Meaningful connections

Branded content has been heralded as the future and the saviour of online media for some time now, and yet apparently 50% of publishers have a renewal rate of only 50%. Worse, another 39% have a renewal rate of 25% or less.

Not great, but I love how John Schneider puts it:

Brands are having a lot of one night stands, creating meaningful connections and then abandoning them.

Meaningful connections? No, those are called shags. Paid shags, to be more precise.

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McDonald’s and Digital Nonsense

I found a post on AdScam in which the great George Parker makes fun of Oh fucking yes, another “Agency of the Future”, this time from Omnicom and for McDonald’s.

Can anybody please explain to me why McDonald’s is so obsessed with digital, data, mobile apps and, of course, deeper connections with their customers through “storytelling”?

Don’t they sell hamburgers — and fries with that?

I thought their success was based on the physical part of the business: they are among the largest private owners of real estate in the world, apparently even ahead of that two thousand year old company based in Rome with a CEO with a funny hat.

They use the advantage they have in location to serve crappy food in places with a lot of people passing by, either road junctions or places that have become food deserts, the poor being left with little to no choice but to eat at one of their “restaurants”.

But now they want me to download their app? Read their blog? “Like” them of Facebook?
Why in the world, for God’s sake? When will this nonsense come to an end?

Self-targeting audiences

If your click-rate is one in a thousand, and often only a fraction of that — my click rate with Linkedin Ads, for example, is currently 2 in 14,000 — you can fool yourself as much as you want, but the truth is that you didn’t convince a few people to click because you found “the right target”. It’s always great to feel that you’re smart and in control.

But you’re not.

Those who click are a very small percentage of the population who belong to the group you are targeting — and who click relatively a lot compared to the rest of the population: 8% of Internet Users Account for 85% of all Clicks. According to this study, it’s even worse:

Ninety-nine percent of Web users do not click on ads on a monthly basis. Of the 1% that do, most only click once a month. Less than two tenths of one percent click more often.

These people tend to be from lower income households, less educated than the average user, more likely to live outside of the major metro regions and “the same people that tend to open direct mail and love to talk to telemarketers”. In other words, they click not because they are the right target, but because they are clickers. Or bored. Or both.

You got a few clicks from clickers who happen to be part of your target group, not from people in your target group who happen to be interested in your product or service.

And if it happened on mobile, it was not because “your message resonates more on mobile”, or some bullshit to that effect, but because of someone’s fat fingers.

So please stop saying that you are “engaging your customers” or shit like that.

The most political decision

The most political decision you make is where you direct people’s eyes. In other words, what you show people, day in and day out, is political… And the most politically indoctrinating thing you can do to a human being is to show him, every day, that there can be no change.

— Wim Wenders

Politics and the English Language

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influences of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

— George Orwell, Politics and the English Language, 1946

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?