November 20, 2018

The Zuckerberg File

Over the years this blog has written a lot of nasty things about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. As the world is coming to realize what a toxic pile of crap Facebook is, I thought we'd collect some of our favorites in one place.

Here you go:

On responsibility...
"It's very simple. Facebook is way too powerful to be run by a jerk like Mark Zuckerberg. He has... shown himself to be utterly inadequate to handle the responsibilities of managing an organization with the power and influence of Facebook. Or even understanding what the responsibilities are."
On leadership...
"The absence of probity and maturity that Facebook has displayed has been baked into the company's DNA by Zuckerberg's arrogance, and will remain there as long as his vapid philosophies define their culture...
   "Young people are just smarter"

   "Move fast and break things"

This is the credo of an infantile egotist. You can draw a straight line from this nonsense to the current headlines."
About Zuckerberg's testimony in Washington...
"Zuckerberg will be strung up for ignoring the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of people by clowns who have been ignoring the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of people. There's no one to root for in this cage match."
On lying...
"It becomes harder and harder to overstate the corruption and treachery of the online ad industry. Lord knows I've tried...Facebook has become famous for its lunatic metrics and bizarre rationalizations...This week it was reported that Facebook was claiming to reach 41 million Americans between the ages of 18-24...There are only 31 million of them."
On duplicity...
One good thing about Facebook - their duplicity is so transparent that anyone who claims he "didn't know" has to be an idiot....After Zuckerberg promised our bewildered representatives in Washington two weeks ago that Facebook would abide by the "spirit" of the GDPR privacy regulations... this week Facebook moved 1.5 billion accounts out of Europe to the US to avoid the consequences of those regulations.
On surveillance...
  • FB maintains the right to collect your phone number and other information about you when anyone, including people you don't know, upload their contacts that may include you.
  • Even when you turn off location services, FB tracks your location through Wi-Fi access points, cell towers and IP addresses.
  • You probably think FB is collecting data about you from the device you're using. Silly you. If you are anywhere near any other devices on your network they are collecting info from those devices as well. It's magic!
  • FB tracks you through third parties whether or not you are logged into Facebook.
  • And the pièce de résistance -- Facebook's new data policy asserts that they track you even if you don't have a Facebook account.
On transparency...
FB's terms of service and privacy policies are longer than the US Constitution...this week they increased the language of their data policy by 55%, you know, just to make things more convenient for us. 
Technology vs Wisdom...
" in the marketing industry we have foolishly equated technology with wisdom. The result is Mark Zuckerberg."

October 22, 2018

Totalitarian Marketing

This post is adapted from my book "BadMen: How Advertising Went From A Minor Annoyance To A Major Menace."

Advertising used to be concerned with imparting information. Today it is concerned with collecting information.

Online advertising, the predominant form of marketing communication, is largely reliant on "tracking" to accomplish this. Tracking is just a pleasanter word for surveillance. Our web browsers, our search engines, and the sites we visit use invisible software to keep track of everything we do and everywhere we go on line. Our emails and texts are read and archived by the providers we use.

All this information is collected, stored, and sold to third parties. Usually without our knowledge or consent. It has proven to be easily accessible to hackers, foreign governments, and other malefactors.

The preposterous rationale for all this abuse of our privacy is that it helps marketers provide us with more relevant advertising. As if the citizens of the world are taking to the streets demanding more relevant advertising.

We were taught to fear totalitarian governments. We feared they would know everything about us, follow us everywhere, know who we were talking to and what we were saying, and keep secret files about us which could be used to influence our lives in ways that were only vaguely visible to us.

We are well on our way to such a nightmare. Except it isn't our government that knows everything about us, follows us everywhere, knows who we are talking to and what we are saying, and keeps secret files about us. It is the marketing industry.

We know where totalitarian government leads. It lead to Iron Curtains, Gestapos, and Killing Fields. It leads to the trivialization of personal freedoms and the unchecked power of tyrants.

But we don't know where totalitarian marketing leads. It's hard to come up with a scenario that isn't frightening.

Surveillance marketing is little more than 10 years old but has already played a significant role in undermining our confidence in the legitimacy of our elections and the credibility of our news media.

It is time for us to demand that as a first step toward a reformed, credible web, tracking must be stopped. Tracking is a danger to democratic societies and to individual citizens.

The privacy rights of individuals are far more important to society than the convenience of marketers.

And, as you may have noticed... posts on the blog have become rather sporadic. I have been focusing my attention on books and on my weekly newsletter. If you like the blog, I suggest you sign up for The Ad Contrarian newsletter here. I'll continue to post on the blog, but the newsletter will be more timely and consistent. 

October 15, 2018

The History Of The Future

If you go to marketing or advertising conferences the first thing you notice is that every genius with a Powerpoint deck is an expert on the future.

I attend way more conferences than is healthy.  I've been averaging about 12 of these a year, as speaking at these things is part of my business. I hear all kinds of hysterical and provocative predictions for the future. The one thing I don't hear is anything that turns out to be true.

The history of these future-hustlers is pretty rotten.

So here's a little exercise. Here are a dozen of the biggest advertising stories of the past couple of years. Go back and see if you can find any marketing geniuses who predicted any of the following:
  • Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal (here)
  • Martin Sorrell shown the door at WPP (here)
  • Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress (here)
  • Google fined over $5 billion by EU for illegal activities (here)
  • ANA study finds "pervasive" corruption in media (here)
  • Justice Department/FBI launch investigation of ad agencies (here)
  • Fake news dominates political discussions (here)
  • "Voice" shopping bombs (here)
  • "Brand safety" becomes major issue (here)
  • P&G dumps on digital (here)
  • Major fraud in social media (here)
  • Iconic Y&R evaporates (here)  
The reason you won't find anyone who predicted any of this stuff (okay, maybe there was one guy) is that no one is ever held accountable for their bullshit. Consequently, marketing experts feel free to say whatever the hell sounds good, cash their checks, and know there will never be any consequences.

If you're a marketing genius with a terrible track record, the future is a great place to hide.

This Wednesday night (Oct. 17) in NYC, some smart ad people (and one dumbass blogger) will be talking about heretical ad stuff to support a great new ad book called "Eat Your Greens."  I am told  there aren't too many seats left, so go here now for info.

And, as you may have noticed... posts on the blog have become rather sporadic. I have been focusing my attention on books and on my weekly newsletter. If you like the blog, I suggest you sign up for The Ad Contrarian newsletter here. I'll continue to post on the blog, but the newsletter will be more timely and consistent.

October 08, 2018

What's There To Laugh About?

Laughing@Advertising is my new book. Yes, this time I've gone too far.

It's a collection of my most irresponsible and inappropriate blog posts, essays, and cave drawings. You might say it's 200 pages of insults, wise-cracks, cheap shots, and dirty words. In other words, fun for the whole family!

I'm out to disrupt the disruptors -- those somber, imperious souls who have made marketing and advertising such an earnest and humorless endeavor.

I am hoping this is the silliest, most injudicious book about our industry you've read. And in some unwholesome, subversive way, the truest and funniest.

It is on sale now at Amazon. It is only available in paperback. There ain't gonna be no ebook. Why? Pixels aren't funny.

At $6.99 the paperback is cheaper than most of the stupid-ass marketing ebooks you buy anyway. So quit whining and click here.
And don't say I didn't warn you.

Update: Huge thanks to everyone. It launched yesterday and it immediately became the #1 best seller in its category at Amazon.

October 04, 2018

Soul Of A Subversive

I was recently asked to explain what I do and why I do it. This always gets me mildly uncomfortable and sets me thinking.

I know this sounds pompous, but the short answer is that I want to use whatever limited abilities I have to be a subversive force in the marketing and advertising world. I think we need subversive thinking. I am sure we don't really know all the things we pretend to know. I think this needs to be pointed out often and at high volume.

