March 31, 2011

Opening Day 2011

The economy is still in the toilet. Somewhere, asteroids are heading toward Earth. Web pornography is warping the minds of our children. Grown men and women are relentlessly Tweeting each other. Yes, my friend, the end is near.

But who gives a damn?

It's Opening Day. I'm going to have a hot dog and a beer. I'm going to sit in the sunshine till the back of my neck is red and raw and my ass stings like a shot of tequila on a bad patch of strep throat.

What the hell, I'm having two hot dogs.

Once a year, every aspect of life should have an Opening Day. Every business should have one. Every friendship should have one. Every family should have one.

A day when everything starts over. When all of last year's successes and failures go into the record book, no longer a matter of life and death, just a matter of history. A day when the slate is clean and the possibilities are unlimited. A day when you call in sick-and-tired; when you leave the iPhone in the glove compartment; when you go somewhere where the grass is perfect and the people are unaccountably cheerful.

It's Opening Day. Let's play some ball.

March 30, 2011

Advertising's Cranky Senior Citizens

I generally read two kinds of advertising blogs -- those written by young people who are enthusiastic about the business, and those by old people who are fed up.

I am very happy that there are young people who are excited by the prospects for the ad industry. I salute their spirit and their optimism. I hope they are right.

But this post isn't about them. It's about advertising's cranky senior citizens.

The question is this: Are these old farts correct that something has gone terribly wrong in adworld or are they just typical whiners, past their sell-by, who are nostalgic for an imagined yesteryear that never existed?

Being one of the prime perpetrators of crankiness and disillusionment, I'm pretty sure you can guess where I come down on this question. I think the ad industry has become a stinky heap of group-think and acquiescence.

Here are some of the things that have gone wrong.

There is way too much money and power in the hands of the wrong people.
The ad industry is now run by horrifyingly dull men in grey suits. Advertising used to be an entrepreneurial business lead by (sometimes crazy) people who actually practiced the art. You can't tell the ad guys from the bankers any more. The new oligarchs have added almost nothing of value, other than a relentless drive to eliminate costs. In the not-so-distant past, no agency had more than a 2% share of the U.S. advertising market. Today, four global monstrosities control over 70% of the advertising dollars.

The waiters are doing the cooking.
Remember when Steve Jobs was kicked out of Apple (1985-1997) and it was run by a series management geniuses? They immediately turned it into a piece of crap. The same is happening in advertising. It is no longer run by ad people. There has been a massive transfer of power away from creatives toward managers and technocrats. Yes, there are still some wonderful creatively-driven agencies. But they are becoming a tiny minority.

The tactical is driving out the strategic.
Tactics always drive out strategy. But there has never been a time when I've seen so much lip service given to strategy and so much money spent on tactics. There are two important advertising words I almost never see or hear anymore -- campaign and concept. Nobody has the patience for a campaign, and a concept has no "metrics." The internet has turned us all into a bunch of math majors.

As Socrates might have put it, just because we're old and cranky doesn't mean we're not right.

March 28, 2011

We Were Only Kidding

To:          The Ad Industry
From:     Phi Theta Gamma
Subject:  Only Kidding
Date:       March 28, 2011

Okay. We're sorry. We were just kidding.

We know we may have confused some people. And some of you may have actually blown some money, but we really didn't mean any harm. We just thought of it as a stupid joke.

Honestly, we really didn't imagine anyone would take this stuff seriously. It was just, like, one night we were sitting around the fraternity house studying for a dumb-ass marketing final and smoking a j and Larry said, dude, this stuff is such bullshit, let's just, like, invent our own marketing bullshit.

And so we start riffing, like "marketing is a dance contest""marketing is a cheese slicer""marketing is a conversation"...and we all kinda cracked up. It sounded like the kind of crap marketers would say. I mean, a conversation? With marketers? Who would do that? Ever talk to a marketer?  Fucking morons.

