October 29, 2010

The Friday Fog

Living In A Fog
As I suspected, my post on Wednesday called The True Cost Of Social Media created hysteria among the lunatic fringe of the social media set. These people have the reading comprehension of 2nd graders and analytical ability of toasters.

My point in the post was not that social media is worthless or always requires large expenditures of money. My point was that social media is not "a low cost highway to marketing success" and that the chances of success are enormously enhanced for brands that are well-established through traditional marketing.

But I've given up expecting these dullards to be able to draw distinctions or understand subtleties.

By the way, the post was one of Alltop's "Most Topular Stories" this week. 

An Interesting Phenomenon
It's interesting to me how powerful Twitter links are in generating clicks to this blog. Far more powerful than links from blogs. When I check to see where my (non-subscriber) readers come from, by far the largest number come from Twitter links.

An interesting example is Jason Falls. Jason writes the very popular Social Media Explorer blog -- and is one of the good-guy social media experts. He often links to this blog. Sometimes he links in his blog, sometimes in Twitter posts. One of his Twitter links probably generates at least 3 times as many visits as a blog link.

Another example is a post I did back in May called Why Creatives Are Always Confused. Someone tweeted the link this week and this post is having its third life.

I make fun of Twitter a lot, but there's no question that it has been a substantial factor in the growth of this blog.

By the way...
...if you don't subscribe, you should. It's free, and worth every penny. The subscribe button is up there on the right.

October 27, 2010

The True Cost Of Social Media

The great thing about social media is that it is a way for nimble brands to do significant, effective marketing without spending tons of money. Right?

Please, don't make me laugh.

Just for the heck of it, let's take a look at the 28 most popular brands on Facebook and see what they have in common.

1. Starbucks
2. Coca Cola
3. Oreo
4. Skittles
5. Red Bull
6. Victoria's Secret
7. Disney
8. Converse
9. i Tunes
10. MTV
11. Zara
12. Pringles
13. NBA
14. Starburst
15. Nutella
16. Dr Pepper
17. Monster Energy
18. Adidas
19. H&M
20. Ferraro Rocher
21. McDonald's
22. Playstation
23. XBox
24. Taco Bell
25. Puma
26. BMW
27. Blackberry
28. Nike

Notice anything?

A couple are cult brands. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, they are brands with enormous traditional marketing budgets.

This doesn't just apply to Facebook.

As Forbes.com reported, Anita Alberse, who teaches at Harvard Business School, found...
...The new world of social media may be a lot like the old world, if not more so...
...videos that got watched the most on the Internet are those that bought their popularity through traditional offline advertising, especially on TV.
One of the dangerous things about social media is that it gives a certain type of incompetent marketing person unprecedented opportunities to pretend they're doing marketing when they're actually doing little  of value. Here at Ad Contrarian World Headquarters, we call this "alibi advertising."

They can create spreadsheets that show 52 weeks of social media and convince the gullible and the foolish that something wonderful is going to happen.

These people who believe that social media is a low cost highway to marketing success are living in a digital dream world. They are either too naive to know, or too deceitful to tell their bosses, that with few exceptions there is a high cost to social media success.

It's called traditional advertising.

Thanks to Sharon Krinsky for the background on this post.

October 26, 2010

Gossage Must Be Spinning

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I am less than enthusiastic about the magic of web advertising and pretty impressed by the staying power of television.

This leads a lot of people to assume that I am a heavy user of television and an unenthusiastic web user. The truth is exactly the opposite. I actually watch very little television and spend way too much time on the web.

Last week, however, with the SF Giants in a riveting pennant-deciding series with the Philadelphia Phillies, I had an opportunity to watch a lot of (Fox) network TV. The advertising I saw was abominable.

I don't usually comment on spots because there are more than enough blogs doing that (and also because I've written my fair share of duds) but the effect of watching a full week of witless nonsense has me astounded. WTF is going on?

The only explanation I can come up with is that clients must be allowing the flat tires who approve websites to approve TV spots. Or maybe it's the agencies who are allowing writers trained for the web to write for TV.

How else can you explain the Burger King "epic flute solo?"

Or this abomination from State Farm?

Something's rotten in the state of TV advertising.

October 25, 2010

Touched By A Genius

The horrors of the advertising business, a compelling National League pennant race, and an obsession to re-write every one of these goddamn posts five times, have conspired to give me a nice variety of unwholesome reasons for not doing any serious reading lately.

