectively consolidate and virtualize enterprise application environments.
All I can say is, if you've never virtualized your enterprise application environment, dude it's awesome.

But that's not all. By subscribing to their "techcast" I could also...
  • Deploy mission-critical services with maximum resiliency
  • Architect effective site failover and disaster recovery processes
Cancel my trip to Hawaii.

And speaking of bullshit, I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day. There were two flat tires sitting at the next table.  I actually heard one of them use the words "mission-critical." I didn't know people really said it. I thought it was just a term whose use was legally restricted to bad radio spots and idiotic emails.

All this bullshit used to be funny. Now it's just depressing. We have a whole generation of business people whose brains have been corrupted and debased by a vocabulary of jargon and obfuscation.

They think they are hiding their ignorance behind a curtain of tarted up language. In fact, they are exposing it.

October 29, 2012

Online Advertising Through The Wrong Lens

It seems to me that advertisers and marketers still don’t understand a basic concept about using the web.

After 15 years they are still committed to plopping their thought template for traditional advertising over the web and expecting it to fit.

It doesn't.

The models they have in their minds are wrong, and to a large degree account for the dismal performance of most online advertising.

The key to understanding online ad success is to forget about the distinctions between marketing and advertising and sales promotion and PR. These distinctions may be relevant in traditional advertising but are red herrings on the web. The important thing to understand is the difference between creating demand and fulfilling demand. If you don’t understand the distinction, please read this.

Thus far, the web has been shown to be good at fulfilling demand and weak at creating demand.

The most obvious evidence that the web is lousy at creating demand has been the startling inability of web advertising to build brands. As we’ve asked here many times, after 15 years what mainstream consumer-facing brands have been built by display advertising, or social media, or YouTube, or “content”? You can count them on one hand. Or one finger.

On the other hand, the reason Google and Amazon are so successful is that they are utilities for fulfilling demand. Whether you call them advertising or not is largely irrelevant. Google is an ad supported site. Amazon is a store. But they are both in the business of fulfilling demand. When people already have some idea of what they want, they go to the web. And largely to Google and Amazon.

Facebook, on the other hand, is not where people go to fulfill demand. They go there to screw off with their friends. Which is why advertising on Facebook has been so remarkably ineffective.

If you are a marketer, you are far more likely to be successful if you use the web for fulfilling demand rather than creating it. When people are already interested in you, the web is where they go.

Stop thinking about the web the way you think about your advertising. It ain't like that. Think of it as a store. Think of it as the yellow pages. Think of it as a brochure. But don't think of it as television.

October 25, 2012

Social Media Effect: "Barely Negligible"

If you're in the business of selling stuff, according to one big-time research firm social media marketing is a waste of your time and money.

Forrester Research has released a report recently that concludes...
"Social tactics are not meaningful sales drivers. While the hype around social networks as a driver of influence in eCommerce continues to capture the attention of online executives, the truth is that social continues to struggle and registers as a barely negligible source of sales for either new or repeat buyers. In fact, fewer than 1% of transactions for both new and repeat shoppers could be traced back to trackable social links." 
Now think about this for a minute. This study is about the influence of online social media on online sales. If the influence on online sales is "barely negligible" can you imagine the influence on traditional retail sales (which account for about 94% of everything sold?) What's below barely negligible? Strongly negligible?

The study goes on to say...
 “The reality is that even the most popular social image-sharing sites (like Pinterest) have failed to move the needle with respect to sales for most retail sites.” 
To tell you the truth, even I was a little shocked reading about this study. There aren't too many people in the ad world who are more skeptical about the magical power of social media marketing than I am. But I thought the truth probably fell somewhere between "magic" and "barely negligible."

According to a piece about this study in Marketing...
As a direct source of sales, web marketing mainstays of search and email continue to be the most fruitful... 
Hmmm...seems to me I've read something like this somewhere before. Oh yeah, it was in The Ad Contrarian over two years ago...
"It is true that there's data to support the effectiveness of two types of online advertising: search and email. But is that it?"
It's starting to look more and more like the answer is... yes. That's about it.

