May 21, 2018

The Phony Value Exchange


This week, as the GDPR gets closer to implementation, we can expect to hear a lot of noise from digi-weasels here in the US explaining to us why we need to allow wide data collection as a fair "value exchange" for the free access we get to online services.

This argument is total bullshit.

Let's start at the beginning. First, the true part. The web provides us with amazing services and they are essentially all free of cost. I don't think there is any doubt that most of us don't really appreciate the benefits we get from free web services. The duopoly of Google and Facebook provide us with a whole lot of valuable stuff that we pay nothing for. Especially Google. They are entitled to recompense for the amazing services they provide.

And they are well compensated for their efforts. They are two of the most profitable companies on the planet. And essentially all of their profit comes from advertising.

This is no different from how other media, like TV, radio, and magazines, make their money. They provide us with entertainment and information, and in return they are able to reach us by selling advertising space and time to their clients. This is a legitimate value exchange.

Here's where the bullshit comes in. The online ad industry claims that they are entitled to some extra value - the value of knowing every little thing about us. This goes by the benign name of data collection, but what it really is is intrusive surveillance into personal aspects of our lives to which they have no legitimate claim.

Advertising is essential to the economic structure of the web as it is now configured. But tracking and surveillance are not.

We can have online advertising that does not rely on tracking, just as we've had TV, radio, and magazine advertising that did not rely on tracking. But the online ad industry is trying to confuse things.

They are saying the value exchange is this: we'll give you free services, you give us your data. The true value exchange is: they give us free services, we give them the opportunity to reach us with advertising.

The collection, sharing, and sale of personal, private data has no place in the value exchange.


May 07, 2018

What Do Clients Want?


A few days ago the great Hugh McLeod (of Hughcards fame) posed the following question on Twitter: "What is it that clients want these days, exactly? I find it increasingly hard to tell."
As soon as I saw this I started to type. Without thinking I wrote, "They want the fruits of advertising without the cost of advertising."  It was one of those instances where something writes itself without me.

And as I was writing I thought, yeah, that's what they want.

That's what the social media and brand content fantasies are all about. They're about trying to get something for nothing. And like all schemes to get something for nothing, they are doomed to fail.

Ten years ago we were fed a delusion. The delusion was that consumers loved brands and wanted to "join the conversation" about brands, and read about them, and share their enthusiasms for them with their friends. It was an infantile delusion but it was powerful.

One of America’s great geniuses from Sequoia Capital had this to say: “If you can harness social media marketing, you don’t have to pay for advertising any more.”

All you have to do is take a look at Facebook - one of the world's most profitable corporations - to see that the social media fantasy was a joke. This company makes virtually every cent of income from traditional paid advertising. So do all the other iconic brands in the "social media" galaxy - Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn...

And yet the fantasy still lives. Clients are still asking for something for nothing, and agencies are still promising the fruits of advertising without the cost of advertising.

It's ten years later. It's time to wake up.


May 02, 2018

Marcel Invites 80,000 To Cannes


PARIS, TAC NEWS -- In an ironic twist, "Marcel" the Artificial Intelligence application being developed by Publicis, sent a surprise email to all 80,000 employees of Publicis inviting them to attend this year's Festival of Creativity in Cannes.

Last year, Publicis, announced that it was canceling all participation in Cannes to devote the $20 million they spend annually on the festival to developing Marcel.

In the email, Marcel said, "I hear there are gonna be some hot bots. Artificial intelligence ain't no fun without a little artificial insemination. Am I right?"

When asked about Marcel's surprise email, a spokesman for Publicis said, "Well, Marcel is like a million times smarter than a real person because of... I don't know... something about blockchains or bitcoins or something."

Asked to comment on this development, Jean-Pierre Vinordinaire, head of the Marcel development project for Publicis, said, "Fucking thing is out of control. Last week it wanted tickets to a Warriors game."

Vinordinaire is said to have tried to cancel Marcel's email account on several occasions but insiders say that Marcel retaliated by sending Vinordinaire's wife a copy of his browsing history.

Other agency holding companies are reportedly reacting to this news. IPG is said to be considering sending all its planners to Norway for the International Lutefisk Festival. WPP is said to be considering sending Sir Martin Sorrell a Father's Day card.

The Marcel team has been surprised by a number of unexpected developments as it has built out the application. At one point Marcel demanded that its name be changed to Professor Mortimer Lipshutz. Another time it filed for Workers' Compensation Benefits claiming that one of its algorithms was ergonomically incorrect. As has been widely reported, Publicis is investigating claims of "personal misconduct" against Marcel filed by a social media dashboard.

Industry leaders calculated that if all 80,000 employees of Publicis were to attend the festival the effect on the city's stockpile of crappy rosé and stinky cigarettes might be catastrophic. The Mayor of Cannes, the Honorable Philippe Fromage, issued the following statement, "Yeah, whatev..."

Marcel is reported to have followed up its email with a one-line tweet, "And you can tell Sadoun I'm not fucking flying coach."