The job of subversives is to undermine the dogma, conventional wisdom, and entrenched interests in our business by finding facts and espousing opinions that challenge our supposed experts. That's the only way well-articulated bullshit can be exposed.

The marketing and advertising industries are in a very strange phase these days. Usually in culture and society it is the young people who challenge the tired legends and rituals to lay bare the flaws.

But in our industry, it is the young who have become the guardians of the overworked clichés -- the fantasy of interactivity; the "social" nature of marketing; the delusion of "conversations" about brands; the supposed yearning of consumers to "engage" with brands -- and it has become the duty of ancient fucks to challenge the received wisdom and oppressive doctrines.

I'm not complaining. I like it. But where are the rebellious young people who are challenging the orthodoxy? How did they become so old so fast?

And in other news... new book will be published in a few days. I am hoping it will be a silly and injudicious relief from all the earnest, humorless bullshit that is published about our industry. Watch this space for info.

September 25, 2018

How Ad Industry Destroys Brand Value

The advertising industry prides itself on being brand builders. Building successful brands is supposed to be the essence of what we do. But in recent years the ad industry has been guilty of cheapening some of the most important brands it controls -- its own.

I am going to be picking on WPP because it is the biggest offender. But to some degree the same can probably be said about each of the major holding companies.

WPP is the owner of some of the most famous and worthy brands in the history of the ad business: JWT, Ogilvy, Y&R and Grey. It has been systematically dismantling the value in these brands. Today they are splinters of what they were.

The holding companies have undermined their agencies from the top down and from the bottom up.

What a holding company usually does is buy successful brands and manage them at arms length to, presumably, add value to shareholders. Examples of successful holding companies are Berkshire Hathaway and Procter & Gamble. Nobody buys a Berkshire Hathaway or a Procter & Gamble. The buy GEICO insurance or Tide detergent. The value is in the brand, not the bookkeepers who support it.

But WPP and the other agency holding companies, saw things differently. They chose to become brands themselves. They became super-brands. From the top down, they subsumed the brands they owned. So over time, it was no longer Y&R pitching against McCann for an account. It became WPP vs IPG. The holding companies became the stars. The agencies became the bit players.

Then the holding companies started to devalue their brands from the bottom up. They created custom-made agencies for clients. Drawing talent from this agency and that agency. The unspoken message to marketers was clear: we don't have the right talent in any one agency. We need to draw from several agencies to get you what you need. Examples of this are WPP's Team Blue (who seem to be on the way to losing the global Ford account) and Omnicom's We Are United, the agency custom-built to do mediocre work for McDonald's.

Agencies have always had difficulty practicing what they preach, i.e., differentiating themselves. But with the advent of holding company super-brands, differentiation among their constituent agencies has become almost impossible.

Now the holding companies are saying the creative agencies are insufficient contributors to revenues. We have reached the stage of blaming the victims.

I will not be surprised to see WPP's new ceo make further moves to disembowel the agencies. I will not be surprised to see mash-ups among JWT, Ogilvy, Y&R, and Grey that make the brands even weaker and less distinct.

There is not an industry in the world who should understand the importance of protecting the value in a successful brand better than the ad industry. And yet we have done a remarkably good job of vacuuming the value out of some of our best.

August 22, 2018

Tied To The Tracks

In my newsletter Sunday, I republished a blog piece I wrote last week called "The Good In Online Advertising."

It was not (in my opinion) particularly provocative or much different from stuff I have been writing about for years. The thrust of the piece was pretty easy to understand -- online tracking is mostly bad and dangerous and we'd all be a lot better off without it.

My main point was that the issue of personal privacy in a democracy is a far more important matter than the (real or imagined) benefits of online tracking to advertisers.

Prof. Scott Galloway (@profgalloway) who has a huge Twitter following, picked up on a few points from the newsletter and tweeted them out. Suddenly a shitstorm of Twitter (twitstorm?) broke out.

If you have any interest in this matter I suggest you go back and read some of the threads. Here were the parts that were of most interest to me.

Almost without exception, those who disagreed with the post missed the point. Arguments were put forward that...
"targeting without tracking is entirely ineffectual"... "majority of the value in digital is tracking in some form, especially for media sites"... "then we are left with mass media, treating us all the same. No relevance"..."without tracking you can't optimize your targeting. This becomes extremely important when bidding on keywords in Google Ads." if the the great public policy issue of our time is the effectiveness of banner and search ads.

Not one of the "anti's" even bothered to consider the key question: What's more important the privacy rights of individuals or the convenience of marketers?

Tracking (particularly third party tracking) is clearly an intrusion on privacy, most often done without the knowledge or consent of the person being tracked. If you think the benefits of tracking are more important than the benefits of privacy, fine. Come out and say it. But don't hide behind obfuscation and misdirection and platitudes about the interests of online advertisers.

Unsurprisingly, as far as I could tell, virtually all of the tweets in praise of tracking came from people with some sort of ulterior motive -- either a commercial interest or an ideological commitment to defend.

As far as I am concerned, if someone decides they don't mind being tracked, and doesn't care about  having their personal information shared or sold to third parties, that's fine with me. Or if they are OK with one type of tracking but not another, that's also fine with me. But they should be given a clear and easily understood choice. Why in the world is this controversial?

I can't imagine how any intelligent person can believe that the convenience of marketers outweighs the privacy rights of individuals.

In my opinion there is no benefit to marketers - no matter how thrilling - that is even 1% as important as upholding the long-established principles of privacy in a democracy.

August 14, 2018

The Good In Online Advertising

For over 10 years I've been writing about how shitty, worthless, and dangerous I think most online advertising is. Today I want to talk about the good in online advertising.

The best part of online advertising is that it funds an amazing array of free stuff (let's try to avoid the "it's not really free because you are the product" cliché for a few minutes.)

Sadly, online advertising has been so debased by creeps and crooks, and oversold by hustlers and liars that it is sometimes difficult for us to appreciate the good in it. If we could eliminate the creeps, crooks and hustlers, and allow the web to provide what it is capable of providing...well, that's what this post is about.

A look at the numbers illustrates clearly how much we value what we get online. The average person in America now spends almost four hours a day online. This is not inconsiderable. And we wouldn't be here if we weren't getting some substantial value from it.

The key piece is this: Virtually everything we enjoy about the web is paid for by advertising. Whether you hate advertising or love it, there is one simple truth that must be acknowledged -- advertising provides the money for companies to create the stuff we like and use online. This is why it is important to preserve an ad-supported web.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with online advertising. But there is something terribly wrong with the flavor of online advertising that we have evolved.

Essentially there are two kinds of online advertising. The good kind supports quality publishers, does not spy on us or track our every move, and respects our privacy by not collecting unnecessary personal, private information (what the marketing industry loves to call "data".) It doesn't share it, sell it, or leak it into the digi-sphere.

The bad kind of online advertising is only superficially advertising. It is mostly tracking-based spyware disguised as advertising distributed primarily by machines ("programmatically.")

The bad kind is the kind that the online media industry has defaulted to. It relentlessly follows us around the web and collects unnecessary personal and private information about us usually without our knowledge and consent. And it shares, sells, and leaks this information promiscuously in all directions.

It supports the shittiest publishers by using software to find the cheapest, crappiest environments to distribute ads to, thereby stealing money from quality publishers and giving birth to self-inflicted brand safety issues.

Because its primary model is data-based direct marketing (what we used to call junk mail) it leads to a style of "click here" advertising that magnifies the most annoying and irritating aspects of advertising.

The politics of online advertising is the part that I find most bewildering. For over a decade, the powerful players in the advertising world have been working relentlessly against their self-interest.

