August 26, 2014

The Day The Conversation Died

I'm sorry to be the one who brings you the bad news, but I'm afraid I have to.

Social media -- the thing that killed everything -- is now itself officially dead.

That's right, according to a piece written by someone who modestly calls himself “The Millennial Marketing Guy” Social Media Marketing is Dead.

It died peacefully at home, after a long battle with nitwits. It is survived by its twin brother, Content.

As regular readers know, we here at The Ad Contrarian have spent a good deal of time on death watch -- helping you understand how Social Media killed everything that came before it: advertising, broadcasting, marketing, copywriting, television, and more.

And just when we thought the period of grieving was over, it is with a heavy heart that we have to report that Content has killed the thing that killed everything else.

By the way, if you are committed to non-violence I strongly suggest you don't read the article in question. It is likely to have the same effect on you that it had on me. I am currently in restraints in the back of a patrol car.

I'll give you just a little taste of the wisdom from this enlightening lump of literature. Here we go...
"What drives social media activation for Millennials; however, is content excellence."
What drives people to put semi-colons in the middle of sentences; however, is illiteracy.
"We are currently living in a 'Millennial-inspired Participation Economy' "
Not me. I'm living in a Vodka-inspired stupor.
"Which is most powerful: a like, share, retweet, favorite?" 
Gosh, they're all so powerful it's like asking who's stronger Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk or Captain America. Let's get real -- they ALL have super powers!
"Think of content as an opportunity for your brand voice living everywhere you are not."
Cool. I'm thinking of my brand voice living in Vegas in one of those townhouses where all the super-hot strippers live. Either there or in Tyler's mom's basement where the "Millennial-inspired Participation Economy" is headquartered.
"Uniqueness will be a proxy for brand pricing authority and meaningfulness will be a proxy for sales volume potential."
And typing will be a proxy for writing, and insufferable bullshit will be a proxy for thinking.

August 25, 2014

It's That Awful Time Again

As regular readers know, every 90 days or so you have to pay the price for all this fine crankiness by sitting through some obnoxious self-promotion. Here at The Ketel One Conference Center overlooking the beautiful Ad Contrarian Worldwide Campus, we think it's a small price to pay.

Here's some news:
  • I have completed an almost-final draft of my next book. It's called "Advertising Needs Troublemakers" and it should be available by mid-to-late October at Amazon. Save your nickels. 
    By the way, "101 Contrarian Ideas..." is still Amazon's #1 selling ad book after a year and a half (not that I'm the kind of person who would brag about such things...) If you haven't read it, and you are not happy or successful or sexually fulfilled, don't blame me.
  • Since I gave a talk in London (video here) earlier this year at Advertising Week Europe, I'm suddenly totally popular and getting lots of hot dates. I think my hair is even growing back.
    I'm represented by Keynote Speakers and I have a page here about speaking. For info on having me speak at an event, conference, meeting, or long liquid lunch, please click here or contact Keynote at  
  • Type A Group (my consulting company) works with agencies, clients, and media. If your team is confused, struggling with strategy, needs clarified thinking, or is talking in tongues, we can probably help quickly and reasonably. We have dates available in October and January. For more info, click here right now. By the way, if you're not the boss and your company needs help, feel free to slide this under the boss's door. Yes, that's right, the whole damn computer.
  • Is it possible that we Ad Contras have been right all these years? Avinash Kaushik, self-described "Digital Marketing Evangelist" and all-around smart guy, wrote a post last week about the power of traditional advertising (specifically TV.) I suggest you read it -- particularly if you are an online ad person. It's reassuring to know that there are still some people for whom facts are more important than ideology. 

August 21, 2014

The Problem Of Truthfulness

After spending 40 years in the agency business, I have spent the past 16 months away from it.

It has given me the opportunity to think about it differently -- not as someone preoccupied with meetings, deadlines, and crises, but as someone with the benefit of a little disinterested perspective.

One of the issues I have been thinking about is truthfulness. We are often accused of not being truthful with consumers. This may or may not be true, but it's not the subject of today's sermon.

Today's sermon is about the "to thine own self be true" kind of truthfulness. It is about the lies we tell ourselves. These lies don't come from a desire to deceive, they come from a desire to be right.

One of the honorable aspects of our work should be the impartial way we go about learning what is effective for our clients.

We should have creditable answers when our clients ask questions about the effectiveness of this technique or that tactic.

Mostly we don't. We have cute anecdotes and semi-relevant case histories and the assertions and opinions of "experts." We spend way more time justifying our beliefs than trying to learn basic truths about what we do.

Many of us have become specialists and don't have access to the larger picture. Consequently, we have become advocates for our particular specialty without really knowing how effective it is.

We are interested in reading about and hearing about the cases that support our point of view. We skim over the ones that belie our thinking. I think sociologists call this confirmation bias.

The truthfulness I'm concerned about is the truthfulness of the conversations we have with ourselves.

Bad scientists start an experiment with a result in mind. When they get results that don't match their expectations they either ignore them, call them anomalies, or find a way to discard them as irrelevant.

Good scientists learn more from what they didn't expect than from what they did.

Of course, this requires a different frame of mind from what most of us carry around. There are some very large unanswered questions about the comparative effectiveness of the ocean of new advertising possibilities.

What we should be doing is trying to find the truth. What we are actually doing is trying to confirm our beliefs.