So now we're thinking we're on a roll and Vic says, let's do some bs about "brands" because, you know, they're always going on and on about brand this and brand that.... So how do we get brands into this bullshit deal? So Chris says -- this one killed us -- what if we say "consumers want to have a relationship with brands?" Now we're peeing our pants.

Yeah, says, Vic, I want to have a relationship with my mayonnaise, and Chris says, I want to have a relationship with my clock radio, and I say, I want to have a relationship with my toilet paper.

Now we're on the floor.

So then Jimmy says, dude, all these marketing guys are totally queer for tech. Let's invent some tech bullshit thing that's going to replace TV ads. So we blazed another spliff. Okay, says Ian, how about, that's about, dead....Eddie says, you know that pathetic Twitter thing that all the old geezers do? What if we say nobody needs to do TV ads anymore because all you have to do is send out tweeters, or whatever they call that shit. So now Vic can't breathe he's laughing so hard.

So here's where it gets weird. The next thing you know, all these companies are having interns sitting around tweetering to their customers and thinking that this is going to save them millions because they won't have to pay Tiger Woods or some other dipshit to be in their stupid TV spots. Then they're having, like, webinars and conferences and people are writing books and guys who couldn't deliver pizzas are making speeches and writing blogs...

Anyway, you know the rest of the story... we were too stoned to realize that Jake the jack-off was recording the whole thing, and his ugly-ass ex-girlfriend Wendy found it on his iPhone and uploaded it to YouTube. So now everyone in the frickin universe knows that all this new age marketing shit we invented was just a big goof, and the Dean is all up our ass and my father is super-pissed and...

Well, anyway, we're sorry. But it was kinda fun.

March 25, 2011

Who's Next?

This has been an interesting week here at Ad Contrarian world headquarters.

It was a week we devoted to one story - Pepsi's Refresh Project.

It was also our busiest week ever -- lead by a landslide of interest in Monday's post called Social Media's Massive Failure.

The story seemed to grow as the week went on, with more people reading it Thursday than Monday. The interest in the story, ironically, was fed by a lot of activity about it in social media, specifically Twitter.

Which leads me to today's sermon.

As I've said about a thousand times here, contrary to what most social media wackos think, I have nothing against social media. In fact, I use it myself to good effect. I think social media can be useful and valuable when used intelligently and prudently.

What I strenuously object to is bullshit. And social media maniacs and hustlers have been the leading source of marketing bullshit for too many years now. Their promises are outrageous. Their statistics are untrustworthy. Their jargon is insufferable. Their smugness is intolerable. And, perhaps worst of all, their Powerpoints are unbearable.

I also have nothing against Pepsi. They have provided me with a wonderful source of corporate hilariousness for over three years. God bless 'em.

But I'm worried. If Pepsi management gets wise to what's been going on there... and smart marketers start throwing social media hustlers out on their asses...who the hell am I going to make fun of?

I've already squeezed every ounce of blood possible from brand babblers...account planners are going extinct...cmo's are either out of work or about to directors can't read...

I guess there's always bloggers.

One More Thing About This Week...
...I almost never talk about my agency, but it's not every week you win two accounts. Congratulations, guys!

March 24, 2011

Social Media Hysterics

We ad people tend to be tough old birds. We're kinda used to getting the crap kicked out of us and don't get all huffy when we read about our chronic stupidity.

The social media crowd is -- as they say --  a whole nother story. Based on my experience at this blog, they tend to be a bunch of bedwetters who go all vaporous every time someone calls them a doodyhead.

A lovely example occurred earlier this week when I published a post called Social Media's Massive Failure. The subject was the failure of one social media initiative -- the Pepsi Refresh Project.

Hysteria ensued.

I got a flood of mail accusing me of having claimed that social media was "dead" and "worthless." I was accused of being "narrow-minded"and "shooting the messenger." I am also apparently an "absolutist" and a "naysayer." Read the comments.

The funny thing is, the strongest words about the failure of the Refresh Project didn't come from me, they came from the ceo of Pepsi who said he should have spent his money on television and was going to blow the place up.

