October 30, 2014

Digital Clown Act In Big Trouble

Just in time for Halloween, there's a nightmare developing for the online ad industry. Unless I'm mistaken, the clown act that is digital advertising is headed for a train wreck.

Up until now they have thrived on the stupidity and gullibility of marketers, and the venality of agencies. Marketers couldn't guzzle the swill fast enough and agencies couldn't cash the checks fast enough.

But I have a feeling the big con may be coming to an end.

First, some background.

According to published reports, online advertising fraud and corruption are rampant. It is generally thought that there is fraud associated with between 30 and 50% of online ads.

But corruption and theft haven't dampened the hunger for this stuff one bit among the dimwits in the marketing world. They've been throwing more stupid money at online advertising every year. It's been growing at double digits.

Now, you might ask yourself why sensible people would continue to do this when they know that half their money is being stolen? The answer is, sensible people wouldn't do it. It takes a CMO to be this clueless and irresponsible.

But if I'm not mistaken, something big is about to happen.

Kraft, one of the world's largest advertisers, announced yesterday that they are rejecting 75 to 85% of the online impressions they are being offered. Kraft's director of data, content and media said...
"Think about what this means for us as an industry. When we're rejecting 75% to 85% of the impressions available, that's a problem."
Ya think?
"...75% to 85% is either deemed to be fraudulent, unsafe or non-viewable or unknown"
According to Ad Age...
"Kraft only dug into this analysis last month..."
Here's what I want to know: How the fuck can a company that spends $35.9 million a year on online advertising have waited until last month to do an analysis? Everyone who doesn't have his head up his ass knows that online advertising is a corrupt freak show of cosmic proportions.

Now that the dam has broken with a huge advertiser like Kraft, every CEO and CFO that isn't brain dead will start to ask questions about online spending -- "Are we buying the phantom impressions that Kraft is rejecting?"

CMOs and their agencies are going to be working nights and weekends hysterically throwing together misleading Powerpoint decks to save their asses.

And when they're not doing that, they'll be busy throwing each other under the bus.

This could turn into the most entertaining shit show in years.

By The Way...
...you know those people who say "I hate to say I told you so?" I'm not one of them.

October 29, 2014

Hypocrisy By Proxy

There is a horrible medical syndrome called Munchausen By Proxy. In it, a mentally ill parent invents or induces medical symptoms in a child to gain attention for herself (in 85% of cases it's a mother.)

Earlier this week, in a post called Munchausen by Proxy by Media Seth Godin compared Munchausen By Proxy to what our media does to viewers. According to Seth...
"...the media does this to us all the time... It started a century ago with the Spanish American War. Disasters sell newspapers. And a moment-by-moment crisis gooses cable ratings, and horrible surprises are reliable clickbait. The media rarely seeks out people or incidents that encourage us to be calm, rational or optimistic... 
Even when they're not actually causing unfortunate events, they're working to get us to believe that things are on the brink of disaster."
Seth's point is undeniably true. By turning events into "crises" the media draws attention to itself, and earns a nice little profit from the increased viewership/listenership/readership.

I would like to suggest that this is also a perfect description of what Seth and his pals in the marketing punditocracy have done for the past 10 years.

Since about 2004, the marketing establishment has been engaged in creating phony crises based on flimsy evidence, questionable assertions, and exaggerated claims:
  • the death of traditional advertising 
  • the death of television
  • the death of the "interruption model" 
  • the end of mass marketing
  • the enthusiasm of consumers for "interacting" with advertising
  • the miracle of social media
The "thought leaders" of the marketing industry are no less guilty of playing the hysteria card to buy themselves status (and consulting gigs) than the media are.

The more they can convince us that everything is changing -- and we need them to interpret the changes -- the longer they stay employed. And so they have created an avalanche of exaggerated claims and dire warnings that gain them attention and a nice little profit from the increased viewership/listenership/readership.

Creating alarm is just plain good strategy -- whether it's by the media or those who choose to criticize it.

Hysteria Central: Roll Call Of The Dead
Broadcasting Is Dead: Here
Strategy, Ideas, Marketing, and Management Are Dead: Here 
Television Is Dead: Here
Advertising Is Dead: Here
Ad Campaigns Are Dead: Here
Copywriters Are Dead: Here
Marketing Is Dead: Here

October 27, 2014

Revenge Of The Ignorant

Throughout history, the unfailing touchstone of ignorance is the urge to silence those whose opinions we disagree with.

