May 30, 2017

Ad Blocking Is Not The Best Answer


Here in the War Room at The Ad Contrarian Worldwide Headquarters, we are uncomfortable with the idea of ad blocking. As unrepentant ad people, we don't like the idea. And yet, we use 'em.

According to PageFair there are now over 600 million connected devices in the world sporting ad blockers. In the US, it is estimated that about 25% of desktop computers are now using ad blockers.

And according to published reports, Google is thinking about adding an ad blocking option to its Chrome browser, which is the most used browser in the world.

For now, the most popular defense against obnoxious online advertising is ad blocking. But ad blocking is a blunt instrument that has the potential to do serious damage to aspects of the web that we all enjoy.

Like it or not, advertising funds just about everything on the web we like. Without advertising, no YouTube, no Facebook...

You'd be stuck with nothing but The Ad Contrarian.
 
It would be nice to believe that people would be willing to pay for things they enjoy online but most experiments in “paywall” web publishing have been a failure.

So the question becomes, how can we encourage an acceptable version of online advertising that will allow us to enjoy the things we like about the web without the insufferable annoyance of the current online ad model?

The answer is not that complicated. The invisible hand that powers just about everything we hate about online advertising is tracking. Get rid of tracking and online advertising would instantly become a lot less horrible.

There is no reason why online advertising can't be bought and sold on a similar basis to offline advertising -- instead of on the current tracking/ad tech model.

Online advertisers would then not be able to stalk us every where we went on the web; fake news would be less likely to draw "programmatically" delivered advertising money; quality publishers would have a better chance at survival; the economic incentive for click bait would diminish, and a great many other undesirable aspects of web world be greatly minimized.
We could enjoy what we like about the web without having to resort to the heavy hand of ad blockers.

Along those lines...
... I participated a few weeks ago in a debate about ad tech at the World Federation of Advertisers conference in Toronto. You can see my opening argument here.




May 23, 2017

Global Brand Equals Global Bland


If you wonder why so many big brands are obsessed with media, the answer is simple. It's the only thing they have left to argue about.

Their determination to demonstrate "globularity" has had an unintended consequence -- the trivialization of strategy and creativity.

Globularity leads marketers to bland, non-specific strategies and bland, non-specific advertising.

It's really quite simple. The grander the "brand purpose," the less specific the strategy. The less specific the strategy, the blander the advertising.

My favorite example of the power of specificity was Apple's introduction of the iPod. They didn't give it the vanilla, global "World Class MP3 Player" treatment. They said "1,000 Songs In Your Pocket." They were specific. They talked about the virtues of the product, not woolly melodramatic horseshit

My direction to the creative teams who worked for me was always the same - be specific. Today the objective is to ignore the specific and "ladder up" the benefit.

In the idiotic world of "laddering-up," every piece of chewing gum, every vacuum cleaner bag, and every can of sugar water is purported to "make life better and the world a better place."

Specificity has died because it's too sales-y. It doesn't have sufficient virtue or globularity.

It seems that every big brand is instituting its own flavor of the same strategy:
"We're inclusive and committed. Our products are for every type of person in the whole darn global world and our awesome universal values prove it."
Why has the ad industry given up on specificity in favor of globularity? First, it flatters the self-absorbed client. She loves to hear wearisome bullshit about how her yogurt is changing the world.

Second, it's so much easier. By insisting on the default strategy of universality - including every type of person and every cultural stereotype - they find themselves creating not the best possible advertising but the least objectionable advertising. And selling the least objectionable advertising to their corporate overseers is a much easier task.

Another consequence of this fuzzy thinking is that it leads marketers to focus on silly fantasies like "millennialism" -- huge swaths of people who are presumed to have a uniform "global" identity.

Then, instead of doing the hard work of differentiating the product, they just hold up a mirror and try to tell us who we are and how they are just like us.

This type of spineless, watery exercise in tedious whacking-off usually leaves very little of a strategic or creative nature to argue over. Just show every kind of person engaged in every kind of virtuous activity. And the result is that the conversation quickly turns to something everyone can have a fine old time arguing about - media choices.

It's no wonder "global" brands are obsessed with media. It's the only thing left to them. When it comes to strategy or creative, the only issue is which key to sing "We Are The World" in.

May 15, 2017

Live TV Declines Bigly For 3rd Month


Here at The Ad Contrarian Worldwide Headquarters, we try to be fact-driven rather than ideology-driven. And it's time to say that the recent declines in live TV viewing are a becoming a worry.

For years we have argued against the ignorant hysterics who said TV was dead. While TV remains by far the most popular form of video viewing and by far the most popular entertainment medium, the past three months have not been pretty.

Here are some data from the Pivotal Research Group...
  • In April, total daily TV use was down 5.3% for adults and 2.1% for households versus 2016.
  • Among adults 18-49 day time and prime time viewing of traditional TV programming fell by double digits for the third month in a row.
  • A bright spot for video in general was internet delivered viewing which rose by more than 50% versus 2016, but which is mainly not advertising supported.
As Pivotal suggests, the recent declines are likely to invigorate "efforts to explore and encourage the use of alternative media vehicles" by marketers. 

One of the problems for TV is that for decades they have used "time spent" with the medium as a proxy for the effectiveness of the medium. But these are two different things.

Time spent with a medium may be an interesting sociological point, but it is not a measure of advertising effectiveness. Here in The Ad Contrarian Executive Board Room, we spend a lot of time with vodka bottles. That doesn't make them a good vehicle for advertising.

There is little doubt in our minds that overall TV remains the most effective form of advertising. Or as Pivotal says, "television is the worst form of advertising except all those others..."

But if the declines in viewing time keep increasing, TV is going to have a tough time convincing advertisers that the "time spent" narrative they touted for years wasn't really important.