It's nice to see that at least someone at Pepsi has some functioning cerebral matter.

Since I don't have the time or inclination to answer each comment and accusation individually, and since they tended to fall into categories, I thought I'd publish bulk answers to the social media apologists.

Their comments tended to fall into a few categories:

1. There isn't really enough information to make a judgment about Refresh. This is the argument of people who have never had to stand naked before a client and face the music. Once you've had to do this, you never again try to pull out a lame argument about "not enough information." In the real world of advertising and marketing there is never enough information. One is always having to make judgments with incomplete information. However, when the ceo of a company says they're going to "...blow up the place" I think it's pretty safe to assume that he feels he has enough information to make a judgment.

2. Yeah, well advertising fails, too. Certainly true. The difference, however, is that advertising people don't go around making outrageous claims about the power of advertising and don't go all weepy every time someone points out the shortcomings of the ad business or the failure of an ad campaign.

3. It was really meant to be charity, not marketing. This is just utter bullshit. Go back and look at the statements that were made when the thing was launched. The social media lobby was drooling all over itself.

Furthermore, when you and I donate money to the Red Cross, that's charity. When a corporation creates contests, puts up websites, Facebook pages and YouTube channels rubbing our noses in their largesse, and runs self-congratulatory tv spots promoting their concern for the community, that's marketing, baby.

4. Social media can't carry the whole ball, and is meant to be part of a media mix. This is the lamest excuse of all. First of all, social media was part of a media mix for Pepsi. They didn't suspend all other marketing activities. But they did shift the emphasis from traditional media to social media. Second, I've never heard anyone make this pathetic excuse for television. And finally, this excuse is just code meaning "social media isn't strong enough to be counted on to do the heavy lifting and the only way to mask its inadequacies is to surround it with other media that are actually effective in selling stuff."

By the way, if I was a social media apologist arguing against my post, I would have asked this question: What role did the insane Pepsi "re-branding" (i.e., package re-design) play in their loss of market share? Now this is a legitimate question which the social media crowd was apparently not astute enough to ask.

March 23, 2011

The Pepsi Follies

"Pepsi BashFest 3000" continues here today at Ad Contrarian world headquarters.

For over three years we have been documenting the marketing follies at PepsiCo.

On July 29, 2009, we said...
"It seems like the brand babblers have taken over at Pepsi, and they are screwing it up royally....It will take a while (like it does in all big organizations) for someone with a brain to realize what's been going on. "
Pepsi has been the world's leader in advocating and implementing new-age marketing nonsense, and is now paying the price for its foolish belief in the three-headed marketing monsters: "branding," "engagement," and "conversation." (Here's a tip for anyone left alive in the Pespi marketing department. There is one thing, and one thing only, that advertising is about -- persuasion. All the rest is word games and chit chat. Got it?)

Last week it was reported that after years of fighting Coke for first place in the soft drink category, Pepsi-Cola had fallen to third place.

The L.A. Tiimes called it...
"...a stunning fall from grace."
According the The Wall Street Journal...
Pepsi-Cola and Diet Pepsi saw their U.S. sales volumes in 2010 fall sharply, by 4.8% and 5.2%, respectively...
The U.S. soft drink market is about 74 billion dollars. If my math is correct, a 5% drop in Pepsi's US market share (which is about 10%) cost them well over $350 million on the Pepsi-Cola brand alone.

While Coke has been wisely sponsoring American Idol for years (yeah, on that useless old dinosaur, the television) Pepsi has been suffering from the marketing version of Attention Deficit Disorder exemplified by chasing dubious social media rainbows and comical "re-branding" exercises.

In Monday's post about the Pepsi Refresh Project (called Social Media's Massive Failure) I included this quote:
"We took the divergent path," explained Frank Cooper, chief consumer engagement officer for Pepsi. "We wanted to explore how a brand could be integrated into the digital space."
The alarming aspect of the above quote is not the vapidity of the cliches, it's the fact that Pepsi has someone called a "chief consumer engagement officer." You have to be seriously confused to pay  someone to run around your building with a title like that.

