Explaining The Irrational: Ad Economy Edition

Why are you so irresistible? They just swarm around you. They flatter you. They laugh riotously at your jokes. They entertain the living bejesus out of you. How very, very special you must be.

But you never quite know, do you? Like a beautiful woman or a black Republican candidate, you can never be quite certain that the attention being lavished on you has to do with your inner self or even your outer resume. It all seems so genuine, but there is always in the back of your mind that lingering doubt. What are their intentions? What is their motive?

The company gave you help outfitting your office, but what you really need is an ulterior decorator. You are a CMO, and face it, it’s not that they so desperately want to go fly fishing with you. They want a chunk of your budget. Duh.

Not only is your vault a flame to an outside world of media and ad-tech moths, it the sole source of your power and influence within the C-suite. The CFO thinks you are an unjustifiable cost line. The CTO thinks you are a double-talk artist. And the CEO slaps you on the back and calls you “My boy Phil.” 



Your name is not Phil.

But, man, what a bankroll you control. And if you can get it to grow, even marginally, year-over-year, you must be taken seriously.  Therefore, there is zero chance you will spend less in 2016 than you did in 2015. You’re going to get fired eventually (because the way you still talk about “dimensionalizing the value proposition” has lost its luster and despite what the headhunter told them, you are about as ninja-like as Poppin’ Fresh) but maybe you can keep it going another year or two.

I mention all that for one reason: it is the only possible explanation for this: U.S. Ad Index Climbs Again To Another Record High—MediaPost, Dec. 18, 2015.

Whaaaaaat????? This has nothing to do with growth in the larger economy, which has barely inched forward since the end of the Great Recession. It has nothing to do with economic rationality. Outside the gravity-defying world of TV CPMs, the infinite supply of inventory has made (theoretical) ad impressions cheap. And it can’t possibly be about performance.

TV audiences are shriveling like grapes in the back of the fridge. Online ads are blocked, unviewed by the banner blind or simply never loaded. Bots are chewing up dollars like Pac Man at a smorgasbord. Arbitrageurs are rebundling dubious inventory and picking advertiser pockets with what the margarine ads used to call the “high-price spread.” 

Pouring more money into this ecosystem is the moral equivalent of stuffing it into the fireplace and setting it ablaze. It makes you feel warm and comfy, but it results in a net loss of energy.

So really, there are two questions that should linger in the back of your mind. One is whether they really think your jokes are funny. The other is whether you are fudging the numbers that purportedly demonstrate an ROI, whether you are spending like a drunken sailor/the CIA in Iraq, whether you are doing your best in a chaotic marketplace or just flatly breaching your fiduciary responsibilities to your shareholders.

By the way, have you lost weight? You look fantastic.

3 comments about "Explaining The Irrational: Ad Economy Edition".
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  1. Jeff Sawyer from GH, December 21, 2015 at 12:04 p.m.

    Just brilliant. 

  2. John Vickary from l'Attitude Business Development, December 21, 2015 at 4:36 p.m.

    Come real food for thought here.
    With the increasing fragmentation of the mediascape there's simply so many options for the CMO to bring the message to consumers.
    The switched-on CMO will be able to identify the channels which best carry the message, but the lesser ones will simply spread their message across the spectrum and hope for the best.
    And yes, I have lost weight - kind of you to notice

  3. Mike August from Adam Carolla Show, December 30, 2015 at 12:24 p.m.

    Garfield! Garfield! Garfield! 

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