Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Some dark thoughts about Ad Tech.

You can’t spit in the ad industry these days without hearing something about the inexorable rise of Ad Tech.

Ad Tech, they’ll tell you, is more important than creative. By using data to serve the consumer with the right message at precisely the right time, companies that use Ad Tech will prosper as never before.

With such timely messaging, consumers will leap to engage with ads. I’ll get an ad for mustard just as I buy a pound of salami. Just as I hit a pothole on the Cross Bronx, I’ll get a coupon for new Michelins. It’s all going to be great and magical—and creative (which is unpredictable, expensive and made by temperamental people) will be unimportant. That’s how perfect our timing and data mining is going to be. Step right this way! See base-metal turned to gold!

I can’t help but think the same sort of blathering was blathered by the now-billionaires behind the chain-stores and chain-restaurants and chain-hotels and chain-movie-theaters that dominate the American landscape.

Service consistency will improve. Operations will be streamlined. Prices will be lowered.

Here’s what they never let on: everything will suck.

You can’t get help. Quality is abysmal. And god-forbid something doesn’t work, just try to return it.

IMHO, you can hardly go to a movie in America where the theater isn’t filthy. You can hardly buy anything in a Home Depot that isn’t shoddily made. You can hardly stay in a Sheraton that isn’t teetering on pestilential.

In fact, most of America now has the charm of LaGuardia airport during a snowy rush-hour in February. It’s dank, dreary, delayed and dismal.

This is what happens when the money boys move in to an industry.

And they’ve moved into ours.

They’re putting the final nail in the industry’s coffin by saying creative doesn’t matter, Ad Tech does. What they don’t let on is that Ad Tech—giving the consumer the right message at the right time—is only a competitive advantage if you’re the only one doing it. Once it’s ubiquitous, and it will be, like Starbucks or McDonalds, it’s meaningless. Because everyone is sending you the same splendidly-timed but creatively indifferent undifferentiated message. No sales are made without offering deep discounts, no loyalty is fostered. All you’ve done is filled another phone, or another website, or another social media feed with crap.

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