The most unsettling part of this episode is that Pepsi has been fawned over as "forward thinking" among the brand babblers and social media hustlers who have seized control of the marketing world. When Pepsi launched its Pepsi Refresh social media project last year, Time magazine had this to say:
To Pepsi, and to companies around the world, the days when mass-market media is the sole vehicle to reach an audience are officially over.
These days, viral marketing seems like a smart strategy. "This is exactly where Pepsi needs to be," says Sophie Ann Terrisse, founder and CEO of STC Associates, a brand-consulting firm. "These days, brands need to become a movement..."
To set an example of maturity and restraint, I am not going to make any "movement" jokes.

Here are some excerpts from three years of posts about PepsiCo's marketing follies from the deep recesses of The Ad Contrarian archives:

March 18, 2008
Pepsi Drinking The Kool-Aid
Pepsi is going all unconventional and artsy on us.

They're introducing a new beverage called Tava with websites, music downloads, "brand experiences"... In other words, the the full pantheon of over-priced, under-performing ..."non-traditional" marketing gimmicks.

They'll be giving free samples to employees of Apple, Google and MTV. Dude, how cool is that? But wait, there's more. They'll also be giving it away at the -- are you ready -- Sundance Film Festival! Oh my God! Mega-double-extra-wicked cool!

Pepsi's agencies are making marketing mistake number one. They're marketing to themselves.
October 24, 2008
Friday Filler
Pepsi is spending 1.2 billion (yeah, with a b) behind a "rebranding" over 3 years. The first move is the introduction of new logos. If the rest of the "rebranding" is as shitty as this, it's gonna be a long 3 years.
 March 2, 2009
The Two Elements Of Advertising

The advertising composed of only two elements: ads and bullshit.

If you would like a nice, close-up look at bullshit, I recommend this video. It is part of a presentation made a few weeks ago about the "new" package for Tropicana orange juice (a PepsiCo product) by its designer, Peter Arnell.

The new package was yanked after about a half hour because it was such a piece of crap and provoked a firestorm of criticism and customer unhappiness.

Going back a few weeks, before the firestorm, and looking at the pretentious bullshit that was being served up is very entertaining and satisfying.

Whenever some designer starts out with, "We started on a journey..." as if he was climbing the fucking Himalayas instead of playing with crayons, you know there's some massive bullshit heading your way...
March 11, 2009
What About The Research?
Last week I wrote about the Tropicana package massacre.

The question I would love to have the answer to is this: What about the research?

I've been around Pepsi people (the owners of Tropicana) and their kind, and I can assure you they don't wipe themselves without first researching which hand consumers prefer.

Somewhere, I guarantee you, there is a very big deck that demonstrates conclusively that the (failed) Tropicana package was a dream come true...

...I'd love to see that Tropicana research deck. I'll bet it's a classic.
July 29, 2009
Championship Brand Tinkering 
There are many flavors of baloney floating around the ad world these days. There's "digital" baloney, there's "conversation" and "engagement" baloney, but the biggest, most pervasive, and most dangerous form of baloney is still "branding" baloney...

...It looks to me like Pepsi-Cola Co. are becoming the all-time champion brand tinkerers.
August 03, 2009
Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss
One of the very charming aspects of Web Maniac Disease (WMD) is the callow belief in the virtue of all things digital. For...a good laugh... read the article about the BlogHer convention in Chicago from last week's Ad Age... My favorite quote from the piece:
Asked how PepsiCo, which appeared to be the biggest sponsor of BlogHer activities, would be measuring its success, Global Chief Marketing Officer Jill Beraud, said: "We believe it's the way of communicating in the future, so this is not a short-term ROI ... this is really an investment in our brands and understanding our consumers."
Oh. It's about branding! Well, you Pepsi guys ought to know.
December 07, 2009
The 2009 Bully Award Winner Is...
The 2009 Bully Award for Outstanding Achievement in Advertising and Marketing Bullshit -- the Turd d'Or -- goes to the "Breathtaking" Pepsi design document.