However, last week on vacation I picked up Philip Roth's Pulitzer winning novel American Pastoral. It is simply a work of amazing brilliance.

Anyone who's ever tried to earn a nickel writing knows that if in your lifetime you can come up with one truly original insight into human behavior you're ahead of most. Roth seems to be able to accomplish this ten to the page.

I think there's a part of all of us that wants to believe we are somehow connected to extraordinary people. Like the girl who tells you that a rock musician went to her high school, as if that was some kind of achievement on her part or validation of her worth.

I had a similar experience with Roth.

In the beginning of American Pastoral he comments extensively on a baseball novel written for kids by John R. Tunis called The Kid From Tompkinsville. As it happens, this was my favorite book when I was young. I have never met anyone else who's ever heard of it, no less read it.

I spent the better part of one summer reading all of Tunis's sports books. I would hit my local library every week in the insane hope that in the preceding week Tunis had turned out another novel. Hey, it only took me a few days to read 'em, why did it take him so damn long to write 'em?

When I read Roth's reminiscences of The Kid From Tompkinsville I was thrilled.

I pictured an 11-year old Roth lying in bed in a hot apartment on a still summer night reading about The Kid, just as I had done. Somehow, in my senile imagination, the idea that Roth and I shared The Kid created a bond between us.

Me and my man Phil. BFF.

October 22, 2010

Freakin' Friday

Bullshit Artists At Work
According to Bloomberg, Google (whose motto is "Don't Be Evil") cut its US taxes by over $3 billion in the past three years by using sneaky but legal off-shore tax gimmicks. That's billion with a b.

The report claims that Google's overseas tax rate is about 2.4%. Between federal and state taxes, my company pays about 45% of our profits in taxes.

Do you wonder why small companies have no chance against global monstrosities? These guys have 50 ways to screw people we haven't even heard of.

Unclear On The Concept
Earlier this month, the head of the Delaware Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement, Siobhan Sullivan, resigned after being arrested for drunken driving. She's scheduled to be arraigned today.

Dumb vs. Dumber
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is fighting for his political life against a genius named Sharron Angle. Recently, Angle told a bunch of Hispanic students that she thought they looked Asian. Not to be outdone in the competition for astonishing stupidity, yesterday Reid told MSNBC, "But for me, we'd be in a worldwide depression." Say goodnight, Harry.

Aliens Messing With Our Nukes
According to 7 former US military personnel, aliens have landed in the US and Great Britain and deactivated our nuclear weapons. According to The Telegraph, the military men claim, "The beings have repeated their (UK) efforts in the US and have been active since 1948... and accused the respective governments of trying to keep the information secret."

Message to aliens: Next time you're around deactivating stuff, don't forget my Twitter account.

October 21, 2010

3 Secrets Of Creativity

After 100 years in the ad business I think I've discovered the secrets to being a good creative person.
  • Insomnia -- Good ideas come at odd hours. You've got to be awake when they show up. 
  • Fear of embarrassment -- If you're not afraid of your friends making fun of your work, you'll never be any good. 
  • Will -- A lot of people have talent. Only a few have the will to impose their talent. These people are a pain in the ass and drive everyone around them crazy. But they don't quit till they get it the way they want it.
But TAC we're all creative!

TAC is on vacation. This was re-posted from a few years ago.

Huge Thank You...
...to Bob Knorpp, creator and host of The BeanCast (the best marketing podcast anywhere) for a stunningly generous profile on his blog yesterday. You can find it here.

Another Huge Thank You...
...to Simon Billing, author of the wonderful blog The Grumpy Brit, for his lovely comment.

October 20, 2010

The Loud Get Louder. The Meek Get Meeker.

Not long ago, the only people who had to listen to my aberrant ramblings were the 90 or so people who worked with me. Now there are several thousand people who suffer my opinions four or five times a week. The internet is a great medium for opinionated loudmouths.

One of the problems, however, is that while the web serves as an amplifier for a certain type of person, it also serves as a muzzle for people who may be a lot smarter, but a little quieter.

The issue for marketers is how to separate signal from noise.

A perfect example is the recent flap over the Gap logo. Just between us girls, while I agree with critics that the new logo looks like something designed in Powerpoint, I think it would have had about the same effect on Gap's sales as re-painting the men's rooms.

