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...
...my 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...
...my 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 clich├ęs -- 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... 
...my 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.