August 29, 2008

See You In September

In observance of "Worldwide No Blogging Week" The Ad Contrarian is -- you guessed it -- not blogging this week. Happy Labor Day.

August 28, 2008

Online Chaos

In observance of "Worldwide No Blogging Week" The Ad Contrarian is -- you guessed it -- not blogging this week. Instead we'll be posting some oldies. Here's one.

Here's why your viral campaign went nowhere; why your video on YouTube is getting way fewer hits than you expected; and why your blog was a bust.

The internet is chaotic. Success is random and unpredictable. Most success is the result of one person's good, odd idea and is very hard to duplicate or recreate. Creative strategy is less important than execution on the web.

You can make a hit record by making it sound like a previous hit. You can make a hit tv show by fashioning it on a previous show. But the internet is voracious. Look-alikes are not likely to be successful.

Chaos and oddness are difficult to plan or predict. There are, and will continue to be, a lot of one-hit wonders.

August 27, 2008

Death Of Mass Marketing Postponed

In observance of "Worldwide No Blogging Week" The Ad Contrarian is -- you guessed it -- not blogging this week. Instead we'll be posting oldies. Here's one.

December 28, 2004 NEW YORK (New York Times) -- Jim Nail, principal analyst at Forrester Research, said, “You’re seeing the end of the era of mass marketing.”

October 30, 2007 NEW YORK ( -- time for the Super Bowl is nearly sold out... A person familiar with the situation said Fox has sold more than 90% of its ad time for the game..."it's just weird to even consider that if you want to be in there, you've got to act in November," said Jeff Gagne, VP-account director at Havas's MPG....Given the demand, the network could seek more than full price for the remaining ad roosts.

Researchers enjoy a unique position in the marketing world. Because they blind us with numbers, they are taken very seriously. The fact that their analyses of these numbers are so often wrong is the dirty little secret no one mentions. Rarely are they held accountable for the idiotic nonsense they spout (e.g., the "end of...mass marketing.")

Collecting data is easy. You don't need to be smart to do it. Analyzing data -- understanding what it means and what should be done -- is hard. That's the part you need to be smart for. And that's the part that most researchers are awful at.

Remember, a researcher is nothing more than another guy with an opinion. Like you and me.

For more on this, see "Baloney Sandwich" and "Nailed"

August 26, 2008

You've Got A Brand Problem!

In observance of "Worldwide No Blogging Week" The Ad Contrarian is -- you guessed it -- not blogging this week. Instead we'll be posting some oldies. Here's one.

There was a time in America when every problem was a "communications" problem.

If you couldn't get along with your husband, you probably weren't "speaking the same language." If your kid was incorrigible, you just couldn't "get through" to him. If your boss didn't like you, you "weren't on the same wavelength." There were no problems of substance, just problems of communication.

Of course, sometimes your husband is just a pain in the ass, and your kid is a nasty little shit, and your boss is an overfed bozo. And all the communication in the world won't help.

Today we have the business equivalent of this. However, instead of communication, the problem now is always "the brand." So if your product is crappy, or your stores are dirty, or your service is lousy, or your business strategy is stupid you, my friend, have a brand problem!

Call in the branding consultants. Pay them a few hundred thou and let them study your brand for a few months.

They'll give you a big fat report, filled with charts and graphs and the latest up-to-the-minute buzzwords and bullshit.

It won't make your product any more appealing, or your stores any cleaner, or your service any better, or your business strategy any smarter. But if someone upstairs asks what you're doing you can make a nice little PowerPoint presentation.

Babbling about the brand is so much more fun than solving the problems.

August 25, 2008

The Yellow And Brown Process

In observance of "Worldwide No Blogging Week" The Ad Contrarian is -- you guessed it -- not blogging this week. Instead we'll be posting some oldies. Here's one.

Prospective advertising clients want to believe that there is a method to the madness.