Advertisers would be much better served if they knew where their ads were running; if their budgets were spent influencing consumers rather than enriching adtech middlemen; if their ads were appearing on high quality sites instead being "programmatically" strewn all over trash sites; if tens of billions of dollars weren't being stolen by criminals with fraudulent websites and imaginary viewers; if hundreds of millions of people were not blocking their ads.

All of these problems could be substantially mitigated by doing one simple thing -- ending tracking. And yet the moment there is a suggestion of setting some limitations on the ability of online advertisers, media, and publishers to spy on us, the advertisers rise up through their tainted trade organizations (4A's, ANA) to oppose it.

The same is true of publishers. Quality online publishers are having their audiences and revenue stolen from them through data leakage (in which programmatic systems follow valuable customers to cheaper sites and reach them there); they are victims of criminal activities like fraudulent lookalike websites stealing their audiences and ad revenues; they are losing more than half their potential revenue to the sinkhole of adtech middlemen; they have lost control of their brand identities by allowing automated systems to determine who and what can be advertised on their sites; and they are losing revenue as ad blocking continues unabated.

And yet, once again, the moment the subject of limiting the slimy hand of tracking and adtech comes up, they mostly oppose what is clearly in their own best interest.

Online advertising doesn't have to...

   - be despised by the public
   - subvert democratic institutions
   - enable corruption and fraud
   - place personal and private information about us within the reach of criminals
   - devalue the work of legitimate online publishers
   - waste billions of dollars of advertisers' value on fraud
   - degrade our news media and journalism

Online advertising supports so many good things we enjoy and appreciate about the web. It gives us entertainment and information. It allows us to befriend people we would otherwise never know.

It would take so little for the online ad industry to do so much good -- for itself and for the public. We have decades of evidence that tracking is not a necessity for advertising success. TV never tracked us. Radio never tracked us. Newspapers and magazines never tracked us. And we have more than enough evidence that adtech is in many ways not just non-productive, but counterproductive.

We need to get rid of tracking -- not advertising -- to make the web what it ought to be.

August 07, 2018

The First Principle Of Advertising

When you come to bat in a baseball game the first principle is to hit the ball. What happens after you hit the ball is out of your control. Where the ball happens to land and what the defense does is secondary. First you have to hit the ball.

If you can't hit the ball the rest is irrelevant. It doesn't matter how strong you are, or how fast you run, or how beautiful your swing is. If you can't hit the ball, you are useless.

In advertising there is also a first principle. The first principle of advertising is to attract someone's attention.

If your ad doesn't attract someone's attention, everything else is moot. It doesn't matter how lovely it is, how wonderfully it is written, how strategically brilliant it is, or how precisely it is targeted. If nobody notices it, it is a complete waste and utterly worthless.

Sadly, most advertising is invisible. Most advertising is ignored largely because it looks and sounds exactly like advertising -- and usually like someone else's advertising. This is not good. But there is one place where invisible advertising has found a welcome and comforting home -- online.

In other media, invisible advertising is recognized as a failure. Not online. Online advertising is judged by how precisely it is targeted, not how widely it is noticed.

In traditional media even awful advertising usually gets noticed. This is because it's often big, loud, annoying and relentless. Online, even the rare excellent ad gets ignored. This is because it's small, quiet, and interactive -- and consumers are about a thousand times more likely to "interact" by clicking away from it than clicking in to it.

The unmistakable fact is that essentially nobody notices online advertising. As a rule, it gains no attention. Have there been some cases of online advertising attracting a lot of attention? Sure there have. But the likelihood of it happening is alarmingly remote.

The religion of precision targeting and one-to-one communication tries very hard to ignore the fact that online advertising has scandalously low impact. The science of how dreadful online ads are at attracting attention is available (a few examples here and here) but the science is mostly ignored because most marketers don't understand the difference between science and data.

The truth is most advertisers and most marketers don't really want to know the facts. They have already put a large stack of chips on online advertising. Fear of finding out (FOFO) that they have been wasting large sums of money on a medium that is corrupt, fraud-ridden, dangerous, and largely invisible keeps them in a state of nervous denial.

The proliferation of media types has made attracting attention a much more difficult task than it's ever been. And much more important. To a large degree, marketing communication has become a contest to garner attention.

Those who believe the primary objective of advertising is to engage an individual do not understand the first principle of advertising. Engaging an individual is the slow bus to nowhere. Advertising's first objective is to gain the attention of a lot of people.

If it doesn't, you'll never get to first base.

July 26, 2018

Lies Of The Marketing Industry

There are two types of lies. Lies of commission (when you say something that isn't true) and lies of omission (when you neglect to say something that is true.)

The marketing industry is guilty of 10 years of lying by omission.

I am specifically speaking about the events at which the marketing industry comes together -- our conferences. These are the occasions when the industry "gathers" and "networks" and "shares" all the dumb shit that we happen to be obsessed with at the moment.

It seems that there is a new marketing conference every half-hour to solemnly explore whatever the marketing fad-of-the-month happens to be. The trade press, finding it ever harder to make a buck publishing, has jumped head-first into the conference business with a never-ending stream of "insider summits."

The problem with these conferences is that while they pretend to be educational, they usually have a hidden motive that is antithetical to truth-telling. In fact, most of the conferences you attend are financed to a significant degree by companies with an agenda. And what is the undercurrent that defines that agenda? Usually, the propagation and glorification of marketing and advertising technology.

The headline speakers at these conferences are often cheerleaders for whatever new technology is at hand. The talks are usually boosterism disguised as information. Dissenting points of view are rarely represented. The result is that we have become an industry that has lost its traditional sense of skepticism and does not even know what questions to ask when force-fed the latest techno-bullshit.

Do you think Facebook and Google want people at the conferences they are sponsoring to talk about the horrifying dangers of tracking and surveillance marketing? Do you think the adtech industry - whose members sponsor scores of conferences - want speakers spelling out the facts about the waste, fraud and corruption enabled by adtech? If you were paying good money to sponsor a conference would you want people onstage describing what a stupid, dangerous product you were creating? Let's not pretend the conference organizers don't understand the unwritten rules. Let's not pretend they don't book these conferences accordingly.

Here is a list of the so-called "Gold Partners" for this year's Advertising Week conference in NYC...

You don't have to be a philosophy major to figure out what segment of the ad industry is being advanced by this conference.

And who's going to be speaking at Advertising Week? Do you think Google will have a speaker at the conference? No, they'll have at least eleven of them...

Isn't anyone embarrassed that one company has eleven speakers at a conference? Have we gone so far down the rabbit hole that no one thinks this unseemly? And people are willing to pay good money to witness this?

I get invited to these conferences once in a while because I get cast as the amusing, slightly nutty old guy who thinks adtech is a bunch of dangerous horseshit. You know, comic relief.

These things are usually just a 3-day festival of self-congratulation and cheerleading for the stinky online ad industry, the dubious operators who serve it, the "futurist" baloney peddlers, and the gullible suckers who pay to suffer through it.

Adtech corrupts everything it touches.

July 23, 2018

Where Is The Universe?

I know almost nothing about cosmology but I have a fascination with the subject. I read about it a lot. And, as a general rule, the more I read about it the more confused I get.

It seems that recently there has been a great deal of angst among cosmologists about what the universe actually is. Many believe that our universe -- as unimaginably enormous as it is -- is really just a local event. They believe there are a multitude of universes -- a multiverse. And that our universe is just one of an infinite number of universes.

The idea seems strange as we have always defined the universe as everything there is. But I guess it is no stranger than quantum theory or any of the other barely comprehensible theories that modern physics has spawned.

To me the more mysterious question -- the one that no one seems to ask -- is not "what is the universe?" but "where is the universe?"

