September 30, 2015

Volkswagen Will Be Saved By Its Advertising

There is an article in Adweek this week entitled, "How Volkswagen Just Squandered 55 Years of Great Advertising."

The truth is exactly the opposite.

If VW is to extricate itself from the mess it has gotten into, perhaps the biggest asset it has is its tradition of superior advertising.

If this disgraceful atrocity had been perpetrated by Mazda or Fiat or Buick they'd be toast.

But it's different with Volkswagen. We like Volkswagen. We like it because, over time, their advertising has made us like it.

Now let's be a little careful here. They have not had 55 years of great advertising. Nobody does great advertising for 55 years. They've had their share of dogs (anyone remember Fahrvergnugen?) But they've had a lot more great advertising than the other car makers.

If they recover (and they will) the essential element to their recovery will be the reservoir of positive sentiment their advertising has created among consumers.

As I have said before in this space,
"Advertising serves two functions. The first function is the one that every marketer focuses on -- sales. But the second one is at least as important. Advertising is business insurance." 
One of the great blind spots that hardline advocates of online advertising (particularly display and search) have is their shallow belief in advertising as simply a sales or transactional undertaking.

In fact, the insurance value that excellent advertising builds over time is every bit as important.

Over the next 18 months, Volkswagen is about to learn that the billions of dollars they paid for business insurance over the past half century was worth every cent.


September 24, 2015

Not Really A Blog Post

So I'm traveling and speaking for the next few days and I won't be posting until next week some time.

Today I'm in Winnipeg, Canada speaking to the Broadcasters Association of Manitoba and doing a interview with the CBC.

Tomorrow I'll be meeting with a group of Canadian advertising and marketing students. Poor bastards.

Then it's on to NYC for Advertising Week XII. You can tell it's a festival of bullshit by the Roman numerals. I'm speaking on Monday at 10:30 am at the AOL Stage, 11 Times Square. The title of the talk will be "Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey." I'm gonna need some muscle to protect me from deranged digital maniacs so get your ass over there.

And as long as I'm pimping, it wouldn't kill you to buy my book either.

September 23, 2015

Who's Going To Be Our Edward Snowden?

Somewhere this morning, working in advertising technology, there is someone who knows a lot about the real-world shenanigans that are going on in ad tech-land.

S/He can explain to us in simple terms the many ways advertisers are getting screwed, publishers are turning a blind eye to fraudulent traffic and click numbers, and consumers are being followed, tracked and cheated.

We need someone who understands the arcane technology and practicses of ad tech and can write this story in a way that will wake up the advertising and marketing industries to the corruption and fraud they've been subject to.

No one has yet to do it in a way that clearly, unambiguously and dramatically lays it all out.

Regardless of what you think of him, our industry needs an Edward Snowden.

September 21, 2015

The Online Ad Industry Wanted Interactivity? They Got It.

About 2 1/2 years ago in this space I wrote the following about online advertising:
"As far as I'm concerned, it's a house of cards."
Then a few months later I wrote...
"I never make predictions. But online advertising is a train wreck waiting to happen."
Sadly, it's starting to look as if I may have stumbled on the truth.

Through a combination of greed, stupidity, and arrogance the online advertising industry is facing the greatest crisis of its young life.

First, let's be clear about something -- the hysteria now swirling around ad blocking is probably out of proportion to the reality of the problem. Advertisers have been witlessly ignoring the fraud, ineffectiveness, and corruption of online advertising for years. It's not likely that they will all simultaneously stop being stupid.

But there's also very little question that there is a major problem. The use of ad blocking software is growing at alarming rates and this can easily turn into a disaster for a lot of publishers whose revenue model is built on advertising (which is almost everyone.)

The industry should have known. There were many people who warned that its practices were dishonorable, unprincipled, and nefarious. We were dismissed as "Luddite dinosaurs" who "just didn't get it" by arrogant ignoramuses. Now we'll see who "didn't get it."

Despite my disdain for the digital ad industry, I take no pleasure in this crisis. A lot of hard-working, well-meaning people are likely to be hurt by the venal, greedy behavior of an industry out of control.

There were three potential paths for online advertising:

1. The industry could have policed itself. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (Inactive Advertising Bureau) or the 4A's or the ANA could have set reasonable standards of behavior. They did nothing.