More and more, success in winning new business is not about what you do (the effectiveness of the advertising you have created), but about how you do it (how clever you are at reverse engineering a convincing process behind your creative endeavors.)

There are processes for doing just about everything an agency does, but when it comes to creating ideas, sorry, there ain't no process. I once asked marketing legend Jack Trout how much of his success was due to his process and how much to inspiration. He said 95% inspiration.

Don't get me wrong, we all pretend there's a process (see Precision Guessing.) We have to. Clients insist. We sometimes even give it a name...oops, sorry...I mean, we brand it.

At a new business pitch a prospective client once asked me what process I had used to create an ad he particularly liked. I told him I used the Yellow and Brown process. He seemed excited, "Really? What's the Yellow and Brown process?"

"I took a legal pad with me to the bathroom."

We didn't get the account.

August 23, 2008

Mort Kohn

This week the advertising industry, and the world, lost someone special.

Mort Kohn was a wonderful person. An artist, an art director, and a gentle, sweet man.

Our world has an unfortunate habit of bestowing high status on the famous and wealthy, at the expense of people who really deserve high status -- the good and the compassionate.

At a young age, I was made creative director of Allen and Dorward advertising. The first person I hired was Mort to be associate creative director. He was a little older and a lot wiser. He helped me understand what I needed to do and how to do it.

Mort had a wonderful, often self-deprecating, sense of humor. Mort made us laugh every day at lunch over games of liar's dice as he referred to himself as "the human jackhammer."

Sometimes you go to a funeral and a real jerk gets promoted to near sainthood. Mort's was one of the rare ones where all the praise was inadequate.

Good-bye, Hammer.

"Seated Woman" by Mort Kohn

August 22, 2008

Some Things I Don't Understand

1. I travel to the Mid-West frequently, and I often come across something called the Fifth Third Bank.

One question always comes to mind. How the hell did they come up with that name?

I have two theories. First, Fifth National Bank merged with Third National Bank. This seems the most likely explanation. The problem is, it just raises another question. Why would anyone name themselves Fifth National Bank? Or, for that matter, Third National Bank?

The second theory is even more unlikely. Someone at the bank has a sense of humor.

2. It’s amazing how much we don’t know.

When we were in school, we were taught that all matter was made of atoms. We were taught that there were four forces of nature.

Well, it turns out that those ideas are not even close. According to current theories, all the matter and all the energy we can detect constitute only about 10% of the universe. We have no idea what the other 90% of the universe is made of. Scientists call it "dark matter" and "dark energy" because they are completely clueless about what it is.

Remember, we're talking about 400 years of very rigorous science here. In this field, you don't get away with bullshit. If you think you "know" something, you better be able to prove it.

So next time some account planner tells you she "knows" what motivates consumers, gently explain to her that nobody knows anything -- especially her.

3. You ever notice when celebrity morons talk about their “past lives” they were always princesses or knights or pharaohs?

In a former life, no one was ever a dry cleaner.

August 20, 2008

"Worldwide No Blogging Week"

It is both agreeable and welcome that from time to time each citizen of this noisy and fretful planet just shuts the fuck up.

There is, perhaps, no group to whom this principle more suitably applies than the Royal and Ancient Society of Blowhards -- otherwise known as "bloggers."

Consequently, I am suggesting that bloggers throughout the world recognize and acknowledge this fact by shutting it down from August 25th through September 1st.

We will call it Worldwide No Blogging Week.

Imagine seven days of blog-free living. Voices will be lowered. Opinions will be softened. Antagonisms will evaporate. Peace and civility will obtain. It will be like Christmas, except without the reindeer.

And, besides, no one's around anyway.

Bloggers, please join me in observing Worldwide No Blogging Week, August 25 - September 1. Non-bloggers, do your part by not reading any blogs that week.

But How Will Society Survive Without Our Bullshit?
Not to worry. There's a political convention that week. There will be more than enough bullshit to go around.

I Want To Do More, How Can I Help?