October 24, 2012

Of Geeks And Sneaks

I don't like sneaky people.

And one of the things that bothers me about online advertising is the unprecedented degree of sneakiness.

In traditional advertising, there is usually no question about what an ad is or what it is intended to do. We are out to sell you something and there is rarely any doubt about our motives.

You may not like the idea that we are trying to sell you something, but there is no confusion about our purpose.

You know what an ad looks like, sounds like and smells like. You can choose to pay attention to it or not.

But online advertising is different.
  • Is a tweet really from a satisfied customer or is from an intern being paid to impersonate a customer?
  • Is an update really from a friend or is it "sponsored?"
  • Is a review from a real person? Or a real jerk trying to either pump up his own ratings or kill a competitor's?
  • Is a Google search result a true reflection of the best response or is it the result of someone having paid for a keyword? (Unsurprisingly, without the right hand column, almost 50% of people can not differentiate paid ads from organic search.)
  • Is "content" real or is it product propaganda?
  • What kind of "black ops" are online ad hustlers up to that we don't even know about?
The world of online advertising is replete with advertising disguised as something else, and media practices bordering on infringement of privacy.

Yes, traditional advertising is often annoying and witless. But it comes by its imperfections honestly. It does not pretend to be anything other than what it is.

Online advertising may not seem to be as tiresome or irritating. But, on the whole, it is considerably more insidious and disingenuous.

October 22, 2012

What The Hell Are They Teaching?

There was a piece in Ad Age last week featuring the astoundingly clueless opinions of marketing and business professors on the subject of the Pepsi Refresh project.

The amazing thing is that these people weren't from Southwest Arkansas State. These guys were from Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Penn and Notre Dame.

It makes it clear why so many young people in advertising are confused about what they're supposed to be doing. And just how out of touch these experts are.

Before we take a look at the comments, let's review the facts:
  • In 2010, Pepsi diverted scores of millions of dollars from traditional advertising (including their Super Bowl sponsorship and their traditional TV advertising) into a massive social media project.
  • After one year of this, they had lost 5% of their business.
  • Their sales dropped by an estimated half a billion dollars.
  • They fell from their traditional 2nd place in the soft drink category to 3rd place.
  • Their sales erosion increased widely compared to the previous year
  • Their beverage ceo was so upset he said he was going to "blow up the place."
  • Many of the key players are now gone from Pepsi
  • After burning astronomical amounts of money on this, Pepsi finally killed it in March.
If that doesn't describe a complete marketing disaster, I don't know what does. So what do the academics have to say about Refresh?
"...we don't know whether it was effective or not." 
What?! We DON'T KNOW??? Maybe you need a few research assistants to do a thesis for you, then you'll know. What has to happen to convince you that it bombed? Do lab rats have to grow two heads?
"I have read that the project had over 60 million folks involved. That is a pretty impressive accomplishment."
No, the "pretty impressive" part was how they got hundreds of millions of people to buy 5% less Pepsi. Now that's impressive.
"...it has helped further the conversation about the role of purpose in brand marketing."
Oh, the f/ing conversation! That old thing still alive on campus? Here on planet Earth, professor, we buried that putrid monkey about 2 years ago. How about this -- the "role of purpose" is to sell shit. Any further questions?
"It shows the power of making a big commitment to these causes. People really responded and said Pepsi is a good company."
Yeah, everywhere I go people can't stop talking about what a good company Pepsi is. I can hardly get a conversation going about the election or football.
"It's something that will be more and more relevant and more mainstream."

First of all, no company will ever again be stupid enough to listen to the delusional blather of "social media marketing experts" and do what Pepsi did.

Second, the "mainstream" doesn't need lessons from corporate America in good citizenship. We don't need lectures from white collar windbags who hide every dollar of profit they can from the tax system. We don't need holier-than-thou pronouncements from sugar-water peddlers about their high-minded principles. We don't need exhortations from overfed sharpies about our responsibilities as citizens.

You want to sell us stuff? Fine. Tell us what you got and why we need it.

