Twitter’s third-quarter earnings missed analyst expectations, sending its shares down 20%. Twitter said part of the shortfall was due to “advertising product ‘bugs’."
When I was growing up, Bugs was a happy-go-lucky cartoon rabbit who greeted others with a friendly, “What’s up, doc?”
But technology has given bugs a bad name. Even the ones that crawl on your picnic blanket or nip at your ankles at sunset. “Bugs” has become a catch-all excuse for why technology doesn’t work as promised. It has replaced more exact descriptions, such as, “Our engineers where asleep at the wheel and miscoded, causing a massive systemwide failure.” Or, ”I told them that outsourcing off shore ran some QA risks, but did they listen to me? Nope.”
Blaming bugs for failures just sounds, well, kind of innocent and unavoidable, like flies in the brie when you host cocktails on the porch, or ants attracted by the spilled mixers. You know, unavoidable random acts of nature that you can’t control. So, you accept them as annoying byproducts of life on our planet (kind of like poison ivy and Trump supporters).
You can wave real bugs off, but they only come back until you are smart enough to cover the cheese plate, which makes it less hospitable, but I digress.
Technological failures are not crawling, buzzing, creeping, stinging or even bunny bugs. Rather, they are people who have failed to do their jobs properly. Or, as often, technology that cannot deliver on its promises to the marketplace.
This is not a small problem in the world of advertising technology. It is a HUGE problem.
Not a day passes that promises that cannot be kept are launched in press releases or presentations grounded more in aspiration than reality. Take the simple notion of AI, which EVERYBODY says they have, but in fact, no one has really deployed, because it doesn’t really exist (yet). Machine learning, yes, AI, not yet.
It is not atypical for newer tech companies to overpromise, since they are so desperate to get some market traction. But I do not, and would not, accept any excuses from the well-funded Big Boys like Twitter, Facebook, Google, Amazon etc., especially when they use “bugs” as an excuse for product failures.
And woe be unto you if you do not thoroughly vet ad tech providers who make aspirational claims. For example, claiming cost-per-conversion metrics for TV commercials that look too good to be true. During the confrontation, if you hear “bugs,” start looking for another vendor.
No technology is perfect. Things break, or go down for reasons that simply can’t be explained. But can we as a community stop accepting “bugs” as an answer and instead insist on something more substantive and exact?
Then we really will know “what’s up?,” doc.