Several months ago, when this document became public, I got a nice chuckle out of it...

Recently, in reviewing the nominees for the Bully Awards, I had the opportunity to take a closer look at it.

With the perspective that a few months affords, I have a new appreciation for the document. Not as an article of business communication, but as an artifact of an industry so totally engulfed in madness that this piece of lunacy may very well live on as the marketing icon of our era.
June 15, 2010
Pepsi Proves You Can Give Away Money

I know I'm like totally old school and out of it and a big old dinosaur, but I thought marketing was supposed to be about selling stuff. Silly me.

So wasn't I all red-in-the-face and feeling like a dork when I read an interview in BrandWeek with Pepsi's marketing director. The interview was about their much ballyhooed "Refresh Project" -- which, in my churlish opinion is a big cynical gimmick to get some marketing leverage by giving away 20 million dollars to people with nice ideas.

Now, before you go calling me an ogre, I am all in favor of giving money to help people and communities. I even do a fair bit of it myself.

The difference between Pepsi and me, however, is that I don't go around beating my chest about it. I  do it because I think it's the right thing to do.

...Call me cynical, but to me altruism loses its luster when it seeks bouquets.

Pepsi is brazenly using their "Refresh" project for the purpose of buying their way into social media stardom and "creating buzz on social networks." Double yuk...

The thing that interested me most about the interview was that it focused on the marketing effectiveness of the campaign without once mentioning the word "sales."
"The success has been overwhelming. We have more than doubled our Facebook fans since we started the campaign. We have more than 24,000 Twitter fans"
Now here's the thing. If you're going to give away 20 million dollars to help people and communities, then god bless you...

On the other hand, if you're doing it to promote sales, then don't pretend you're Mother Teresa.

And if you're just doing it to attract Facebook friends and Twitter followers, then you're seriously demented.

This is probably the most expensive social media effort ever. I'm very curious to know what effect it will have on sales. So far all it's proven to me is that if you want to give away money, you can.
Yeah, the success was "overwhelming." I wonder what universe she is living in? I wonder how many Facebook fans it takes to cover a loss of 350 million dollars?

It was just a few months ago that the Pepsi marketing team was taking self-congratulatory victory laps at digital marketing whack-a-thons. Having once worked on the Pepsi business, I would like to give these people a little advice: Stay as far away as you possibly can from the next bottlers' convention.

March 22, 2011

Finally, The True Value Of A Facebook Fan

In days of yore, people were consumed by questions about the existence of God, or the nature of the universe, or the fate of mankind. Today, however, we face a problem that is apparently even more vexing: What the heck is the value of a Facebook fan?

Based on the alarming amount of literature on the topic, this seems to be very nettlesome to today's highly sensitive marketing professionals.

I've been studying the methods of our industry's new oracles -- the data analysts -- and trying to apply their methods and their logic to the problem. 

And, good news. I think I've got the answer!

Here's what I've done. I've used real-world numbers, based on a real-world case history and come up with what I believe is an unassailable value for a Facebook fan.

I have tried to keep this mainstream by using one of the most famous brands in the world, and a very famous Facebook initiative to derive my value.

The formula I've used is a simple one highly favored by our data wizards. I've taken the total change in dollar sales since the Facebook program in question began, and I've divided it by the total number of Facebook fans that were acquired. That should give us a dollar value for each Facebook fan.

The case history I'm going to use is the Pepsi Refresh Project. According to Pepsi's marketing director  "the success has been overwhelming" so no one can accuse me of skewing the data.

The Pepsi Facebook page has acquired about 3.5 million fans as a result of the Refresh project. In the most recent year, during which the Refresh Project was ongoing, Pepsi sales dropped by about 350 million dollars.