2. Governments could have stepped in and set standards. They, wisely, have kept their noses out of this mess. Nobody with a functioning brain wants to get in the middle of this shit fight.

3. Consequently, consumers are in full revolt. The online ad industry wanted interactivity? They got it.

Next Monday, 9/28, I will be speaking at Advertising Week, NY. The talk will be at 10:30 am at the AOL Stage, 11 Times Square. The title of the talk will be "Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey." Please come out and protect me when digital maniacs storm the stage and try to strangle me. More info here

Later this week (Thursday 9/24) I will be speaking in Winnipeg, Canada to the Broadcasters Association of Manitoba. More info here

Then on Friday I will be speaking to advertising and marketing students in Winnipeg.

September 16, 2015

Let The Back-Pedaling Begin

In about 10 days I'll be speaking at Advertising Week in New York.

I can't wait.

Not because of anything I'll be doing. What I can't wait for is to hear the epic bullshit that will be emanating from the online advertising community.

With the alarming growth of ad blocking, with the revelations about fraud and corruption, and the scandalous disclosures of agency kickbacks over the past year, I expect Advertising Week to be a truly monumental festival of back-pedaling, excuse-making, and history re-writing by the arrogant aristocrats of online advertising.

All the digital bullshit artists who sold us a shady, sleazy bill of goods...

...who pompously lectured us on how consumers are turned off by traditional advertising and want the irresistible charm of precision targeted messages...

...who berated us about our outdated practices and pontificated about their superior "real time" marketing...

....who told us that their data driven advertising would be so much more engaging and effective...

are now going to have to explain to us why consumers are fleeing online advertising faster than Donald Trump at a Mexican road rally.

It's going to be great to watch them claim that they didn't really say this...and they didn't really mean that...

They'll be blaming the victims, "marketers need to understand..." and torturing the logic, "it doesn't mean that online advertising isn't..."

It's going to be fun to talk.  But it's going to be a lot more fun to listen.

September 14, 2015

We Can't Let Go Of The Delusion

The advertising and marketing industries are so caught up in their underwear, and so deeply possessed by delusion, that it is time for everyone to sit down, take a deep breath, and re-think what they're doing.

About twenty years ago we started to become exposed to a new and thrilling vision of advertising. The vision went something like this:

Technology is on the brink of allowing us to deliver programming to people on a customized basis. Soon they will be able to watch any tv program, listen to any song, view any movie, at will and on demand.

This presents us advertisers with an equally thrilling opportunity. We, too, can can deliver any message about any product or service individualized to the customer's need by following the trail of their entertainment and social behavior.

By analyzing consumer media behavior, we can be remarkably precise in our ability to send them the right message, at the right time, in the right place.

This was the promise of ad tech. There was only one problem. We were wrong.

While people love the ability to customize their entertainment and social behavior, they hate the customization and "precision targeting" of ad tech.

Online ad blocking is surging. In the U.S. it grew 50% last year. Worldwide it grew 70%

Marketers -- while knowing this intellectually -- still haven't accepted it emotionally. They are still in denial.

They have so much invested in the ad tech hypothesis that they can't let go of it no matter how much evidence there is that it is wrong.

September 10, 2015

It's Big. It's Dumb. It Must Be Branding.

Did you ever wonder what would happen if you took a creative team that had no idea and gave them all the money in the world?

Now you know:

September 08, 2015

Ad Blocking Far Exceeds Ad Skipping

It was about 9 years ago. I was sitting in a client board meeting.

The client was one of the biggest advertisers on the planet. The subject was the death of tv advertising. We had been reading all about the growth of DVRs, and how ad skipping by consumers was going to decimate tv advertising.

Consumers are going to record all programs, watch at their leisure, and zip right through the ads, we were told.

IBM had just issued a report called "The End Of Television As We Know It." 

The hysteria was palpable. What are we going to do?

I just sat there and rolled my eyes.

Sometimes success in the advertising business is about sitting quietly and letting clients proceed with their hysterical delusions.

But there's hope, we were told. Interactive advertising! Online advertising is going to allow us to gather a treasure trove of data about consumers. We will be able to use analytics to reach them individually. So we can tailor our messages to their individual needs, interests, and behaviors. They will actually welcome our messages!

