Ex-agency Man Calls Ad Industry “Delusional”

mmars“Marketers are from Mars. Consumers are from New Jersey.” ~ Bob Hoffman

The ad industry is suffering from three major delusions, according Bob Hoffmann, former owner of the Hoffman/Lewis agency and now an outspoken critic of current ad practices.

According to Will Heilpern in Business Insider, Hoffman spoke about these misconceptions at a recent event in London.

“All of these delusions have one thing in common: they take a little bit of truth and then they distort it and they exaggerate it and they torture it to the point at which it does our marketers more harm than good,” Hoffman said.

“The first mistake advertisers make,” Heilpern summarizes, “is thinking that other people actually care about their brands.” Hoffman asserts they don’t; yet brands have spent billions trying to “engage” their customers at that level.

The second delusion is the “over-exaggeration of the importance of digital,” Heilpern continues, citing Hoffman as saying:  “As a result of all our reliance on digital technology, we have made a very incautious leap of logic. We have assumed that digital technology has made irrelevant everything that came before it.

“Just walk outside, it’s everywhere. It’s on every burger, every bus, every t-shirt, every bench, every theater ticket, every square inch of the f—— planet is covered in [traditional] advertising,” Hoffman continued.

“Marketers are pouring more and more money into online advertising. They don’t know what they’re buying, they don’t know who they’re buying it from. They don’t know what they’re getting, they don’t know how much they’re paying. If there’s a better definition of being on Mars, I’d like to hear what it is.”

(Given the sketchy state of digital advertising – the fraud, the ad blocking, the bots – he’s right: the digital ad promise has turned out to be a unicorn.)

Finally, there’s the delusion of age: Brands are obsessed with connecting with young people when, “in reality, the most lucrative market is the over 50s,” writes Heilpern.

“You know all the awesome millennials we see in car ads? In the US, people aged 75 to dead buy six times as many new cars as people aged 16 to 24.” Hoffman asked: “Do you really think it’s a good idea to avoid these people?”

Clearly, he feels that answer is a resounding “no.”

“People over 50 control about 70% of the wealth of the US …  And yet people over 50 are the target of 10% of marketing activity in the US,” Hoffman notes. “The marketing industry has been spending too much time on another planet. We need to get back down to earth.”

Back down to New Jersey, where the customers live and breathe and decide to buy.