July 30, 2015

What If Targeting Doesn't Work?

As regular readers know, I have a basement full of oddball ideas about advertising. One of them is that "media science" may be a lot of hooey.

What if all the "precision targeting" we do is mostly unnecessary complexity masquerading as knowledge?

What if there's only one important cut we need to make when planning media -- does the person participate in our category or not?

If we're selling golf balls, the only important targeting question we have to ask is, "Does this person play golf?" If we're selling wine the only important question to ask is, "Does she drink wine?" If we sell tires the only important question is, "Do they own a car?"

All the other stuff -- their education, their income, their weight, height, and serial number, their zip code and psychosexual predelictions, the websites they visited yesterday, and the number of chickens in their backyard -- may be interesting, but what if they don't do a damn thing to make our media buys more effective?

During my semi-brilliant advertising career I would never have suggested such a thing to a client. Clients don't like oddball ideas. They are resolutely devoted to believing what everybody else believes. And everyone else believes that leveraging data to create precision targeting is the future of advertising.

I guess it would be simple enough to either prove or disprove this theory.

I'd love to see an advertiser do a split run. In one market buy media based on the usual  demographics, psychographics, data-o-graphics, programmat-o-graphics, graph-o-graphics, and bullshit-o-graphics.

In another matched market run the same campaign but make the media buy based on one behavioral criterion -- does the person participate in our category or not?

I'd love to see the results.

July 27, 2015

Zombie Apps Suck Billion From Clueless Mobile Advertisers

Last year, in a post called "What Every CEO Needs To Know About Online Advertising" I wrote...
"...the online ad world is so complex and impenetrable, there may very well be types of fraud we haven't even discovered."
Last week, a new kind of fraud was discovered.

According to Ad Age...
"Thousands of so-called zombie apps are infecting mobile phones, expending data usage and battery life at an alarming rate while costing advertisers nearly a billion dollars annually."
A study done by Forensiq found the following:
- In a 10 day period, more than 12 million devices uploaded zombie apps. (If this is typical and projectible, in one year almost half a billion devices would be infected.)
- Apps available at the App store and Google Play store were infected. Infected apps ran on both Android and iOS devices.
- An infected app appears harmless but "can consume two gigabytes of data, severely drain battery life and run more than 16,000 ads without the user's knowledge."
- "...many of the apps were observed generating traffic through most major ad exchanges and networks, establishing 1,100 connections per minute and communicating with 320 ad networks per hour."
- "Sophisticated" advertisers like Coke, Microsoft, and Mercedes were being taken in by these criminals.
Once again, the digital advertising industry has shown itself to be completely clueless and unprepared for another kind of massive fraud.

Google reportedly pulled several titles from the Google Play store after hearing of the report. I guess a little mom and pop like Google doesn't have the resources to test this crap before they offer it up to the public.

Most mobile advertising occurs within apps. Until now, naive advertisers believed that since cookies are not prevalent on mobile platforms, they were protected from the types of fraud rampant on traditional online advertising. Wrong.

The astoundingly feckless Interactive Advertising Bureau (which I am fond of calling the Inactive Advertising Bureau) said the report was "groundbreaking."
"It explores the impact in the mobile space when before the focus was on display advertising,"
Huh? I'd like to know exactly what the Inactive Advertising Bureau does other than issue press releases every time they're shocked by another report of massive online ad fraud.

July 22, 2015

Harnessing Immaturity

It's sad to see the idea of "creativity" debased and dumbed down in the advertising industry.

It's particularly sad at a time when there are so many new media types opening new opportunities to apply imaginative thinking.

A thousand years ago, when I entered the agency business, being an advertising "creative" was a reasonably noble calling.

Sure, in the civilian world -- the real world -- advertising was considered a crass and ridiculous endeavor. But inside the industry it was widely accepted that the way to make it less ridiculous was to apply heavy doses of creativity.

It was also believed that the way to be successful as an agency was to be more creative than the next guy. Even the men in suits grudgingly accepted that. As one of my former colleagues put it, the key to agency success was "harnessing immaturity."

He was right. We were immature.

We whined incessantly, cursed loudly, drank enthusiastically, screwed imprudently, and spent too many billable hours on "unimportant details."

Immaturity is an ongoing motif in the creative arts. It's what makes artists both fascinating and insufferable.

Advertising creatives often are made to feel apologetic about their immaturity. Not me. I'm proud to have been immature. And in my advanced years I am proud of the residue of immaturity that still taints my character.

I've never met an interesting person who wasn't immature. All the mature ones bore me.

