Our current obsession with “engagement” is misguided

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay Back in high school there were people who were “heavy users” of sex. Remember them?

They often had one characteristic in common — they were promiscuous. They didn’t just have lots of sex with one person. As we used to say, they “got around.”

The world of commerce is like that, too. Heavy users in a category tend to be promiscuous. They tend to try lots of different brands in the category. They get around.

Money Is Their Leverage. Media Is Their Weapon.

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay Of all the silly, naive marketing notions that have accompanied the growth of the Internet, the most pervasive and foolhardy is the idea that the “consumer is now in charge.”

The truth is exactly the opposite. The consumer today has less control than ever.

The web has intensified and consolidated the hold that large media entities and large marketers have on our culture, our economy, and our purchasing habits.

Callow digital utopians believe that because we consult Yelp to find out what some fixie biker in Brooklyn thinks is good pizza, we are freeing ourselves from the power of corporate and media dominance.

For the most part, digital media and traditional media have become indistinguishable. They are driven by the same need to attract eyeballs, which means they are obsessed by the same stories and slaves to the same types of narrative.

You can take Yahoo’s top stories on any given day and be pretty certain they will be identical to the top stories on the nightly news. You can check what’s trending on Twitter and be pretty sure it will be on the evening trash magazine show.

Corporate marketers are learning very quickly how to manipulate technology to leverage the assets of the new media types. Or haven’t you heard of Facebook?

Blogger Math Takes On Facebook

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay I saw some numbers last week on how the top 10 retail brands are doing on Facebook.

The numbers came from the 4th quarter of 2012 — the Christmas selling season which is by far the best season for most retailers and, presumably, the season at which Facebook activity would be highest for retailers.

The numbers are startling.

We know that ads on Facebook are alarmingly invisible, with click through rates somewhere around 5 in 10,000. But we’ve been told that the real value in Facebook is not in display ads but in engagement on brand pages.

From what I can tell, these things are just as ineffectual as display ads. Let’s do some blogger math (full disclosure: blogger math is known to be unreliable and is not to be confused with real math.)

Marketing’s Oldest Old Wives’ Tale

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay There a few themes that keep popping up in this column. They are:

1. Misconceptions about “branding” and how brands are built
2. The folly of listening to “marketing experts”
3. The over-promise of online advertising
4. The over-promise of social media
5. The “death of advertising,” “death of TV,” and “death of marketing” nonsense
6. The chronic, silly belief in “the thing that will change everything”
7. The foolishness of marketers’ obsession with young people

Is “The Like’s” 15 Minutes Up?

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay The half-life of online marketing miracles is notoriously short.

Is it possible that “the like” is about to join the podcast, the widget, and the QR code in the Museum Of Make-Believe Marketing Miracles?

It sure seems that way. There has been a whole lot of chatter lately about the dubious value of likes. While this chatter is about 2 years overdue, I guess it’s better than never.

First, Business Insider had a piece recently about Facebook’s new Giraffe Search. It was called, “Graph Search Is Really A Plan To Rescue The Like.”

They said that Facebook introduced Giraffe Searchbecause “recently it (the like) has fallen out of favor with advertisers.”

Next a blogger, engineer, and entrepreneur named Steve Cheney called the like a “con.” He went on to say that in the case of almost half the Facebook likes “there is no true affinity between the like and the object” and, in fact, most likes were bought by bribes.

‘Native advertising’ digital magic of the hour

You ready for the new online advertising miracle?

The digital advertising hype-cycle is growing shorter all the time. Apparently the online lemmingocracy has grown tired of “content” as the digital magic of the hour. Now it’s all about “native advertising.”

What is native advertising? Well, according to Solve Media…

“Native advertising refers to a specific mode of monetization that aims to augment user experience by providing value through relevant content delivered in-stream.”

Oh. Okay.

Now let’s pretend for a minute that we live on the planet Earth and we talk in a language that is comprehensible. Here’s what that BS means:

Native advertising is advertising that is pretending to be something else.

The Invincible Blindness Of Advertisers

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian), San Francisco Bay Sometimes it is hard to overstate the cluelessness of the advertising and marketing industries.

We are exquisitely sensitive to every little gimmick or fad that pops up, and completely oblivious to dramatic, powerful change when it occurs.

The largest consuming group in the history of the world is moving into new territory and marketers are paying no attention. This change is vastly more important to business than mobile strategies or social media or content creation, or any of the other bonehead sideshows we are obsessed with.

The youngest members of the baby boom generation, the generation that changed marketing and essentially invented consumerism, are now turning 50. The oldest members are now over 65. These people are the financial powerhouse that drives our economy.

They control over 75% of the nation’s wealth. They account for 50% of all consumer spending. They buy 62% of all new cars. They dominate 94% of all CPG categories. They are the target for 5% of all advertising!

The lousy record of “hyper-targeting”

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian) In the past I’ve written a couple of posts (here and here) about the lousy record of “hyper-targeting.” My bottom line on this has been…

“As we have developed the ability to target people more and more precisely on the web, click-through rates of these hyper-targeted ads have dropped dramatically.”

The question is, why? If you believe conventional advertising wisdom, being able to target people based on individual behaviors, attitudes, and demographics ought to make advertising substantially more effective. And yet no one’s smarter than the facts. It hasn’t made online ads more effective. So what’s going on?

Advertising’s 5 Biggest Lies

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian) Among our fellow citizens, it is commonly believed that we ad hacks get paid to lie. While I am not prepared to stipulate, I do concede that sometimes we don’t quite tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

So when you set out to write a piece entitled Advertising’s 5 Biggest Lies, you are begging for trouble. It’s like writing Las Vegas’s 5 Worst Buffet Dinners or Pepsi’s 5 Dumbest Marketing Ideas. No matter what you pick, someone’s got something to top you.

Nonetheless, trouble is my business. So here we go — advertising’s 5 biggest lies:

1. We’re all creative.
We’re not all tall. We’re not all handsome. We don’t all have nice complexions or charming personalities. But, according to the lore of advertising agencies, we’re all creative.

A good idea can come from anywhere, is the mantra. Yet, remarkably, good ideas seem to come from the same people over and over again. And, similarly, so do bad ones.

If you believe that we’re all creative, I’m afraid you also have to believe that it’s just a coincidence that Shakespeare wrote dozens of brilliant plays and Whoopi Goldberg didn’t.

Not only are we not all creative, even most of us who are paid to be creative aren’t.

The Ad Contrarian: Unsolicited Advice For Large Corporations

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian) It is not enough these days for the overfed fat cats of large corporations to make billions of dollars. Now they want to be loved and admired. Here’s some advice for them and for the poor fools who have to implement their delusional PR and social media plans.

1. When will you be loved? Um…never. I know, people just don’t understand how much good you do and what a wonderful company you are. Oh, and your people are the best! Well, guess what? Nobody gives a sh*t. There are going to be a substantial number of people who think you are a criminal enterprise and that the world would be better off without you. Stop whining and get used to it. It’s the price you pay for being big and successful.

2. Do good things and shut up. It’s fine to speak modestly about the generous things you do, but don’t pound your chest and don’t rub our noses in it. You are expected to do good things. Generosity and community-mindedness are not extra-credit projects, they are your responsibility. Be charitable and generous because they are the right things to do, not because you want bouquets.

3. Put your money where your mouth is. There is a fashion among large corporations and politicians to glorify small business — while they’re stomping all over it. If you really believe in small business, hire them as suppliers. Have an officer whose job it is to identify small companies that can do a better job for you than the big dumb oafs you are currently using. You’ll do a lot more for small businesses by employing them than by your patronizing lip service.

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