Otherwise, we can do very well without your cynical gimmicks and corporate chest-pounding disguised as social virtue.

October 19, 2012

Google Math

My opinion piece about Google yesterday drew some skepticism.

It feels like much of it came from Googlemeisters whose deep involvement with search may be making them sensitive to every tree but barely aware of the forest.

Yesterday's piece was all opinion.  Here are some facts*:
  • For searches involving people looking to buy something, almost 2/3 of clicks go to paid results, not natural (organic) results. 
  •  85% of above-the-fold real estate in Google for high commercial intent keywords is given to paid ads. 15% goes to organic results.  
  • On average, the top "organic" listing gets fewer than 9% of clicks. Meanwhile, the top 3 spots get over 40% of clicks. 
  • If an advertiser buys keywords for which he would already rank naturally, 89% of his traffic will be generated by the paid ads, not the organic results.
  • According to a recent survey, without the right hand column, over 45% of respondents could not differentiate paid ads from organic search. 

* Source: The War On Free Clicks, WordStream

October 18, 2012

Google Is Blackmail

The way I see it, Google is a brilliantly executed extortion racket.

The key concept to understand is that Google makes its money through misdirection.

They get nothing for directing you to the most accurate search result. They get paid to artfully direct you away from the most accurate search result.

Natural (free) search takes you to the most likely thing you're searching for, according to their algorithms. Paid search takes you to the person who was willing to pay the most for the term you are searching. It is misdirection.

They are very clever about this. If the misdirection is too obvious or egregious, you'll lose confidence in them and search elsewhere. They walk a fine line, and are careful about just how much misdirection is acceptable.

Of course, they would disagree. They would tell you that natural search is "search" and paid search is "advertising." That may be technically true, but from a consumer's point of view it is essentially a distinction without a difference.

Here's where the blackmail comes in.

Let's say you own a Ford dealership. When someone in your area Googles "Ford" or "Focus" or "F-150" naturally you'd expect your dealership to pop up pretty close to the top in the results.

But it might not. If a Chevy dealer in your neighborhood bid on the term "F-150" and you didn't, his listing would appear in the paid search area of the page on top of yours. His link might misdirect a searcher to an offer on a Silverado. So someone shopping for a Ford truck winds up looking at an ad for a Chevy truck.

What's the consequence of this? You need to protect your turf. So you wind up paying for the term "F-150" that should rightfully be yours.

They get you to pay for what's yours by the implicit threat of selling it to someone else. It's blackmail, and it's brilliant.

Who Loves Ya?
...I know I threatened to pollute today's post with promotion for my books, but I decided to give you a break. You've had a tough enough week without my whining.

October 17, 2012

Advertising In Support Of Content

In a recent exciting episode of The Ad Contrarian called Web Litter: Now It's Content, we discussed how previously ineffectual online marketing activities have been resurrected as the latest web marketing miracle -- "content."

We said,
"Previously they were just litter blowing unnoticed through the dark, dusty corridors of the web. But now that they have been promoted to "content" they are once again awesome."
The theory behind the rebirth of "content" goes like this,
"Content...is a demonstration of your like-mindedness with your customer. It shows that you have a "shared-purpose" with her...and because your customer appreciates it so much she will engage with your brand and become a huge fan of your company."
Sadly we also did a little calculation,
"...there are over one trillion pages of "content" on the web...
If the average consumer devours one page of "content" every fifteen minutes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, it will take her over 27 million years to get around to your content."
Since most CMOs these days don't last 27 minutes, 27 million years seems like an unrealistically long horizon. By that time, Microsoft may have figured out how to get line-spacing right in Powerpoint. Or Papa John may have learned how to act.

But I digress...

Fortunately, for today's savvy marketing virtuoso there’s a way to move your content right up to the front of the line and avoid the 27 million year wait. How? By promoting it with advertising.

It's simple. You buy advertising that lets your target audience know where your content is. Then they find your content, they experience it and, bingo, they fall in love.

So instead of using your advertising budget to promote your product, you can now join the forward thinking marketers who use it to promote their content.


Wait a minute, you say. That’s f/ing crazy!

