May 28, 2015

Invisible Ads Are Good For You

I had the opportunity to read a truly awful piece of nonsense this weekend about the "viewability" problem with online advertising.

This putrid thing was written by the ceo of an online media company. He wasted 10 minutes of my life with a logic-torturing argument that came to the conclusion that invisible ads are actually a good thing.

Of course, as we have written many times before, all these knucklehead apologists (for the fact that half of all online ads never appear before a live human) start with the John Wanamaker quote about "half my ads..." you know the rest. The morons always start with this quote. Always.

Then they try to equate invisibility with inattention:
"When do we hear about TV ads not being watched, or how about radio ads not being heard? Or even newspaper ads when the page is not turned?" 
Okay, amigo, I'm going to explain this to you and your drooling propagandists one more time. Then I'm going to show it to you with pictures -- like a 5-year-old -- so maybe you'll get it.

There is a difference between people not paying attention to an ad, and an ad not running. All advertising is subject to inattention (especially your precious banner ads.) But if 50% of online ads are invisible (as The Wall Street Journal reported) then an online advertiser is in double jeopardy.

First, half his ads don't appear. And then the half that do appear are still subject to "the Wanamaker effect."

Here it is in pictures.

We start with two campaigns (represented below by two ads for Billboard magazine.) One is a traditional ad and one is an online display ad.

Then we factor in the "invisibility" problem.  Since there is no problem with traditional advertising actually appearing, we get the following result.

Then we factor in the John Wanamaker, "half my advertising is wasted..." factor, and we get this:

When only half of the advertising you are buying is visible, and half of that is ignored, 75% of you advertising money is wasted.

The truth, of course, is much more damaging to online advertising because way more online advertising is ignored than TV advertising. But I'm too exhausted to get into that.

The great thing about this guy's article is that once you get past the stupidity, you get to the real point. He thinks invisible advertising is not a problem because even though the advertiser gets royally screwed, it still provides him -- the ceo of a media company -- with precious data.

I've got news for you, pal. Advertisers aren't in business to provide you with anything.

May 26, 2015

MadMen Meets Funny Girl

Last week, by far the most talked about subject in the advertising/marketing/media axis of ego was the finale of MadMen.

While I am not a fan of the show (I have tried and failed to watch it a few times) there is no doubt that it was a beautifully and artfully produced project.

It was also obsessively followed, commented on, and analyzed by our brothers and sisters in the advertising and marketing industry.

Just about every pundit, blogger, and expert had something to say or write about the final episode last week. By the amount of attention it garnered, you'd have to conclude that it was not just big news, it was a singular moment for our industry.

And if there was ever a clearer indication of the bubble we live in, and how separated and out of touch our industry is with the rest of humanity, it is this -- on the same night the finale of MadMen was airing, almost twice as many Americans watched sixty-year-old re-runs of I Love Lucy.

An extraordinary and highly notable moment for the advertising/marketing/media industry was of not much interest to the vast majority of our fellow citizens.

Now I am sure there are those among you who would say I rigged those numbers to validate the premise of my book Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey -- and believe me, if I could I would -- but I'm afraid I don't have that kind of power. Yet.

As the Amazon blurb for "Marketers Are From Mars..." says,
"...marketers and advertisers have lost touch with consumers and are living in a fantasy land of their own invention -- fed by a cultural echo chamber of books, articles and conferences in which people like them talk to people like them."
I don't know how I could have drawn up a better illustration of this than last week's MadMen/I Love Lucy phenomenon.

What our industry desperately needs is a reality check of epic proportions.

May 21, 2015

The Clients Have Won

I've been traveling this week and busy with other duties. Consequently haven't had time to keep up with my blogging obligations. However, I know some of you need something motivational to get you through your morning toiletry duties, so here's something from 5 years ago. More true today.

Since I started in the agency business back in 1776, I've been aware of a subtle but undeniable tension between clients and agencies over who would control the culture of advertising.

Because the agencies make the advertising, they feel they should control the ethos. Because the clients pay for the advertising, they feel they should control it. Nobody ever comes out and actually says these things, but the strain below the surface has always been pretty obvious to anyone who wanted to see it.

I've always felt it was a healthy tension. The industry needs both the imagination of the agencies and the real-world pragmatism of the clients. The pendulum is never at rest and it is always swinging back and forth giving a little more or a little less influence to each party.  For the most part, however, it has remained within a range in which each party has had a reasonable share of power in determining what the ad industry is, and what it isn't.

