April 26, 2017

Making Marketers Uncomfortable

When I am finished speaking at a conference or advertising event people often ask me how I can be so sure I'm right and other people people are wrong.

The answer is, I'm not.

I spent 41 years in the agency business. I worked on some very big brands including McDonald's, Toyota, Bank of America, AT&T and others. And I had a pretty successful career and did some reasonably successful work.

But that doesn't make me sure of anything. One thing I learned about advertising is that when you're trying to anticipate human behavior -- which is what marketers and advertisers do -- there are no sure things. All there are are likelihoods and probabilities.

This is why I am highly skeptical about what I hear and read from advertising and marketing experts these days. Particularly those of the digital stripe.

They tend to be awfully sure of themselves and very dismissive of those who disagree with them. They also tend to have a lot more opinions than experience.

It is certainly possible that they are brighter than I am and have more insight into consumer behavior. But, to be honest here, I really don't think so.

I've been asked to do a lot of interviews lately (it probably has something to do with the shit-storm over online advertising that the last six months has produced and my sudden promotion from idiot to genius.) Sooner or later, the interviewer usually gets around to this question: Why do you write your blog?

It's a good question for someone who's been out of the agency business for four years and is supposed to be quietly retired and planting tulips or something.

And as I think about it, it becomes pretty clear why I continue to do this. I believe we marketers  think we know a lot of things that we don't really know. I think we do a lot of faking. I know I certainly did, and I don't think the average marketing person is that much smarter than me.

I think it's important that we have more humility and understand that there's a lot about human economic behavior that we don't understand. I like to point that out. I like to find the contradictions and expose the weak points and the phonies.

I see my job as making marketers uncomfortable.  It doesn't make me popular, but I hope it heartens some people who feel the same way I do.

April 20, 2017

TV To Die Soon. Again.

Okay, this time they really mean it. TV is about to die.

Don't believe me? It's right here in Ad Age in black and white, another fucking article entitled "TV May Actually Die Soon." Can you believe this?

I'm just wondering how many Ad Age stories there have been over the past 15 years about TV dying?

Will  they ever figure out that regardless of what the marketing and media geniuses have to say, people like television. How fucking difficult is that to understand?

As we all know, online viewing of video is "killing" traditional TV. "Nobody" watches live TV anymore. Everybody is watching video online.

That's what we've all learned from going to conferences and listening to media, marketing and digital geniuses speak. It's what we read in the trades and in the press every day.

Only problem is, it's all bullshit.

A new study released by comScore shows that of households with both traditional TV and OTT (video delivered over the internet) for every hour spent with online video people spend about 5 1/2 hours with traditional TV.

Even the top 20% of online video users spend twice as much time with traditional TV.

The bottom 50% of online video streamers, watch 98% of their video on traditional TV.

Despite the fact that Netflix has almost as many subscribers as all cable TV companies combined, and more households have Netflix than a DVR, comScore says,  
"Traditional rules the roost in terms of time spent, as OTT continues to act more as supplemental viewing..."
Then there's this. A report by Pivotal Research Group last week said,  
"...despite the significant growth in access to SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand, e.g., Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu) services over the past few years, consumption of traditional TV programming has not been affected to the degree that many might expect...any expectations around the 'death of TV' because of SVOD services are likely overstated."
Meanwhile, viewership of national news programming is surging. Once again, according to Pivotal,
"YTD viewing of all news-related programming on national media properties is now +12%."
 Last week it was up 23%.

As I speculated last year, what's likely to happen is that the internet media companies who don't call themselves media companies (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple) who have all the money in the world, are likely over time to buy up TV properties. This is starting to raise its head in the recent Amazon-NFL $50 million football deal.

I'm afraid we're all going to be dead long before TV is.

April 17, 2017

Pokémon Went

If you've ever doubted that most marketers are clueless, fad-jumping nitwits who drool at any shiny object, I have two words for you -- Pokémon Go.

A reminder, this was just a few months ago...







Every stupid fucking fad that comes along is now "disruptive," "game-changing," and "the future of marketing." What a clown show the marketing industry has become.

April 12, 2017

Agency Phonies Piling On

The Great Pepsi Bloodbath of last week had one salutary effect -- it helped divert our attention from the YouTube "brand safety" scandal.

We could all pretend how shocked we were at Pepsi's stupidity instead of pretending how shocked we were at adtech sleaziness.

Six weeks ago, if you had said that online advertising was a corrupt and dangerous pile of shit, all the  experts would have looked at you like you had three heads and called you an ignorant dinosaur (believe me, I know.)

Today, these same geniuses are suddenly shocked and outraged by the problems of adtech and are calling for big changes. All it took were a few headlines and promptly everyone who had been working the online ad hustle for the past 10 years was shocked...shocked, I tell you.

As Andy Ball said in Ad Age recently...
"The same folks that took their clients off-roading into digital land in the first place -- initially bouncing through the well-documented shortcomings of display, and now crashing into the emergent problems with programmatic buying....Suddenly, agencies want answers from publishers."
It is painful to listen to the people who have been making excuses and cashing checks for years now bemoaning the terrible state of the industry and how we've all been victimized by the terrible people at YouTube.

Along with these bozos are the outraged CMOs who have been asleep at the wheel and had to wait for the news media to tell them what they should have known years ago.

What a load of crap.