Contact three bloggers. Tell them about Worldwide No Blogging Week. Ask them to do likewise. It'll be like a pyramid scheme. Except without the reindeer.

August 19, 2008

Would TV Please Die Already

A smart guy named Alan Wolk who writes a blog called The Toad Stool had a post a few days ago called "Kids Still Love TV."

To amplify that a little, not only do kids still love tv, the rest of us do, too.

People with low reading comprehension -- and online maniacs who can't stand the idea of people using any medium other than their precious web -- read the hysterical reports in the press about the major networks losing share, and think that means everyone has stopped watching television.

Just to set the record straight, since the year 2000, when all this "tv is dead" bullshit started appearing, tv viewing is up 7%.

According to the TvB/Neilsen Custom 2008 Media study, (through calendar year 2007), the average American household watched 8 hours and 14 minutes of tv per day in 2007, compared to 7 hours and 39 minutes in 2000. (For a little perspective, when has an American household spent 8 hours and 14 minutes a day doing anything?)

To give yourself a sense of how mesmerized the press (The People Who Always Get It Wrong) are with the "death of tv" storyline, trying finding the +7% fact in the press somewhere.

August 18, 2008

A Priest, A Rabbi, And Barack Obama Go Into A Bar...

Want to do an interesting experiment?

Go to David Letterman's website. Go through his archive of monologues. Watch a random sample of his monologues going back to, say, January. See if you can find any gags about Barack Obama.

You'll find tons of Hillary "pants suit" jokes; McCain "old guy" jokes; Bush "dumb guy" jokes; and Clinton "horny guy" jokes. Obama jokes? Hardly a one.

Is Obama not joke-worthy? Or are they tip-toeing for fear of offending?

Looks like the country is ready for a Black president, but show business isn't.

August 15, 2008

How Advertising Really Works

Someone at our agency, let's call him Joe, has a good friend who's a creative director at another agency, let's call him Tom.

Tom's agency won a very prestigious planning award for the account Tom is creative director on.

Joe congratulated Tom on the campaign and on winning the award. Tom laughed.

"Why are you laughing?" asked Joe.

Tom replied, "I never had a single conversation with the planner."

This is a true story.

Mad Man

TAC has officially had just about enough of Mad Men mania.

Everyone pay attention here for a minute. It didn't really happen. It's a TV show, okay? It's all made up.

I wasn't there, but I guarantee you everyone wasn't drinking and screwing every minute of every day. It was a bunch of pathetic weasels trying to make a living -- just like us.

Everybody got that?

August 14, 2008

Life In The Post-Advertising World

On several occasions I have commented on the blindness of the "advertising is dead" crowd.

They declare that we are in a "post-advertising" age.

Meanwhile, every square inch of the fucking planet is covered in advertising. Every dry cleaning bag, urinal, bus stop, gasoline pump, supermarket floor, stick that divides your groceries from the smelly guy in front of you, hat, t-shirt and license plate.

Advertising has become so pervasive, these pundits can't even see it. It is the air we breathe and the murder weapon hidden in plain sight.

I was reminded of this recently when re-reading a book every advertising person should read -- Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton. It will make you feel a little uncomfortable about your job, but a lot better about your life.

There is a chart in the book that should be very instructive to the "advertising is dead" bunch. I have taken the liberty of reproducing it here.

So if advertising is dead, I'd like to know what is driving all this consumer desire? User generated content? Permission marketing? The "conversation?" What?

Pathetic Whining Pays Off:
Since our hysterical rant a few weeks ago, several bloggers have had the decency to include your favorite blog and mine on their blog rolls. This week, I would like to acknowledge three erudite bloggers who have "rolled" us: Sell Sell, FreedomPictures, and the wonderful ad broad. Please patronize our advertisers.

August 13, 2008

ADWEEK Shatters World Baloney Record

With the Olympic Games in full swing, ADWEEK has won a TAC Gold Medal by breaking the indoor record for impenetrable, incomprehensible drivel (a demonstration sport) with a piece called Beyond Integration.

