September 29, 2014

5 Good Reasons To Ignore Millennials

I love millennials. My daughter is one. She and her friends are terrific, thoughtful people.

But I hate that the marketing industry has turned them into the cause célebre of marketing cement-headedness.

I am sick to death of hearing and reading marketing nitwits gushing about millennials.

Our industry is always on the lookout for some new jargonista bullshit we can invoke at the drop of a hat. Millennials are the latest magic. They are the mediocre marketer's obsession of the moment

The fuss about millennials is mostly
a) marketing flat-tires bloviating about their latest fetish
b) the noise of editors with millennial kids who think there's a big story there, or
c) the pathetic youth worship of older people who should know better.

Here are some facts about millennials that might attenuate your enthusiasm.

1. If you're in the automobile business and someone has convinced you to spend good money against a "millennial target" try not to soil your pants when you read this -- someone over 35 is about seven times as likely to buy a new car as a millennial.

2. If you sell luxury goods and your media target is redolent of millennials, you might like to know that millennials buy 3% of luxury goods. For every luxury product a millennial will buy, a baby boomer will buy 17.

3. If you're in the travel/hotel/hospitality business, people over 35 comprise over 70% of leisure travelers, and almost 80% of business travelers.

4. If you're selling "green" or "eco-friendly" products, millennials' much-vaunted commitment to such things seems to be a mile wide and an inch deep. Ten percent of millennials belong to an environmental organization. But once they have families this drops by 98%.

5. Like every group of young people the world has ever known, everything about these people will change when they get some money. For example baby boomers -- the generation that pioneered backpacking through Europe on $5 a day 40 years ago -- now represent the bulk of luxury travelers. By the time millennials are ready to become important factors in your category, they will have changed and so will your category.

If you think that by advertising to them now they'll remember your message in ten years, I've got news for you. They won't remember your message in 10 minutes.

Spend your advertising money where it will do you some good -- against people who are buying in your category now. If that's millennials, great. But if it's not, be careful.

September 25, 2014

Bulletin: Agency People Are Unhappy.

Last week Digiday ran a piece called "Why Agency People Are Unhappy."

Before we discuss how they got it all wrong, let's get a little perspective.

Unhappy agency people are nothing new. Agency people are whiners, always have been and always will be. Many are lovable whiners, but whiners nonetheless.

Half of the whining is legitimate -- many jobs in advertising suck.

Half of it is just the discontentment of people who consider themselves too creative for what they are asked to do.

And the third half is the natural inclination of everyone everywhere to bitch and moan.

Now back to Digiday.

Has the level of discontentment in advertising gone up in recent years? My sense is that has has, substantially. While I've heard an incessant drumbeat of unhappiness among ad people for 4 decades, I believe it is now considerably worse than ever.

Digiday drags out all the usual suspects to explain this:
  • Demanding clients
  • Low pay
  • Horrendous hours
  • Disrespect for the contribution
  • Disrespect for creative work
  • The effect of the Internet
  • Fear of innovation
These are mostly effects. They are not the cause. The deeper cause of all this angst is something much more subtle and misunderstood -- it is the consolidation of the ad industry.

As I have mentioned before, when I started in advertising, the largest agency in the U.S. was Y&R with about a 1.5% share of market. According to the latest figures I've seen, four enormous holding companies control over 70% of the advertising in the U.S.

The advertising industry is, structurally, a totally different industry than it was when it was pleasanter and creative-er. It is also totally different culturally. This makes an enormous difference.

A handful of giant megaliths -- controlled by financiers, accountants, lawyers and corporate flat tires (what a colleague of mine used to call "fearsomely dull men in grey suits")  -- run the ad industry. They are a very different breed from the craftspeople/entrepreneurs who used to run it.

I think you will find that the agencies in which people are most satisfied these days are either the independent agencies or the agencies that are so creatively successful that their holding company masters wouldn't dare screw with them. 

There is no secret to what happens to industries when they become consolidated -- the customers become angry and the employees become dispirited. Look at the airline industry, the telecom industry, and the banking industry.

The ad industry will never be any different as long as it is controlled by the likes of Michael Roth and Martin Sorrell.

We sold our industry to the highest bidders. And in doing so, we sold our soul.

It's hard to be happy when you're soul-free.

A few sidebars today...
...I try to be assiduous in my fact checking, but sometimes I screw up. In a few recent talks I have stated that "people 75 to dead buy more new cars than people 18-34." It should be "people 65 to dead." Sorry.
...Just checked the YouTube video of my talk in London at Advertising Week Europe earlier this year. I am blown away at over 30,000 views of something 45 minutes long. Thank you all so much.

September 22, 2014

Why I Hate Content

In the material world there is no single word that encompasses both art and a beer spill.

There is no word that creates a unity between a Rodin sculpture and a photo of a foot.

There is no term that forges an equivalency between a Gershwin melody and a bloody handkerchief.

In the online world there is such a word. It is content.

Content is anything you can upload to the web. In other words, it is pretty much anything.