Believe it or not, this impulse even exists in the silly world of advertising.

Last year I was asked to appear at a conference sponsored by a major advertising organization. I won't embarrass them by mentioning their name.

I was happy to accept their invitation as it gave me a chance to speak before some of the owners and leaders of advertising agencies -- for the most part a terrific group of people.

I say "for the most part" because among this group was an agency "leader" who couldn't lead a cat to a litter box. This is a person who has accomplished exactly nothing in his advertising career and is known for having achieved his position through a program of guile, glad-handing, and back-stabbing.

This guy wrote to the organization objecting to the appearance of "the Ad Contrarian" at the conference. 

In the advertising business, there is always a contingent of flat-tires who are powerfully committed to orthodoxy and consider anyone who challenges it a traitor to the business.

The most repugnant of these are the ones who set themselves up as thought police. Not only do they believe that people who dare to stray from their dogma are wrong, they believe we're dangerous and need to be silenced to protect the industry.

One way you can tell if you're doing something worthwhile is to take a look at the bozos who want to shut you up.

Which reminds me...
I'll be speaking next Tuesday, Nov. 4 in London at the Curzon Cinema Mayfair. For information, contact the Outdoor Media Center.

October 23, 2014

The Human Factor

Today is the final part of a 3-part series in which I attempted to derive a theory about how consumer behavior works and how that might affect the creation of advertising.

The first part dealt with the duality of consumer behavior. In the second part I tried to develop some principles related to the uncertainty of consumer behavior. And today we're going to talk about what all this theorizing means to the people who create advertising, if anything.

Despite all the bullshit about digital technology changing everything, a TV spot today looks frighteningly like a TV spot of 20 years ago. A radio spot of today is not much different from a radio spot of 20 years ago, and a print ad... you get the point.

Digital has changed delivery systems -- pipes -- but it hasn't changed what's going through the pipes.

All the palaver about "interactivity" between consumer and advertiser has turned out to be hogwash, with consumers showing no interest at all in interacting with "interactive" advertising.

More than ever, we are locked into a way of thinking that slices and dices people into cubby-holes of age, supposed psychological profiles, and presumed areas of interest. I think it was Don Marti who said "targeting to demographics, psychographics or stated interests (as Facebook does) works marginally better than not targeting at all."

The addiction to targeting, which digital technology has only amplified, has derailed the advertising industry from concentrating on its real job -- creating interesting messages.

We have made no progress that I can see from the decades-old push-pull of emotion vs. logic in the strategic approach to the messages we create.

If my musings this week about highfalutin stuff like "behavior-plasticity" and "quantum advertising" have any value, they ought to lead us to some way of thinking about creating more effective messages.

A few months ago, I wrote the following:
Great advertising transcends strategy. It's great for all the wrong reasons -- the reasons we never talk about in new business pitches, or mention at client meetings, or have break-out sessions about at advertising conferences. It's great because it's great. Period. 
It doesn't matter if it differentiates the brand, or delivers a benefit, or has a call to action. 
Good ads need strategy and benefits and differentiation. Great ads don't need any of that. They appeal to us as humans, not consumers.
When we're writing for "consumers" we act reflexively. We shoehorn in our benefits and we show scenes of Timmy and grandpa going fishing. In other words, we default to the cliches of the logic/emotion framework.

But if we don't start with logic vs. emotion as a foundation -- if we start with "let's try to sound human and talk human" -- and treat logic and emotion as byproducts of an interesting message, we will be far more successful.

The problem is this -- writing advertising that sounds human, and not like advertising, is really hard. It's not difficult to write logically. It's not difficult to write emotionally. But there are very few copywriters who can make advertising sound human.

I've come a long way around to discover something I think I've always known. The best advertising will be great because of an indefinable quality that communicates with us as humans, not consumers.

One of the things I especially like about this "quantum" theory of advertising is that it recognizes the mystery of the "human" factor. The fact that we cannot define it is not  ignorance, it is an inescapable condition of the probabilistic and contradictory nature of human behavior.

This is what makes creating advertising an interesting, fascinating -- and frustrating -- occupation.

October 22, 2014

Four Principles Of Quantum Advertising

This is the second part of a 3-part series about the duality of consumer behavior and its importance to the people who create ads. It is also, perhaps, the most pretentious title for a post in the history of blogging.

One of the aspects of advertising that make it fascinating is that we never seem to make much progress in understanding it. The arguments raging today about the nature of good advertising are the same ones that raged 50 years ago.