I am now starting to feel that the competition is coming to an end and that the clients have won. There are three factors that make me feel this way.

The first is size. Size affects culture. Large entities tend to behave differently from small ones. As agencies have grown to global proportions to match the needs of global clients, agency cultures have undeniably changed to resemble the cultures of the clients. I don't think this has been done consciously. I think it's just a by-product of size.

The tangible manifestations of this are the development of internal hierarchies, the compartmentalization of  functions, and the inflation of titles (is there anyone left who isn't a C-Something-O?) Because the intangible manifestations are less, um, tangible, they are harder to describe. But anyone who's spent some time in the agency world will, I believe, agree that internal agency behaviors and attitudes have a different feel in recent years.

The second factor is people. With the exception of the creative department, it would be hard these days to pick agency people out of an agency-client line-up. They look, talk and act the same. This is not a criticism of either side, it's just an observation.

As for the creative people, they still have bad haircuts and unnecessarily expensive eye wear, but I've been reading lately that we are losing some of our best and brightest to, among other things, the lure of new media. This is alarming. A while ago, in a past post entitled  Crisis of Advertising, I wrote something like this...

Put yourself in the place of a young, talented person. You can work for a big, clumsy ad agency that is toiling for huge corporations.  You'll have dozens of meddlers sticking their sweaty fingers into everything you do. Or you can work for yourself, or a smaller entity, where you don't just use your imagination to sell things, you use it to actually create things.
Our clients may think they need us for our dashboards and our analytics, but the only thing they really need us for is creativity. If we can't deliver that, we may as well close up shop.

The third factor is focus. Agencies seem not as singularly focused on the advertising part of the advertising business as they once were. Each day there seem to be new priorities and different disciplines that closely mirror client-side functions. This has not been helped by the obsession with technology and data.

Agency leaders may be crazy, but they're not stupid. In a time of enormous change and uncertainty, they can see what the winners look like and what the losers look like. The winners look more and more like their clients. The losers look more and more like ad agencies.

In logic, there is something called the fallacy of composition. The fallacy of composition occurs when it is mistakenly assumed that what is good for the individual is good for the group. For example, it is good for the individual to save his paycheck. But if everyone saved their paychecks, our economy would collapse.

It is probably good for the survival of each individual agency if it yields to the pressure to mirror the values and behaviors of its clients.

However, it is terrible for the industry.

May 18, 2015

Take The Refrigerator Test

Despite all the yapping by marketing experts about the amazing power of online advertising, it has been my impression that, overall, digital advertising has been a weak force.

Yes, there have been some notable exceptions. Google has certainly replaced the yellow pages as the place people go when they are actively looking to buy something. Facebook can certainly make it easier for you to find left-handed plumbers who drink chocolate milk. And every now and then there's a big one-off social media success.

But if you believe, as I do, that the highest ambition of advertising is to build a successful brand, you have to wonder about the past twenty years. Where are the big non-web-native brands that have been built by online advertising?

Twenty years into their lives as mainstream media, tv, radio, print and billboards -- what we now call traditional media -- had built thousands of successful consumer brands in hundreds of categories (made-up number alert.)

People often ask me how I can maintain such an obviously unfashionable opinion about digital advertising? I tell them this: The proof is in your refrigerator.

Open your refrigerator and take everything out. Take out the juices, and beers, and jams, and cheeses, and snacks, and yogurt, and meats, and peanut butter, and mayonnaise, and...

Then make two piles. In one pile put all the brands that were built with traditional advertising. In the second pile put all the brands that were built by online advertising.

I think you will find that you have one pile.

By the way, if you are the guy who was going to write a comment that said, "Oh yeah, well you know everything we buy doesn't go in the refrigerator," don't bother. You can do the same test in your cupboard, your garage, your medicine cabinet, your closet and your desk and you'll come up with the same result.

May 14, 2015

"Marketers Are From Mars..." Now An eBook.

 In its second day of release, the ebook of "Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey" broke into the top 3 in advertising at Amazon. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The good news is that it's selling for $2.99. That's less than you pay for 5 kernels of popcorn at the movies. And it doesn't make your mouth all dry and smelly.

You can read it on any device. If you don't have a Kindle-ish thing, just go here and download the free Kindle app.

Then your only obligation is to write a fabulous review on Amazon. If you're new at that, here are some suggestions:
  • "I've never read a book before. This is fun."
  • "I'm really looking forward to the tweet."
  • "It's like Shakespeare, only much stupider."
  • "I would buy the movie rights if I knew what that meant."
Now quit jacking around and download the book.