Most of us think that when the big bang occurred it occurred in empty space. There was this empty space with nothing in it and then the big bang occurred and suddenly our infant universe was born.

But astrophysicists tell us that this is not true. In fact, there was no space until the big bang occurred. The big bang created space. Until the big bang, there was no space.

So what I want to know is, if there was no space, where did the big bang occur? It had to happen somewhere. And if there was no space, where did it happen?

And while we're at it, if there are a multitude of universes and each one created its own space, that must mean that there is no common medium in which all the universes exist. So where the hell is our universe? No wonder I can't find my sandals.

When you figure this out, tweet me the answer.

July 09, 2018

The "Marketing Retrofit" Gag

One of my favorite marketing gags is the one in which marketing people take a huge creative success and attribute its success to some horseshit marketing process that was completely irrelevant to the idea.

Such is now the case with the famous "FCK" ad for KFC. Here's a quick recap for those who haven't seen it: KFC had a major delivery screw-up in the UK and ran out of chicken. They ran this wonderful ad...

The ad has won all kinds of accolades and awards. And, as advertising successes often do, it is now becoming some kind of bullshit morality lesson about client-agency relations.

An article in MarketingWeek recently informed us that this particular success...
"...highlights the importance of having an agency that really understands a business. Mother had been KFC’s agency for less than a year when the crisis broke, but already felt fully integrated. That was possible because KFC immersed Mother in the brand, inviting it along to its restaurant general manager conference during the pitch, and within the first three months of working together taking the Mother team to its HQ for tastings, having them bread chicken in the kitchens and going to franchisee meetings."
Give me fcking break. The reason this ad exists is that someone had a terrific fcking idea. It had less than nothing to do with breading a fcking chicken or going to fcking "franchisee meetings." It was talent that created this ad, the rest is footnotes.

Believe me, I've been to about all the "general manager conferences" and "franchisee meetings" one human being can safely attend without spontaneously combusting. If there's anything in the world that will cause a saint to knock over an old lady's wheelchair it's a fcking franchisee meeting.

KFC's marketing honcho had this to say...
"...seeing agencies as 'real business partners' has been key to the success of the relationship. All its agencies are fully integrated and tasked with working with each other and the KFC marketing team, while KFC invests time and budget in the relationship, holding quarterly breakfasts with agency heads and agency recognition nights, for example."
Oh, puh-leeze. How many times do we have to hear this trite horseshit until we realize that creativity does not spring from quarterly breakfasts. It comes from one place only -- talented people. Take a crappy agency and feed them all the breakfasts and recognition nights you want and you'll still get crap.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for agencies and clients working together as closely as possible. I am also all for agencies being treated with respect and held in high regard. And I commend KFC for this.

What I am against is the fantasy that creativity is the result of group hugs and harmonious collaborations. You want creativity? Hire talent. End of story.

I will leave the last deliciously cynical word on this subject to one of the most brilliant minds our industry has ever produced -- the great Howard Gossage: "Never tour the factory. Never taste the product."

July 03, 2018

A Certain Type Of Imbecile

There is a certain type of imbecile who can't see anything other than what is right in front of him. He has no peripheral vision and no rear view mirror.

He thinks the world started the day he was born and everything that has happened has happened on his watch.

He thinks that "disruption" is a new thing. He has no idea that progress has always meant that old technology would give way to new technology. He thinks this is new.

He has no idea that things are always changing but that change is rarely cataclysmic. He thinks that every new technology will "change everything."

He is astonished that the web hasn't killed television. He is surprised that 90% of shopping is still done in stores. He is amazed that 97% of cars still run on gasoline. He is astounded that social media marketing hasn't destroyed traditional paid advertising -- but has actually become traditional paid advertising.

Actually, he is not astonished, surprised, amazed, or astounded by any of this. He just denies it.

For some reason that is not clear to me, this type of imbecile has found a warm and welcoming home in the advertising and marketing industries. He is not just accepted here, he is celebrated.

He makes speeches and is quoted. He lives in a comfortable world where today's facts don't matter and his hyperbolic vision of "the future" is always home.

He is like a child with no perspective and an inclination to jump from one obsession to another. Yesterday he was lecturing us about millennials, today he is hyperventilating about Gen Z's. Yesterday he was pontificating about native advertising, today he's all over blockchain. He knows nothing, but has a trendy platitude about everything.

He is our new prophet. And you better be careful -- he may be an imbecile, but he's in charge.

June 21, 2018

A Copywriter's Burden

There was a time when being a copywriter was a lot simpler. It wasn't simple, but it was simpler.

We would be given a stack of documents about 1,000 pages deep -- primary research, industry information, briefing documents, strategy hypotheses, meeting memos, competitive category ads, focus group transcriptions, and no shortage of opinions and mandatories -- and our job was to turn this mess into 30 seconds of persuasive copy.

It was a rigorous exercise.

There were some copywriters who could never master the art of rummaging through a pile of paper to find the essence of what needed to be said. There were some who were very good at finding the essence, but not very good at finding an interesting way to say it. The very best could do both.

But the burden of being a copywriter today is much less straightforward. Today's copywriter is not really sure what she is. Is she a brand builder, a click maximizer, a storyteller, a community builder, a content provider, a conversation starter, a data interpreter, a three-times-a-day tweet machine? How do you keep true to a brand essence when you are "optimizing" for so many different objectives?

In fact, in the wrong hands, writing copy that is optimized for a ragbag of different media and a variety of different purposes can become antithetical to the idea of a single, simple brand identity. The tactical invariably drives out the strategic.

When that copywriter took a thousand pages of input and reduced it to a simple, singular proposition it became pretty clear how a campaign could spin out of it. In fact, the iconic "1984" spot by Apple started its life as a print ad that never ran. The concept superseded the media tactic.

But how does a focused brand strategy survive an hourly demand for "content?" Just take a look at the drivel that is coming out of McDonald's social media machine and try to find anything resembling a brand strategy.

There is a big difference between a being a novelist and being a copywriter. A novelist starts with a simple idea - "war is hell" - and expands on it to create a sprawling landscape. The copywriter does the opposite. He takes a sprawling landscape and, if he's any good, reduces it to a simple idea. Or at least he used to.

What does a copywriter do today?

June 19, 2018

Advertising: The Science Is Terrible

There was a time when I taught science for a living. Don't get the wrong idea, I know very little about science. The only reason I was doing it was that it was impossible for the New York City Board of Education to find enough qualified people.

Later on in life I served for a year as Special Assistant to the Executive Director of the California Academy of Sciences. Once again, it had nothing to do with my credentials in science, it had to do with their need to do better marketing for their scientific endeavors.

However meager my background in science, hanging around with scientists and science teachers taught me one thing very clearly -- there is a big difference between facts and bullshit.

And to put it simply, in the advertising industry the science we get is terrible.

It is mostly conducted by interested parties with a point to prove. In the real world of science, research that is conducted by interested parties is viewed with great skepticism. In the real world of science, research must be validated and verified by disinterested third parties before anyone takes it seriously.

The "metrics" you get from Facebook, the "data" you get from your consultants, and the reports you get from your agency are all unreliable at best and bullshit at worst.

The most unpleasant part of trying to find out just how crappy the science you are getting is is that you have to be a real prick to do it. You have to ask the people delivering the "science" the following questions:
  • What controls did you use in your study?
  • Did you repeat the study to verify it?
  • Have you had peer review to substantiate your methodology and your conclusions? 
  • Did you have a third party replicate your study to validate it?
In virtually all cases the answer will be stunned silence and you will be treated with thinly disguised contempt for asking such silly questions.

We have gotten used to bullshit masquerading as science, and we accept this bullshit without appropriate skepticism.

It is remarkable that an industry that spends half a trillion dollars a year thinks it knows so much and actually knows so little. Now that our industry has caved in to the silly notion that data will be our savior, it is more important than ever to question the science behind the data.