While we have much deeper analytical tools for making media choices, we still have no reliably accurate method for predicting the success of the material the media is carrying -- the ads.

Just when we think we know what will successfully motivate a consumer, we launch an Apple "Genius" TV campaign or a Pepsi "Refresh" social media campaign, and everything we thought we knew turns out to be wrong.

In the first part of this series we decided that neither the rational nor the emotional model of consumer behavior seems to be adequate in describing the contradictions that advertisers and marketers are constantly confronted with.

We likened this problem to the enigma physicists are faced with in the study of sub-atomic particles. Sometime these things behave like particles and sometimes like waves. These behaviors are contradictory -- yet together they form a remarkably good description of what's going on. This duality is confusing and counter-intuitive, but it has proven to be accurate.

If you were to suggest some kind of similarity between quantum physics and consumer behavior, most people (including me) would roll their eyes and think you were nuts. And yet, the analogy seems to work -- sometimes consumers behave like one thing, and sometimes like another.

Without putting too fine a point on it (and getting way off into psycho-babble voodoo-land) if consumers really do exhibit a dual nature, maybe we can derive some principles about this that resemble the "quantum" principles of physics. Otherwise the whole thing is just another bullshit marketing contrivance.

Though perhaps a little far-fetched, I thought I would see if I could develop some language which would make this theory resemble the quantum theory of physics.

So here we go: Four "quantum" principles of consumer behavior:

1. All purchasing behavior can be described as either emotional or rational.
Consumers are not logic machines, nor are they puppy dogs. The processing that goes into a buying decision is complex and imprecise. It can be described as either logic or emotion. Just as E=mc2 told us there is an equivalency between matter and energy, consumer behavior contains an equivalency (somewhere) between logic and emotion that we don't quite understand.
2. When developing advertising or marketing strategies, the closest we can get to predicting consumer behavior is to quantify probabilities and likelihoods.
There are no absolutes about consumer behavior.
3. By its nature, consumer research must always contain a substantial degree of uncertainty.
Studying a consumer's "rational" response to advertising will affect her "emotional" response. Studying her "emotional" response will affect her "rational" response. You may be able to understand either response, but you cannot know both simultaneously.
4. We can quantify the emotional or rational basis for a purchasing decision, but we can't quantify the relationship between the two.
We can know the factors, but we can never know the formula -- how much logic compared to how much emotion.
These are new ideas to me and I need to let them marinate a little before I can be sure I like them (or even understand them.) I don't have an ounce of data to support any of this, but I do find these ideas interesting, and they do seem to describe and explain a lot of the mysteries and puzzles I have encountered in my hundreds of years in the ad business.

The big question is this: if these ideas have any real value and are not just a bunch of ponderous bullshit, they ought to have practical applications to the creation of advertising.

Next time I'll take a stab at it. I'll describe what the implications of all this windy carrying-on might actually mean to the most important people in our business  - those who create the ads.

October 20, 2014

The Duality Of Consumer Behavior

Today we begin a 3-part series that will attempt to develop a "theory of everything" for advertising. Okay, maybe not a "theory of everything", but...a theory, anyway. Or maybe it will be just another load of bullshit. Who the hell knows? After 7 1/2 years of writing this blog, I think I've finally figured out what the hell I'm trying to say. It's going to get a little heavy on hypotheses and philosophy, so buckle-up and hang on tight.

As we sit here today, we have two competing models of consumer behavior.

The first model suggests that consumer behavior is basically logical. This theory asserts that people behave rationally and do not throw their money away on stupid crap. There is a lot of persuasive evidence for this model. A good example is in retailing. Retailers know that they can stimulate sales by lowering prices, offering discounts, and utilizing other types of promotional activities. This is clear evidence for a rational basis to consumer behavior.

The second model asserts that consumer behavior is essentially irrational. This theory, brilliantly demonstrated by Daniel Kahneman, holds that people are not really aware of their motivations and are ruled by emotions. The evidence for this model is equally persuasive. In this space, I have previously related the story of the Toyota Corolla that was the exact same vehicle as the Chevy Geo Prism, cost $1,500 more, and outsold it 3 to 1.

So we are faced with a problem. We have contradictory models of consumer behavior that both seem to be valid. Either there is another model which we cannot see underlying them both, or we need a more comprehensive explanation that unifies the two.

In quantum physics an elementary particle can be understood as either a particle or a wave. I am going to suggest that in marketing consumer behavior also has a dual character.

