February 16, 2017

Interpreting Research Bullshit

We poor oppressed advertising and marketing people are daily fed many flavors of bullshit.

One of the least understood is research bullshit. Research, because it sports the veneer of science, is generally not subjected to the same degree of scrutiny as, say, media bullshit or creative bullshit.

But, make no mistake, research bullshit is just as pervasive in our sorrowful world.

Here at the headquarters of Ad Contrarian Labs, we like to feature some nice research bullshit every now and then just to stay on our toes and keep our readers on the lookout.

Yesterday I was reading a piece in the Research Brief From The Center For Media Research. Now, I have no idea where the Center For Media Research is, but based on the logo at the top of the page, I have a feeling it's a laptop in the basement of the MediaPost office.

Anyway, the story in question was a little convoluted so I'm not going to recap the whole thing (if you want to read it you can find it here.) But I want to highlight a couple of "facts" found in the article. The study in question, done by a company called Kibo, reported that...
  • "94% of consumers do research online before visiting a store"
  • "92% of consumers reported interactive content influences them to make a purchase"
Now these are very impressive numbers. They give the impression that people hardly buy anything before researching it online, and are amazingly influenced by interactive content. But as is so often the case with sneaky online data, it means nothing of the sort.

The problem here is not that the numbers are wrong, it's that they are grossly, and perhaps intentionally, misleading.

Here's how this baloney works.

It's hard to tell from the article what period of time this study encompasses, but it seems to be six months. Let's assume that.

So if you went online once in September to check the price of motor oil at Costco, you are one of the 94% of consumers who "do research online before visiting a store." You may have shopped for thousands of items in the months before and after and never gone online to do "research before visiting a store" but if you did it once, you are one of the 94%.

Similarly, if you happened to once come across a tweet that said you could save $1 on a pizza you ordered, then "interactive content" influenced you to make a purchase. You are among the 92%.

This is the same type of deceptive horseshit that a few years ago lead to the absurd "fact" that "60% of shoppers use QR codes." Yeah, right.

What's obvious here is that if the researchers wanted to do a serious analysis on the impact of "online research" on shopping, and the influence of "interactive content" on purchasing behavior, they would have reported on the frequency of each behavior, which is much more relevant, not the reach. But I doubt it would have made for very clickable "facts."

I mean, what kind of story would you have if the facts turned out be...
  • 6% of items are researched online before they are bought
  • 2% of purchases are influenced by interactive content

February 13, 2017

Adtech's Massive Failure

There are days here at the West Coast Regional Campus of The Ad Contrarian Worldwide Global Headquarters that we just sit around and scratch our heads.

We think about how online advertisers are being penetrated in every possible orifice and we wonder why in the world they don't do something about it?

See if you agree with our logic.

Adtech has proven to be an utter disaster. Unless you are Google, Facebook, or WPP, adtech is a monstrosity that is stealing your money, harming your business, threatening your security, and alienating your customers.
  • If you're an advertiser, adtech middlemen are scraping 60-70% of your media dollars (WFA and The Guardian)
  • P&G says that "precision targeting," the great value proposition of adtech is actually harmful to their marketing efforts.
  • Adtech helps fraudsters steal...who knows?... anywhere from 2% to 90% of your media budget.
  • 90% of you are planning to review your programmatic contracts this year to get more transparency. Adtech is the mortal enemy of transparency.
  • If you're a quality online publisher, adtech is stealing money from you by following your valuable audience to the crappiest website they can be found on, and serving them ads there instead of on your site. 
  • If you're an advertiser, this means adtech is essentially following your customer to the bathroom in the basement of the luxury mall and trying to sell her your necklaces there (h/t Tom Goodwin.)
  • If you're an online publisher, adtech sees to it that you are constantly struggling to monetize your content while the duopoly (Google and Facebook) that create no content reap 72% of all online ad revenue outside China (Pivotal Research Group.)
  • If you are a consumer, adtech's relentless tracking and intrusive unremitting ad serving cause massive dissatisfaction with your user experience, and allow for all kinds of nasty prying and criminal activity in your personal and financial life.
  • Which is why 600 million devices (PageFair) are now reported to be loaded with ad blockers, constituting the largest boycott of anything in human history (h/t Doc Searls.)
Getting rid of adtech cannot immediately solve all problems. But it can be an enormous step toward  making online advertising significantly more effective, less corrupt, more secure, more respectable, and less despised by consumers, advertisers and publishers.

Bob Liodice, CEO of the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) recently said "marketers have to take their industry back."  I couldn't agree more.

So, Ms Advertiser, talk to me. Why don't you insist on a simple transparent buying process in which your agency buys directly from online publishers?

You'll know exactly where your advertising is going to run. Exactly whom you're buying from. Exactly what you're paying, and exactly what you're getting.

In what universe is the corrupt, incomprehensible, wasteful and dangerous world of adtech better than that?

My Favorite Tweet Of The Year


"Jaguar Land Rover has suspended all its digital advertising in the UK following last week's investigation by The Times which named the company among brands which unwittingly funded terror groups...The company said it was "very concerned" and that the online ads were an "unintended consequence of algorithm technology" used on some sites." Campaign Magazine 2/13/07

February 07, 2017

Facebook Bullshit Keeps Exploding

As agencies and marketers continue to throw good money after bad on online ad fantasies, the depth of their gullibility continues to amaze.

Yesterday the leading Australian advertising publication, Mumbrella, published a shocking article about Nielsen's re-calibration of Facebook video streaming numbers in Australia.

If you remember, a few months ago advertisers discovered that Facebook had been overstating its video streaming numbers by 60% to 80% for a period of two years.

According to Nielsen, in Australia the overstatement was much larger than that -- an astonishing 94%.

After Nielsen threw away Facebook's horseshit numbers and recalculated based on true data, they found that the value for Australian video streaming on Facebook dropped by 94% over the course of a month. Here's what the numbers looked like before and after Facebook's bullshit was re-calculated.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that all the data we are given about online advertising eventually turn out to be lies and nonsense, marketers and agencies just can't seem to get it through their skulls that they're being screwed blind.

Facebook and Google have become notorious for not allowing third party examination of their famously unreliable numbers, and do marketers care? They invite these creeps to join their fucking marketing departments and draw up advertising plans!

You have to laugh to keep from crying.

When I launched this blog almost 10 years ago and started questioning what we were getting from the online ad industry I was way out on a limb. Not any more. This is getting too easy. And too depressing.