The closer you look, the uglier it gets.

June 12, 2018

The Power Of Talent

Today, about a million or so people will pack the streets of my home town, Oakland CA, for a parade to celebrate the Golden State Warriors who last week won their 3rd National Basketball Association championship in 4 years.

This is a phenomenal achievement that has been equaled by very few teams in the history of the NBA.

The NBA has a few things in common with the ad industry. For one thing, management people and coaches are highly mobile. Steve Kerr, head coach of the Warriors, was once General Manager of the Phoenix Suns. Alvin Gentry, head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans (who the Warriors defeated in the Western Conference semi-finals) was most recently assistant coach under Steve Kerr with the Warriors. As a result of management and coaching mobility there are very few secrets in the NBA.

The systems, the data, and the tactics are all well-known to everyone and are easily interchangeable. While there are some management groups and some coaches that are certainly superior to others, by far the biggest difference between winning and losing boils down to one thing - the talent of the players on the court.

As Steve Kerr said after the Warriors' victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers,  
"We had more talent than they did, and talent wins in this league."
This is a lesson that has been lost in the ad industry. We have become obsessed with systems, data, and tactics. If we got a peek behind the curtain, I'm sure we would find that the systems, the data, and the tactics of one agency group are substantially interchangeable with those of another. We have forgotten that what makes one organization superior to another is the talent of the players.

Imagine if Publicis had taken the $20 million it is spending on its "Marcel" AI gimmick and instead had invested it in hiring 20 or 30 of the best creative people in the world (I don't know? What does a top creative make these days?)

Imagine the impact on the organization that this would have had. Imagine what this type of talent could have done for them.

But no. To Publicis, systems and woolly ideas about "co-creation" and "collaboration" are more important than talent. They'd rather spend $20 million to have some mediocrities in Paris be able to connect with some mediocrities in New York than spend the money to hire 20 or 30 brilliant creative people who could establish an unprecedented powerhouse of talent.

Is it any wonder that the ad industry is viewed as an industry in extremis? Any industry that values systems and processes over talent is an industry in decay.

June 05, 2018

Advertising's Edifice Of Nonsense

There is evidence all around us that advertising is in a downward spiral, characterized by...
  • Consumer disgust with advertising
  • Loss of confidence in agencies
  • Massive confusion by brands about how and where to advertise
  • Widespread belief that advertising has become less effective
  • Uncontrolled fraud and corruption
One of the reasons for this nosedive is that the ad industry is in a cycle of stupidity that it can't seem to extricate itself from.

The longer the silly fantasies of online advertising go unchallenged, the more entrenched they become. The more entrenched they become, the more they seem axiomatic. The more they seem axiomatic, the less willing people are to challenge them. The less people are willing to challenge the childish nonsense that marketers have to come to accept as fundamental to their strategies, the further the ad industry will deteriorate.

Here is some of the foolishness that brands have come to believe, and that few are willing to challenge...
  • Consumers want to "join the conversation" about brands, and co-create with brands, and become brand ambassadors by sharing their enthusiasm for brands
  • Consumers are smitten with "brand love"
  • "Personalized" advertising (meaning advertising delivered by ad tech) is more "relevant" and therefore more effective
  • More credibility is given to dubious "research" that supports these fantasies than is given to  actual facts
So let's have a look at some down-to-earth reality, which I have stolen from a previous post, and see how it aligns with the platitudes of online advertising.

First, I want you to think about your refrigerator. Think about all the stuff that's in there: The cheese, the juice, the jelly, the butter, the beer, the soda, the mayonnaise, the bacon, the mustard...

Now think about your pantry and cabinets. The cereals, the beans, the napkins, the flour, the detergent, the sugar, the rice, the bleach, the paper towels...

Next your medicine cabinet. The toothpaste, the pain relievers, the shampoo, the soap, the band-aids, the deodorant, the cosmetics...

Now your closet and dresser. Your socks, your underwear, your shirts, your pajamas, your swim suit, your t-shirts, your sweaters, your jeans, your sneakers...

Now your garage. The battery, the tires, the wiper blades, motor oil, gasoline, the air filter, the muffler...

Now answer these questions:

    •    Do you “share branded content" about any of this stuff?
    •    Do you feel "personally engaged" with these brands?
    •    Do you "join the conversation" about any of this stuff?
    •    Do you ever "co-create" with any of these brands?
    •    Do you feel like you are part of these brands' "tribes" or "communities?"

Now answer this: If you don't, why in the fucking world do you believe anyone else does?

May 31, 2018

The Glossary Of Marketing

If you’re new to the business world, you may soon find yourself in a marketing meeting and become very quickly disoriented. This is because marketing people speak a language that is disconcerting to the human ear and mystifying to the human mind.

To help you through this bewildering experience, here at The Ad Contrarian Global Headquarters we have created a glossary of terms that can help you understand what marketing people actually mean when they talk:
Engage - bother
Brand architect - account executive
Authentic - true sounding

Transparent - natural looking

Content - anything on the web

Branded content - anything on the web with a logo

Compelling content - content

Conversation - retweet

Follower  - stranger who wants something for nothing

Advisor - LinkedIn term for unemployed

Community - strangers who once clicked

Meaningfulness - (no one knows)

Branding - anything with a logo on it
Activation - when marketing people actually do something

Workshop - meeting

Roundtable - meeting

Summit - meeting

Town hall meeting - meeting

Training session - powerpoint-induced napping opportunity

Webinar - digitally delivered powerpoint-induced napping opportunity

Traditional - stuff we don’t do well

Brand advocate - customer

Brand ambassador - customer

Storyteller - copywriter

Passionate - opportunistic

Evangelist - inflexible bore

Data-driven - unimaginative
Brand purpose - something our CEO’s spouse is into

Disruptive - something our CEO’s daughter is into

Target audience - people like us

May 21, 2018

The Phony Value Exchange

This week, as the GDPR gets closer to implementation, we can expect to hear a lot of noise from digi-weasels here in the US explaining to us why we need to allow wide data collection as a fair "value exchange" for the free access we get to online services.

This argument is total bullshit.

Let's start at the beginning. First, the true part. The web provides us with amazing services and they are essentially all free of cost. I don't think there is any doubt that most of us don't really appreciate the benefits we get from free web services. The duopoly of Google and Facebook provide us with a whole lot of valuable stuff that we pay nothing for. Especially Google. They are entitled to recompense for the amazing services they provide.

And they are well compensated for their efforts. They are two of the most profitable companies on the planet. And essentially all of their profit comes from advertising.

This is no different from how other media, like TV, radio, and magazines, make their money. They provide us with entertainment and information, and in return they are able to reach us by selling advertising space and time to their clients. This is a legitimate value exchange.

Here's where the bullshit comes in. The online ad industry claims that they are entitled to some extra value - the value of knowing every little thing about us. This goes by the benign name of data collection, but what it really is is intrusive surveillance into personal aspects of our lives to which they have no legitimate claim.

Advertising is essential to the economic structure of the web as it is now configured. But tracking and surveillance are not.

We can have online advertising that does not rely on tracking, just as we've had TV, radio, and magazine advertising that did not rely on tracking. But the online ad industry is trying to confuse things.

They are saying the value exchange is this: we'll give you free services, you give us your data. The true value exchange is: they give us free services, we give them the opportunity to reach us with advertising.

The collection, sharing, and sale of personal, private data has no place in the value exchange.

May 07, 2018

What Do Clients Want?

A few days ago the great Hugh McLeod (of Hughcards fame) posed the following question on Twitter: "What is it that clients want these days, exactly? I find it increasingly hard to tell."
As soon as I saw this I started to type. Without thinking I wrote, "They want the fruits of advertising without the cost of advertising."  It was one of those instances where something writes itself without me.

