February 08, 2016

The First Sexless Super Bowl


Well, the annual Festival of Excess is over and here are some thoughts. 

Where Was The Sex?
This may have been the first sexless Super Bowl. We are usually treated to an abundance of middle school-style leering and double entendres in Super Bowl ads. Not this year. Has the politics of sex become so oppressive that even advertisers are afraid to be juvenile? 

That's Entertainment
Every creative director and cmo with a functioning brain knows one thing about Super Bowl advertising -- success has nothing to do with effectiveness.

Your success or failure will be judged on how well people liked your spot and nothing else.

The reason is simple -- unless you're a direct marketer (which no Super Bowl advertiser is) it's pretty much impossible to calculate the effectiveness of one spot at one time.

So popularity always stands as a proxy for effectiveness.

People liked your spot? You win.

People didn't like your spot? You lose.

End of story.

The Phrase That Pays
If there's one line of copy from this year's crop that could be remembered, it might be this one from the "Walken Closet."
"Punch it, Richard."
Critiquing The Critics
I followed the tweets of the advertising "experts" from Ad Age and Adweek during the game. In large part they were embarrassingly misguided. Makes you wonder if any of them ever worked in advertising.
 
What Happened To Social Media?
It seemed to me that in the weeks before the game there was a lot less social media chatter about Super Bowl advertising than in previous years.

Also there were a large  number of major brands that did not release their Super Bowl spots the week or month before the game.

Could it be that advertisers are finally waking up?

One of the critical aspects of effective advertising is impact. There is no better place to register advertising impact than on the Super Bowl. There is no better way to waste the impact of a Super Bowl spot than to have everyone see it for weeks before the game.

"Oh, yeah, I saw that one," is not the reaction you're paying $5 million for.

The Big and Dumb Award
This award is presented every year to the company that spends the most money and makes the most hysterical and pointless commercial. This year it's a tie between Coke "Hulk/Ant-Man" and Prius "Bank Robbers."

The Award of Desperation
This year it goes to CBS for their relentless and embarrassing promo-ing of Stephen Colbert.

Every Ad Related To Technology Or Online Commerce...
sucked. 

The Spot That Actually Made Me Want Something:
I really wanted that hamburger in Helen Mirren's Budweiser ad.

February 03, 2016

Native Advertising - Just More Online Corruption


The online advertising industry is a corrupt shit show unprecedented in advertising history.

Just to recap some of the sleaze it has engendered and some of the ways it has undermined corporate and media decency:
  • Despite industry lip service about cutting down on online ad fraud, Business Insider reported a few weeks ago that it will grow to over 7 billion dollars this year.
  • Billions of fraudulent impressions are paid for by advertisers every day.
  • Untold numbers of phony clicks are monetized and charged to advertisers.
  • "Unviewable" ads are paid for by advertisers but are invisible to live human beings.
  • Phony websites are selling ad space to clueless advertisers through impenetrable ad networks.
  • Online content is being debased into a relentless click-bait festival.
  • The web has become an exasperating non-stop marketing machine.
Now online advertisers are mainstreaming what used to be a sleazy practice. There have always been media operators who would offer advertisers editorial or on-air mentions in exchange for a media buy. Or they would sell "advertorials" -- ads disguised as editorial.

They've dressed it up with a lovely name -- native advertising -- but it's nothing new.

What's new is that it is now widely accepted by "quality" media. All the predictions are that native advertising will grow substantially in 2016. The mainstreaming of this wretched practice has been propelled by the growing consumer ad blocking revolt.

The acceptance of native advertising by once-decent media like The New York Times should be alarming, but apparently isn't to any but a few of us. I guess when you’re going broke, any source of income is acceptable, regardless of how it undermines your principles.

This is a very disturbing development for citizens. The co-mingling of political agendas and news has infected our broadcast outlets (Fox, MSNBC) and in 2016 the conflation of advertising and editorial is expected to take a quantum leap forward.

A few weeks ago, the FTC issued guidelines about native advertising.  I expect these will be largely ignored. The IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau, or as I like to call them, Inactive Advertising Bureau) is already whining about the guidelines. According to Ad Age...
"The IAB singled out for criticism... a section that calls for advertisers to use "plain language" in labeling an ad as such."
Yeah, imagine calling something what it really is? That would be complete anathema to the charming culture and history of online advertising.

When I checked my Facebook page today, despite the FTC's guidelines, Facebook is still using bullshit like "Suggested Post" to disguise ads.

Online advertising seems to corrupt everything it touches.

February 01, 2016

Advertising's Comedy Bitchfight


Here at The Ad Contrarian Worldwide Headquarters, there's nothing we like better than some good old-fashioned internecine warfare.

So we're getting out the Ketel One and the popcorn and settling into our leatherette Barcalounger to watch the Super Bowl of Advertising Schoolyard Punch-Ups over the next few months.

It's the 4As versus the ANA -- and it's a beauty.

In case you haven't been following this ongoing sitcom, here's our story so far:

Last summer, some nitwits from the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) woke up one morning and realized that they were being fucked blind by their media agencies.

If they had been reading a certain blog they would have known this years earlier. But, hey, I'm just a Luddite dinosaur.

So they teamed up with the 4As, (the agency trade association) and decided to create a "Joint Task Force" to develop guidelines for media buying "transparency."

A "Joint Task Force," by the way, is the non-governmental equivalent of a "Blue Ribbon Panel." In other words, a bunch of overfed blowhards who get together at golf resorts to sip white wine and nap.

Well, to no one's surprise, the marketers' definition of "transparency" was somewhat different from the agencys'. The marketers' definition was "open up that kimono" and the agencys' definition was "fuck you."

So, sadly, the Joint Task Force turned out to be one Joint short of a ska band. The whole thing went up in, um, smoke.

Next thing you know, the ANA announces they're hiring not one, but two organizations to investigate the buying practices of the agencies. And one of the organizations employs former FBI agents.

As you might well imagine, this lead to severely diminished bowel control among several agency fat cats.

Now we cut to last week. Without consulting the ANA, the 4As issues something called the "Transparency Guiding Principles of Conduct" which sounds like a chapter out of the Girl Scout handbook, but apparently gives solemn tribute to the concept of transparency while defining it as "whatever an agency can sneak past your lawyers."

To which the ANA responded thusly: In quintessential Gestapo fashion they announced the opening of a snitch "hotline" in which any sniveling malcontent with a gripe against an agency can call in with anonymous accusations.

Isn't this lovely? It makes a guy proud to be an ad blogger.

The best part is, this whole thing promises months of rib-tickling fun to come.

Just one bit of unsolicited advice for the 4As: When's the last time an agency got into a fight with a client and won?

Right, never.