December 30, 2013

Advertising Needs Troublemakers

My mother once explained her attraction to my father to me. She said that among the young men in her crowd he was "the best of the not-very-good dancers." In that spirit, we continue saluting the best of the not-very-good Ad Contrarian posts from 2013. Here's one from October.

The advertising industry has become too respectable, too congenial, and too polite.

We are in desperate need of troublemakers. We need shit-disturbers. We need hell-raisers.

We need the kind of quarrelsome, pugnacious, opinionated people that make the arts vibrant and interesting.

There's way too much consensus. Way too much cordiality. Way too little controversy in advertising.

Attending an advertising conference these days is like going to an insurance seminar. It is full of bland, head-nodding jargon-monkeys who are very keen on swallowing whole the conventional blather of smug "experts."

Nobody seems inclined to challenge the wearisome assertions of modern-day wizards, no matter how many times they've been wrong.

It's all backwards. Rebelliousness is supposed to be a characteristic of youth. But the only people I hear wailing about the insufferable tedium of ad-think these days are old fools like me.

It ain't supposed to be this way. We need people who aren't afraid to get up on stage at the next "big data" conference and pull their pants down.

We need people who aren't afraid to break a layout over a client's head.

We need people who give a shit.

You know what you call people who give a shit?


December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

Everyone here at Ad Contrarian world headquarters wishes you a very happy holiday.

December 23, 2013

The 7 Secrets Of Lazy-Ass Bums

Today at Ad Contrarian Worldwide Headquarters we continue to post our faves from 2013. Here's one from June.

I hate working.

I hate sitting in an office. I hate going to meetings. I hate writing performance reviews. I hate "nurturing" people. I hate listening to bullshit artists and know-nothing loudmouths who dominate our business. Yet somehow I managed to have a reasonably successful career.

Here are my 7 secrets of success.
1. Assume everyone is faking it. Nobody knows a thing about advertising. All the rules are bullshit. There are a few people who can make good ads. That's all there is.
2. Preparation is everything. If you are not the best prepared person in every meeting you are just another empty t-shirt. You will never get your way and you will always be second rate.
3. Do as little work as possible at the office. Do your real work at home. It's almost impossible to do anything useful in an office. Offices are for meetings and phone calls and memos and emails and Powerpoints and politics and bullshit.
4. Worry about everything. If you don't worry you don't care. Figure out what's going to go wrong and be prepared when it does.
5. Stay as far away from big organizations as possible. Corporations will suck all the joy out of your life and all the life out of your joy. Corporations are poison, and the more they pay you the more they own you.

6. Pay no attention to the industry. The more you read about what other agencies or other clients are doing the more you're going to become a cliché spewing zombie. Figure things out for yourself.

7. Be satisfied. You don't have to work for the biggest agency in the world or be the best art director on the planet to be successful and happy. You're not going to be Bill Bernbach anyway, so forget about it. If you're doing work that is respectable, and you're not suffering 90% of the time, you're way ahead of most of the poor bastards in this business. Enjoy it.
 That's as close to a pep talk as I get.

December 20, 2013

Advertising Industry Gives Up

We are continuing our favorites of 2013 parade. This one was posted the day after Omnicom and Publicis announced they were merging.

I would like to be all outraged and upset by the announcement that Omnicom and Publicis are merging. But I can't. It is just the advertising industry's way of telling us that it has joined the parade.

As in so many other fields, the ad industry has discovered that it is way more profitable to provide a mediocre product to a lot of people than a high quality product to a few.

Just look at the airline industry, the banking industry, the telecom industry, the fast food industry. They provide mediocre products to massive markets. It's what huge companies do. It's what markets demand.

If you're a lazy, aristocratic CMO of a global corporation do you want to go out and find the best creative agency in Indonesia? The best digital agency in Korea? The best media agency in Argentina? Are you fucking kidding? That takes work.

Hire a worldwide bullshit factory and let some account director worry about it. You have powerpoints to prepare and conferences to address and, soon, football games to attend.