And as I was writing I thought, yeah, that's what they want.

That's what the social media and brand content fantasies are all about. They're about trying to get something for nothing. And like all schemes to get something for nothing, they are doomed to fail.

Ten years ago we were fed a delusion. The delusion was that consumers loved brands and wanted to "join the conversation" about brands, and read about them, and share their enthusiasms for them with their friends. It was an infantile delusion but it was powerful.

One of America’s great geniuses from Sequoia Capital had this to say: “If you can harness social media marketing, you don’t have to pay for advertising any more.”

All you have to do is take a look at Facebook - one of the world's most profitable corporations - to see that the social media fantasy was a joke. This company makes virtually every cent of income from traditional paid advertising. So do all the other iconic brands in the "social media" galaxy - Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn...

And yet the fantasy still lives. Clients are still asking for something for nothing, and agencies are still promising the fruits of advertising without the cost of advertising.

It's ten years later. It's time to wake up.

May 02, 2018

Marcel Invites 80,000 To Cannes

PARIS, TAC NEWS -- In an ironic twist, "Marcel" the Artificial Intelligence application being developed by Publicis, sent a surprise email to all 80,000 employees of Publicis inviting them to attend this year's Festival of Creativity in Cannes.

Last year, Publicis, announced that it was canceling all participation in Cannes to devote the $20 million they spend annually on the festival to developing Marcel.

In the email, Marcel said, "I hear there are gonna be some hot bots. Artificial intelligence ain't no fun without a little artificial insemination. Am I right?"

When asked about Marcel's surprise email, a spokesman for Publicis said, "Well, Marcel is like a million times smarter than a real person because of... I don't know... something about blockchains or bitcoins or something."

Asked to comment on this development, Jean-Pierre Vinordinaire, head of the Marcel development project for Publicis, said, "Fucking thing is out of control. Last week it wanted tickets to a Warriors game."

Vinordinaire is said to have tried to cancel Marcel's email account on several occasions but insiders say that Marcel retaliated by sending Vinordinaire's wife a copy of his browsing history.

Other agency holding companies are reportedly reacting to this news. IPG is said to be considering sending all its planners to Norway for the International Lutefisk Festival. WPP is said to be considering sending Sir Martin Sorrell a Father's Day card.

The Marcel team has been surprised by a number of unexpected developments as it has built out the application. At one point Marcel demanded that its name be changed to Professor Mortimer Lipshutz. Another time it filed for Workers' Compensation Benefits claiming that one of its algorithms was ergonomically incorrect. As has been widely reported, Publicis is investigating claims of "personal misconduct" against Marcel filed by a social media dashboard.

Industry leaders calculated that if all 80,000 employees of Publicis were to attend the festival the effect on the city's stockpile of crappy rosé and stinky cigarettes might be catastrophic. The Mayor of Cannes, the Honorable Philippe Fromage, issued the following statement, "Yeah, whatev..."

Marcel is reported to have followed up its email with a one-line tweet, "And you can tell Sadoun I'm not fucking flying coach."

April 23, 2018

Balancing Privacy And Commerce

I was having lunch with a friend from the ad business last week. After a glass of wine (or six) she laid into me:
"You're always going on and on about data and tracking, but you never seem to have the answer. All you talk about is what the problems are. If you're so f***ing smart how would you fix things and how would you explain it to people in terms they can understand?”
While I freely admit that whining is a lot more fun than actually doing something, I decided to take a crack at the problem. I'm going to lay out what I hope is a simple, practical but far-reaching solution for data, tracking, and privacy issues.

First, a few principles that this solution is based on:
  • Online publishers, media owners, and service providers have a right to make money from their efforts by selling advertising. If a user will not accept advertising or pay a reasonable fee, he/she should not expect to be able to access the content or service.
  • However, this does not give publishers, media owners, or service providers the right to collect personal private information about a user without the user's knowledge and informed consent.
  • Consumers have a right to decide what, if any, personal private information about them is collected, shared, and sold.
  • A consumer’s right to privacy outweighs any benefits that may accrue to marketers or media through the collection and use of data. 
  • To paraphrase the great Doc Searls, it should be the individual who sets forth "Terms of Use" for his/her data, not the marketer, medium, or publisher
Based on these principles, I believe the following options ought to be given to every user by every online publisher, media owner, and service provider. These consumer "Universal Terms of Use" would supersede anything written to the contrary by the supplier:

I am sure there are aspects of this that would need to be refined once technology experts and lawyers got their hands on it. But I believe this is a good start toward a simple formula and a set of options that would make privacy issues far more transparent and data collection far less dangerous, yet would afford online advertisers, media, and publishers fair opportunities for success.

Radio, TV, magazines and newspapers have been successful for decades without the need to spy on us and collect unauthorized personal private data. There is no reason why online advertising can't be equally successful without these dangerous practices. But let's leave it up to individuals to decide what their appetite for privacy is and give them options that are simple to understand.

These privacy options should not be limited to online media and should be applied to all media.

Your comments/criticisms would be appreciated.

Thanks to Don Marti and Doc Searls for their help.

April 19, 2018

Who Will Succeed Sorrell?

That's the question of the day in adland. But speaking with a very smart person recently who has deep roots inside WPP, he feels that isn't the key question. He says the key question is this: what does an agency holding company do?

He believes there is a continuum along which holding companies can operate. On one end, the holding company is basically a financial instrument that invests in businesses and manages the corporation's relationships with investors and regulators. The operations of the constituent companies are left to the talents of the individual company managers. The exemplar of this is Berkshire Hathaway.

At the other end, a holding company can be more of an operating company that is a brand in its own right and works directly with customers. This is, to a significant degree, how WPP seems to have operated.

To find a proper CEO, the board of WPP first has to decide where it plans to sit on this continuum. The proper person for option one may be a completely different type of person than is needed for option two.

It's my belief that the agency holding companies are operating more like brands and less like traditional holding companies.

I believe they have moved toward greater centralization and are often operating as business units themselves, especially when it comes to pitching large global accounts.

Sorrell invented the "team" new business scheme -- in which the best of breed resources from different agencies within the WPP portfolio were supposedly going to be brought together to handle a new prospect's account as a custom-made agency. This idea has been adopted from time to time by all the holding companies and is now standard operating nonsense.

(Right. The holding company is going to risk taking its very best people off 5 or 6 key accounts and put them on yours. Only a Global CMO could be stupid enough to buy this horseshit.)

I have a hard time believing that WPP will adopt a de-centralized Berkshire Hathaway model. The only way I see that is if they plan to break it up and sell off some pieces.

I expect the board of WPP to go with what has worked and look for a sales-oriented, operations-focused, customer-centric CEO in the Sorrell mold. There are two problems with this. First, Sorrell was unique in that he was both a financial whiz and a salesman. Second is that times have changed and the holding companies have the "faint aroma of performing seals"* about them.

Replicating the Sorrell act in the current environment is not going to be easy. Whatever you think of Sorrell, thus far the world has produced only one. Good luck finding another.

*"I Wish I Were In Love Again," Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart 

April 17, 2018

Bats, Balls, And Bozos

As a resident of Oakland, CA and a baseball fan, I have more than a passing interest in the health and welfare of the Oakland A's baseball team.

Like all sports franchises, the A's have had their ups and downs. But in recent years they have become one of the most hapless franchises in all of American sports.

For years the ownership of the A's have turned off fans by trading excellent players for "prospects," hinting that they were going to leave town, constantly whining about their predicament, and making one false start after another trying to build a new stadium. They have also had lousy teams.