You're asking me to promote my content instead of my product? But I don't sell content, I sell products. Why should I spend money to promote my content, which is just an indirect way of promoting my products, when I can use the money to promote my products directly?...Even marketing people can't be that stupid, you say...

Oh, my friend, but that's where you're wrong.

And I can prove it in just two classical, wonderful, elegant, joyous words which have been sadly missing from this chronicle recently: Pepsi Refresh.

God I miss those people. 

Warning: Tomorrow's post is going to be devoted to hustling my books. Come armed.

October 16, 2012

We're Number Wonderful

This past weekend I decided to try to find out where this blog stood in the cosmic heirarchy. I don't know why -- probably status anxiety or some other post-modern disorder.

So I went to a website called the Ad Age Power 150 which purports to rank the 150 most powerful ad blogs in the world. The Power 150 had 1,137 blogs listed. Right away I knew there was going to be trouble.

If you think that 1,137 is somewhere between 1 and 150, I don't think you're in a good position to be publishing arithmetic calculations.

Nonetheless, I soldiered on. Digging a little deeper, I found The Ad Contrarian at number 61. This was disappointing as I was hoping to be #1 with a bullet. To make myself feel better I decided that I needed to augment their unreliable math with some computations of my own.

First, I got rid of all the blogs that weren't written in the USA. You see, I've been watching the presidential debates and one thing I've learned from paying close attention is that the USA is the greatest country ever invented in the history of the whole universe and beyond.

I've also learned that God loves the USA and we are blessed by him. So, not wanting to piss God off, I threw out all those blogs written by people whom God does not love. That eliminated 17 and got me down to number 44. I started feeling better already.

Next I tossed every blog that had "social media" or "conversation" in the title. Anyone who can stand to read that crap is not someone I want reading my blog anyway. Now I'm sitting at 41.

Then I got rid of all the blogs that had the words "search engine" in them. I don't know what the hell search engine marketing is supposed to be, but one thing I know for sure -- it ain't advertising. Now I'm number 34.

Then I shit-canned all the blogs that weren't really about advertising -- stuff like content and data and whatever this week's magic buzzword is. That was huge. Now I'm down to number 20.

Analyzing the top 20, I made a very insightful observation. One quarter of them had the writer's name as the title. This seemed unnecessarily narcissistic. For this reason I felt it my duty to disqualify them. So now I'm number 15.

Checking the 14 advertising blogs ahead of me, I couldn't help notice that there wasn't a single one of them that I had ever read. Not one.

So I decided this Ad Age Power 150 thing was a bunch of bullshit. I convened a meeting of The Ad Contrarian board of directors. After a great deal of discussion and compromise, we decided that we would publish our own ranking: The Ad Contrarian Power 1,137.

It's going to take us a while to calculate the rankings. But I'm pretty sure who number one is going to be.

By The Way...
If you don't get enough of my bullshit here on the blog, there's an interview that was published yesterday by Mitch Joel at Six Pixels Of Separation, which you can find here.

October 15, 2012

Facebook's Bar Chart From Hell

Facebook has decided that it no longer wants to be in the business of selling clicks. Instead it wants to be in the business of selling reach and frequency, just like the grown-ups.

Of course, this is a cruel joke because reach and frequency mean nothing if the ads are invisible, which they are on Facebook.

This bar chart (to actual scale) does a pretty good job of explaining why they'd rather sell reach and frequency than clicks.

(C) 2012, The Ad Contrarian

For every 10,000 ads they deliver, Facebook gets 5 clicks. What would you want to sell?

Thanks to James Segura for creating the chart

October 11, 2012

Commenting Is Back!

We used to have a very vibrant commenting community here at TAC. But that died several months ago.

The reason it died was because of a crappy third party commenting system I used from an incompetent, unprofessional, bush-league software company called _______.

Here at The Ad Contrarian world headquarters, we don't think it's right to pick on people who are stupid and incompetent. Unless they're stupid and incompetent and take your money and refuse to stand by their product.

