What The Advertising Industry Really Needs Is Hell-Raisers, Not Jargon Monkeys

What the advertising industry really needs is hell-raisers, not jargon monkeys – that was the blunt message from Bob Hoffman, the Ad Contrarian, at ITV’s flagship Ad Week Europe event today. 

Introducing ‘The 2014 Spotlight Lecture - The Golden Age of Bullshit’, Hoffman told a jammed theatre: “My name is Bob and I’m here to talk about bullshit.

“You’re probably thinking what kind of schmuck comes all the way from San Francisco to London to talk about bullshit? Well, now you know.”

Hoffman went on to tear apart advertising-speak. “People who bullshit often don’t know what the truth is and don’t care,” he said. “They really don’t care whether what they’re saying is true or not.

“There are people in our business who believe that consumers are in love with brands, that they want to have brand experiences and be personally engaged with brands. You go to these guys’ Twitter pages and they say ‘I’m passionate about brands’. You what? Dude, get a f@cking girlfriend!”

Hoffman told us he had three ambitions with his speech. “The first is to contradict everything you’ve heard this week,” he said. “The second is to annoy people. The third is to have you leave this talk a little less comfortable and a lot more sceptical than when you arrived.

“An astounding amount of what the experts have told us about advertising, marketing and media in the past ten years has turned out to be baloney.”

He spoke about all the theories that had been put forward that had turned out to be wrong – such as the death of advertising.

“Every square inch of the f@cking planet is covered in advertising and these schmucks are telling us it’s dead,” he said.

“I’m sorry – you simply can’t kill advertising. On the final day, when that great big flaming asteroid descends on our poor little planet, there will be only two things left, cockroaches and copywriters.”

He said we were also told that the digital video recorder would kill television advertising. “Not only has the DVR not disrupted TV viewing, it has actually enhanced it,” he said.

Hoffman then laid into the idea that interactive advertising would be more engaging for the consumer.

“Unfortunately it turns out that people have no interest in interacting with advertising,” he claimed.

Then it was the turn of the ‘infantile fantasy’ of social media marketing to appear in the firing line. “Social media itself has been a huge world-wide phenomenon,” he said. “But social media marketing has been anything but.

“What social media platforms are rapidly becoming is just one more channel for traditional paid advertising. 

He pointed the finger at Pepsi for their ‘Pepsi Refresh’ project where he said they abandoned traditional advertising and spent millions on social media, amassing millions of Facebook likes but seeing a five per cent loss in their market share.

“I’m often called a Luddite dinosaur by social media experts,” he said. “I love it when they say this, because I can then stick it up their vulnerable places.”

Hoffman pointed out the successful career he had built via social media. “I’m speaking as a social media success story,” he said. He also said that social is great for fulfilling demand, rather than creating it. 

He then launched an attack on the entire advertising industry for ignoring older people.

“Advertising and marketing people don’t like being associated with older people. They say, ‘we can’t build ourselves a hot advertising career by talking about old farts.’”

But, he said, the over-50s hold the purse-strings and the purchasing power. “One of the great problems of our industry is how oblivious we are to our own irrational behaviour,” he said.

What the advertising industry really needs, said Hoffman, is troublemakers.

“We have a responsibility to the truth,” he said. “Our industry needs it and our clients deserve it. We’re in desperate need of troublemakers. We need hell-raisers.

“We’ve been subjected to 10 years of insufferable bullshit and I for one am tired of it.”