Also in quantum physics there are no certainties -- just probabilities and likelihoods. I am going to suggest that in marketing, advertising, and media our strategies have no inevitability about them. Just probabilities and likelihoods.

On the nature of light, Einstein said:
"We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do".
Another type of duality is described in the uncertainty principle which posits that you can know a particle's position or its velocity, but you can't simultaneously know both.

I believe this type of duality and uncertainty is true in advertising and marketing as well.
  • Under certain circumstances, a brand can be described as having a powerful effect on a consumer. And in certain circumstances it may have little to no effect.
  • The same person may buy a brand whose advertising she likes, as well as a brand whose advertising annoys her.
  • The same person may buy products that are clearly differentiated, and products that are generic.
  • The same person may buy products that are exceptionally good values, and some that are hideously overpriced.
This is not unusual. This duality is typical of consumer behavior.

In other words, there is an inherent contradictory duality that confounds us and mocks our most cherished beliefs about consumer behavior.

I'm going to invent an obnoxious term here, but it's necessary to communicate what I'm trying to say. The term is "behavior-plasticity."
  • A customer may behave as if she is strongly attached to a brand, but she can also be easily detached from it. It seems contradictory, but my experience tells me it's true.
  • A customer who seems to be perfectly targeted by a media type, may turn out to be completely immune to it.
  • In the same product category, an emotional message or a logical message may be equally effective, or equally ineffective.
The point is that because of the duality of consumer behavior, people who think they can describe it as either this or that are wrong.

"Behavior-plasticity" -- or the duality of consumer behavior -- is the most mysterious and confusing element of marketing. It is the one factor that marketing people continuously misunderstand in their struggle to describe and predict consumer behavior.

Believing in the orthodoxy of one marketing philosophy, one media philosophy, or one creative philosophy is a trap that disguises the mysterious and fascinating real-world behavior of consumers.

Human beings are both particles and waves. Their behavior can be described in ways that are contradictory, but equally true.

I know what you're thinking...
" ...Okay, Mr. Big Shot, so now you have me all fucking confused with all this uncertainty crapola. So what the hell are we supposed to do?"  Well, stay tuned for our next two exciting episodes and all will be revealed.

Big thanks to Maria Winston for the germ of this idea. 

October 15, 2014

Amazing Tale Of Online Ad Fraud

There ain't much fun left in the ol' ad business. Thank goodness we can still get a good laugh out of watching advertising dimwits get royally sodomized by the crooks in the online ad industry.

If you're as entertained as I am by the astounding dumbness of online advertisers, and amused by watching them piss away billions of dollars, you're going to love this story.

MediaPost ran a piece yesterday in which a video appeared that claimed that just one reasonably sized bot-net could be responsible for one billion fraudulent ad impressions every day.

This is just too good to be true.

It must also be said that the video was produced by a company that sells ad fraud protection, so they are not a disinterested party.

But if this is even close to true, it is beyond mind-boggling.

I am reluctant to post the video because it is clearly a commercial for the company in question. But it gives us such a lovely picture of how clueless online advertisers are being screwed that, on balance, I'm going to post it.

Online ad fraud is completely out of control and, incredibly, no one is taking it seriously.

I can see why ad agencies and online producers and ad networks aren't taking it seriously -- they're cleaning up. But how fucking dumb can the idiot clients who are flushing billions of dollars down the digitoilet be? I guess the answer is astoundingly fucking dumb.

Earlier this week, in a piece about digital ad fraud Rance Crain, president and editor-in-chief of Ad Age (who wisely referenced yours truly) had this to say...
"...marketers are in the most denial...despite the overwhelming evidence that there is massive fraud in the digital marketplace....It's gotten so out of control that ad trade associations are stepping in to save marketers from themselves."
Of course, no one wants to kill the golden goose. Everyone's making too much money. As Crain says...
"But why change? Fraud pumps up publishers' traffic, exchanges get paid a percentage for trading it -- the more clicks the better -- and agencies can bring those great results to clients."
This will never change as long as brain-dead advertisers keep feeding the fraud machine.

The really fabulous thing about all this is that advertisers are not just getting passively penetrated, they are insisting that agencies give it to them deeper and harder. They can't get enough of this stuff. "Thank you, sir, may I have another?"

As I wrote here over a year ago...
Not only are marketers ignoring the awful truth about the ineffectiveness of online advertising, they are turning a blind eye to the fact that they are being skinned alive by crooks and their willfully corrupt accomplices in the ad world...Fortunately for the thieves, charlatans, and hustlers, nobody seems to give a shit.
It is a truly amazing story.