The nice thing about being immature was that the people who wore the suits and made the rules were regarded by clients as the real business people (the fact that most of them contributed little but decorum to the process didn't seem to bother anyone.)

So, happily, we creatives didn't have to worry our pretty little heads about the dreary details of flow charts, or slotting allowances, or TRPs. That was work for grown-ups.

But lately, creativity has lost its charm. Everyone and everything is now said to be creative. Data analysts are creative. Media planners are creative. Project managers are creative.

Except they're not.

You know how I can tell? They're not immature enough.

July 20, 2015

Technology Or Toilets?

It doesn't really matter what the marketing problem is these days, the answer is always technology.

A great example is in the sports world. Many professional and amateur teams have been suffering from decreasing attendance. They're losing customers to that dead old thing -- television.

This is particularly true in college football. Millennial college students just don't seem to want to go to football games.

So what are teams doing? They're investing millions in technology.

Every new stadium is being built with increasingly complex and advanced connectivity. Every old stadium is being retrofitted with millions of dollars worth of technological wizardry.

A little over a year ago I spoke at a conference of major professional and NCAA sports enterprises. One of the dominant themes of the conference was "fan experience" and the critical role technology plays.

According to Forbes...
"Smart technology solutions provide opportunities for greater fan engagement."
According to Cisco...
"Fans go to a live event to be part of a tribal experience: to connect to the action, to connect with their favorite stars, to connect with other fans...they want to share their experiences and interact with their friends and the global fan community on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media while they’re at the event, not after."
Only one problem: It's all bullshit.

As usual, the marketing techno-lemmings are all wrong and the insufferable clich├ęs about millennials are also wrong.

According to an article in last week's Wall Street Journal...
"...a new survey by the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators and Oregon’s sports marketing center... asked almost 24,000 students across the country to rank the factors that influenced their decision to attend games...by far the least important was a stadium’s cellular reception or wireless capability. 
"At Michigan, ...among the seven possible improvements to the game-day experience...students ranked cell reception last."
"At Ole Miss... fans said before last season that mobile web, apps and email access were the three least important of 53 elements... the most important things for fans coming to the game are parking, restrooms and concessions.” 
"One of the shocking things that schools have learned is that...students currently care more about clean restrooms than fast Internet. In the recently released Oregon study, which surveyed students across all five power conferences, fans ranked cellular connectivity last on their wish list."
As I said here over a year ago,

"It is remarkable to me how much time is spent on technology voodoo and how little time is spent on solving the real problems of real customers."

July 01, 2015

We'll Never Sell Your Personal Information. Unless We Need The Money.

Pretty soon the whole house of cards that is the Internet Bubble 2.0 will come crashing down.

When it does, we'll finally get an unambiguous view of what a fetid pile of crap the whole ad supported web has been.

In addition to the fraud, criminality, and corruption that are the everyday life of the web, last week we learned of two other facts that reinforce the belief that we can never accept anything that anyone associated with the ad supported web tells us.

Revelations about the amount of data web publishers collect has led web publishers to assure us that our data is safe with them and that they "respect our privacy."

A piece in The New York Times last week reveals that, like so much else they tell us, this is complete bullshit. The Times did a study of the top 100 sites in the U.S. recently. Here's what they discovered:
"Of the 99 sites with English-language terms of service or privacy policies, 85 said they might transfer users’ information if a merger, acquisition, bankruptcy, asset sale or other transaction occurred"
The Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center had this to say...
"...companies make representations that are weak and provide little actual privacy protection to consumers...”
Or as the Assistant Attorney General of Texas put it...
"...we are never going to sell your data, except if we need to..."
The second revelation was about Google. Google, of course, makes its money by misdirection.

Instead of directing you to the most relevant answer for your inquiry, they direct you to the company that pays the most to "own" the term you are searching.

We have been led to believe that once we got by the misdirection of the first few Google results -- that are the product of "paid search" (which is just a euphemism for advertising) -- natural or organic search would be free of misdirection and would give us an unbiased answer. More bullshit.

An article in The Wall Street Journal last week reported...
"New research by two U.S. academics suggests that Google Inc. is harming Internet users and violating competition laws by skewing search results to favor its own services"
The article cites a study conducted by two prominent American academics...
"The study’s authors—Michael Luca of Harvard Business School and Tim Wu of Columbia Law School—found that users were 45% more likely to click on results that were ranked purely by relevance, rather than as Google ranks them now, with its own services displayed prominently."
The ad supported web is currently headquarters for the world's sneakiest little bastards. Almost everything they say is untrustworthy. Only a fool takes anything they tell us at face value.