Well, thankfully, after months of trying to rid my blog of their crappy code, and months of dealing with feckless, unresponsive, lying dogs, I have finally gotten their garbage off this blog and have defaulted to the Blogger commenting system (thank you, Jon Suson.)

The unfortunate thing is that the clowns at _____ have years of comments from this blog somewhere on their servers and I need to get them to release them to me so I can put them back into the blog commenting archives. Which is another way of saying that they have me by the identical twins. Which is why I am not revealing their name. Instead I am threatening them. If I get my comments, I'll swallow my bile. If not, they're in for trouble.

But let's forget the recriminations, and celebrate the fact that you can once again leave comments telling me what a Luddite dinosaur I am, how foolish my opinions are, and how I just don't get it. I've kinda missed that.

Oh, and one more thing. Did I mention that ____ sucks?

October 10, 2012

Real People Are Different From Us

In case you've ever wondered why marketing professionals are so ridiculously obsessed with the digital world, and so out of touch with real people in the real world, a group called the Media Behavior Institute did a very interesting little study.

They are quick to point out that this is not scientifically valid (which is true of most marketing and media research, but very rarely acknowledged.) But it gives us a quick glimpse into exactly how skewed our media wizards' vision of the rest of the world's media habits may be -- especially as it relates to online and mobile media habits.

The Institute compared the media habits of advertising executives to the general population. You can read more details about the study here. Here are some charts that show you the remarkable differences between how media pros and real people use media.

If  you want to understand the marketing industry's obsession with all things digital, look no further.

Thanks to Paul Benjou for alerting me to this.

October 08, 2012

How To Be A Marketing Genius

One of the reasons advertising and marketing are universally loved and held in such  high esteem in the business community is that we are so precise and disciplined in our thinking.

For example, in the pre-historic days of business, advertising was expected to "sell" things. Fortunately, we have overcome this small-minded way of thinking.

The old Luddite dinosaurs of business used to judge us based on "sales" because they were so easily "measurable." You either sold things or you didn't. This inexorably lead to the myopic concept of "accountability."

Thankfully, a new generation of visionary leaders has arisen in the advertising industry and they have derived a whole new series of measures of success that supersede the simplistic idea of "selling."

If you are to be successful in the new world of marketing, you will have to acquaint yourself with these concepts.

Here is a lexicon of some of the most popular contemporary ideas in marketing and a brief description of what each means. Learn them and you will soon find yourself at the forefront of our industry.
Branding: Branding is anything you can do with a logo. If it has a logo on it, it's branding. Give away a yoyo with your logo? Branding. A shirt with a name? Branding. Any ad at all.... Does it have a logo?...It does?...it must be brilliant because it's...Branding!

Engagement: Engagement is anything you can do on a web page. Look at it? Engagement. Breathe on it? Engagement. Click away from it? Engagement. 

Conversation: A conversation is anything you can do on a social media site with a keyboard. Share? A conversation. Like? A conversation. Agree? A conversation. Disagree? A conversation. Unfriend? A conversation. Complain, whine or rip? A conversation.

Community: A community is anything online that has more than one person.  Facebook friends you've never met? A community. Your email address book? A community? People who hate grilled cheese? A community. People who like Wolf Blitzer? A community.

Content: Content is anything you can upload.  Picture of your cat? Content. A video of someone scratching his ass? Content. Your dry cleaner's poetry? Throw it in the street and it's garbage. But upload it, and it's ...Content!
See, marketing isn't as difficult as everyone says!

Let's take a look at an example of a marketing home run:
Someone posts a picture of a bra-less 300-pound, tattooed grandmother in a Hard Rock Cafe tank top. You share the picture with the following comment: "Just threw up in my mouth."
Hard Rock just hit the marketing jackpot! You took a piece of branded content, and engaged your community by starting a conversation! Wow! Great job, Hard!

Branding, Engagement, Conversation, Community, and Content are some of the dazzling conceptual breakthroughs that have made contemporary marketing such a highly regarded discipline. Now, perhaps you understand the depth of intellect that has re-made marketing. And the high standard of brain power you will be held to.

Go get 'em, you genius you.