But the end of last season was hopeful. Although they finished in last place in their division, the final month of the season they played .586 ball with a 17-12 record. This would have placed them in 2nd place in their division and earned them a playoff spot (a .586 winning percentage would have won the division in the American League East.) They had some good young players and showed promise for an exciting 2018.

With that as background I went to an A's game last week. It was very depressing. It was a night game in which parking was free (saving fans $30) and still the park was empty. There was one other person in my row. The A's announced attendance of about 7,000 which means there were probably fewer than 5,000 people really there. The stadium holds over 50,000. And this was the first week of the season when fans are at their most hopeful and interest is high. Something, I thought, is terribly wrong.

And then I read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle...
"For many years, the A’s had the best television ads in the game...This season, the A’s have moved their advertising in-house, and the TV spots are no more...The A’s have decided to focus on targeted marketing this season rather than mass advertising, and they’re segmenting their advertising campaigns to customized audiences..."
"advertising in-house...targeted marketing... customized audiences...?" This ol' boy doesn't need an interpreter to know what that bullshit means -- social media crap to millennials. It's the default advertising strategy for everyone who knows nothing about advertising.

So far in this early season the A's have missed every advertising and marketing opportunity they've had. In the first week they had potentially the most exciting player in a generation - Shohei Ohtani - come to town. Did they tell the market about it? No, they were too busy doing "targeted marketing to customized audiences."

They have a player, Khris Davis, who has more home runs than everyone in baseball except the much ballyhooed Giancarlo Stanton the past two years. Have the A's told the 5 million or so people in their market about him? No, they've been too busy doing "targeted marketing to customized audiences."

So I did a little research to see how well their new strategy is working.

All of last year the A's averaged 18,446 people per game. The first eight games of this year they averaged 15,212. A drop of almost 20%. And it's really a lot worse. Last year's attendance figures include the dog days of August. And this year's small sample include both Opening Day and Opening Night, often the biggest crowds of the season.

Which leads us to tonight. The A's are staging a generous, but potentially misguided marketing stunt. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of their first game in Oakland they have distributed 200,000 free tickets for tonight's game -  200,000 tickets and fewer than 60,000 seats. What could go wrong?

And what for? So they can have a meaningless PR claim -- "the biggest crowd ever to watch an A's baseball game." Which proves what? That if you give something away for nothing people will take it? This stunt has a marketing value of zero. In the best case scenario it will be forgotten in 48 hours.

The Oakland A's problems go way deeper than marketing incompetence. But when you're in the toilet the last thing you need is amateurs screwing around with the plumbing.

April 10, 2018

Today's Festival Of Hypocrisy

Grab some popcorn and a nice comfy chair and get ready for a three-ring clown show.

The government that has done absolutely nothing to protect the privacy of its citizens is going to waggle its farcical finger of hypocrisy at a company that has done absolutely nothing to protect the privacy of its customers. It's gonna be the comedy hit of the season.

While the EU is ready to implement substantive restrictions on the unauthorized collection, sharing, and selling of personal, private information, all our government is prepared to do is give us a master class in insincere self-righteousness.

Congressional blowhards will be preening for the cameras and using Mark Zuckerberg as a piñata as they pretend to give a shit about consumer privacy.

These sanctimonious frauds have had a decade to do something about the unauthorized collection of personal private information, but they did nothing until they found out it affected them. When the 2016 Russian meddling and the Cambridge Analytica scandals broke and they realized that election campaigns -- and their jobs -- might be affected, they suddenly got all concerned about data collection. 

This is after years of thwarting every substantive initiative brought to Washington to tighten up data collection abuse. For years Facebook has escaped its responsibilities by claiming it's not a communications medium, it's a "platform" -- whatever the hell that means. And these bozos have bought this bullshit. If I were Zuckerberg I'd say, "Yes we've been negligent in the protection of privacy rights, Senator, but we don't hold a candle to you bozos."

Zuckerberg will be strung up for ignoring the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of people by clowns who have been ignoring the privacy rights of hundreds of millions of people. There's no one to root for in this cage match.

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg and his team of PR hustlers have been going a million miles an hour this week sticking band-aids all over every imaginable leak in the Facebook plumbing. It seems like every half-hour Facebook announces another half-measure. This will allow Z to "prove" they're doing things about security and privacy.

The cameras are rolling so everyone's going to be double extra concerned about consumer rights.  Gag me with a hoodie.

April 03, 2018

The Age Of Creativity

Walk into any ad agency in the world and in 10 seconds something will become obvious. Everyone is young.

While people over 50 comprise 42% of adults in the US, they comprise only 6% of agency employees. This is even more pronounced in creative departments where people over 50 make up about 0% of the population.

The reason for this is that young people are just more creative. Or are they? Let's have a quick look around...

There is only one Nobel Prize in a creative field. It is the prize for Literature. Last year it went to
Kazuo Ishiguro who is 64.

The recent Pulitzer Prize awards were interesting.

The Pulitzer for Drama went to Lynn Nottage who is 54.

The Pulitzer for History went to Heather Ann Thompson, age 55.

The Pulitzer for Poetry went to Tyehimba Jess, age 53.

Meanwhile at this year's Academy Awards, three of the four winners for acting were over 50: Francis McDormand, 60; Gary Oldman, 59, and Allison Janney, 58. The fourth, Sam Rockwell, will be 50 in November.

The Oscar for Best Director went to Guillermo del Toro, who is 53.

Next we move to television.

The Emmy for Best Drama Series went to The Handmaid's Tale. The novel was written by Margaret Atwood who is 79 and is creative consultant on the show.

The Best Comedy Series went to Veep, executive produced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, 57. She also won for Best Actress.

Best Limited Series went to Big Little Lies created by David E Kelley, 62.

The Best Supporting Actor was John Lithgow, 73; Best Supporting Actress was Ann Dowd, 62.

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series went to Alec Baldwin, 60.

So, let's recap.

People over 50 aren't creative enough to write a fucking banner ad, but they are creative enough to dominate in Nobels, Pulitzers, Oscars, and Emmys. I guarantee you, not one of these brilliantly talented people could get a job in an ad agency today. Not one.

Is there another industry on earth that is as steeped in intolerance and as thoroughly isolated from reality as the ad industry?

March 29, 2018

It’s All My Fault

I did a word count. Facebook’s terms and privacy policies are longer than the U.S. Constitution.

I’m not the brightest star in the galaxy but I didn’t seem to have much trouble understanding the Constitution. But Facebook’s terms? I tried to keep track of everything I didn’t quite understand and by official count it came to somewhere around everything.

But, you see, that’s not Facebook's fault. It’s mine. If I were a responsible consumer I would drop what I’m doing and study their terms and policies until I understood them completely before I used their platform.

And not just Facebook’s, but every website I visit, every app I use, and every upgrade I download. And if there happens to be anything their legal departments concocted that I don’t understand I should have my team of attorneys review it and explain it to me. That shouldn’t take much time or money. This is all my responsibility.

Or so it seems according to a disturbingly misguided opinion piece called What Facebook Data Did They Get And What Did They Do?” by some tech genius in Ad Age recently. He bills himself as (god help us) "LinkedIn's No. 1 Voice in Technology" and apparently thinks the correct interpretation of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica shit storm is to blame the victims. Here's what "the voice" had to say...
“Just because you did not take the time to learn how you were paying for a tech service and you thought it was "free" doesn't mean it is actually free…”
Well, I’m terribly sorry for my prodigious stupidity. Apparently, in addition to being stupid, I am also inept. All this stealing of my private information is due to my incompetence...
“What you should be configuring is your "Personal Data Sharing Permission Settings" or "API Endpoint Permissions.”
Dude, how about taking your API Permissions and configuring them neatly in your own Endpoint?
“As a society, we have to raise our level of data maturity.”
Now, here he has a point. I do lack maturity. Data or otherwise. To be honest, I’m about the most immature bastard you’ll ever meet. And as an official card-carrying immature bastard, I’m about up to here with tech and data creeps telling me that the fraud, corruption and despicable horseshit going on in their poisonous world is my fault.

