Media Insights Q&A With Vidsense's Jaffer Ali
Jaffer Ali, President of Vidsense, can be labeled a provocateur because of his very different views on the future of the media. And yet, his thought-provoking opinions and insights cannot be easily dismissed. Jaffer has been on the cutting edge of the digital business for over 25 years and has experienced the rise and fall and rise of media from many vantage points. His latest venture, Vidsense, bundles video content and viewers and delivers them directly to advertiser websites in an interesting and user-friendly manner.
The following is an excerpt of a much longer interview. Direct links to the full article can be found at the WeislerMedia blog.
Charlene Weisler: What do you think are the next trends in the online advertising environment?
Jaffer Ali: Presently, most of the media and advertising models have not been created for advertisers to scale. Google may scale for Google, but it certainly doesn't scale for advertisers. That is why they need 1.5 million advertisers. They cannot deliver millions of visitors to a brand website every day.
We will see new ad models that have scale as a point of departure and not as an after-thought. The present online ad environment was created for niche, "long tail" marketers. Having a scalable ad environment will reverse this idiotic trend. This will then attract the huge brand ad dollars that have largely stayed with television. Scalable reach will be accompanied by a trend of brand websites controlling the eyeballs on sites they own instead of renting eyeballs on publisher sites.
We also believe that the definition of online reach will dramatically change. Why? Because current display banner ads just might be the most useless, ignored advertising medium ever invented by man.
CW: What would you say are the most dramatic changes in the media industry in the past five years?
JA: The futile attempts to avoid recognizing failure have resulted in all media "doubling down" over and over. And the result has been an ever-accelerating rush to the bottom. Common sense has been abandoned. Everyone knows that if you are in a hole, one should stop digging. But media across the board has rented power shovels to dig ever deeper. The obsessive and futile search for "one-to-one" marketing is a reflection of obscene narcissism.
Media and marketers have tried to divine what makes each of us different and have utterly ignored what we share in common. In the process, we have increased choices catering to as many different tastes as possible.
Media and marketers have thus sacrificed scale for idiosyncrasy. We have developed more and more targeting tools which further erode brand loyalty. Behavioral targeting is just the most recent boondoggle that will dig an ever-deeper hole for media and marketers. Audience fragmentation and marketing fragmentation both operate against scale. Media and marketers are embracing each other in a death grip.
CW: But what about products that are niche by nature, such as vitaminwater? Isn't behavioral targeting a way for advertisers to better pinpoint potential consumers in an efficient and affordable way? Not all products are mass.
Having a niche product does not confer some talismanic right for a viable business. I once had a client who flew out to meet me to demonstrate his product. It was a "portable toothbrush." In fairness to him, it was encased in device that looked like a fountain pen.
Having a niche product for left-handed midgets doesn't mean that it is a viable business. You are 100% correct that not all products are mass...and yet we all need to realize that not all niche products are economically viable.
Your question about behavioral targeting assumes that it works. The reality is quite different. The fact that there are a multitude of anecdotes pointing to its effectiveness ignores the reality that it has failed miserably MANY times. BT is just the latest snake oil being sold by folks who really do not even understand its underlying assumptions. Chief amongst the misconceptions is the notion that human behavior is rational. This was the same disastrous assumption that led to the collapse of the stock market. I have written about this in much more detail and will not go into this more deeply right now.
CW: Jaffer, if you think niche products will cut back, what is your long view of digital niche media -- millions of websites and blogs, etc.?
JA: The long tail marketing concept was thought to help niche media sustainability... it does not. There will be cable networks going out of business by the gaggle. Millions of websites and blogs will recognize that they do not have a sustainable business model and with rare exceptions, only those that are hobbyists will continue. I personally have had a glog for 12 years that is a collection of inspirational quotations from sages. Quotations are a complete passion of mine and not a business. This is an example of "passion over profit." It would be self-indulgent narcissism and vanity to believe that my hobby is a sustainable business.
Millions of websites have created a business for Google and intermediate networks, but those networks cannot offer a sustainable revenue stream in most cases. This is not the least bit controversial. Just ask how many of those millions of websites and blogs are making a thriving business from their passion. And niche cable networks by and large are collapsing in on themselves.... Self-indulgent narcissism, where [there are] 15 different types of toilet paper (to be used on our backsides!) is gladly coming to an end. Our happiness and media ecosystem should never have been tied to trying to satisfy every indulgence.