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Brands need to fire adtech

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Two days ago, the New York Times said AT&T and Johnson & Johnson are pulling their ads from YouTube. They’re concerned that “Google is not doing enough to prevent brands from appearing next to offensive material, like hate speech.” Yesterday, Business Insider said “more than 250” advertisers were bailing as well. These came after one Guardian report said Audi, HSBC, Lloyds, McDonald’s, L’Oréal, Sainsbury’s, Argos, the BBC and Sky were doing the same in the U.K., and another Guardian report said O2, Royal Mail and Vodaphone were joining the boycott as well.

Agencies placing those ads on YouTube are shocked, shocked! that ads for these fine brands are showing up next to “extremist material,” and therefore sponsoring it. They blame Google, and so does most of the press coverage as well.

Here’s what almost nobody reporting on this debacle is saying: Brands think they’re placing ads in media, while the systems they hire chase eyeballs to wherever they go. Put another way, brands think they’re buying online advertising while they’re really buying adtech. Since adtech systems are automated and biased toward finding the cheapest ways to hit eyeballs with ads, and to do that as often as possible for the money, some ads show up on unsavory sites, just like the eyeballs do.

Folks, this is the way adtech was designed to work. And that’s why expecting adtech to fix itself is a losing bet. Advertisers are the ones to fix it, and they can do it by firing adtech and its agents and going back to sponsoring reputable broadcasters and publishers. Simple as that.

The marketing world, and those covering it both need to face the fact that adtech only looks like advertising, and that to continue calling it advertising is pure misdirection.

Adtech looks like advertising because, as I explain in Separating Advertising’s Wheat and Chaff, “Madison Avenue fell asleep, direct response marketing ate its brain, and it woke up as an alien replica of itself.”

This whole problem wouldn’t exist if the alien replica wasn’t chasing spied-on eyeballs, and if advertisers still sponsored desirable media the old-fashioned way.

It’s adtech that spies on people and violates their privacy. It’s adtech that’s full of fraud and a vector for malware. It’s adtech that incentivizes publications to prioritize “content generation” over journalism. It’s adtech that gives fake news a business model, because the fake is easier to produce than the real, and pays just as well. Real advertising never did any of those things, because it was never personal.

Brands will be far better served by sponsoring media they (and their non-brain-stolen agencies) know, like and trust. That’s what produced brands in the first place, what still what makes brands familiar to whole populations, and what still sponsors worthy publications and the journalism they contain.

Can you name one brand produced by adtech? (Now think about how many $billions or $trillions have been spent on adtech so far?)

An open question is if agencies can be programmatic online without spying on people. Because spying is where the problem starts. That’s why Do Not Track became a thing, and why ad blocking hockey-sticked when the adtech industry and publishers together gave the middle finger to people’s polite request not to be tracked.

Adtech’s rationalizations are all around putting the “right message in front of the right people at the right time,” and aiming those messages with spyware-harvested Big Data. Both of those are direct marketing purposes, not those of brand advertising.

Brand advertising has never been personal. That would be too much like junk mail and spam. Instead, brand advertising has always been about making many people in a general target population know a name and a reputation well. And brand advertising still works. Ask any of the advertisers still sponsoring sports broadcasting or fashion magazines.

So yeah, it makes sense for Google and Facebook to make sure sponsored content is “brand safe.” But that won’t solve the real problem, which is adtech.

It also won’t be easy for the big platforms to fix their adtech systems. Consider, for example, the egg that was splattered on Mark Zuckerberg’s face by Facebook’s own adtech when he posted his insistence that “99% of what people see is authentic” and “only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes.” Others, such as Medium’s Ev Williams, were also targeted by the same kind of adtech-aimed fakery.

It’s their job to show that programmatic advertising can sponsor the best content the old fashioned way. And it’s the advertisers’ job to fire adtech in the meantime.

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brennen
2 days ago
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Sorta an interesting perspective.
Boulder, CO
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RT @paprbckparadise: $1 #books https://t.co/iCCNvVc9EP

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Posted by paprbckparadise on Sat Sep 17 00:00:07 2016.


4169 likes, 2590 retweets
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brennen
3 days ago
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Boulder, CO
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Vomiting Emoji

1 Comment and 2 Shares
My favorite might be U+1F609 U+1F93F WINKING FACE VOMITING.
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brennen
5 days ago
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This is pretty much how I feel about Unicode now: It's the Perl 6 of character stuff, except for some reason we've all agreed to pretend that everything is perfectly normal.

Which is fine, but I bet future civilizations (assuming there are any future civilizations) are gonna be kinda bemused by all of this.
Boulder, CO
mrxinu
3 days ago
This is the best comment ever. EVER.
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morebuildingsandfood:Bubble City from RoadBlasters, by Atari...

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morebuildingsandfood:

Bubble City from RoadBlasters, by Atari Games.

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brennen
8 days ago
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I loved this game so much.
Boulder, CO
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wednesday, march 15

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wednesday, march 15

you've got to remember
that a lot of your mind,
a lot of the systems that your mind
integrates with
live outside of your body as you conventionally
think of it
outside of the skin and bones, beyond
the fur and feathers, external to the
narrow motions and faculties of an isolated animal

you're on the bus, riding up the highway through
the grass and utility polls, past the houses
and herds and irrigation ditches
you're looking out the windows of a conveyance
borne on taxes and legislation and road projects
and the history of a whole place

you've got the wind in your hair and a watch on
your wrist telling time according to a system
with its roots centuries deep, date math grounded
somewhere in systems ancient now for millenia

you're writing on a device impossible
to build a decade back
in strings of glyphs with their roots in
phonecia, in rome

the birds are coming back and making nests
the grass and leaves are breaking out into the sun
you feel good when you step outside and breathe the air
the air is a product of a system well beyond your
understanding and control

and yet also a system that includes you and enfolds
your actions, encompasses whatever meaning your life
might have, travels through the circuits flickering
inside your head, your heart, your lungs and legs
and fingers walking on the keys

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brennen
8 days ago
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Boulder, CO
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RT @sarahas_san: Ha. Via @WolfieChristl https://t.co/29mHZthKkY

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Ha. Via @WolfieChristl https://t.co/29mHZthKkY


Posted by sarahas_san on Sun Feb 19 21:59:45 2017.


50 likes, 29 retweets
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brennen
9 days ago
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Boulder, CO
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