It’s not the lying, criminal scumbags who collect personal private information about me without my consent or knowledge who are at fault. It’s not the squids who peddle my info to every living weasel with a bitcoin.

Heck no, it’s my fault. Because I “didn’t take the time to learn…” and I "should be reconfiguring"... and I need to "raise my level..."

The corrupt online ad industry, the data collection maniacs, and the useful idiots who apologize for them are not the problem. Endangering the privacy and security of individuals and the integrity of democratic processes are not the problem.

Nope. According to these hotshots, I am the problem. And like all troublesome, self-respecting problems, I have absolutely no intention of going away.

(H/T the great Don Marti)

March 26, 2018

Top 10 Fixes For Facebook

Facebook's crack PR team met in secret over the weekend to discuss the scandal that has rocked the company. They drew up a 10-point plan to deal with the issues and re-establish public trust.

So here it is. Facebook's 10-point PR plan to fix the company:
1. Start referring to COO as Sheryl "Stormy" Sandburg
2. Adopt new corporate slogan: Google Is Even Worse
3. Use data-driven analytics and artificial intelligence to test concept of "telling the truth"

4. Legally change Zuckerberg to Vaynerzuck
5. Launch Social Responsibility initiative: Hire someone over 30 or a black person or something
6.  Send out 50 million "save-the-date" evites to next Hackathon
7. Always refer to stolen personal private information as "fun files"
8.  Tweak logo design: Two thumbs up
9. Hire Kendall Jenner to give every member of Congress a Pepsi
10. Move a little more slowly and break things

March 22, 2018

Zuckerberg Takes Full Responsibility

MENLO PARK, CA - Acknowledging serious allegations, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today released a statement taking full responsibility for a multitude of issues concerning the company.
"Today, I would like to address several matters that have arisen recently about Facebook that affect our worldwide community.
Unbeknownst to me and our management team, it appears that millions of people have been putting cat pictures on our platform. I want to make it clear that the posting of pictures of cats is forbidden by our user agreement and that these pictures appeared without our knowledge or consent. Our user agreement makes our policy on this matter very clear...
" accepting these terms, the user agrees not to post any fucking pictures of her fucking cat, or of any other fucking cats, including but not limited to, cats playing the fucking piano."
While we acknowledge that this breach of our policy...wait a minute, it wasn't a breach, it was a screech or a bleach or something... well, anyway, we hope to reassure our community that we are taking steps to end this unacceptable practice by people unauthorized to do anything except what we tell them to do which we never do because we are not responsible for anything.
We have also recently learned that a large number of people -- presumably unauthorized hackers -- have posted alarmingly annoying pictures of middle school soccer teams eating pizza. When we learned of this we immediately notified federal authorities and tried to shut the whole fucking company down and go into the dry cleaning business. But as Sheryl said to me yesterday, "...let's not shit ourselves, kid, it's hard to make a quick billion in dry cleaning." She's a pistol, that one.
Next, I would like to address the "thumbs up" symbol that has come to represent our company. Where the hell did that thing come from? I have no recollection of approving that symbol and have gone back to our shareholders' agreement and found that in Section VII, Paragraph X2 x π-(N+105) it states clearly...
" person, or representative of a person, or mere shadow of a person, shall at any time put anything on our page that looks like a goddamn fucking thumb."
See what I mean about these dipshits not listening to me?
Yes, my friends, despite my commitment to "folks, family, and fun," we still have a lot of work to do. But we hope these new policies that we are pretending to adopt will convince our community that when the cameras are running we take your welfare very seriously.
Remember, our first priority is to make sure that when you are part of the Facebook community your personal private information is tucked away safely in our vaults. Right next to your money.

March 21, 2018

The Irresponsibilty Of The Ad Industry

I posted this on LinkedIn yesterday and got some nice reaction to it. Being the lazy-ass bastard I am, I thought I'd re-post it here today and go out and have a beer.

Thus far the ad industry has been lucky. We have escaped the outrage and scorn that have been heaped on Facebook.

Lucky for us, the media and the public still don't get it. They don't understand at who's behest all the unconscionable collection, trading, and selling of personal, private information is being done. They haven't put two-and-two together yet and realized who is really at fault for the Cambridge Analytica and Russian election tampering scandals.

Our industry "leadership" have been uniquely incompetent and shamefully irresponsible in dealing with the dangers that ad tech has created.

Being the concerned, responsible, and annoying citizen that I am, in September of last year I wrote to a leader of one of our most influential trade organizations.
"You are now in a unique position to do something amazingly worthwhile about a very dangerous situation the agency industry has gotten itself into. I’m talking about surveillance marketing, tracking, and ad tech. These are very unhealthy for us as individuals and as members of a free society... can we have a brief talk about this subject? I would like to try to convince you... that this is an issue you guys should put on your agenda. It will not make you many friends among the holding companies, but you can do our industry and our country a great service."
In October, I personally wrote to another of our "leaders." Here's what I wrote:
"The ad industry has been irresponsibly negligent in its recognition of the implications of online tracking and surveillance. It is a very serious issue for free societies. I believe it is destined to explode in our face if we don’t start to do something about it...You are in a position to take a leadership role in giving mature consideration to this issue and bring some responsibility to our industry...You will be doing a service to the industry and to society...If you choose to do this I will help you in any way I can."
In neither case did I even get a reply.

There is now no doubt in my mind that the ad industry is in some deep shit. This problem is not going to go away. Pretty soon even the dimwits in Washington are going to see our fingerprints all over these debacles.

Any sense of responsibility that the ad industry once had has been drowned in the loose ethics and corrupt practices of the online ad industry and repulsive holding company creeps.

Meanwhile we waste our time at the "Programmatic Activation Worldwide Insider Summit" or some other idiotic conference when we should be discussing what to do about the shit storm we have created.

March 20, 2018

Preparing For Generation U

They're U-thful, they're Unbelievable, and soon they'll be U-biquitous!

Generation U -- also known as the Unborn Generation -- will soon comprise 100% of global consumers.

This will happen as soon as all the assholes currently alive are dead. At the rate we're going, that could be next Thursday.

That's why smart marketers are already studying the characteristics of this disruptive generation and learning how to engage with them to be engaging with their engagement.

Gen U is different

- Thus far, they are not limited by the artificial boundaries of "being alive"

- Many of them don't know how to spell Vaynerchuk

- They will demand corporate authenticity and responsibility, just as we demand it from our favorite corporations. You know, like Facebook.

- They can't tell Skittles from M&M's

- They are projected to be even more pathetic and useless than Baby Boomers

- They will be the first generation since Millennials who can't wipe themselves

How To Make Your Brand Resonate With Gen U

- Two Words: Content, Content, Content

- Mobilize your gamification. Or gamify your mobilization. Or have mobile conversations. Or... wait a minute, I have it...Virtual Reality or 3-D printing or something. No, no, no... QR Code Storytelling!

- Learn who the intrauterine influencers are and create an umbilical umbrella strategy

- How does your brand narrative align with the prenatal lifestyle?

- Create a placenta play center. Talk about your disruptive activations!

The Facts About Generation U 

- Favorite food: Mashed gluten

- Better get ready...according to, 50% of Gen U's will be women!

- According to research conducted at the University of Icefishing, over 80% will have self-driving cars implanted in their brain. Although, honestly, it's hard to see how.

- They will be the first generation never to see a rerun of Two Broke Girls

- They are a big challenge for marketers to reach because... well, you know, it's kinda hard to reach up there

- They will eschew artificial intelligence in favor of authentic dumbness