But there is a type of person who knows how to stir up a hubbub on the internet. We've all met them. They know how to do everyone's job but their own.  They know how to live everyone's life but their own. They are self-appointed guardians of aesthetics and morality, and the web has given them a voice way out of proportion to their worthiness.

Meek marketers are going to have more and more trouble with these prissy nuisances.

There are a few marketers who don't care what the loudmouths think, who are confident in their identity and their decision-making, and aren't afraid to be themselves. They are a tiny minority.

Most marketers have become alarmingly timid and use the ravings of these blowhards as an excuse for their lack of spine. They are already meek, and can now hide their gutlessness behind a convenient facade of sensitivity to consumer sentiment.

They are confusing consumer sentiment with the taunting of bullies.

October 19, 2010

The Digital Dream World

My column, The Digital Dream World, can be found here today, in Adweek's online edition.

October 18, 2010

Attack Dogs On The Loose

As predicted here recently in Is The Pendulum Swinging?, web maniacs are going bonkers over Malcolm Gladwell's piece in The New Yorker called "Small Change."

From the Huffington Post to the most obscure dirty-basement bloggers, the digi-nutjobs are coming out in full force against Gladwell.

Gladwell dared to question the orthodoxy of web fundamentalism and is paying the price.

These people are like attack dogs. You can question the existence of God; you can question the right of free speech; you can question their mother's legitimacy; but if you dare question the primacy of the internet in all human endeavors they will jump you and maul you.

I have seen it with alarming regularity on this blog.

I can poke fun at planners and they'll take it with a laugh, I can criticize creatives and they'll have some perspective, I can joke about account people and they'll roll their eyes. But if I dare to say something unflattering or unorthodox about the web -- and in particular social media -- I am subject to torrents of abuse.

Well, it's nice that for at least a few weeks these lunatics are jumping on someone else.

Have fun, Malcolm.

Look For My Article...
"The Digital Dream World" in the online edition of Adweek tomorrow. It should get the attack dogs all nice and lathered.

And Speaking of Attack Dogs... 
If this was the old Gap logo...
and this was the new one...
...the same yapping web poodles would have been barking and foaming at the mouth.

October 13, 2010

The Future Is Behind Us

Memo To Staff:
For several years now, we have been known as the agency of the future. How can we claim this? Because it says so right on our website!

It has not been easy being the agency of the future. But thanks to our commitment to empowering our empowerment, and tearing down walls, and breaking down silos, and updating our Facebook page, and Content Technology, Search, CMS, WCM, MRX, ECM, Multilingual, E20, KM, and XML we are at the forefront of agencies whose websites say they are the agency of the future!

Of this we can be proud.

But the world is changing rapidly. Today the consumer is in charge. In the past, nobody knew who was in charge. Sometimes people with nice suits were in charge. Sometimes it seemed like Wolf Blitzer was in charge. Then there was the time when the Spice Girls were in charge.

But now we know who’s in charge, and it’s the consumer. Just send out a tweet asking, “Who’s in charge?” You’ll soon get back plenty of replies telling you that it’s the consumer. (Ignore the tweets from my cousin Sheldon who thinks he’s in charge. He’s not.)

We are living through a very tumultuous era. It is time for us to realize that the future is behind us.

We can no longer be satisfied being the agency of the future. Today, we have to look beyond the future, to a time when the future will be but a distant memory.

We must realize that in today’s inter-globally connected world, inter-connectivity is globular. And maybe not just globular, but inter-globular! Our clients expect that our inter-globularity will exceed their expectations and create the opportunity for a multi-channel globuverse.

Those who do not respond to the changes that are happening all around us will be left behind to do radio spots and pay for their own football tickets.

Recently, your management team had its annual retreat.  The theme was Preparing For The New Future By Being Prepared And Looking Forwarder 3000

We tackled this thorny subject head-on. We spent three no-holds-barred days discussing the branding of our brand in light of the new realities of the digital revolution and all that mobile stuff. We had Powerpoint presentations, and "conversations," and everything. 

After one particularly penetrating session, a deep insight was revealed.

We have to realize that it is not enough to execute sound strategies. We have to have a strategy for our strategies --  how will our strategies be strategically different from the strategies of our competitors?

In other words, we need a strategy strategy.

