The real lesson to take away from the US Presidential Election and the UK Brexit Vote.

I’ve worked in the marketing “industry” for several decades, and have been on the “buy-side” all that time. To those not in the industry that means I buy marketing services (creative and media) from companies who sell it. Those companies use very similar techniques as are used in politics to advise on the right message and mix of media, and I’ve found that the accuracy of those “techniques” has always been biased towards the exact services that those “sell-side” marketers are pushing.

During the election cycle we saw every single media outlet doing whatever they could to keep their revenue streams happy. On TV and radio this means keeping consumers watching/listening across ad-breaks, while in print and online it was to maximize their viewership by offering views that would be attractive to as wide an audience as possible.

So every issue was represented from both sides, every fact was questioned without facts and every bullshit idea was presented as equal to any fact. There was absolutely no interest in what any candidate actually was going to do, what was important was presenting every position as equal, allowing every party to just talk and talk.

Stolen information from emails, and candidly recorded audio was presented without any interest in its integrity and was presented as being as valid as formally recorded statements, creating a level of uncertainty around every piece of knowledge, facts and non-facts were melded, and it became hard to distinguish rumor from fact, so hard that most people gave up even trying to, “her lies” and “his misogyny, bigotry and bluster” was seen as equal, which I suspect in the cold hard light of history will be seen to not be so.

And then to support all of this, highly nuanced surveys and polls were continually captured and presented. I say highly nuanced, because polls and surveys always end up speaking to a small group of people who actually are willing to spend the time to answer questions. And when you pay someone to run a survey they quickly learn who they can rely on, and will go to the same people again and again, despite the clear data issue this generated, because that’s how they get paid.

The goal is to create content in support of revenue. Cheap content, presented as valuable beyond it’s true value. Low cost product generating high profit revenue is the dream of any business, including the media.

Polls, surveys, snippets of information then discussed by talking heads and bloggers, who then become the news source for more talking heads to discuss (just look at Foxnews, MSNBC, CNN, NBC, BBC News, Huffington post etc). The actual validity of the core data quickly gets lost in the process of generating “content”

In business the sell-side marketers are always pushing “facts” in support of the “buy-side” marketers case to spend more money. “buy-side” marketers are always under pressure to justify their budgets, and once they start to rely on the “sell-side facts” they are hooked into an addictive cycle that requires them to just double down on their committed plan, spending more and more.

This is exactly what the media do in every election cycle. The biggest measure of a campaign is seen as how much are they spending on ad’s. When in fact these adverts have almost no impact on the election, and yet every campaign buys into the bullshit. Every talking head, newspaper and blogger is writing about who has a bigger war chest, and who is spending more in this month’s cycle of ad’s. Every Ad is presented as a powerful new tool to swing the result, a tool that never produced the promised results, EVER!

The pain that businesses feel when they cannot see a direct relationship between their marketing investment and their business performance is EXACTLY the same as the pain that the electorate feel when the polls prove to be entirely devoid of reality.

The people who are marching up and down outside Trump buildings, should maybe think about marching up and down outside the “free presses” offices.

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Is It Time To Go Back To Print?

Several years ago I stopped buying print magazines, instead relying on websites for my news, opinion and science. And for a while this worked well for me, I even got a kindle to read books.

Some people say that reading on a screen is just not the same as reading off of a page, and obviously they are right, it’s not the same. But in some ways it was easier, as your ability to find content is vastly increased, and it’s possible to travel with a complete library on any screen you choose.

But there are a couple of downsides to digital reading. The most obvious technical difference is in the quality of the represented text, it’s clearly different, and some don’t find it as easy to read (even through others love the fact you can resize text to suit your eyesight and mood).

But to me there really is only one reason why e-reading is not as good as paper reading, and that single reason is the increasingly annoying and intrusive ad’s.

A few years ago ad’s just sat at the top and bottom of a page, statically looking just the same as the ad’s in a printed newspaper. Then they started to pop-up and required extra work to navigate around.

But then they started to interact with the reader, to try and be “more relevant”, but actually are just like that really annoying kid you went to school with, who would never shut the fuck up.

That kid that would incessantly talk; and talk about absolutely anything, however irrelevent. That kid that as he became a teenager was clearly deranged, and would walk around the streets talking to anyone and anything that just happened to be in his or her line of sight. The one that used to have a regularly blackend eye from speaking crap to the wrong person he just happened to pass.

That person that probably even now is part of some anti-everything conspiracy group trying to tell the world that the moon landings were fake, and his mother was kidnapped by aliens.

Actually I think that kid is now employed by Google. They have co-opted his lifelong skill of being irritating as the new ad presentation technique.

Who ever thought that ad’s that move around across your screen was a good thing?

Why do I need to see a thirty second ad before watching a video segment on a news article, when the ad has absolutely nothing to do with the article I’m trying to read.

And what total utter bastard thought we needed to hear a video auto play as we mistakenly mouse’d over some bold text in a scientific paper? (Yes I means YOU New Scientist magazine online).

I know that online advertising is a multi multi billion dollar business, but honestly does anyone actually read online ad’s or does everyone do what I do, and hunt longingly for the sneakily hidden X on the ad’s while reciting a series of swearwords that used to be just the domain of really humorous Tourette Syndrome sufferers.

My wife gets the paper delivered daily (mainly for the crossword) but I’m finding myself looking at it longingly, and remembering the halcyon days of the internet when advertising was an interactive as the woman who works at the DMV (ie. Not at all).

There is a tipping point online advertizers, one that you are fast approaching when I (and the silent majority) may have to resort to buying magazines again!

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