It is a Shakespeare sonnet and a picture of my cat's ass.

It bestows value on anything, and in so doing, debases everything.

It takes the symbol of a witless age - the selfie - and gives it status. You're not guilty of narcisstic self-indulgence, you're creating content!

Worst, it is spoken of with respect. It is, in some quarters, regarded as a serious and compelling expression of online value.

If there has ever been an asset with a lower value, I'd like to know what it is. 

We have conferences about content. We have books about content. We have seminars about it, and companies that specialize in it.

Content is everything, and it's nothing. It's an artificial word thrown around by people who know nothing, describing nothing.

It is an excuse masquerading as a resource.

Content is a con.

It is the ultimate Seinfeld episode: it's a show about nothing.

September 17, 2014

I Can Dream, Can't I?

Last week I had the pleasure of delivering the keynote address at the radio industry's annual Radio Show in Indianapolis, sponsored by the Radio Advertising Bureau and the National Association of Broadcasters (you can watch my talk here.)

This was a pretty big deal for me. Other speakers including Alan Mulally, former ceo of Ford and Boeing, Dan Harris of ABC News, and Governor Mike Pence of Indiana.

The talk went better than I could have dreamed. I actually got a standing o, which in all my years of speaking I never got before.

As always, there was a contingent of online people who hated my talk. No surprise there.

Radio, like all traditional media, is having its share of problems. While Americans still spend more than twice as much time with radio as they do on line, radio’s revenues are flat while online revenues are soaring.

And, as you might suspect, there are people busy trying to sell the radio industry on digital miracles. I wasn't quite clear on what the digital miracles were – digital delivery of radio programming; sales of digital ads on line and on websites; online station promotion; or listener engagement with online content and social media.

As in so many industries, it seems that it is all lumped into one nebulous bundle of magic called “digital.” I sensed that there might be a dangerous fantasy afoot that “digital” (whatever it means) is the road to salvation for radio.

One of the reasons for the power of this fantasy is that in recent years radio stations are deriving a little over 5% of their revenue from selling digital advertising. While I am skeptical of the power of most online advertising, I am very much in favor of making money any way you can.

I am no expert in the radio business, but it appears to me that the danger is in believing that the digital revenue is independent of the traditional on-air revenue. In fact, 100% of the digital revenue is secondary to listenership. Without listeners, no digital advertising, and no online ad revenue. It all starts with listeners.

The proposition that radio can increase listenership substantially among young people seems highly improbable to me, regardless of what digital magic the industry chooses to employ.

But radio does very well with people over 50. And people over 50 have and spend most of the money in this country. Unfortunately, people over 50 are poison to advertisers. Despite the enormous opportunity that they represent, advertisers are stuck in the 1970’s worshiping at the altar of youth.

One of the ideas I expressed in my talk was that the radio and television industries should undertake a major initiative to educate marketers and advertisers on the incredible opportunity that people over 50 present. The hope would be that if advertisers and agencies would be exposed to the facts, their antiquated thinking and ingrained prejudices might be overcome.

This may be the greatest fantasy of all.

September 15, 2014

You Can't Be Everyone's Girlfriend

A friend of mine, Peter Levitan, has just published a new book for agencies about pitching new business. The book is called The Levitan Pitch: Buy This Book. Win More Pitches.

Peter asked for my point-of-view on pitching new business, and it is included in his book under the heading (as you might expect) The Contrarian View. Here it is:
1. You can’t be everyone’s girlfriend
Do not pitch every stupid thing that comes along. Don’t try to fit yourself into every box. Not everyone is going to love you and not everyone is going to buy your story. Pick your spots.

2. Do what you tell your clients to do
The first thing we tell our clients is that they have to differentiate themselves. It is the one thing agencies never do. They all sound the same, look the same, and smell the same. Decide who you are and how you are different and better. If you can’t do that, hire Peter and let him do it for you.

3. Be clear on your objective at each stage
This is really important. A new business pitch is a 3 or 4 step process. At each stage your one and only objective should be to get to the next stage. You will not win the account at the first stage. At the beginning stages clients are not looking to hire an agency, they are looking for reasons to eliminate agencies. Give them reasons why they should continue talking to you, and don’t give them reasons to eliminate you.

4. Make the presentation you want to make, not the one you’re asked to make
For the final pitch, most of the time clients and search consultants provide you with outlines of the presentation they want to see. Throw it away and make the presentation you want to make. Remember, you have one shot only.

5. Only let the good presenters talk
There are brilliant people who are lousy presenters and dumb-ass bozos who are great presenters. Only let the good presenters present.

6. Have a strategy and stick to it
The final presentation should have a theme and every section of the presentation should spin off that theme and point to a conclusion where the strategy is clearly and creatively defined.

7. The best new business program is a good reputation
There's a lot more valuable stuff in Peter's book.

September 10, 2014

Here's To The Bobbleheads

Here's to the bobbleheads.

Here's to the ones who sit at every meeting and nod in agreement.

Here's to the ones who never have a dangerous idea or an interesting opinion.