The boys in the management suite will applaud your wisdom for hiring one entity that can "do it all" (yeah, right) and "save you money" (yeah, right) at the same time.

Hiring OmniPub (or whatever dreadful name they've come up with) turns laziness into a virtue, and stupidity into foresight.

It is the perfect solution for the emptiness of our time. 

The newspaper articles, the business magazines, the TV pundits, and the bloggers will all be busy reporting on how this will affect the clients of this new agency, and what the profit picture is for Wall Street, and which big shots will get new offices and which ones will get walking papers.

No one will report on the important stuff. No one will talk to the rank and file who work for these monkeys and can tell us the truth about how corrupt, disjointed, unmanageable, and feckless they already are -- before they double in size.

But you know what? Nobody gives a shit.

No one is willing to spend for quality. No one wants to pay for service. No one cares to work very hard.

So let's give the suckers what they want and be done with it.

December 19, 2013

How Dumb People Become Successful

We are continuing our rerun of favorite posts from 2013. Here's one from May.

After a few years in the business world, something occurred to me. I realized that the majority of the people I met in business were astonishingly stupid.

Years later I was sitting around a bar with a couple of my agency colleagues. We had won a very important piece of business from a world class client. We were working with the very top people at the client and we were  astounded by their shallowness.

A few drinks into the evening one of my colleagues turned to me and said, "I keep thinking that some day we'll meet the smart ones."

At that moment I recalled a conversation I had had years earlier. A friend introduced me to a business concept he called "achieving orbit."

With enough energy, a satellite will escape the gravitational pull of earth and will achieve orbit. Once it achieves orbit, it operates on its own. It will circle under its own power for years. And the only way to knock it down is to get in its way.

Businesses are like this, too, he claimed. After a certain period of success, they can achieve orbit and stay successful without much added energy.

Many companies are powered by products or services initiated years or even decades ago. And barring a horrible accident, they will stay in orbit. They persevere largely on inertia.

That's why all the monkeys running around having meetings and writing memos really aren't doing that much harm. It's why clueless managers really can't do too much damage. It's why all the CEOs and COOs buzzing around in their golf carts usually aren't fatal.

Of course, there are some industries, like technology, that need constant updating. But think about the market leaders in automobiles, food, soda, beer, fast food, dairy, snacks, candy, paper towels, toasters...for the most part, the market leaders today were the market leaders 30 years ago.

From time to time there come along some people who are so stupid that they knock a successful company out of orbit. But mostly, orbiting companies consist of people running around in circles pretending to make contributions. As long as they don't mess with the color of the box, or build a 3-wheeler, or change the flavor to grape, they usually can't screw things up too badly.

Businesses are successful in spite of all these monkeys, not because of them.

December 18, 2013

Let's Get Phygital

For the holidays, I'm taking a few weeks off from blogging and re-publishing some of my favorite posts of the past year. Here's one from last February.

We are so used to massive bullshit in the advertising business that it really takes something special to shock us.

I'm happy to say, however, that our industry is up to the challenge. You want bullshit that's something special? We got it.

Last weekend I came across a truly outstanding exercise in painful marketing drivel, and I'm proud to share it with you.

It is hard to believe that an agency would actually allow this nonsense on its website. But not only is it on the website, it is the lead copy on their landing page and, apparently, the underpinning of their philosophy.

Buckle up:
Co-creating with brands and people in the Phygital world.                     Modern consumers are "connected protagonists." They are the heroes of their own stories and, thanks to technology, they now have access to an audience of unprecedented size. This presents brands with powerful new opportunities for growth, if brands give consumers the currency to create and share better stories. That currency is content - be it entertainment, connection, experience or information - as long as it is created with the understanding that we live in a Phygital world, where the physical and digital parts of our lives are one and the same. We believe that only through co-creating currency with brands and people - instead of for people - can you guarantee authentic engagements that consumers value and want to share. Momentum provides to marketers - in thought and action - the ideas that engage the connected protagonist to build value for brands and people.
Wow. Let's forget all the usual hogwash -- the co-creating, and the engaging, and the sharing, and the currency (note to author -- you seem to have forgotten "ecosystem." Points off.) Let's get to the fun stuff.