May 13, 2015

Nobody Gives A Flying Shit About Your Brand

A lot of people have shaky jobs. And many have unstable families. Some have illnesses. All have debts.

Lots have washing machines that are broken, and cars that need a tune-up, and funny things growing on their backs, and boyfriends that are always getting high, and socks that have holes, and hair that is falling out, and toilets that are unreliable, and 10 pounds of extra stomach, and kids that are unhappy, and teeth that hurt, and rent to pay, and...

...a lot of things to care about.

One thing you can be pretty sure they don't care about is your brand.

Yes, I know you've been told that people love brands, and want to engage with them, and co-create with them and be all social with them. But stop and think about it for a minute. Do you really believe this? Does it even pass the giggle test?

If you're a marketer and you believe people care about your brand just because they buy it, you're headed for trouble. What we blithely call "brand loyalty" is mostly just habit, convenience, mild satisfaction or easy availability.

A smart marketer takes nothing for granted. He assumes that no one gives a flying shit about his brand. He assumes that he has to prove his value to his customers every day of the year.

He does not believe that there are "brand ambassadors" out there "advocating" for his brand. If there are a few, great. But he's not going to count on it.

He does not delude himself into believing that people want to "engage" with his brand or "share" his brand stories. If there are a few, great. But he's not going to bet the future on it.

For him, every day is Groundhog Day. Every day he has to drag his ass out the door and tell the world -- once again -- why they need his stuff.

And if he starts to get lazy, and puts his faith in the professional chatterers, and starts to believe the fantasies, he's a dead man walking.

BOOK UPDATE: My new book, "Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey" (selected as Amazon's #1 "Hot New Release" in advertising)is now available as an ebook here.

May 11, 2015

Creating Great Content Is Fun And Easy!

One of the wonderful things about modern marketing is that it is so easy to engage your target audience by creating and curating compelling content.

Just create something awesome and post it. Before you know it thousands of people are viewing it and tweeting about it to their friends. Pretty soon, you and your brand are incredibly hot!

Google says there are 38 trillion pages of content on the web. So what? Don't let that stop you. People are really into your brand. Your brand is so much more compelling than world leaders, or pop stars, or sports figures, or Kardashians.

Sure, you're competing with every entertainment and sports and news and cultural producer on the planet for peoples' attention. But all they have is beautiful, famous, talented stars, and amazing athletes, and worldwide news. You have something they don't have -- BRAND STORIES!

Make people totally fascinated with your brand by creating powerful brand stories! Soon, they'll want to have a brand relationship, and understand how your brand aligns with their lives, and how they can co-create with it, and share brand values. You'll have a global community of brand ambassadors creating a movement around your awesome brand.

Here's the key: STORYTELLING!

And who's better at storytelling than you? I mean, at company parties -- you're the man!

We all know that Disney and CBS and Yahoo and ESPN and HBO and Fox and Pixar and Dreamworks are always scrambling to come up with ideas that people will be interested in. Why? It's obvious....those "Hollywood types" don't know anything about storytelling!

They have to hire high-priced "writers" and "directors" and beautiful "stars" and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to create their content. Then they make stories about love and war and aliens and crime and spies and triumph and human emotions. Why? Because their stories aren't nearly as compelling as YOUR BRAND!  Come on. You can do better than them!

You have BRAND STORIES to tell -- and that's what people want! They want to hear the story of how your new spread improves the taste of any sandwich! They want to know how your heating and cooling system aligns with their active lifestyle!

Here's an example. You know all those shows on Public Broadcasting that no one watches? Those guys just don't get it! If they had your SOCIAL MEDIA TEAM to do some awesome storytelling for them -- not that crappy stuff about space, nature, murder, history, or music -- maybe someone would finally pay attention.

Here are some tips for creating amazing content for your brand that people will really want to engage with and share:
- Make your content fun! (When will those movie studios ever learn this?)

- Don't be boring! (Don't be like all those magazines with beautiful women on the cover with their shirts open and their tits falling out. Who the heck wants to see that?)

- Write attention-grabbing headlines! (And use lots of these things !!!)

- Provide useful information! (Because, aside from your brand's content, there's hardly any information on the internet!) 
- Know your audience! (Insider tip: Everyone likes puppets!)
Creating compelling content is awesome. It's a surefire way to surprise and delight your target audience. It's fun, and it's going to take your brand right to the top.

Happy contenting!