Doing the math, we find that each Pepsi Facebook fan was worth about 100 dollars.

To Coke.

March 21, 2011

Social Media's Massive Failure

For several years there has been consensus among a very vocal and highly placed group of marketing executives and commentators that fundamental changes have taken place in our culture and in technology which render traditional modes of marketing communication no longer relevant or effective.

The thinking behind the hypothesis goes like this:
  • Marketing is a "conversation."
  • People are no longer willing to accept the "interruption" model of advertising.
  • The objective of marketing communication is for a brand to create "engagement" with consumers.
  • Traditional forms of advertising do not create engagement and have substantially outlived their usefulness.
  • The Internet has created an environment in which consumer control of his/her purchasing behavior is unprecedented.
  • Consumers are quickly moving away from brands that are obviously out to sell them something in favor of brands that seek to engage with them and have conversations.
  • Social media represents the most effective medium for engaging with consumers and having these conversations.
Among mainstream brands that have adopted this new marketing paradigm, none has been more zealous than Pepsi-Cola.

Last year, Pepsi substantially abandoned its long-standing commitment to traditional advertising in favor of social media. It canceled its annual Super Bowl advertising. It diverted tens of millions of dollars from traditional advertising to create the "Pepsi Refresh Project." Pepsi Refresh was an online social media initiative in which Pepsi gave out 20 million dollars. They also spent many millions more in support of this initiative.

I am pretty certain Refresh is the largest social media initiative ever undertaken. Never before, to my knowledge, has a brand taken so much of its traditional advertising money and energy and re-directed it into social media.

Most major brands have some kind of social media program. But never before, to my knowledge, has a major consumer brand made a social media program the centerpiece of its advertising and marketing.
"We took the divergent path," explained Frank Cooper, chief consumer engagement officer for Pepsi. "We wanted to explore how a brand could be integrated into the digital space."
The idea behind the program was that you, the consumer, got to engage with Pepsi by voting for the "Refresh" projects you deemed most worthy. There were also other opportunities to engage through an enormous online effort -- Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, website, blogs. Millions of dollars were also spent in what might be called "traditional advertising in support of social media."

Skeptics (such as yours truly) have been eagerly awaiting a report card on this initiative as it is the first real test case for a major brand implementing a massive transfer of marketing resources from traditional advertising to social media.

The results are now in. It has been a disaster.
  • Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Pepsi-Cola and Diet Pepsi had each lost about 5% of their market share in the past year. 
  • If my calculations are correct, for the Pepsi-Cola brand alone this represents a loss of over $350 million. For both brands, the loss is probably something in the neighborhood of 400 million to half-a-billion dollars.
  • For the first time ever Pepsi-Cola has dropped from its traditional position as the number two soft drink in America to number three (behind Diet Coke.)
  • In 2010, Pepsi's market share erosion accelerated by 8 times compared to the previous year.
The Refresh Project accomplished everything a social media program is expected to: Over 80 million votes were registered; almost 3.5 million "likes" on the Pepsi Facebook page; almost 60,000 Twitter followers. The only thing it failed to do was sell Pepsi.

It achieved all the false goals and failed to achieve the only legitimate one.

In reaction to this disaster, Massimo d'Amore, chief executive of PepsiCo Beverages Americas had this to say...
"When my ancestors went from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, they blew up the place, so that's what we are doing."
He also said...
"We need television to make the big, bold statement...
Social media has taken a huge hit. Only zealots and fools will continue to bow down to the gods of social media.

(More on this subject here and here)

March 17, 2011

Sales: 1,000,000,000. Conversations: 0

I read a wonderful piece this week by a guy named Jonathan Salem Baskin. It was called The iPad of Air Care.

The piece was about Fabreze, an "air care" product from Proctor & Gamble that's about to hit a billion dollars in sales in spite of never having had a single "conversation" (i.e., social media interaction) with a single customer.

