Programmatic Advertising Is Running Amok

Having spent many years in the direct marketing business, I’m usually amused by examples of target marketing gone awry. My personal favorite happened when I was on Amazon purchasing a cell phone bracket for my bicycle.

Target stock imageHaving spent many years in the direct marketing business, I’m usually amused by examples of target marketing gone awry. My personal favorite happened when I was on Amazon purchasing a cell phone bracket for my bicycle. Amazon’s algorithm generated this suggestion:

Amazon wants Chuck to be a pirateNow I don’t know how frequently the pirate boots and the tri-corner hat are bought together with the cell phone mount, but I have to say that the combination was tempting for a few minutes.

The fact remains that direct marketing is not perfect. Many years ago, I made a donation to my alma mater, Rutgers College. The student on the phone asked if I wanted to designate my gift to a particular part of the University, and when I said, “No,” he said, “Well I’m in the Glee Club and we could sure use the money. Will you designate to the Glee Club?”

“Sure,” I said.

For decades now, I’ve been getting mail addressed, “Dear Glee Club Alumnus.” One day, I will attend a Glee Club reunion, certain that many people will remember my contribution to the tenor section.

While these harmless examples of imprecision are humorous, there’s nothing funny about the current exodus of major advertisers from the Google ad network and YouTube. Programmatic ad placement is a boon to target marketing, but like most direct marketing, it’s not perfect.

Major advertisers are in a tizzy over how to control where their ads appear … and the Google ad network is scrambling to get control over placement, as they should be. Advertisers need to protect their brands from appearing in an environment that can harm them.

Just a few examples: Ads for IHOP, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, “The Lego Batman Movie,” “Chips” and others have recently popped up among nude videos from everyday users or X-rated posts from porn-star influencers. Ad Age 3/6/17

A Nordstrom ad for Beyonce’s Ivy Park clothing line appeared on Breitbart next to this headline: NYTimes 3/26/17

Chuck's take on Nordstrom appearing on BreitbartHere’s a great attempt at an explanation for this juxtaposition:

“What we do is, we match ads and the content, but because we source the ads from everywhere, every once in a while somebody gets underneath the algorithm and they put in something that doesn’t match.  We’ve had to tighten our policies and actually increase our manual review time and so I think we’re going to be okay,” Schmidt told the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo. Fox News 3/23/17

Appearing next to hate speech is particularly problematic for brands:

Google-displayed ads for Macy’s and the genetics company 23andMe appeared on the website My Posting Career, which describes itself as a “white privilege zone,” next to a notice saying the site would offer a referral bonus for each member related to Adolf Hitler. Washington Post 3/24/17

The Wall Street Journal reported Coca-Cola, PepsiCo Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Dish Network Corp. suspended spending on all Google advertising, except targeted search ads. Starbucks Corp. and General Motors Co. said they were pulling their ads from YouTube. FX Networks, part of 21st Century Fox Inc., said it was suspending all advertising spending on Google, including search ads and YouTube … Wal-Mart said: “The content with which we are being associated is appalling and completely against our company values.”
Ads for Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Toyota Motor Corp., Dish Network, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Geico unit and Google’s own YouTube Red subscription service appeared on racist videos with the slur “n–” in the title. Wall Street Journal 3/24/17

And as difficult as it is for the ad networks to control, brands have their own challenges trying to protect themselves from undesirable placements. Different departments running different campaigns with different agencies cause ads to appear on corporate blacklisted sites. BMW of North America has encountered that issue because its marketing plan does not extend to dealerships. While the company does not buy ads on Breitbart, Phil DiIanni, a spokesman, noted that “dealerships are independent businesses and decide for themselves on their local advertising.” NYTimes 3/26/17

Clearly our technology’s ability to target has outstripped our ability to control it. And while it remains to be seen what controls will be put in place, it’s likely that, as always, target marketing won’t be perfect.

The First Marketer Daymond John Ever Hired

One topic that came up during our interview with Daymond John was what he looks for in a marketer, and what made him hire his first.

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Daymond John — Star of Shark Tank, Founder of Shark Branding, Founder of FUBU.

One of the interesting topics that came up during my interview with Daymond John was what he looks for in a marketer, including who was the first marketer he ever hired, and why.

Here’s that story. And if you want to read more, including his recommendations when you’re marketing to a culture you don’t know well, click here to download the full interview (transcript and audio).

Thorin: Do you remember the first time you hired someone in marketing for FUBU?

Daymond: The first time I hired somebody in marketing was basically public relations. It was a fusion of public relations and marketing, and perfect example of what you’re asking if people weren’t part of it and how did they help.

I did an event at Macy’s, it was with LL Cool J. The woman that worked over at Macy’s side who was there to look over the event, she was an African-American woman, but she had just came back from Japan, and she was a ballerina for most of her life, and she was in France and Japan and wasn’t exposed to hip-hop — didn’t know what it was. She grew up in Jersey at a younger age.

But she handled the event with LL Cool J and us. And the people at Macy’s, they were okay, but they kind of were like … they weren’t treating us — remember, this was when hip-hop and hip-hop empowerment was young — they weren’t treating us, like, the best. You know? They kind of gave us a side area and they told her, “Eh, Just do what you can for the guys, they’re cool, but you know, whatever.”

And I loved her, and I loved how professional she was, and I hired her. And I remember her coming on board, and she didn’t know not one rapper, not one artist, but she knew how to communicate and get this information out to whatever magazine. Once she started talking to all the rap magazines and all the media outlets, she carried herself like a professional like she did in France and in Japan, and she communicated like she was at Macy’s.

A general view during the filming of Mark Burnett's "Shark Tank" in Chatsworth, Calif. on July 13, 2009 (by Sarah Hummert for Daymond John).
A general view during the filming of Mark Burnett’s “Shark Tank” in Chatsworth, Calif. on July 13, 2009 (by Sarah Hummert for Daymond John).

She didn’t go in there and try to have the hip-hop lingo and everything else. She went in there and she treated other people like professionals, and they actually stepped up their game and respected her, and the communication got better. And I think that that was part of how hip-hop has grown, from people of different cultures and different levels taking the same fundamentals they practiced and moving it and using it where, initially, hip-hop was just the music from the streets.

That was my first person, and she stayed with me for 20 years. She’s still with me today. Her name’s Leslie, Leslie Short. She handles some other stuff now, but that was the prime example of what you were talking about [earlier, about how to market to an audience you don’t know well]: She didn’t have anything to do with hip-hop at the moment, but she was a professional and she acted and carried herself that way and treated the brand that way.