Here's to the ones who always agree with the highest ranking person in the room.

Here's to the ones who go to conferences and tweet out the banalities.

Here's to the guys and gals who start every sentence with, "The client said..."

Here's to the ones who think their job is to make someone happy.

Here's to the ones who have no questions.

Here's to the ones who agree with the last person they spoke to.

Here's to the ones who produce the biggest decks and the fuzziest briefs.

Here's to the ones who can't finish a sentence without "disrupt" or "engage."

Here's to the ones who know all of the platitudes and none of the facts.

Here's to the true believers -- the new kings and queens of the ad industry.

Here's to the bobbleheads!

Also, please check out my Type A partner's blog here.

September 08, 2014

Social Media's Unintended Effect

The summer is unofficially over, but before it gets too far away, let's do some warm-weather, laying-out-under-a-tree, stream of semi-consciousness...

Social Media's Unintended Effect
Those with open minds and clear heads should by now have learned something very important about marketing from social media. We should have learned how weak consumers' attachments are to most brands.

The idea that people would go on line in large numbers and have "conversations" about toothpaste and toasters and cereal and soap and cheese and shampoo and tomato sauce and tuna and tea and tires and... has proven to be a fantasy. Those who still promulgate this baloney are guilty of more than just naivete.

People with a vested interest in social media will continue to misrepresent its power and effectiveness. It's time for the rest of the ad industry to come clean.

Great New Blog... my partner in the Type A Group, Sharon Krinsky, called The Angry Boomer.

Sharon is funny and bawdy and you don't have to be a baby boomer to enjoy her blog. You just have to be angry.

Her first post is called At Least We Know Where Our Vaginas Are. Yeah, it's that kind of blog.

People Don't Like Online Shopping 
One of the facts that always surprises me is that only 6% of retail activity is done on line. Contrary to all the predictions of "experts," according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, 94% of retail activity still happens in brick-and-mortar stores.

As regular readers know, I have no use for self-reported surveys masquerading as research. Every now and then, however, self-reported behavior almost agrees with actual behavior. Such was the case recently in a study reported in Forbes. The finding was this:
“Ninety percent of shoppers surveyed would prefer to buy in a brick-and-mortar store across demographic and age groups” 
Like we say here at The Ad Contrarian Worldwide Headquarters (way too often), marketers always underestimate the power of traditional consumer behavior.

September 04, 2014

The Shiny Old Object

What if there was a medium that was almost three times as popular as the web?

What if this medium had none of the harrowing advertising fraud problems that the web has?

What if, unlike the web, you could specify exactly where and when your ads ran on this medium?

What if all the ads on this medium were actually noticeable?

What if this medium has suffered less from the growth of mobile than traditional web usage ?

What if advertising on this medium had been shown to be substantially more effective at creating sales than the web?

You'd think this medium would be killing it, right?

Well, it's not. The medium is radio. And this year, despite the facts, reality-impaired advertisers will spend more money on the web than on radio.

Here's a very unambiguous chart that shows how radio dominates time spent with all media except live tv among US adults.*

Radio is, by far, the second most popular medium in the US. And yet, like television, it has reacted timidly to the misinformation and fraud related to online advertising. It has allowed the online ad industry to pick its pocket.

Next week, I am "keynote" speaking to the radio industry at the annual conference of the Radio Advertising Bureau.

We're gonna have some fun.

*Source: Nielsen Cross-Platform Report, Q4, 2013.

September 02, 2014

Throwing Cold Water On The Ice Bucket

One of the dependable characteristics of dumb guys is the attribution of far-reaching meaning to random occurrences.

In the past, people thought lightning was an expression of godly anger. Comets and meteors were thought to augur the end of the world.

You can always tell who the half-bright marketing promoters are because they, too, attribute deep meaning to every random marketing phenomenon.

As soon as something comes out of nowhere to be a marketing success, they get busy developing a big dumb interpretation of it and drawing specious conclusions. They produce long-winded essays and blog posts about the lessons we fools should learn from the miracle.

Perhaps you remember "The Blair Witch Project." It was a movie that out-of-the-blue became a huge success driven by a small online advertising campaign. All the half-wit marketing gurus saw this as a seismic shift in movie marketing that would forever end the practice of spending large sums on traditional advertising by movie studios.

Of course, it did no such thing and studios are spending more than ever to market their films.

Then there was Zappos. Its unlikely success was interpreted as a signal of the beginning of a new age in which enormous business goals would be achieved with just a little clever Twitterage. Once again, Zappos turned out to be an anomaly that no one has been able to duplicate.

Then there was the Arab Spring in which communications experts explained to us how social media had become the indomitable force for political change that was going to bring freedom, democracy, and kale smoothies to the Middle East. Yeah, any day now.

And now we have the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Every dim bulb is drawing grand conclusions from this one-off. I guarantee you there are about a thousand Powerpoint presentations currently in the works explaining the "Five Critical Lessons" we should be learning from it.

In fact, there is only one lesson to be learned from the Ice Bucket Challenge: sometimes silly shit catches on.