I urge you to read the entire piece, but I'm going to quote liberally from Baskin's post (and move some things around)
Febreze isn't creating entertaining "content" for its consumers to enjoy on YouTube, or allowing them to share on its Facebook site their personal stories about overcoming odor problems (I can't find an official-looking FB page for the brand). It hasn't outsourced product recommendations to its users, and I couldn't find a single customer complaint it fixed on Twitter...there's no global charitable initiative or contest to make the world smell better.
No, it's just doing the same thing that Apple does...  Selling products that people want to buy.
...I say P&G should pause and try to learn from Febreze's success... It's just as likely that P&G will decide that Febreze needs those very same social media distractions now that it's a big time player, so if we see some silly campaign (or launch of an official FB page) we'll know that it didn't make the right call. I'm sure there are lots of agency pitches on deck to do just that.
Is there an agency in the world that has the guts and honesty to tell a client that the most likely outcome of having a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a YouTube channel is a very large expenditure of time and energy and very little chance of seeing any measurable return?

Big thanks to Tore Claesson for this, even though he probably doesn't agree with it.

March 16, 2011

Security Is Always An Illusion

In light of the disaster going on in Japan, let's take a moment to realize how little we are and how little we matter.

The universe hardly knows we exist. In cosmic terms, to say that our planet is a speck of dust is to exaggerate its importance a billion fold.

We've all heard about the hundreds of billions of galaxies in our universe. Each of these galaxies contains hundreds of billions of stars.  We don't know how many planets there are surrounding stars but recent discoveries suggest that there may be hundreds of billions of them.

And so we think there's a lot of stuff out there. But the universe is so unimaginably large that despite all these objects, it is essentially empty space. Only 0.000000000000000000004 of the universe is occupied with stuff. The rest is emptiness.

Now let's look at a graph I have used before.
This graph shows us human population for the past 12,000 years. For most of that time we've just been a minor annoyance. In the past few hundred years, however, we have been engaged in a reproductive frenzy of such proportions that the line has become almost perfectly vertical.

You don't need to be scientist or a philosopher to understand that this pattern of growth is utterly unsustainable.

How it's going to end is anybody's guess. It could be a man-made disaster. It could be a mass extinction caused by a cosmic or geological event (there have apparently been many of these.) It could be caused by climate change -- either human-inspired or the result of natural cycles. It could be disease or famine or war. Nobody knows what it will be, but the graph tells me that without any doubt it's going to be something.

We think our political squabbles are important. We think movie stars and football players are consequential. We think our blog-transmitted opinions are weighty. The fact is, in the fullness of time they will all mean nothing.

What is happening in Japan should provide us with a very clear lesson about the arrogance of man. We think we can control our fate; we think we understand the forces that surround us; we think we can shape our future.

We can do none of these things. Everything we have and everything we are can be swept away in a second. Security is always an illusion.

We are temporary visitors to an inconceivably tiny grain of sand. We will soon be gone without a trace.

Let's have a drink.

March 15, 2011

The Web And I

Like every human being who has ever drawn a breath, I feel myself to be misunderstood.

People think I hate the internet. I don't.

What I hate is bullshit. And among the world's leading bullshit artists for the past decade have been internet advertising hustlers.

Most people don't seem to appreciate the point I often make that although the web may be a hugely successful and influential force in our lives, web advertising has thus far been a big disappointment.

I also seem to have a hard time communicating that there is a difference between social media and social media marketing. That simply because Facebook has 600 zillion members doesn't necessarily make it an effective advertising medium (unless, of course, you believe that a click-through rate of 2 in 10,000 is a great marketing opportunity.)

While I am deeply skeptical of web advertising, I am often blown away by the web itself. Yesterday was a good example.

I sometimes like to check and see who is tweeting about this blog. Yesterday evening I did so and here's what I found. At the time I checked, the 5 most recent tweets about yesterday's post had originated from:
  • Jakarta, Indonesia
  • Sao Paolo, Brazil
  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Orange County, California
  • Brussels, Belgium
The point here is not to hype this blog. It's about my amazement that some stuff a guy happened to write yesterday could reach people in such an amazing variety of places. Sometimes the web really does amaze me.