Repeat eye roll.

Cut to today. According to Nielsen, in Q1 2015, DVR viewing represented about 10% of tv usage, and the incidence if ad skipping among DVR users is about 50%. So about 5% of tv ads are being skipped.

Meanwhile, in the magical land of "interactive" advertising, ad blocker usage is already approaching 20% in the U.S. and is up around 40% in the U.K.

In other words, the blocking of online ads is many times greater than the skipping of tv ads.

And online ad blockers aren't even mainstream yet.

As usual, the experts got it totally backwards. Consumer behavior is telling us that they are finding the oppressive and intrusive nature of online advertising far more obnoxious than tv advertising.

Where's the hysteria this time? Where are all the "online advertising is dead" stories?

The online ad industry is a cesspool of surveillance, corruption, and fraud.

Instead of working to clean up the corrupt, oppressive nature of their business, the astoundingly clueless Interactive Advertising Bureau (Inactive Advertising Bureau) is thinking about suing ad blocker developers. Yeah, that's it. Punish consumers for your ineptitude.

Adobe estimates that ad blockers are costing publishers over $20 billion annually. And Apple is reportedly about to allow ad blocking software on its new iOS9 mobile operating system.

It's wake-up time, fellas.

Reminder: Every weekday I dip in to The Ad Contrarian archives and publish a piece from the past. You can find it here on my Type A Group website.

September 03, 2015

Be Sure To Read This Right Now

As compensation for the many hours of gloom, defeatism, skepticism, negativity, and disenchantment which I joyfully bring your way, once in a while I allow myself the indulgence of shameless self-promotion.

Today is one of those days.

Let's start with my newest book, "Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey."  If you have not yet bought and read it (on second thought, I really don't care if you read it, just as long as you buy it) you are a cheap-ass free-loader. The damn thing only costs 99¢ in ebook format and $2.99 for a real fucking book.

If you think it's just another crappy ad book with some old MadMan's reminiscences about the time he screwed Tony The Tiger's sister, I'll have you know that the amazingly brilliant and gorgeous people at Time, Inc UK wrote this about it:
"Many of you already read the fantastic Bob ‘The Ad Contrarian’ Hoffman’s blog so you will know about his fabulously irreverent style, his cynicism around what he calls the ‘new media evangelists’ and the clever way he sees beyond the ‘facts’ of research to find the real story...a brutally honest look at the industry today and how jargon, marketing ‘doublespeak’ and the out of control world of ‘branding’ have made us all incapable of seeing through the smoke and mirrors that now dominate our worlds. WARNING: This book will make you laugh out loud if reading in public."
See? It's actually a pretty good book. Read all the reviews here and then buy it.

Next, I want you to go over to my business website (Type A Group) and check out what we've been doing. I particularly want you to think about the last boring-as-shit conference you went to and how it could have been so much more interesting if there was a speaker with some balls. That, by the way, is a reference to my own bad self.

I'm pretty booked up for the rest of 2015, but spring will be here soon and another round of duller-than-dogwater conferences will arrive before you know it. Now is the time to book.

Have a nice Labor Day weekend, and I'll see you back here on Tuesday. And by the way, if you're in NYC come listen to me speak here next Thursday.

Okay, you're free to move about the internet.

September 02, 2015

Nothing Is More Effective Than A Display Ad

A couple of years ago I blogged about an experiment...
"...(an astrophysicist from an online analytics firm, a measurement expert from the Advertising Research Foundation, and an ad-platform wizard from a buying and optimization company) decided to do an experiment. The experiment was designed to discover how much clicking of banner advertising was actual engagement with the ad, and how much was just noise -- people clicking for no reason.
The experiment found that a completely blank display ad -- an empty piece of space with no copy and no images -- outperformed the average Facebook ad.

Now we have something even better.

According to Adweek, a totally blank video -- 4 minutes of nothing -- produced by an agency and uploaded to YouTube generated over 100,000 views.

The average idiot viewer watched this nothing for over 2 minutes.

And almost 1% of the people who watched it clicked through to the agency's website. This is a click-through rate about 10 times that of the average display ad.

Nothing is more effective than a display ad. Literally.