To accomplish this, I have appointed a team from our executive committee. They will be known as “The Team From Our Executive Committee.” Their first job will be to find a consulting firm to help us develop our strategy strategy.

In order to accomplish this as rapidly as possible, we have hired a consultant to help us identify the consulting firm that will help us develop our strategy strategy.

I am very excited to be part of an exciting effort to leave the old future behind and develop a new future for us all. We can all do our part by Preparing For The New Future By Being Prepared And Looking Forwarder!

October 12, 2010

Is Facebook Hurting Web Advertising?

I have another crazy theory.

I think Facebook is having a negative effect on the development of web advertising.

I think that most of us who do not have a vested interest in promoting web advertising believe that, with the exception of search, it has thus far been a disappointment. For obvious reasons, few of us are willing to stand up and say this out loud.

Nonetheless, I have very little doubt that someday the web will be a substantially more effective advertising medium than it is today. But that day may be farther away than we think.

My reason for believing this is found in my hypothesis that the enormous popularity of Facebook has been a setback for web advertising.

Here's the logic.

As I've mentioned previously in this blog, one of the problems the web has as an advertising medium is that it is too many different things. It is a medium of communication, a medium of information, and a medium of entertainment. This may be big fun for us web-addicted ADHD sufferers, but it is not good for advertising.

A medium of communication is generally not very effective for advertisers. Nobody wants to pick up a telephone and hear an ad instead of a dial tone. When we are in communication mode, we don't want to be slowed down.

A medium of information is also generally not very good for advertising. Nobody wants to open a dictionary and see an ad. Once again, when we are looking for information, we usually want it now.

As a rule, the best type of medium for advertising is a medium of entertainment. We are used to having our TV and radio programming interrupted by ads. It may be annoying, but we have come to accept it. (Believe it or not, there is even a pretty convincing study that indicates that advertising improves the enjoyment of TV watching.)

It is my hypothesis that until the web comes into its own as an entertainment medium, it will not fulfill its promise as a powerful advertising medium.

Over the past few years, the dominant emerging website is Facebook

Facebook is a vehicle for communication. It is like a "broadcast telephone." It broadcasts our thoughts to our "friends" and those of our "friends" to us.

I go to my Facebook page at least 2 or 3 times a day. I can't imagine a less impactful advertising medium. I can honestly say that I don't think I can remember seeing a single ad on my Facebook page in the last month. (As a matter of fact, I just went to my Facebook page to make sure that there actually are ads there.)

The problem is, the success of Facebook is making the web a far more compelling medium of communication than of entertainment. Other very popular emerging websites, like Twitter and foursquare, are also about communication.

Meanwhile, entertainment sites are popular but not dominating. Although 2 billion videos are viewed on YouTube daily, according to Nielsen video viewing on the web accounts for only 1% of total video viewing. Television still commands 99% of video viewing.

The more that the web is used as a medium of communication, and not entertainment, the longer it is going to take for it to reach its promise for advertisers.

That's my oddball theory, and I'm sticking to it.

Special Note...
To all you "advertising is dead/the consumer wants to have a conversation with us/the web changes everything" adherents, please don't feel compelled to leave a comment reminding me that I just don't get it. I know I don't get it. I haven't gotten it for years.

October 11, 2010

How Social Media Controls Everything

A reader has written to me and said,
"Dear Ad Contrarian,
I go to marketing meetings every day. Often there are very bewildering slides presented. Just between you and me, I have no idea what these slides mean.  But all my bosses keep nodding their heads and saying, "Hmm, that's interesting."

I am afraid that if I don't have intimidating slides pretty soon, I'm going to be thrown out of the marketing department and sent to a department where people have to work. Can you help me?"

-- Misty in Sunnyvale
Yes, Misty, I think I can help

In the world of marketing, the super-best subject to have complicated slides about is social media. If you have perplexing slides about social media, not only will you be admired and respected by friends and colleagues, you will also be considered an expert. Then, anytime someone has a question about social media, you can just make something up. It's the law!

I have created a nice slide about social media for you. I have used pictures and boxes and arrows and dotted lines and colors and even more arrows. Not only will this impress your bosses, it will also prepare you for a lifetime of  brain-damaging Powerpoint presentations.

Oh, and if anyone questions the validity of anything on this slide all you need to do is adopt your best condescending voice and say, "You just don't get it, do you."