October 04, 2012

Facebook Announces 1 Billionth User. Still Waiting For 1st Ad Click.

MENLO PARK, Calif. (TAC) -- Facebook today announced that it had signed up its one billionth user.

Facebook made the announcement by placing an ad on a Facebook page. Only kidding, nobody's that stupid. They created a new spot which you can see below.
The spot explains that Facebook is very much like a chair. It is like a chair because people sit on it. Although there are not many people who sit on Facebook, some people do.

A person known to this reporter tried sitting on Facebook but the screen got all moist and greasy. Next time he'll try it with pants on.

A Facebook spokesman explained the meaning of the spot. "As you know, everyone at Facebook is now a millionaire or a billionaire. If there's one thing that millionaires and billionaires really hate it is being thought of as rich, selfish, materialistic 1%er bastards. So we commissioned a film that made it seem like we really care about people and the planet and the universe and everything else. We think this film does a good job of this and we are really feeling good about ourselves. The rest of the world may think this is a preposterous wank job, but we don't care because it gives us the chills. Plus, it has a shot of Earth from space which no one has ever seen before in a pitch video. Okay, maybe once or twice."

"We are also hoping that this will make people think that maybe that creepy Zuckerberg kid isn't such a douchebag."

Facebook identified the 1 billionth user as a guy named Fred. Fred had this to say. "I was standing in my kitchen waiting for the coffeemaker to beep, when I noticed there was a chair. The chair reminded me that I am human, and if there is one thing us humans like to do it's connect. So I decided that I would go next door to Shelly's apartment and see if I could connect with her, if you get my drift. But then my wife woke up and I had to pretend I was looking for the newspaper. Then I was sitting on the chair and I saw this vision of the planet and the universe and I remembered that we are not alone so I went to Facebook and signed up for my own page and then I saw an ad for lowering my electric bill."

Facebook said that it's Global Chief Data Misrepresenter had examined Fred's activity while on the site and had determined that Fred came very close to being the first person ever to click on a Facebook ad.

Fred said he was very excited about being the one billionth Facebook user. How did he find out? "My cousin tweeted it."

Closing For Repairs

Over the next 48 hours, The Ad Contrarian may be going down for periods of time while we try to repair and replace our completely screwed up commenting system.

This should be good for a few laughs.

October 03, 2012

Facebook Tying Itself In Knots

Let's go back a few years.

Old media paradigms were dying and new media paradigms were being developed.

The logic went like this:
  • Consumers were no longer docile and malleable. The web had changed all that. 
  • Old advertising metrics like reach and frequency were no longer relevant. Simply counting the number of purported impressions was shallow and outdated thinking.
  • Instead, the true measure of advertising effectiveness was engagement. Engagement did not measure how many ads ran and how often they ran, it measured the impact the ads had on the consumer.
  • The ultimate measure of engagement was interactivity. The willingness of a consumer to interact with an ad was the litmus test of its ability to engage.
  • Online advertising, and in particular display (banner) advertising, was uniquely suited to create interactivity because it was hyperlinked.
This new philosophy of advertising effectiveness seemed secure and well-accepted.

And then disaster hit. It became clear that consumers had no interest in engaging with advertising. Levels of interactivity (clicks on display ads) were astoundingly, shockingly low.

Meanwhile, the online media industry, the advertising industry, and the marketing industry had bet the farm on interactivity.

They needed a new story and they needed it quickly.

This was most starkly the case for Facebook. Facebook, by far the world's most successful social media platform, was locked into a dubious revenue model. Their amazing social media success provided them with very little revenue, and the only way for them to make money was by selling display ads, just like a million other websites.

But their problem was more acute. The level of advertising interactivity on Facebook (as measured by clicks) was even more disastrous than the industry as a whole. It was so low, in fact, that they refused to publish it.

They adopted a very clever revenue solution. Instead of charging advertisers on a cost-per-thousand basis (the traditional model for a media buy) they offered to charge on a cost-per-click basis. The theory behind this was that the real value of the advertising was in its ability to generate the click, the embodiment of engagement.

