January 23, 2017

The Crazy Logic Of Media Strategy

The more I speak to groups and conferences, the more I am convinced that either marketers are blinded by thoughtless habits or that I have no logical thought process.

In particular I am talking about how marketers ignore people over 50.

I have stated the facts here before, but just for the record, let me repeat them before I get to my argument:

Americans over 50...
  • are responsible for over half of all consumer spending
  • dominate 94% of consumer packaged goods categories
  • outspend other adults online 2:1 on a per-capita basis
  • buy about 50% of all new cars
  • control about 70% of the wealth in the U.S.
  • would be the 3rd largest economy in the world, if they were a country (larger than Japan, Germany and India)
  • will grow at almost 3 times the rate of adults under 50 between now and 2030
  • are the target for 10% of marketing activity
According to the chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association, one baby boomer is economically worth four millennials.

When I review these facts and ask advertising and marketing people why they direct so little media at these people I invariably get some version of this answer, "We want to be a youthful brand."

Let's have a look at the logic of this.

First let's look at the logic as it relates to creative strategy. The marketing cliché is that older people want to be like young people. The argument goes that by using younger people in commercials we are creating "aspirational" imagery which will be attractive to people over 50.

I don't agree with this point of view, but I'm not going to argue with it today. For the sake of argument, let's stipulate that 50-year-olds want to be like 20-year-olds. And let's stipulate that you will sell more cars to 50-year-olds by showing them images of 20-year-olds in car commercials.


But why in the fucking world would you direct those commercials at 20 year olds? If your objective is to sell more cars, and people over 50 are 4 times as valuable to you, why in the world would your media target be millennials?

You want to use young people in your commercials? Fine, use young people. But direct the spots at the people who actually buy the fucking cars.

Is this difficult to understand? Am I crazy?

January 19, 2017

Marketers And Magicians

There was a time about a century ago when magicians were very popular.

Harry Houdini was a rock star. Houdini did tricks that were, and still are, astounding. One hundred years later the world's leading magicians still can't figure out how he did many of his tricks.

At the time, and since then, there have been two schools of magic. One school - often part of the séance and spirituality crowd - claimed they had supernatural powers and were able to do their magic because of their occult abilities.

The other group said, horseshit. It's just tricks. Houdini was one of these. They have become known as the "skeptical movement " (or if you're not a Yank, the sceptical movement) and apply their principle of skepticism to many areas of life, not just magic.

You could include scientists like Richard Dawkins and Bill Nye as well as more contemporary magicians like the Amazing Randi and Penn & Teller among the skeptical movement.

Steven Novella of the Yale School of Medicine says, "A skeptic is one who prefers beliefs and conclusions that are reliable and valid to ones that are comforting or convenient..."

In the world of advertising and marketing there are a great many assertions that are made without proper scientific foundation. Curiously, many of these are made by the very people -- the technology fraternity -- who consider themselves empiricists but are often just true believers in a philosophy that seems scientific because it is technological. But is unproven by actual observation.

A perfect example of this is the blind belief in social media marketing by technophiles because it happens to live online, despite an avalanche of dismal results (88% of senior marketing execs say they have seen no quantifiable results from social media.)

I am often accused of hating online advertising for ideological reasons. While it's true that I largely hate online advertising, it's not based on ideology. It's based on the same skepticism I try to apply to anything I read or hear that is presented with great authority but is rooted in flimsy or unconvincing "research" or vague data that is cherry-picked to prove a point.

I maintain the same level of skepticism toward the questionable brand babble of "traditional" advertising as I do to the wobbly claims of online advertising.

Whether you're listening to the prattle of magicians, the assertions of marketing experts, or the blathering of bloggers, my advice is to always allow yourself the great gift of skepticism.

January 17, 2017

Social Media Agency Of The Year Award For Not Doing Social Media

Six years ago, I wrote a good post (yeah, there've been a couple) called "Social Media's Massive Failure." I was denounced as an idiot and a Luddite dinosaur.

Of course I was and still am. Notwithstanding that, my post was correct.

Since then I've squealed and whined extensively about the infantile delusion that social media marketing is based on -- the silly idea that consumers want to have conversations with and about brands and share their brand enthusiasms with the world.

I've also written a lot about Facebook cleverly giving up on the fantasy of social media marketing and becoming a traditional media company, selling as many paid ads as they can stuff on a page.

Well, now things have come full circle.

A few weeks ago MediaPost named BBDO as its "Social Media Agency Of The Year." For what? For not doing social media.
"The solution: Utilize Facebook not as a social network, but a 'media channel.'"
Apparently BBDO woke up this year and told its clients to stop wasting their money on "conversations" and "sharing" and start running ads on Facebook.

To appreciate how fucking insane our business has become, you have to read the way MediaPost ties itself into knots trying to make something brilliant out of a conclusion so obvious that even an account planner could have come up with it.
"The strategy was built on a key insight that while Facebook's overall reach continues to expand, the relative effectiveness of “organic” reach for big brands has been diminishing proportionately."
You know what that bullshit means, right? Here's the translation: Social media doesn't work and you have to advertise.

But if you want to work in our business you can't just come out and say that. You need to hide it under steaming piles of jargon. Otherwise, you might lose your job for being "traditional."

No, you have to do what MediaPost does -- take the obvious and make it incomprehensible.

Anyone with a pulse and an IQ above 20 knows that social media marketing is largely a pile of horseshit and the only way to get any value out of Facebook is to buy ads.

But if you know how to write a bullshit "manifesto" or "white paper," and you can further torture the already horrifying language of our industry by tossing in large words with small meanings, you can become "social media agency of the year" by not doing social media.

If the ad business didn't already exist no one would believe it could.