Online advertising has not changed in the past 6 weeks. The corruption, fraud, deceit, absence of responsibility and accountability that have plagued it for years did not suddenly appear in February.

I don't know what's worse, listening to nitwits tell us how amazing online advertising is or listening to their sudden squeals of disapproval.

You have to laugh as the phonies who have been selling their clients delusional horseshit about online advertising for over a decade are suddenly demanding to see the manager. 

April 07, 2017

Pepsi Selling Its Soul

In light of the cacophony of yakking about this week's Pepsi debacle, I thought it would be a good idea to remind everyone that Pepsi cluelessness is nothing new.  Here is a piece I wrote back in 2013 that did a pretty good job of  presaging the hijinks of the past week. Pepsi stupidity is something you can always count on...

January 10, 2013

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 with that title. 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 person 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 the elevator, 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 some brilliant 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 Foreskin 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 anymore. I think I lost it. Maybe Pepsi can give it back to me. Sometimes at about 3 a.m. I have a sense of peeing. But I don't think that's what they mean.

The Foreplay 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.

April 05, 2017

Pepsi Takes Clueless To Next Level

A few weeks ago, the executive committee here at The Ad Contrarian Global Center for Horseshit Detection coined a term - virtue hustling. We defined it as the practice by marketers of attempting to convince us barbarians of how wise and virtuous they are.

You see, these corporations are full of love for all of global humanity and treat us all with respect and reverence. Especially in their advertising. Especially if you're young and beautiful.

Pepsi, who you can always count on to jump with both feet into whatever the idiotic marketing or cultural obsession of the week is, has taken this unpleasant new gimmick to its logical absurdity.

If you haven't seen this thing yet, you're in for a treat. It is, perhaps, the worst piece of inauthentic crap I've seen in a long time. Try not to barf.

Our story so far...

...a zillionaire supermodel, responding to an entreaty by an Asian musician, fosters world peace and general elation among cheerful and beautiful young protestors of every sex and color by giving a Pepsi to a cute police officer while a tortured-artist-Muslim-photographer-woman finally gets her big shot.

However, when you decode the spot you get a whole different story -- all you people of color can prance about all you like but it takes a beautiful white girl to really make something happen.

This is as real as it gets in that special universe that marketers live in and that Pepsi marketing in particular  has come to symbolize.

The wonderful thing about this whole exercise in crass stupidity is that it was created by Pepsi's in-house content studio. According to Digiday, Pepsi "hopes (it) will let marketers, not agencies, sit in the creative driver’s seat." Yeah, that's the ticket. Let the waiters do the cooking!

How completely insanely clueless do you have to be to create a "protest march" in which everyone is beautiful, everyone is under 25,  and no one is angry? And someone is holding a sign saying "Join the conversation." Really? Join the fucking conversation?

Since I wrote this post it has been announced that Pepsi has pulled this "global" monstrosity.

You may now feel free to un-join the conversation.

April 04, 2017

Smart Phones Not Killing TV

"A new study of media and attention by Nielsen Co. confirms what has now become conventional wisdom: Smartphones are winning and traditional television is losing..." Fortune, 2015
Not exactly.

Nielsen's Total Audience Report for the 4th quarter of 2016 just arrived and it has some interesting stuff in it. First have a  look at this chart.

A quick glance shows that the quickly expanding amount of time we are spending with our smart phones (light orange) does not seem to be impacting the amount of time we are spending with broadcast media.

While time spent with Smart Phones has more than doubled in 2 years, time spent with TV, DVR's and Radio is remarkably stable. (You'd never know it if you read horseshit like this 2 years ago.)

Observation tells us that a lot of time spent on cell phones is done during commutes, in restaurants, or standing around waiting for the fat guy to finish up in the men's room. It is not replacing other media occasions, it is inventing new ones.

Smart phones seem to be a last choice for viewing video. Here's a chart I put together from Nielsen's figures illustrating how people watched video last quarter.

The type of viewing that has been growing most quickly, and is probably responsible for the small decline in live TV viewing, is the use of "multi-media" devices such as Roku, TiVo, and Apple TV.  Time spent with these devices has more than doubled in two years, but according to Nielsen's numbers, still constitute only about 5% of video viewing.

Viewing of live TV still dwarfs all other types of video consumption combined.

April 03, 2017

Opening Day, 2017

Today is Opening Day for most of the baseball world. Here is my customary Opening Day post.

The world is a complete fucking mess. Somewhere, an asteroid is heading toward Earth. Web pornography is warping the minds of our children. Grown men and women are relentlessly tweeting each other. Yes, my friend, the end is near.

But who gives a damn?

It's Opening Day. I'm going to have a hot dog and a beer. I'm going to sit in the sunshine till the back of my neck is red and raw and my ass stings like a shot of tequila on a bad patch of strep throat.

What the hell, I'm having two hot dogs.

Once a year, every aspect of life should have an Opening Day. Every business should have one. Every friendship should have one. Every family should have one.

A day when everything starts over. When all of last year's successes and failures go into the record book, no longer a matter of life and death, just a matter of history. A day when the slate is clean and the possibilities are unlimited. A day when you call in sick-and-tired; when you leave the iPhone in the glove compartment; when you go somewhere where the grass is perfect and the people are unaccountably cheerful.

It's Opening Day. Let's play some ball.