You can print your own personal copy of How Social Media Controls Everything to pin on your wall or send to a loved one.  It's here.

October 08, 2010

I Hate The iPhone

Everything I Don't Need, Nothing I Do
I have been an iPhone user since its inception. As I've written before in this space, I hate the damn thing. It is the most unreliable, frustrating, crappy piece of shit Apple has ever made.

Unfortunately for me, everything else in my office is an Apple product and for the sake of connectivity I'm stuck with using the iPhone.

It has all the stuff I don't need and none of the stuff I do need. I don't need an app that tells me what my sperm count is. I need a phone that freaking works. Got that, Steve?

Recently I bought the newest iPhone. It is even worse than its predecessors. I don't think I've ever made a call that it hasn't dropped. I was recently on a conversation with a client and the call was dropped 3 times. The same client left me a voice mail message. I got it a week later.

All along, Apple and its fanboys have been blaming AT&T for the problems. Now that Verizon will soon be selling iPhones, we'll see.

Where Are The Good Guys Hiding?
Yesterday I wrote a a post called Junk Research, Shabby Journalism, and Social Media. In it I reported on a piece of alarmingly unreliable "research" about social media marketing.

I want to be clear that I do not think that all social media marketing people are incompetent or dishonest. There are very hard-working, intelligent people with lots of integrity working in social media marketing.  A few of them actually work for me. And while I am still far from convinced that social media marketing is anywhere near as effective as it is purported to be, I have no question at all that most of the people working in the field are honest and trustworthy.

What I don't understand is why they put up with the hustlers and the know-nothing jargonistas? Why do they allow these people to continue to give them a bad name? 

To protect its reputations, the social media marketing community needs to call out the hustlers and the con men -- so that pricks like me don't have to.

October 07, 2010

Junk Research, Shabby Journalism, And Social Media

Recently, a colleague sent me an article from Fast Company called What Women Want: Facebook Ads!
The article was about the amazing ability of Facebook to influence female consumers.
"Businesses may have once had to guess how their ads are being received, but no longer..."
...is how Fast Company put it.

The article ran in January of this year and at first glance offers a pretty impressive array of statistics about the power of marketing to women by using Facebook.

On second and third glance, however, it is a very good example of boosterism disguised as journalism, and self-serving manipulation masquerading as research.

Here are some of the quotes from the Fast Company article:
"Half of the respondents said they bought a product in 2009 because of something they'd seen on a social networking site."
"...a whopping 80% of the women polled said they had (become fans of brands or products)"
"...it is excellent data for retailers searching for clues about competing in this pinched consumer world."
Well, this is pretty convincing stuff. And there was more. So I decided to explore a little further.

As the source of its information, the Fast Company article linked to an article called Women Warm Up to Brands on Social Sites on a website called eMarketer Digital Intelligence.  From this article I learned that:
"80% of female Internet users said they had become a fan of a product or brand on a social network."

"One-half of female Internet users had brought (sic) a product because of a social network."
Being a semi-open-minded kind of guy, I started thinking that maybe I needed to revise my opinion about the effectiveness of social media marketing.

But something was bothering me. Neither of the articles was very clear about the design or analysis of the research. Who designed it? Who interpreted the results? Who were the women they studied? How were they selected?

In the case of Fast Company, the respondents were characterized as "the women polled" or the "respondents." In eMarketer, the respondents were identified as "Internet users."

The article at eMarketer attributed the research to SheSpeaks “Annual Social Media Study.”

So I went to SheSpeaks to find the study. What I found was startling.

Here's what SheSpeaks says about itself.
"Our community engagement programs help brands start conversations with target consumers. We introduce your brand to consumers, create and sustain conversations, capture honest and authentic feedback, and identify and nurture brand advocates.

We help your brand story become part of her conversations."
In other words, SheSpeaks seems to make its living by finding women who are actively engaged in online social activities and signing them up. Then they further encourage these women to use social media tools to advocate for their clients' brands. 

And the only women who took part in this "research" were members of SheSpeaks!

If you intentionally set out to create a sample skewed to produce a certain result, you couldn't have done better.

There is not a reputable researcher in the world who would use a sample like this to be representative of anything.

How can you possibly study this group -- and only this group -- and not get results that are hopelessly skewed? The answer is, you can't. It's like doing research on milk consumption by polling dairy farmers.

