The Ad Contrarian: Agencies are selling clients the wrong kind of miracles

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian) With the exceptions of pop music and fashion, there is probably no more trendy business than advertising. Every few years we invent a trendy new miracle and everyone immediately jumps on it. But selling the wrong kind of miracles is a very dangerous and short-sighted habit to adopt.

The Ad Contrarian: The five dumbest ideas about online advertising

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian) The phenomenal rise of the internet as a medium of communication, information, and entertainment has given rise to some equally phenomenal conceptual flops about advertising. Today, we take inventory of these dumb ideas. We have selected our five favorites and we present them to you in one neat little bundle, in no particular order, but numbered to keep you on track.

The Ad Contrarian: eBay — paid search is worthless

by Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian) A study done by eBay on the effectiveness of paid search for established brands has found it to be worthless. Presumably, eBay commissioned the study to figure out how much of their search money was being wasting. Their conclusion seems to be: all of it.

Social Media Gets An Ass-Whooping From Google, Email

Over four years ago, in a post entitled Looking For Volunteers, I wrote the following…

“TAC predicts that when the frenzy over Facebook, Twitter, and other social media calms down and the dust clears, email and search will continue to be the dreariest and most productive forms of online advertising.”

In an article on Monday entitled “Email Is Crushing Twitter, Facebook for Selling Stuff Online” Wired had this to say:

“An endless stream…of advice from marketing consultants warns businesses that they need to “get” social… Despite the hype… it’s relatively antique tech that appears to be far more important for selling stuff online.

Wired’s source for this article was a company called Custora that studied “72 million customers shopping on 86 different retailer sites.” Their conclusion: search and email are far more effective at generating sales results than Facebook, Twitter and banner ads.

Why advertising is business insurance

On April 23 of this year, Apple reported…

“We are pleased to report record March quarter revenue thanks to continued strong performance of iPhone and iPad,”

This report was remarkable for two reasons: First, it is generally believed that Apple has not introduced any new products or features of major interest to consumers in about two years. This in an industry whose oxygen is new products and features.

Second, it is also believed that Apple’s advertising has fallen from the lofty standard it had established over previous years, to a point that it is now inferior to its rivals in the tech industry.

So how did they achieve record revenues?

Beware Of Marketers With Ideologies

In 1996, Seth Godin had this to say to Fast Company…

“I guarantee you that by the year 2000, Internet banner ads will be gone.”


Let’s be fair to Seth. He’s a very smart guy and he has been right about a lot of things. But the problem with the above statement, like so many aspects of marketing these days, is that it is rooted in ideology.

Seth’s ideology was “permission marketing.” He believed that the “interruption model” of traditional advertising was on the way out, and that in order to communicate effectively with consumers, marketers would need their “permission.”

Like much of new age marketing philosophy, it sounds lovely. The problem is that the world is impossibly complicated. Having operating principles is fine, but being ideologically committed to a “big idea” often ends in a train wreck.

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