Bob Hoffman criticizes advertising so well because he is an advertiser

…why would a company that can reach a billion people even want to sell targeting? They should be selling anti-targeting. They should be selling reach. They are the only media property in the solar system that reaches a billion people and they are trading on their ability to reach falafel lovers in Yonkers.

Facebook has taken precision targeting bullshit to its logical absurdity. They’re sitting on a gold mine, but they’re throwing away the gold and selling the dirt.


…I think the creepy Zuckerberg kid doesn’t really want to be in the ad business. Like all these rich web phonies, he sees himself as some kind of high-minded visionary. Advertising just doesn’t fit his smug idea of who he is and what he stands for.


To him, advertising is a crass affair, unbecoming his noble purpose. Which is why it is relegated to invisible little postage stamps on a part of the page no one looks at.

In short, he’s embarrassed about being in the ad business. To be honest here, so am I. But I don’t have investors.



The truth about cell phones and tablets is that despite offering less clunky metaphors of human-computer interaction, they are about more user control, not less. (And by control I mean “actual control.” Actual control is swiping something away with your finger and having confidence that you know what you are doing. Theoretical control is the command line that a statistically insignificant percent of the population can use.)

Greater control is the reason traditional carpet-bombing, high-impact, intrusive ads were determined to be anathema on desktops and laptops (in comparison to TV and radio,) with that thought even stronger when applied to cell phones and tablets. Internet people know that infinitesimally small click-through rates and impact are preferable to “turning off” users. They know being turned off is a far more visceral feeling online than off. And they know that turning off users in an age of greater control is far riskier because it means user abandonment. By contrast, no one ever really quit TV before the internet. There was nowhere to go. And besides, internet people know that by the time the metrics prove their embarrassed-to-be-in-the-ad-business ads don’t do much (or even really reach people) they’ll already have made their money.

The closer you get someone to feel like they are pushing a button to be served an ad, the feeling of horror they experience goes up asymptotically. This closeness isn’t some abstract concept. It is actual physical closeness. Your phone and tablet are inches from your face. The button you push to be served an ad (which you really just pushed to get a piece of honest content) is literally touching your finger. It is not abstracted through a corded mouse and keyboard. It is not being served without your permission on a screen across the room or hundreds of feet away in a dark theater. Dead-tree magazines and newspapers get around this by having static images that are already there. They do not load at your non-command. Dead-tree books get around this the easier way: not having ads.

And the trend for technological devices is only getting more personal, not less.

For more, check out Terry Heaton.

But Bob, of course, already knew this:

To understand the problem with this we have to go back to first principles.

The first is that interactivity is the enemy of advertising. Whether the interactivity takes the form of clicking a tv remote, pushing a radio push-button, clicking a mouse or swiping a page, we believe that people are far more likely to interact with a medium to avoid advertising than to engage with it.


Knocking this stuff down is basically like shooting fish in a barrel for Bob.

“Native advertising” -

Desperate magazine publishers used to do stuff like this. If you bought a large enough ad schedule they’d sneak some positive mentions of your product into their editorial pages. It wasn’t called native advertising. It was called unscrupulous bullshit. And you didn’t have to pay for it.

The eternal optimism of the online advertising ethos -

Online advertising is like communism. It’s never working very well right now, but it’s always going to be great sometime in the future.