The "connected protagonist." He sounds like an amiable guy with an unsevered umbilicus.

And how are you gonna beat Phygital? I mean, c'mon. It's awesome. It's Stupiculous! If they gave awards for just plain dumbness, Phygital would get double platinum. Maybe quadruple (what comes after quadruple?)

Which gets me thinking. They give awards for everything else in the ad business. Why not for the only thing we're really good at -- bullshit?

December 17, 2013

Pepsi Selling Its Soul

Lazy bastard that I am, a few years ago I decided that a good way to take a few weeks off from blogging around the holidays was to re-publish some of my favorite posts of the year. So for the next couple of weeks we're going to be in re-runs. Here's one from last January.

One of the great things about the marketing world is that if things get really bad, if everything is caving in around you, if your whole world is crumbling and you desperately need a laugh, you can always Google "Pepsi marketing" and have yourself a hearty chuckle.

Just spend a few minutes rooting around in their amazing alternate universe and you're sure to find a treasure trove of fun, guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Here at Ad Contrarian Labs, we have been chronicling the wonderfully entertaining, yet seriously preposterous, goings-on at Pepsi for years. And every time we think it can't get any more silly, we are proven wrong.

 As we predicted years ago...
"PepsiCo's soda business is in the midst of an epic, historic collapse."
...said Business Insider a few weeks ago. They went on to report...
"In Q3 2012, volume at its American division declined 3%, driven by a 4% decline in North America. There was a 7% revenue decline to $5.5 billion. In March 2011, Pepsi was humbled as Diet Coke became the nation's No.2 favorite drink behind Coke, and Pepsi slipped to No.3. Diet Pepsi is only the 7th most-drunk soda in the U.S."
Gosh. Whodathunkit?

But don't worry. In an article that appeared recently, they seem to have a whole new vocabulary of knucklehead double-talk (Pepsi leads the league in that category) that is sure to save them. This comes from the Pepsi Global Beverage Group Foresight Director. Yes, they actually have someone called that. The more dreadful their business gets, the more ridiculously pompous their titles get.

I wonder how the Global Beverage Group Foresight Director gets along with the President-Global Enjoyment and the Global Chief Marketing Officer-Hydration. I'm starting to believe the most creative employee in the company is the HR nitwit who comes up with these breathtaking titles.

As an aside, I think I have a good strategy for bringing Pepsi's beverage business back to life. Fire all the overfed worldwide globalizers and hire an Ad Manager who'll let the agency make some decent fucking ads.

But I digress...

The Global Beverage Group Foresight Director thinks he has the solution to Pepsi's problems. He says...
"There's a growing realisation that ... innovation has to come out of the brand soul."
Apparently, in the ever more ludicrous lexicon of brand babble, brands no longer have DNA, now they have soul.

It seems that innovation has not been coming out of Pepsi's "brand soul." It's been coming out of their ass, or the janitor's closet or something. Now they are searching for the brand's soul and -- pop -- out will come the innovations. Sounds like fun.

I wonder how much a branding consultant is going to charge them to find the brand's soul? Personally, I wouldn't do it for less than 2 million.

The Global Beverage Group Foresight Director also thinks it's important
"...that people running a brand share a "sense of being" with its buyers"
As a sometime Pepsi buyer, it is very clear to me that the people running the brand and I do not share a sense of being. I'm not even sure I have a sense of being. Sometimes around 3 a.m. I have a sense of peeing, but I don't think that's what they mean.

The Foresight Director wants the people who run the brand and me to...  
"... form "one big force" sharing the same goal..."
Gosh, imagine if I shared a goal with a soda brand team. What an awesome life it would be. We'd be "one big force."

The Pepsi brand team and little ol' me. My friend, it's a carbonated dream come true.