They only charged you for actual clicks. All those non-clickers didn't matter. You weren't paying for them.

As an advertiser, you were only paying for the gold. Clicks represented the valuable customers, the ones whose engagement and interest were proven.

This pricing structure was attractive to a great many advertisers, and the nasty little problem of click-through rates got swept under the rug.

Now the story takes a strange turn. Facebook is not generating enough revenue to justify its once lofty valuation, or even its not-so-lofty current valuation.

In an effort to convince the marketing industry that it is a powerful advertising medium, Facebook has begun singing a new tune. Or maybe its an old tune. According to Mashable, they made a big presentation this past week:
"Facebook on Monday continued its mission to convince the world’s top marketers that the standard means of measuring an online ad’s performance — the click-through rate — doesn’t matter."
And what does Facebook now say is the true measure of advertising value?
"(their Director of Pricing and Measurement)...proposed that the industry rely on the two measurements that have served TV well...reach and frequency."
Back to the future.

Facebook is so lost in its quest to prove its advertising relevance that it has tortured the logic of advertising value beyond comprehension. Their business model is now based on completely contradictory principles:
  • Their pricing structure is based on the value of clicks. 
  • But their business philosophy is that clicks have no value.
They better make up their mind pretty quickly or this may go down as one of the all-time great business shambles.

Thanks to the great Dave Trott for calling the Mashable article to my attention.

October 01, 2012

Web Litter: Now It's Content

The dismal record of online advertising has caused a minor crisis among the thousands of agencies who make a living creating the stuff.

It is getting difficult for them to convince anyone that blogs or podcasts or YouTube videos or "user generated content" or banners are the marketing miracles they were once purported to be. No one is that stupid anymore. I mean, except the odd CMO.

So the folks who create all this web clutter have had to look for some new magic to sell to today's ultra-cutting edge marketing prodigies. That miracle is called “content.”

Content isn't a new thing. But it is enjoying a new life. You see, all the specific things that the web promoters promised us would be magic have flopped. So they've resurrected "content" because it is non-specific -- no one knows what the hell it is. And if you don't know what it is, how can you criticize it?

Like most people, when you hear some geekazoid yapping about "content" you probably pretend to know what he's talking about. But you don't. And here's the really cool thing -- neither does he!

What exactly is content, you ask? Well, it seems that as long as you can upload it, and it's not an ad, it’s "content."

So all that online detritus that no one pays any attention to -- the blogs and podcasts and YouTube videos and Facebook pages and corporate manifestos -- have a new life. They are now “content.” Previously they were just litter blowing unnoticed through the dark, dusty corridors of the web. But now that they have been promoted to "content" they are once again awesome.

How, you may ask, did things that were clearly unproductive become awesome again? To understand this you have to understand the web marketing mind.

The web marketing mind is very imaginative. It cares about high-minded philosophy. In fact, a marketing activity without a philosophy -- for example TV advertising -- makes no sense to these people. The fact that TV ads are stupid and annoying is all they can see. The fact that they actually fucking work is of no interest to them. Without a noble purpose they cannot be taken seriously.

Back before all the underachieving online activities became "content" they were supposed to sell something. This is anathema to the web marketing mind. Now that they are content, they are no longer allowed to sell anything. From the Content Marketing Institute:
"Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent."
Yeah, that's what the public is waiting for -- the marketing industry to make them more intelligent.

Content, it's been said, is a demonstration of your like-mindedness with your customer. It shows that you have a "shared-purpose" with her. It is a "utility" and is “compelling” and provides the consumer with "value." It is helpful and fascinating and because your customer appreciates it so much she will engage with your brand and become a huge fan of your company.

Sounds lovely, doesn't it? This is the just the kind of virtuous philosophy that the web marketing mind can really embrace.

There’s just one little problem. It's all bullshit.

According to CNN there are over one trillion pages of "content" on the web. Think about that for a moment. One trillion.

I did a little math.

If the average consumer devours one page of "content" every fifteen minutes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, it will take her over 27 million years to get around to your content.

You might say this content stuff has quite a long pay out.