In this article we learn...
"If it's true that the medium is the message, then it follows that the media experience is the brand. "
Uh, really? How does that follow? And, also -- just as an aside -- what the fuck does it mean?

We also get the full complement of brand babble, including, but not limited to:
"...brand integration"
"...brand expectations"
"...brand experience"
"...brand advocates"
"...brand relevancy"
"...brand meaning"
"...branded content"
"...brand message"
And, as if we were not already gagging on this bullshit, it urges us to practice a new form of abstruse nonsense called "brand holism."

I'd like to suggest another term for it -- "ass holism."

Couldn't help myself.

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August 12, 2008

The Jargon Factory

Here at TAC Global Headquarters, there are some things we just can't abide. Heading the list are hypocrisy, jargon, and pizza with chicken or leafy vegetables.

Today we're going to jettison some jargon. A good place to start is "The Conversation."

Are you sick of "The Conversation?" Do you want to take the next moron who says it and wring his fucking neck? Take a hammer to his long tail?

Good. I can see we're on the same page here.

So what we're going to do is replace this buzzword with a buzzword of our own. You see, cliches and buzzwords are horrible if they're someone else's. But if they're our own -- what the hell -- we're special.

The new buzzword for online "conversations" is going to be "G2G". Here's how it came about.

My funny -- and frequently annoying -- business partner, Sharon Krinsky, walked into my office the other day and saw me writing.
HER: Waddaya doin'?

ME: Writing.

HER: Your fucking blog?

ME: Yeah.


ME: Huh?


ME: What do you mean?

HER: Geek-to-Geek

And so, here at TAC Global, "G2G" has become a happy buzzword for social media

It's simple, it's descriptive, and best of all, it's accurate.

Yes, I know g2g means "gotta go" in IM maniac language, but that's lower case. This is upper case.

Makes all the difference.

August 11, 2008

Why Copy Testing Is Bogus

"My friend shot a 158," Joe said.
“That’s the worst round of golf I’ve ever heard of,” said Mike.

“No it’s not. It’s a great round of golf,” said Joe.

“You’re crazy,” Mike said. “How can you say that?”

“He only has one arm.”

I made up that little story to make a point. The point is about copy testing, and we'll get back to it in a minute.

Copy testing is despised in the ad industry for a number of good reasons. The MBA's hate it because it's unreliable and doesn't often correlate with real-world effectiveness. The creatives hate it because it rarely rewards non-linear thinking.

I hate it for a whole other reason. Having once been a science teacher, I have a healthy regard for the difference between science and bullshit. And copy testing ain't science.

Copy tests almost always fail to include controls. Controls are the one essential of all experimentation. Research without controls is like baseball without an umpire.

A control serves two purposes:
  1. To make sure you’re studying what you think you’re studying.
  2. To give you a factual basis for comparison
A perfect example of providing controls in research is the placebo in medical research. When studying a new drug, scientists always give some of the subjects sugar pills. Sugar pills have no effect. If a drug they are testing seems to provide benefits, but those benefits are no greater than the benefits of taking the sugar pills, they know that the new drug is worthless. The apparent benefits are not the result of the drug, but simply of giving the subject a pill—any pill.

By testing a known quantity (the control/placebo) along with the unknown quantity (the test drug), you have a factual basis for comparison. A scientist who did a study without controls would be laughed out of any lab in the world.

Most copy tests do not use controls. They use norms. It’s important to understand that norms are not controls. Advertising norms do not tell you about ads in your category, at this time, with these people, under these circumstances.

In order to evaluate a new toothpaste campaign, for example, an advertiser needs to test it along with a campaign in the toothpaste category that is known to have done well in the real world. This known campaign should be tested with the same people, at the same time, under the same circumstances as the campaign in question. Only then can you know what success will look like.