Thanks to Dave Kissel for the link.

October 13, 2014

The First Rule Of Social Media

Like most companies, you are probably spending time, energy, and money trying to become a social media success.

You have been told that it is an inexpensive route to business prosperity and that if you can get it right, you can build waves of loyal customers and years of smooth sailing through the roiling waters of marketing and advertising.

You've read about the millions of followers this brand or that person has and you think that if you can create some "compelling content" you, too, will be a social media winner.

I'm afraid I have bad news.

It doesn't matter how "compelling" or "engaging" your "content" is, for the most part it's likely that nobody gives a shit about you.

The first rule of social media is this:

People on line are interested in the same things they are interested in off line.

They are interested in celebrities, sports, movies, pop music, television, their hobbies, and their friends. It is highly likely that they are not interested in you.

They are not interested in frozen chicken strips or dishwashing liquid or floor wax or pencils or salt. They are not interested in toasters or light bulbs or umbrellas or mayonnaise or paper clips or toothpaste or soap. In fact, they have very little interest in most of the stuff they buy every week.

Consequently, if you are in the 97% of product categories (made-up number alert) that are not interesting off line, you will have a strong tendency to remain not interesting on line. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is.

The thing you need to keep in mind is that every company, organization, dry cleaner, cub scout pack, sorority house, interest group, charity, alumni association, and poker game now has a social media presence. There are a billion of 'em.

If you are not in movies, sports, TV, and music, or if you are not a "prom queen" brand (Apple, Nike, Coke or one of the other brands that have spent billions of dollars establishing themselves with traditional advertising) the probability of your social media program being powerfully effective is quite low.

This is why social media continues to struggle as a sales builder.

Yes, it is true that some unsexy companies sometimes break through on social media. And it's also true that some people win the lottery.

But buying a lottery ticket is a very dubious business strategy.

October 09, 2014

They Promised Me A Centerfold

Here's a little piece from an article in the AARP Bulletin this month entitled  "Selling Us Short"

October 08, 2014

Online Video vs TV: Some Facts

Despite all the bullshit you hear about TV dying and online video taking over, in the first quarter of this year Nielsen reported that 96% of video viewing was done on a TV and 4% was done on line.

But another interesting question is, to what extent is the impressive growth of online video ad sales hurting TV ad sales?

According to a very interesting piece in Media Life recently, the answer is, not much at all.

The piece in question is an interview with a guy named Brian Wieser who is senior research analyst at Pivotal Research Group. Wieser makes the following points:
  • Most advertising dollars for online video are coming out of other online ad budgets, not TV ad budgets.
  • Much of the advertising dollars spent on online video ads are going to the same companies as TV advertising -- the big companies who produce the programming whether viewed on line or on TV.
  • "Video is the new premium display as it is viewed as a more favorable form of advertising vs. banner ads." Which is exactly what we predicted here at the beginning of the year.
  • One of the astounding facts about online video that I had never seen before: 17% of the population is responsible for 96% of all online video viewing.
Even online advertising evangelists are now starting to admit that, despite its dramatic dollar growth, banner advertising has been a huge disappointment.

My guess is that the potential sales volume for online video ads will have a lot to do with Facebook, and eventually Google. If Facebook and Google users will accept video ads, there will be a landslide. But if video ads become a big annoyance, and users start opting out, there will be blood.

Meanwhile, marketers will continue to dump money into online video ads regardless of the fraud, scams, and lack of reliable data. What's the alternative? Banners?

Big thanks to Steve Goldstein for turning me on to the article.

October 06, 2014

Content: Hiding Behind The C-Word

Here at the Ketel One Conference Center on the campus of The Ad Contrarian Worldwide Headquarters, we're not through ranting about "content." No sir.

There are certain words that make our skin crawl and our brains explode. And "content" is one of them.

"Content" is a meaningless term -- a media contrivance -- invented by bullshit artists to add gravitas and mystery to mundane marketing activities.

It is a phony "discipline" which clever people are monetizing.

It is mostly just the same old web stuff, re-branded.

"Content" is a word that helps web promoters hide what they are doing. They do not say they are creating a newsletter, or a recipe, or an e-mail, or an essay, or a web site, or a game -- they say they are creating "content." It's so much more enchanting (and saleable.)

