Real Time Marketing is the Worst

Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, began his keynote at the University of Michigan commencement ceremony with something that seemed appropriate for marketing, or at least what people who talk about advertising seem to think it’ll turn into.

“You can’t plan a script. The beauty of improvisation is you’re experiencing it in the moment. If you try to plan what the next line is supposed to be, you’re just going to be disappointed when the other people on stage with you don’t do or say what you want them to do and you’ll stand there frozen.”

We all know that improv is the future of advertising. Or at least people think that it’s the future. Or at least I did when I wrote a post about marketing turning into jazz a few years ago.

Whose Line is it Anyways-British Version

But those were simpler times. Back before marketing folks figured out that posting innane things on Facebook once a day was a good way to tell their C-Suite that they were doing the Internet, just like the man on the TV said to do.

“Look at all that engagement!” they tell their colleagues while pointing at pages of badly written, uninteresting, incredibly useless noise.

Some Examples:

If your teacher’s a Pepper, treat them with a Pepper.
Pepper in Pepper is perfection.
Start with a Pepper and finish with a Pepper.
Life: That thing you do in between Peppers.

So, Internet crisis averted. Let’s make more TV spots!

But, then the power went out at the Super Bowl and Oreo tweeted an instagram hashtag that spawned a few thousand marketing blog posts.

Real Time Marketing was here.

“Finally!” exclaimed the press and douchebag marketing bloggers, “The Future has come!”

Not to disregard the Oreo thing, because it was pretty cool. But I’m not convinced that sort of thing will scale well. It will definitely try to scale. Like some awful toenail fungus.

But there’s a chance that the only long term effect of their success will involve every brand under the sun pointing at things and yelling like an overly sugared two-year old.

I have a two year old. He points out every stop sign and school bus that we see when we’re out for a drive. But timeliness doesn’t necessarily equal relevance. Right?

Put a bunch of important people with MBAs in a room with a 24-year old social media guy and call it a Command Center if you’d like, but that’s not going to ensure business moving, or even good, ideas. What we’re going to wind up with is very loud social streams full of brands shouting and pointing and jumping up and down while trying to be clever. That doesn’t sound very futuristic to me. It sounds like spam. No one likes spam. Except for my parents in the 80s. But that was a weird time for everyone.

This is all why I tried to avoid any SXSW panels put on by agencies or marketing people. The whole business seems like it’s trying to find new ways to hassle people or trick people more effeciently rather than do a better job with the tools we already have or finding better ways of communicating with people.

We find ads to be annoying, but my son’s generation is growing up without advertising. He doesn’t even know what it is. Which could mean that they’re not going to have the same tolerance of it and are unlikely to allow it into their lives as readily as we do. There’s good odds that what marketing people make now will be considered spam in a decade or two. Big data or small data or whatever data. Some businesses that want an approach to their marketing that does not involve excessive improvisation or social media posting may want to consider the benefits of something like off page SEO to get their websites off the ground and skyrocketing through the Google rankings.

All of this is going to require deeper solutions than hashtags, real time photoshopping and inviting people to “tell us your story.” Using digital media well is going to require a notoriously dumb industry to finally have some respect for the people they are trying to market to. Which is why I love the digital space and the technology that screens out ads people don’t want to see. It’s going to make the world better by forcing marketing to be better for everyone involved.

SXSW Recap: Lightning Round

I’ve fallen just a tad behind on recapping my SXSW experience. And really, I’ve probably passed the point of people caring. But I said I would blog about what I saw down there, so here goes … lightning round of the rest of the panels I saw:

    1. There were far too many panels concluding that you can’t really make something go viral. People on panels are still finding that idea to be profound. Seriously. Generally speaking, those panels were the bad ones (looking at you, Mashable).
    2. There’s a crowdsourced pop-star called Miku that is comprised of hundreds of producers and artists participating across a dozen social media platforms. She has hundreds of fans and billions of views. Attending this panel was hard because it was mostly made up of brilliant Japanese people who made English sound like Japanese.
    3. Susan O’Conner believes gaming is following a similar trajectory to television in terms of quality. We’re in the network model right now, where there’s a few huge players that make games that have to appeal to everyeone. Mobile and indie game studios are gaming’s version of cable TV. And while the quality is hit and miss right now, there will come a point where the major companies are chasing the smaller companies who are creating emotional experiences with their gameplay. You know, like how cable shows are awesome now and networks are trying really hard to follow. Badly.
    4. Cindy Gallup spoke about how it’s incredibly difficult to be a start-up when dealing with adult content. She also talked about her usual “make love not porn” schtick. She’s pretty amazing…has some pretty big ideas…and would probably offend my parents. I think she’ll have to keep her ideas to herself or just to me at least. Instead of creating an ‘adult content’ business, she could quite easily work with someone like to get herself on the ladder. I’m not sure if I’m so keen on her getting in this industry though…
    5. Lego is never stops being my favorite thing. Their crowdsourcing model is cool. But even they do better with crowdsourcing when they team up with a large cultural movement like Minecraft.
    6. Seeing Marc Maron’s WTF podcast in person was great. Though it was weird listening for my laugh in the audience when the podcast came out last week … like I was trying to contact myself from the past. Also, James Franco got mad.
    7. The guy that draws The Oatmeal is younger and less curmudgeony than I thought. He seems to have a good grasp on how to motivate lots of people to give money for a good cause.
    8. Ouya is really cool. I hope they do well. The founder is good at skirting questions, like she didn’t know she was going to be asked things during her interview.
    9. My favorite part of Rohit Bhargava’s session on building trust was his use of this line from the Hunger Games: You really want to know how to stay alive? You get people to like you. The amount of marketing people that simply don’t care about what people think is astonishing. It makes it really hard to argue against the idea that aliens are inhabiting human bodies.

    I think that is about it. Glad to get this out of my system.