And yet, in all the reporting I read, and in the study itself, nowhere is it made clear that this group is way outside the profile of average women and the results should not be considered indicative of average behavior. In fact, quite the opposite is implied.

There is a certain aspect of the social media marketing culture that gives it an aroma of sneaky unreliability. It's like listening to a 16-year old explain how the car got scratched. This is the type of stuff that does it.

The shame is that gullible clients and naive "digital strategists" are being sold this baloney every day. 

As An Example Of How These "Facts" Spread... 
...here are a few excerpts of misleading reports about this survey from online "news" outlets:

According to Biz Report..."SheSpeaks' latest Social Media Study has been released and it shows that almost 90% of women are using popular social networks. Of interest to marketers will be their figures showing how social media is becoming a strong driver of purchase behavior." 

"A majority of U.S. women use social networking sites, and half of them say social networking sites influence their shopping habits. These are some of the key findings from a new study on online socials networking among women performed by social media platform SheSpeaks," says the website Marketing Vox.

"...Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, have emerged as key drivers of purchase intent among women, with one-half (50%) of social media users reporting they have purchased products because of information on social networking sites." says United Business Media's PR Newswire.

There are dozens more, but I'm getting hungry and you get the picture.

October 06, 2010

The Creativity Of Criminals

The songwriter Randy Newman once composed a song called "Naked Man." The song was inspired by a true criminal case.

A woman was walking down a street in New Orleans. Suddenly, a completely naked man came charging at her, grabbed her purse, and ran away with it. A few minutes later, and a few blocks away, the police nabbed the naked man with the purse.

At his trial, he put up an astonishingly creative defense. He claimed it was a case of mistaken identity.

How then did he happen to be running down a street naked with the woman's stolen purse in his hands?

Well, you see, he was going down the street naked when out of nowhere another naked man came dashing around the corner, handed him the purse, and ran off.

I was reminded of this while reading a recent crime story.

In Bradenton, Florida last week, Raymond Roberts was pulled over for speeding. The Manatee County Sheriff's Deputies who pulled him over noticed a strong scent of marijuana coming from his vehicle.

They searched Roberts and found two plastic bags in his anus. That's right, his anus.

One bag contained marijuana, the second contained crack cocaine.

Roberts claimed that the marijuana was his, but the crack wasn't. It belonged to a "friend." How did his friend's crack happen to wind up in his crack?

Well, you see, his friend had borrowed Roberts' car and absent-mindedly left the plastic bag full of crack cocaine on the driver's seat. When Roberts saw the police, he got all nervous and grabbed the crack, stuck it down his pants and up his ass where, coincidentally, he happened to be storing his marijuana.

Not guilty!

October 05, 2010

The Clients Have Won

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.

October 01, 2010

Ridiculous Old Idiot Jackass

On Monday I wrote that there are very few activities more futile than trying to talk sense to a zealot.

True believers don't need facts. They've already made up their minds. They know.

They don't practice critical thinking, they're already convinced. They don't have skeptical minds, they're committed.

So if all their friends, and all the authorities, and all the people they come into contact with agree on something, the case is closed.

In the past few weeks I published two pieces that questioned the orthodoxy of current marketing thinking. One appeared in Adweek and one was on this blog.

In one of the pieces, all I did was list some facts that had been developed by others -- like the U.S. Department of Commerce, Duke University, Nielsen, DoubleClick, and similar reputable sources.

Here are some of the comments I got for my effort:
"...I think it's pretty clear how ridiculous your "facts" are."

"...you should shut down your WEBsite and start your own talk show. Maybe you can fill Oprah's spot. Jackass."

"...you're an old idiot."
"... I (don't) give a shit about what you have to say." 
Some days it's just no fun being a ridiculous old idiot jackass.

Floyd Thursby
A free drink goes to i2Partners LLC for a proper identification of Floyd Thursby, and another free drink goes to Mike M for a good explanation of who Thursby was.

If my recollection is correct, Thursby never actually appeared in the film (The Maltese Falcon.) The cops suspected Sam Spade of Thursby's murder, but he was actually killed by Wilmer, the baby-faced gunslinger. One of the great lines of all time was Spade to Wilmer, "the cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter."

I think you could say the same about social media experts and bloggers.

I'm Ready For Oktoberfest
Septemberfest totally sucked.