May 04, 2016

This Week In Bullshit

One of the essential factors that has lead to the longevity of this blog is our access to the extraordinary abundance and diversity of bullshit in the advertising business.

Today we are honoring that heritage with a round-up of some of our favorite recent instances of marketing and advertising drivel.

We'll start with McDonald's. Last week, McDonald's announced they were beginning a search for a new agency. McDonald's CMO couldn't just say, "We need new ideas." That would have been too clear and simple. Instead she stitched together a breathtaking tapestry of cliches and jargon which perfectly represent the contemporary state of PMH (Professional Marketing Horseshit.)
"To be the modern and progressive company that we want to be, we have to create more immersive consumer engagement. We need the support of an omnichannel integrated agency resource that can support our marketing efforts today and then prepare us also as the future continues to evolve."
While "omnichannel integrated agency resource" is pretty damn majestic, I am particularly partial to "immersive engagement." Although as someone who's been involved in a few immersive engagements, I think you're way better off with a quick movie and dinner.

Next we have a little video clip that is not only entertaining (in a 'makes-you-wanna-kill-yourself' kinda way) but is actually educational. In case you've ever wondered what a "Digital Analytics Manager" does, you're about to find out.

Yes, you heard that right -- he said "in our day-to-day lifes." By the way, the editor of this piece is now facing a firing squad. To make this even more delicious, the geniuses at Netbase (whatever the hell that is) who apparently put this thing together spelled the name of the agency wrong.

Finally, Coke announced new package design recently. But in the jive-speak of package design it is never just package design. We have Coca-Cola's vice president for "global design" to thank for this lovely bit of PMH:
“When applied across packaging, retail, equipment and experiential, this new approach becomes a global design language that utilises a historical brand icon"
You knew we couldn't get through a post about bullshit without a little globularity. And I'm very gratified to learn that "experiential" is now a noun.

As the sun sets gently on the rotting carcass of a once-proud industry, I will allow Mel Brooks and Bea Arthur the last word...

May 02, 2016

The Existential Adman

Before we get started, let's acknowledge that "The Existential Adman" is the worst title for a blog post in the history of online jabbering. If this thing gets 5 hits it'll be a miracle. But we soldier on unafraid...

Why do we care about advertising? Is there anything in it worthy of our attention and concern? These are the existential questions that we hope to answer in today's post.

Let's start with a wide shot and then cut to the extreme close-up. The wide shot is this: Is there anything anywhere worth caring about?

To contemplate this we need to get a sense of our place in the universe. We hear a lot of awe-inspiring banalities from gasbags like Neil deGrasse Tyson about the 100's of billions of stars in a galaxy and the hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe. This gives us the impression that the universe is teeming with stuff.

In fact, the universe is the emptiest thing you can imagine. Only 0.000000000000000000004 percent of the universe contains any matter. The universe has less actual substance to it than a social media pitch deck.

Our planet is not even a speck of dust on a galactic scale. On a universal scale it essentially doesn't exist. Still worried about whether your socks match?

The next depressing reality concerns our species. Our planet has been around for about 4 billion years. We humans have been here for only about 200,000 years. So what portion of the Earth's life have we been a part of? The answer again is a decimal point, a lot of zeroes, and a 4 -- .00004.

In other words, our stay here at the Planet Earth Inn and Suites has been quite a short one and, sadly,  promises not to last very much longer. The odds of us blowing ourselves up, melting ourselves, or poisoning ourselves seem to be shortening daily.

So the question is, if we are so insignificant and so temporary does anything really matter? This philosopher believes that no, nothing really matters. But in order to live an orderly life we have to pretend it matters. If we don't pretend things matter, we're all likely to wind up in the gutter drugged up and filthy. You remember college, right?

Next we get to advertising. In light of all this meaninglessness and nothingness how can anyone take advertising seriously?

Well first, of course, there's the money. We gotta pay for Netflix somehow.

But let's be honest. There's something fascinating about advertising that transcends payday.

Studying advertising helps us strip away some of the fanciful notions of human rectitude and more often than not exposes the depth of human vanity to those of us who are willing to recognize it.

Of course there are those in the advertising business who, despite all evidence to the contrary, believe that peoples' consuming habits are motivated by high-minded principles and not by self-interest.

But to those of us who accept humanity warts and all, advertising presents a unique lens through which we can view human behavior in a way that is not always evident in other lines of endeavor.

And now for the existential answers:

Does advertising mean anything? No.

Is it interesting? Yes.

April 27, 2016

Can The Ad Industry Save Itself?

I am still hopeful that we can save ourselves.

We are in very deep trouble, but there may be a strategy to rescue ourselves from the hole we have dug.

Let's start by defining the problem. The problem is that everyone seems to have lost confidence in us.

Our clients don't trust us. In fact, the Association of National Advertisers is conducting 2 investigations into our practices. Additionally, many clients are leaving and doing their advertising work in-house.

Consumers don't trust us. 200 million people worldwide are actively engaged in not allowing us to reach them.

Our most important human resource - talent - is fleeing at frightening velocity.

Why is all this happening? There are several reasons:

First, online advertising has turned us into liars. We pretend that we don't know about the astounding amount of fraud and irregularities. We pretend that the numbers we present to our clients are reliable. Constant lying -- either by commission or omission -- eats away at our fiber.

Next is the rancid quality of online advertising. The aesthetic lineage of online advertising is not "Madison Avenue," it is the maddening tackiness of junk mail direct response.

Third, we have become crime enablers. Very large and malignant crime networks are built on the skeleton of online advertising and marketing.

Perhaps most appalling of all, by our constant surveillance of consumers (we call it "tracking" but let's not shit ourselves) we are undermining personal privacy -- one of the principles that is foundational to a democracy.

The sad part of all this is that the problem is not actually advertising.

The problem resides in what we call "ad tech" -- the tracking and hounding of consumers and the warehousing and selling of information about consumers to third parties.

There is no reason why advertising cannot be successful online. There is no reason why people should hate online advertising as much as they do. There is no reason for us to be liars and crime enablers.

None of this is necessary. All other forms of advertising succeeded for decades without tracking and so can online advertising. It simply is not necessary. We just have to get rid of tracking and use the web like we use all other advertising media.

If tracking had proven to be exceptionally effective maybe we could justify it on an "end justifies the means" argument.  But it has not. As I wrote recently...
So far this has been a spectacular failure. Each of us is currently inundated with dozens, if not hundreds, of online messages a day -- banner ads, emails, social messages, etc -- that are assumed by  marketers to be particularly relevant to us and reflective of our individual purchasing needs and behaviors. We pay almost no attention to any of them.
The big picture is this. Most people have no love for advertising. They are willing to tolerate it because of the free entertainment and information it provides them. But online advertising has crossed a line. It has dismantled an edifice of reasonable trust between us and the rest of the world.

There is no reason for us to continue to allow ad tech to pollute the soil of our business. If we get rid of it, we will be happier, consumers will be happier, and, in the fullness of time, our clients will be happier.

Facebook and Google may not be happier, but you know what? I'll worry about them some other time.