December 16, 2013

The Top 10 List Of Top 10 Lists

Tis the season of top 10 lists.

As we get closer to the new year, top 10 lists will thrive like blue fuzzy stuff on last week's cream cheese.

Recently, Emily Nussbaum, TV critic for The New Yorker, wrote a piece about why she hates year-end top 10 lists and how she refuses to write them. Clearly, Emily is out of touch with the prevailing digital-age zeitgeist.

Here at The Ad Contrarian Global Headquarters, one of our core values is to give back to our loyal readers. And if that means top 10 lists, then top 10 lists it is.

Since many of our regular visitors are bloggers, web entrepreneurs, or other underachievers who depend on web traffic to build either their businesses or their egos, we thought we'd help out with some top 10 list ideas you can use this week that are surefire click-magnets.

So here are some titles for "10 thing" posts that are guaranteed to have people flocking to your web site: 
  • 10 Ways To Smoke All The Weed You Want And Still Write Awesome Banner Ads 
  • 10 Super-Hot Nymphos Who Don't Mind Picking Up a Pizza On The Way Over 
  • 10 Jobs Besides Marketing That Pay A Lot Of Money To Dimwits 
  • 10 Internationally Handsome Movie Stars Who Want To Take You To France
  • 10 Things To Put On A Pastrami Sandwich That Make You Lose Weight
  • 10 Reasons Why Women Vacuum While You're Watching Football 
  • 10 Legal Foods That Still Contain Gluten 
  • 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising...oops, sorry, that's the title of my book that you should buy everyone for Christmas
  • 10 Guys Named Zander Who Aren't Douchebags
  • 10 Ways To Become Wealthy Sitting On Your Ass Reading Blogs  
Since there are only a few days left in the year, and since I'm way behind in my drinking, and since I look for any excuse not to write, for the remainder of the year I'm going to post my ten favorite Ad Contrarian posts from 2013. I realize it's a little narcissistic to pick your own top 10, but what the hell do you think blogging is about anyway?

Have a great Christmas and a wonderful New Year and remember, it's only advertising.

December 10, 2013

Attack Of The Billionaire Hypocrites

The Silicon Valley aristocracy, who have made billions and billions of dollars by collecting ungodly amounts of personal information about us, came out in force yesterday to denounce governments for collecting ungodly amounts of personal information about us.

They're shocked -- shocked I tell you! -- at the intrusion into our privacy.

I have two words for these greedy, lying, hypocrites: screw you.

You are the people who enabled this. You are the people who chose to ignore what was obvious to everyone with a functioning brain -- that your relentless collection of personal information about private citizens is totally at odds with the principles of democracy.

Here's what the despicable hypocrites of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Microsoft and AOL had to say yesterday:
The undersigned companies believe that it is time for the world’s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information.
Let me tell you something Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Microsoft and AOL -- you puffed-up, self-important, arrogant phonies -- you have the smell of this all over you. Pretending that you are suddenly the stalwart guardians of peoples' privacy makes me sick.

If a dumbass blogger could figure out what was going on, don't pretend that you couldn't.

Three years ago, almost to the day, long before all this NSA shit hit the fan, the aforementioned dumbass blogger published an article called Big Brother Has Arrived And He's Us. In the article he wrote:
The essence of freedom and democracy is being undermined.

The Internet now knows everything about us. It knows where we go, who we talk to, what we talk about... It knows our locations at any moment and whom we are with... It knows our political beliefs and our sexual habits... It knows what our ailments are, what drugs we use, what doctors we see and what our psychological profiles are.

It pretends the information is secure, but only a blind fool believes this...

And why does it do all this?... for the marketing and advertising industries...
There is no realistic vision of the future in which this will not lead to appalling mischief.
It’s time to put aside our petty self-interest, take a step back and see where this is leading. We need to stop tracking people and their behavior now. Right now
I know what your posturing is about. It's about money. You are afraid that people are starting to realize what malignant jackals you are. And you're trying to delegate the blame.