Without that, if you get a lousy result, you don’t know why. Is the new campaign lousy? Or was the tester irritating? Or were the M & Ms stale? Or would any ad about toothpaste do poorly at this time, with these people, under these circumstances?

If the control campaign did well at the same time under the same conditions, then you know the new campaign must be lousy. But if the control campaign also tested poorly, then maybe ads about toothpaste only have one arm.

By The Way:
One reason direct marketing people think of us as idiots is that when they test they always use controls.

August 08, 2008

When Bad Things Happen to Good Campaigns

If you want to screw up a good campaign, take a terrific character and turn him into a pitch man: Exhibit 1:

The Better Blogger

TAC wrote a piece last week called The Bitter Blogger in which he railed against bloggers who did not include The Ad Contrarian on their blog rolls.

Attentive reader The Denver Egotist noticed that TAC himself does not have a blog roll. To atone for this, TAC would now like to acknowledge those wise and gentle bloggers who include TAC on their blog rolls -- Dear Jane Sample, AdPulp, thegirlRiot, Timothy Coote, Fabio, James Hipkin, DeepTechDive.

These are not the sniveling weasels I was talking about. These are delightful, charming people who deserve your attention.

Teen Commitment

Every young person in America is committed to saving the planet, unless it requires taking a bus or turning off a light.

August 07, 2008

Why Fallon Is Untrustworthy

The Wall Street Journal reports that Sony is pondering whether to give the global ad assignment for its Bravia brand of flat panel televisions to Fallon.

Fallon has done a wonderful job of making Bravia a success with great advertising (see spot below.) So what's the problem?

Well, Fallon may not be big enough to really fuck this thing up.

You see, super-size knuckleheads really like to hang with other super-size knuckleheads. And according to the Journal, Sony's afraid that Fallon's not inter-galactic enough.

Apparently, to screw something like this up, you really need to go out and find yourself an agency that's internationally stupid. When you're smart instead of huge, you just can't be trusted.

And One More Thing:

Any client foolish enough to believe the bullshit about global agencies giving them "integrated services throughout their worldwide network" needs a thorough psychiatric evaluation. Anyone who's worked at one of these worldwide monstrosities knows that not only do the offices not cooperate, they go out of their way to fuck each other. Been there, done that.

August 05, 2008

10 Ways to Write 5 Times Better Online Copy in 3 Easy Steps

People often say to me, "Bob, how can I be a successful online copywriter like you?" Well, I'm here to tell you that you, too, can be a famous online copywriter and make billions of dollars and have red-hot nymphos crawling all over you.

What's the secret? First, you need to get some words. Without words, writing is a thankless chore. Take the Sumerians. They didn't have words.
They had pictures. Now they're all dead.

There are many kinds of words. Some words are small. Some are big, like delicatessen. Some of them, frankly, need more vowels (Krzyzewski, you listening?)

The best part? They're all free! Any word you want. Even "penultimate."

When we write online copy, the words we use say a lot about us. If we are funny, then we want to use "funny" words, like "homo" or "Kotex."

If we are depressed, we want to use depressing words like "advertising" or "exercise."

The important thing is to be yourself when you are writing. If you don’t know who you are, you have to find yourself. The best place to find yourself is in bed. Hopefully, with someone cute.

Creativity: The Key To Being Creative.

In order to be a successful online copywriter you have to be creative. The most important part of being creative is "creativity". Without "creativity" most of us wouldn’t have a creative bone in our body. Except maybe our coccyx.

Nobody really knows what "creativity" is. Every year thousands of people take a pilgrimage to find out. This involves flying to Cannes, snorting cocaine, and having sex with smokers.

How do you nourish your creativity? I suggest chicken caesar wraps, but I know a very successful dance instructor who swears by strawberry Toaster Strudel.

The important thing to remember is that we’re all creative. Although, honestly, I have my doubts about Trent Lott.

The F Word: It’s Fucking Awesome!

