The problem with content

Yes, everything’s better than goddamn awful banner ads.
But let’s not get too excited about “content”.

The first problem with content is that it’s everything and nothing.
It’s high art and crap that you find online just because the “upload” button is easy.

(A Shakespeare sonnet and a picture of my cat’s ass, as Bob Hoffmann said)

The second problem is that most of it is pictures of my cat’s ass.

Why is that?

Because marketing folks are wrong when they think that consumers love their companies (they don’t), and they are wrong when they think that consumers are dumb.

Nothing new here. But the best people in advertising, Bill Bernbach and George Lois, David Ogilvy and Howard Luck Gossage, never treated the public as if they were idiots.

The problem with content

Why do marketers today create “channels” on Facebook and Twitter and of course on YouTube and only then proceed to think about what crap to stuff in there?

Because they have it all backwards.

They know they are not loved, and so they crave likes. At the same time, they can’t let go of their condescending attitude: people are dumb and will “like” anything.

And if they don’t, they’ll push it harder. And hand it over to people with the technical skills to push an unwanted message until it looks like it is being accepted.

Until they can “prove” that they were right: they love us and they’re stupid.

They also seem to think that the conduits, like the web or social media, are what we really care about and not just, well, pipes. We want water (or beer), not pipes.

The medium is not the message.

The only message your company is delivering every time they think they’re being posh because they’re using social media is that they’re fucking clueless.

Instead of doing great stuff – big ideas: art, events, long videos, manuals, posts with insider info and original points of view, or even good ads, and then use the pipes for what they are, i.e. just pipes – just ways to give great stuff a little push, they prefer to annoy us.

But in a ‘social’ way.

They produce crap “content” to fill the channels and then happily count how many (not many) users they get. They treat it (and treat us) as if it were “media”. Free media.

They use technology not to make their operations more efficient, deliver services and get out of the way of their customers or to do smart things which would have been impossible to do on other people’s media properties, but to (forcibly) “be in touch with us”.

On all the possible screens and on all our devices.

No matter how lonely we may be, we ain’t that lonely.

Buy my book: What Happened To Advertising? What Would Gossage Do?

No such thing as social media

There’s no such thing as social media.

There’s Facebook, which is eating up what we used to call the Open Web.

Those who speak of “social media” remind me of those who used to tell you that you could submit your site to 100 search engines. Last time I checked, 95% of the traffic I got came from that one search engine whose name replaced the verb to search.

Those who speak of “social media” seem to forget that the largest of these social media sites, currently worth a cool 340 billion USD, actually bought what is now the second or third largest of these “social media” sites for a mere 1 billion USD.

Is Instagram really much more important than what Google Images is compared to Google Search? Maybe – and just maybe, only for those in fashion or sports apparel. Is Twitter of any importance beyond tech companies? What about Pinterest?

And what should my company, a proud maker of dishwater detergent, do on Snapchat?

How bullshit spreads

At the launch of any new corporate smart-city initiative, content promoting it and aligning it with the enterprise’s overarching brand proposition is generated by the marketing department, and released into the wild on the global website where it will be indexed by Google in less than a minute. This initiative almost immediately comes to the attention of the planet’s several thousand technology bloggers, writing for outlets of various provenance, who generally have automated keyword searches set up to notify them whenever an item of interest is published. Because these bloggers are simultaneously under intense contractual pressure to post several times a day, are by definition enthusiastic about technology and are, by and large, unschooled in the arts of skeptical reportage, they tend to take the claims they are offered at face value. (This is true of bloggers writing for The Guardian or The New York Times every bit as much as it is of their less well-positioned peers).

In a matter of minutes, talking points from the original press release are paraphrased in the blogger’s idiom of choice into a new post, and this may happen across dozens of competing sites in a very brief span of time. […] Very little of this commentary evaluates what is being claimed in any depth, or even compares the item at hand to previous assertions made by the same institution, but the volume of buzz is impressive.

– From: Against the smart city (page 91), by Adam Greenfield

The best Kickstarter ever

A friend reserved the new Tesla Model 3 this morning. The reservation costs $1,000. The car will cost $35,000, and will be ready by the end of 2017. The most striking thing is that he is number 115,000 in line. Which means that Tesla did a $4 billion Kickstarter. Wow.

There is no Uber model

There is no Uber model. There is the taxi industry, which is of course a multi-billion dollar business worldwide. Getting you from A to B without using public transportation, if available at all, and without owning or renting a car (or having a friend drive you) is a real service in the real world. If you can do it better thanks to technology, you can beat an industry, the taxi industry, which often seems like it’s stuck in the Seventies.

On the other hand, pizza delivery is not a multi-billion dollar business. At most, it’s an added service available for free (and a tip to the young and poor) from your local pizza joint. In a similar vein, bringing home your fruit and veggies for you is not a business — has everybody really forgotten about And if there’s no business to start with, there is very little to “disrupt”, no matter how well-designed your app may be.

And the real news is that the NY Times seems to agree, for once.