Here's what I think:
The undersigned believes that it is time for the world’s web scumbags to address their practices regarding internet surveillance of individuals and access to their information.
Physician, heal thyfuckingself.

December 09, 2013

Get Ready For Hysteria

After a decade of irresponsibly reporting the death of TV viewing, the clueless news media are sure to go into full hysteria mode after the release of Nielsen's latest cross-platform report.

Last week, Nielsen reported that in the 3rd quarter of 2013, average daily total TV viewing among all Americans (including live TV and DVR playback) dropped by 3 minutes. Ohmygod!

Daily TV viewing in the 3rd quarter dropped from 286 minutes a day (4 hours and 46 minutes) to 283 minutes a day (4 hours and 43 minutes.)

This is the first time since 2009 there has been a downward movement in viewing.

Of course, the media never reported on the upward movement. It went against the "narrative" they invented years ago.

Even for dimwits like us, there is apparently only so much time in the day we can spend watching TV. It looks like 4 3/4 hours is about our limit. I guess we need time to do other important things like take selfies and try to get on 

Having stuck all these years to the narrative that TV was dying, the media are sure to trumpet this downward tick as proof of the correctness of their ongoing misrepresentation of consumer behavior.

Since this is also likely to be twisted out of all proportion by online advertising hustlers and careless bloggers, here is some perspective from the Nielsen report:
  • People spend almost 7 times as much time watching TV as they do on line.
  • People spend 23 times as much time watching video on television as they do watching video on the web.
  • People spend 27 times as much time watching video on TV as they do on a mobile phone.
  • People spend almost 3 times as much time listening to radio as they do on the web.
But don't let the facts influence you. Traditional media are dead. I know because I read it on line.

December 04, 2013

Delighting In Digital Dumbness

If you have a healthy sense of the absurd, there is great joy to be found in the dumbness of some digital mediacrats.

Last week in this space there appeared a post called Astounding News From Moronsville. The post was about a digital media agency that created an infographic asserting that ads that were "viewable" were more effective than ads that were "non-viewable." I guess you have to be a Certified Digital Media Professional to figure that shit out.

My post was less than complimentary about the nitwits that propagated this stunning wisdom.

Amazingly, some digital media honchos got all huffy about my post. They wrote nasty emails and tweets. I was accused of singling digital media people out for scorn -- which, of course, I did. An article referencing my stupidity even appeared yesterday in Digiday.

In a remarkable torturing of logic, they asserted that since there is waste in traditional advertising, there is nothing absurd about creating a chart showing that online ads that can be seen get more clicks than ads that cannot be seen. 

These people are so insulated and engulfed in the arcane minutiae of their narrow little discipline that they can't see the monumental ridiculousness in asserting that things that can be seen are more effective than things that can't. In their bizarre world, this is an insight.

First, let me state the obvious. I've known some brilliant, talented media people, both traditional and digital. Okay, everyone got that?

I've also known a lot of dumb-ass media people. Let's face it, a media agency isn't exactly the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Now, here's the difference between traditional media people and digital media people.

I've known some really dumb traditional media people. But I've never known one so fucking dumb that he would write...
"If an ad is in view, your audience is more likely to act upon it."
That takes a wonderful, extraordinary kind of dumbness. It takes a transcendent dumbness. It takes a dumbness that charms, and thrills, and makes you think that maybe life really is just a bowl of fucking cherries.

It takes more than traditional dumbness. It takes cutting-edge, state-of-the-art, up-to-the-minute, undiluted, artisanally curated digital dumbness.

December 02, 2013

Why Do Marketers Hate Old People?

One of the most infamous advertising campaigns in the history of the auto industry was called, "This Is Not Your Father's Oldsmobile."

The premise was that Oldsmobile was suddenly a vehicle for young people. There were only three problems with this campaign:
1. Young people couldn't afford and didn't buy new cars
2. When they did, they'd rather stick a jelly donut up their ass than buy an Oldsmobile
3. The campaign insulted the people who did buy these cars - their parents
Apparently, Oldsmobile thought it was a good idea to malign their real customers and flatter the people who would never buy their products. Why? Because their real customers were old, and everyone in advertising and marketing hates old people.