Posting an online recipe may be useful to a food marketer, but calling it "content" is just pretentious drivel. It's a fucking recipe, okay?

The idea that "content" as a concept is an important marketing discipline is absurd.

An old pizza crust is garbage. But an uploaded picture of an old pizza crust is "content."

By invoking the c-word they are doing what marketing people do best -- avoiding the specific and hiding behind jargon.

According to the most recent data I could find,  Google says that as of July of last year, there were 38 trillion pages on the web. Every page is "content."

And each page may have several individual items of content. For example, on your Facebook page every update is new content. So is every little ad. So is every comment and every photo.

How much total "content" is there on the web? Who the hell knows? But for the sake of simplicity, let's just stick with Google's 38 trillion number.

Now let's go to the blackboard.

If a person were to do nothing her entire life -- no eating, no sleeping, no getting high -- but surf the web for "content" in 1 minute increments, it will take her, on average, 72 million years to get around to your page of "content."

If your content is below average...gosh, it could take a long time.

October 02, 2014

Why You Need A Strategy

In the 1950's, the western powers devised a strategy to deal with the threat they perceived from the communist world. The strategy was called "containment."

In dumb-ass blogger terms, containment was essentially this: we'll let the communist block exist but we won't let it grow through military means.

This strategy informed the decisions western powers made and gave them a basis for deciding what to do and what not to do.

The strategy had its tactical successes (Cuban Missile Crisis) and its tactical failures (Vietnam War), but in the end it succeeded in accomplishing its two primary goals: avoiding nuclear war, and staunching the spread of communism.

Today the western powers also perceive a threat. The threat is from jihadist extremists. The difference today is that the west has no strategy. Every challenge is dealt with ad hoc. There is no unifying principle that gives rise to a strategy. The result is that just 8 weeks ago we were contemplating arming the Syrian rebels, and today we are bombing them.

Because we have no strategy, we are not clear on what our objectives are or what we are trying to do; we have not defined who our friends are and who our enemies are, and the result is a confused policy with too many failures and no definition of success.

Don't worry, this post is not about politics. It's about marketing.

An analogy can be drawn to most marketing. One of the disheartening effects of the proliferation of media options has been the ascent of tactics and the decline of strategy.

Far too many brands are buying into the nonsense of "360° marketing" which is code for trying to be everywhere. 360˚ marketing is not a strategy. It is absence of a strategy. As David Ogilvy said, "The essence of strategy is sacrifice."

There are two inevitable consequences of this folly.

First, nobody has enough money to be everywhere. The result of trying to be everywhere is that you spread yourself so thin that you are not very effective anywhere.

Second is that the tactical drives out the strategic. Each media type is assigned its own objective. And as each media type is optimized for that objective, it gets a little farther from what's going on in every other medium. Like our stellar universe, the brand universe keeps expanding. Each initiative moves farther away from every other one.

There is only one way to avoid this. Have a simple strategy, be clear on what it is, and make sure everything you are doing conforms to this strategy.

And remember, it is better to do three things well than thirty things half-assed.

October 01, 2014

The Anecdote Epidemic

I noticed it my first week in the ad business -- the naive belief in anecdotes.

As a junior copywriter I was amazed that account directors and creative directors could get away with it. They would stand before clients and tell the story of this company or that agency that did this or that and had remarkable results. And then they would inflate the anecdote into a rationale for what they were selling.

And the client would sit there and buy it.

It astounded me.

As time went on it only got worse. Specious claims about account planning or copy testing or whatever went unchallenged.

Then anecdotes went national. I would go to conferences and listen to experts tell how this thing or that medium (the one they were pitching) created a huge success. And the audience would accept it as if it were the rule.

There was no demand for what the normal results were.

And now, with the advent of the web, anecdotes have gone global. The most extreme case of anything is accepted as typical. So Zappos -- the most radical case of social media success -- became the case history that proved the standard power of social media.

We are in an endless echosystem of success stories about web marketing -- first it was podcasts, blogs and banners, then widgets and QR codes, now it's social media and content. And the thing that all these success stories have in common is that they are free of industry norms.

I have seen evidence that search and email -- as categories -- are effective online marketing activities.

But I have yet to see one disinterested study that shows me anything convincing about the standard effectiveness of podcasts, blogs, banners, QR codes, social, content, etc. If you know of any, please send them my way.

You would think that with the amount of money being spent on line, marketers would demand more than just anecdotes and outlier case histories. But it's hard to exaggerate the lemming-ocracy in marketing today.