Isn’t it Time for Truth?

Startup Entrepreneur

My story isn’t sweet and harmonious like invented stories.

It tastes of folly and bewilderment, of madness and dream,

like the life of all people who no longer want to lie to themselves.

-Hermann Hesse

Entrepreneurs are an extraordinary species. We are psychologically geared to be optimistic, and we often ignore the negative flip side of the coin. I am a serial entrepreneur as well as a fifth generation iteration of this particular group. For anyone wondering, those entrepreneurial roots stretch over thousands of miles and back into the late 19th Century.

The Internet is a dream-come-true for the entrepreneurial spirit. I feel eminently qualified to offer musings on this medium. We joined the Internet revolution in 1997 with our first e-commerce store. It has been one heck of a ride, and Herman Hesse’s words above represent the clearest picture of my journey.

Media and marketing is what I like to write about when not thinking about the abusive nature of the NSA, drone strikes or government sanctioned torture. But just as there are ridiculous attempts to justify and rationalize the most egregious actions by whatever party is in power, there is an equally dubious attempt to invent harmonious stories of marketing prowess amongst the digerati.

I recognize the optimism from the entrepreneurial echoes ever present in my mind. I love madness, even folly. And where would we be without dreams? But isn’t it time to separate fiction from reality? Outside of a few writers (and special kudos to Brian Morrissey over at Digiday for telling it like it is), the invented stories of successful marketing methodologies overwhelms the online publishing ecosystem.

What drives these invented stories? Is this just entrepreneurial optimism? I think not. The invented, self-serving stories of the chest thumpers ought to be taken for what they are: 180 proof BS. There are many middle men whose existence depends upon perpetuating the myth of their prowess. There are also many writers who seek out success stories to write about… until they settle on new story lines of ignominious failure.

So what is the Truth? I no longer sell media solutions, so I have no axe to grind here; I can afford to be honest. As a direct marketer, we operate in what is left over after all of the other marketers waste their money believing the mythology of those invented stories. Five years ago, there was an insatiable appetite for “behavioral targeting.” Today, it is Big Data and programmatic buying.

There is an ever-expanding din calling for more and more targeting. But amidst the ever-increasing advertising glut, advertising rates continue to decline. Simply put: The supply of advertising space is increasing at 100 percent annually, while the demand is only increasing at 15 to 20 percent. The rates must necessarily decline, and they are.

Here is a thought experiment: If advertising rates went down to zero, would anyone pay to target? The obvious answer, one would think, is absolutely not. Well, we have ad rates beating a path to almost free. It would seem to me that rather than spend money on targeting, brands and marketers should spend effort trying to take advantage of the ever falling rates.

Ubiquity might be a better strategy than targeting. Targeting often costs more money than the media itself. The only real beneficiary in the latest, greatest invented stories are those selling the services to a gaggle of marketers eager to continue lying to themselves.

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