It may have been the first time in the history of business that a company told its customers that their product was no longer for them.

Marketers, it seems, would rather pander fruitlessly to young people than make real money selling things to old people.

The idea of people over 50 driving their cars, drinking their coffee, eating their hamburgers, and wearing their sneakers is so appalling and such an embarrassment that they willfully ignore and disparage the most valuable economic group in the history of the world.

Well, believe it or not, the Oldsmobile campaign flopped, and ultimately Oldsmobile folded.

What hasn't folded, however, is marketers' irrational obsession with young people and loathing of old people.

Today, marketers are just as likely to target people simply because they are young -- even though they have no money and cannot and will not buy their products .

Conversely, they are just as likely to ignore people who are old -- even though they have lots of money and are prime targets for their products.

As I wrote recently, automobile marketers continue their idiotic habit of targeting people 18-34 for "youth cars" despite the fact that 88% of the people who buy these cars are over 35.

Almost everyone you see in a car commercial is between the ages of 18 and 24. And yet, people 75 to dead buy five times as many new cars as people 18 to 24.

In fact, marketers are more likely than ever to ignore and insult the people who can actually buy their products and grow their businesses.

Marketers contempt for and prejudice against older people is a remarkable and fascinating story. They have volumes of data that tell them about the size and power of the over 50 market, but because of their hard-wired prejudices they are blind to it.

It is very much the story of the weapon that is hidden in plain sight.

If you could find a group

...who was responsibly for about half of all consumer spending

...who control over 70% of all the wealth in the country

...who dominate 94% of all CPG categories

...who buy almost 2/3's of all new cars

...who owned 57% of all second and vacation homes and all the stuff that goes with that

...who are far easier and cheaper to reach than other groups

would you ignore them?

There is only one type of person foolish enough to do that -- a marketing person.

If we dropped marketing people in from Mars and they looked at the data, they would immediately understand how important it is to aim marketing activity at people over 50.

Unfortunately, our marketing leaders don’t come from Mars. They come from New York and LA and Chicago where decades of prejudices and legends have overwhelmed simple, clear thinking.

I was speaking to a very smart ad agency guy recently. He made a great point: 
"If I could talk to CFOs about this, they'd get it in 5 seconds. But I have to talk to CMOs."
According to Nielsen, people over 50 are "the most valuable generation in the history of marketing." Yet only 5% of advertising is directed at them.

Why? Because marketers are embarrassed by them. They are afraid that 18-year-olds will, god forbid, see people over 50 using their products.

Marketers think that people over 50 are decrepit old farts. The unrelenting stupidity of marketers cannot accept the fact that Barrack Obama, Jerry Seinfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Bruce Springsteen, Meryl Streep and tens of millions of others are all over 50. They are healthy, wealthy, and wise. And, in many ways, hipper and more youthful than the marketers.

Oh, but they're dying out, right? Not exactly. Between now and 2030 the adult population over 50 will grow at about three times the rate of adults under 50. It's the young people who are dying out.

Marketers are also under the delusion that older people want to be like young people. Yeah, Steven Spielberg is aching to be like Justin Bieber, and Michelle Obama is just itching to be like the doofuses in Taco Bell commercials.

Let's be honest here. As a former ad guy, I am sorry to have to say that any intelligent business person who comes into contact with advertising and marketing people soon discovers that many are exactly what the clichés say --  shallow, glib mediocrities who have learned some dreadful jargon and buzzwords and repeat them endlessly.

When it comes to having the imagination to understand the tremendous opportunity that is staring them in the face, they are clueless. They are obsessed with people like themselves. They think that everyone is a young, big city, coastal elite hipster.

Despite their pretensions of leading-edge hipness, they are mired in beliefs and practices that are 30 years out of date.

Strong letter to follow.