March 14, 2011

If Advertising Isn't Driving You Crazy, You're Not Paying Attention

A little over a year ago my agency pitched an account.

The pitch process took 4 months, entailed 4 different rounds of presentations and included three different consulting companies -- one "search" consultant, one "fee" consultant, and one "production cost" consultant.

Halfway into the pitch process the ceo of the company got fired. They hired a new ceo. He had previously been their ceo but had been fired 5 years earlier.

One month after we got the account, the new old ceo fired their their president, their cmo, and about half their executive team.

Then they fired most of their marketing department.

Then they asked us to pick up some of the work their marketing department had been doing.

Then they asked us to hire someone who would work in their marketing department, but would be on our payroll.

Then they promoted someone else to run their marketing department.

Then they fired him.

Then they promoted someone else to run their marketing department.

Then they fired us.

Then, during the 90-day notice period, we got written feedback from the newest person running the marketing department about 2 spots we were finishing for them. Quote:
"Everyone is in LOVE with these spots...I'm telling you - there is some serious excitement from everyone... Pass on the love... great job!"
So I passed on the love. Particularly to the people who we had to lay off when they fired us.

Then, a few weeks later, we got an email from them asking if we would like to re-pitch the account.

I wish I could say I made this up, but I'm just not that good.

March 02, 2011

Currency Across The Ecosystem

Stop the presses.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, the Association of National Advertisers, and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, along with Bain & Company and MediaLink are banding together in the hope of  "Making Measurement Make Sense."

This should be good for a few laughs.

Apparently, what this fuster-cluck is all about is finding a way to take all the incomprehensible, misleading, intentionally obfuscatory "data" that the online metrics geniuses are generating and getting something intelligible out of them. Good luck.

Making measurement make sense? These people can't even make their press releases make sense. According to a spokesman...
"Online media has an abundance of metrics, but none that serve as currency across the ecosystem."
Yeah, that's what we need -- currency across the freakin' ecosystem.

I guess there's some solace to be taken in that these people are tacitly admitting what Ad Contras have been screaming about for years -- that most online measurement is crapola masquerading as information.

This effort is doomed to failure. The enormous success of digital advertising is based on the fortunate circumstance that almost no one understands anything about the numbers. And those who do ain't talkin'.

Do you really think the ad industry wants to butcher the cash cow by revealing how alarmingly unimpressive most of the numbers for digital advertising are?

These guys better make sure they don't do their job too well. If they suddenly forget their "currencies" and their "ecosystems" and start talking in plain English, we're all screwed.

March 01, 2011

The Usual Nonsense

In a piece several weeks ago in Adweek called A Critical Turning Point for Online Video Advertising, a young lady who works for a "digital ad fulfillment company" laments...
"Consumer behavior has shifted, yet online video represents only 7% of the ad market"
She further goes on to say...
"In 2010, it became overwhelmingly evident that online video sites had found the right formula for  delivering content in a way that earns and retains audiences. For example, if you look at 2010 comScore numbers, the amount of time American audiences spent watching video for the major live video publishers...has grown 648 percent to more than 1.4 billion minutes year over year. Short- and long-form content achieved similar success; time spent watching YouTube and Hulu increased by 68 percent and 75 percent, respectively, over the same time period."
As usual, promoters of online media give inadequate perspective and tell only part of the story. 

The rest of the story is this. According to Nielsen's Three Screen Report from Q1 2010, video watchers spend 2% of their video-watching time with online video. They watch video on traditional TV 98% of the time -- 9505 minutes a month on TV and 190 minutes a month on line.

If, as the article claims, online video ad sales represent 7% of "the entire ad market" (which I am officially skeptical about) it is way outperforming its reasonable share. If it represents 7% of video ad sales (which I am also skeptical of) it is still outperforming its rightful share by 350%.

So what's the problem?