On the internet, content is king. And dirty words is queen.

If you are writing a blog, you must be hard-boiled and never show weakness. You must not let on that you are from Scarsdale and went to Hofstra and worked at Grey. You must show the world that you’re an anarchistic, hard-living, hard-drinking bastard. And what better way to be a bad-ass mothafucka than to use naughty language.

Words like "fuck”, “bullshit”, “douchenozzle” and “dickhead” make your copy sing! Put a few of them together and you’ve got magic -- “Fucking dickhead!”, “Fucking douchenozzle!”, “Fucking fuck!”

The ability to express complex concepts in a censorship-free environment is what makes the web great. Well, that and those super hot pictures of Brit.

Understanding Your Online Customer

Let’s face it. Most of the people who visit your website are fucking douchenozzles. Nonetheless, they got money and you want it!

I mean, um, they are Web 2.0 savvy consumers whose engagement with their own personal brands make them willing to interact in a conversational way that leverages the social media to become engaged customers for life.

Remember: Engaging content is how you engage their engagement.

The Three Simple, Secret Principles To Magical Copywriting Success

Now we get to the heart of the matter. Anyone can be a successful online copywriter if you just follow these three simple, secret, magical rules.

1. Don’t use Windex on your computer screen. It fucks up the molecules or something.

2. Don’t hold back. People love to know personal details about you. Unless you have a hernia or some kind of smelly intestinal disorder.

3. Amateur MILF in wild inter-racial 3-way... Oops, sorry, wrong website.

August 04, 2008

Shocking Discovery From TiVo

Just when you think market researchers can't get any stupider, they exceed expectations.

Last week PowerWatch -- Tivo's audience measurement service -- made this startling announcement: Consumers are more likely to watch commercials that are relevant to them.

You gotta be kidding!

TiVo actually studied 20,000 of their subscribers to figure this one out. I could have studied an egg salad sandwich and told them the same thing.
The amazing part is, they issued a press release on this as if it was some kind of research breakthrough. Listen to this pretentious baloney from one of their clients:
...PowerWatch client Starcom agrees. "New viewing behaviors revealed by correlations between household demographic, product category and ad fast-forwarding shows that ...effective message delivery can help make an ad resonate more"
In case your wondering what that pompous bullshit means, it means people watch stuff they're interested in.

Go figure.

But Wait, There's More:
This isn't the first idiotic study to verify the breathtakingly obvious. Believe it or not, there was another study released last April, that lasted 16 months, to prove the same thing. See Imagine What They Could Have Found If They Had 17 Months and Morons And Their Money.

August 01, 2008

Why We Need To Kill Them All

On a number of occasions I've said we need to kill all account planners and start over. Here's why.

Last week they had a big hoo-hah account planning conference in Miami (missed it -- had to wash my hair.)

Ad Age ran a column about the high points. The conclusions from this conference are so mind-numbingly cliche-ridden that they are almost a parody of themselves.

Here are a few choice excerpts along with some comments from Yours Truly:
"People are no longer waiting to hear from us."
When, I'd like to know, were people waiting to hear from us? Was I sick that week? Advertising is a nuisance. Always has been, always will be. That's why we get the big bucks -- to make people pay attention to stuff they're trying frantically to avoid.
"It's a shifting world, and understanding the landscape is more important than ever."
What in the world does this mean? When has the world not been shifting? When have you not had to understand the landscape?
"Understand the conversation, insert your brand into it and then keep going."
You knew it was coming. The fucking "conversation." Will someone PLEASE find a new cliche. The next person I hear say "conversation" is going to die. I'm not kidding
"We must create content that changes the world."
How about creating content that sells some shit. Wanna change the world? Join the fucking U.N.

It took 650 account planners to come up with this bullshit.

If you want to read the whole smelly thing go here.

I really don't like using the f-bomb as much as I've been using it lately. I'm going to try to wean myself off it. But not today.

It's a funny word.