May 07, 2015

The Perspective-Free Marketing Industry

There are currently 2 types of dumbass marketing people in the world.

First is the type that thinks things will never change. These are characterized by the folks at McDonald's who think they can continue to sell their dreadful hamburgers for the rest of eternity. They think they have a marketing problem and if they just torture their agencies a little and have conversations with consumers they can get the problem fixed without having to actually do anything.

Second is the type that thinks everything is changing. They go around spouting all the insufferable new-age marketing cliches about everything being either dead or dying.

Both of these types don't get it.

First, things are always changing. Nothing in business, or in any other human endeavor, stays the same very long. Change can happen invisibly. Ask a bald guy. You don't notice when one hair falls out. But then one day you wake up and you look like me.

Conversely, not every change "changes everything" like the marketing hysterics would have you believe.

The sign of the amateur marketer is his inclination to be either complacent about change or hysterical about it. Change is nothing new. It is always with us and has always been with us.

These days it seems like hysteria about change is the prevailing mode. The people who perpetrate this nonsense are all over the web, all over marketing conferences, and all over the best-seller list.

The only thing they know is what is right in front of them. They think that everything that is happening now is seismic, and everything that happened before is inconsequential. There is a name for people like this -- fucking idiots.

The number of hysterical articles, conferences, books, and talks about how "everything is changing" and if you don't immediately adopt their newest technology or philosophy or methodology you will be left behind is absolutely oppressive.

In fact, consumers have shown a surprising attachment to traditional purchasing behavior in light of a revolution in technology, communication, and media.
  • People are 15 times as likely to buy something in a store than online.
  • People are 99 times as likely to buy something in a store than with a cell phone.
  • People watch 20 times more video on their TV than on their computer
  • People spend twice as much time listening to their radio than going online on their computer.
Are things changing? Of course. Things are always changing.

But if there's an untold story of the digital age, it is the degree to which perspective-free marketers have overestimated peoples' appetite for behavioral change, and underestimated peoples' attachment to traditional consumer behavior.

May 05, 2015

"Marketers Are From Mars..." Breaks Amazon

Well, yesterday was quite a day here at The Ad Contrarian World Headquarters.

We launched my new book "Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey." By early afternoon, it had become the 3rd best-selling advertising book at Amazon.

 It had also been selected as the #1 "Hot New Release."

And then Amazon fell apart. People trying to buy the book found that Amazon was telling them it was "currently unavailable." According to Amazon, 18 hours later, it is still "currently unavailable."

Here are my theories:

1. Jeff Bezos got drunk at lunch and no one else knows where the bubble wrap is...


2. Demand was so great, the world ran out of paper...


3. Malcolm Gladwell couldn't stand being challenged for the #1 spot and sent his vicious goons from The New Yorker over to destroy the printing presses. I'll get that little fucker.


4. I got screwed by technology again.

Well, whatever the hell it is, according to CreateSpace, Amazon's publishing arm, the "tech team is working on it" -- god help us all. With any luck it will be available again before Hillary's second term. 

If you tried to buy it and failed, please try again. You can leave your email address on the book's page and Jeff will send it to you when he sobers up. 

If you're one of the wonderful people who was able to buy the book, I hope you'll enjoy it. And if you haven't been over to check it out at Amazon yet...WTF?

UPDATE: Availability is back at Amazon.

May 04, 2015

Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey

My new book, Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey is now available at Amazon.

It's a fast-paced, thrill-packed journey through the back alleys of marketing... or, wait... maybe it's an uproarious romp across the treacherous landscape of today's advertising industry... or, hold on,  maybe it's just a book I scraped together from this blog, articles I've written, talks I've given, and stuff I found lying around at Taco Bell. You decide.

The theme of the book is that the advertising and marketing industries are kinda screwed-up. Including...
  • the gross misunderstanding of the role of brands 
  • the near destruction of the agency business
  • the mistaking of gimmicks for trends 
  • the abandonment of the most powerful consumer group the world has ever seen 
  • the fantasy of social media marketing 
  • the fraud and corruption in digital advertising
  • the silliness of putting pineapple on pizza
Here's the good news. For the rest of eternity, the book will retail for $7.95, but for the first week only it is selling at Amazon for $5.25. That's less than you pay for a 6-month old bottle of tepid water at your local multiplex. And with no planet-destroying plastic container.

So if I were you (and you can be thankful I'm not) I'd click on over to Amazon right now and lay my five-and-a-quarter down.

Be the first in your therapy group to own a copy of Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey.