Ads back on temporarily

I just turned the WordPress WordAds monetization tool back on. Doing a little test.

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2.8 billion years of evolution, down the drain

Someday, as expressed in this article by Shelly Palmer, AI and technology will be so good it will be impossible to tell truth from fakes. In other words, we won’t be able to trust our eyes and ears any more.

That evolved skill of being able to tell reality from fantasy will be made redundant by silicon and some algorithms. “I’ll believe it when I see it” will become literally true.

We don’t use our ears and eyes when we buy digital advertising. Instead, we think we’re clever by using adtech algorithms to try to optimize (fancy jargon for outsmart) the opaque business that is ad buying.

Except your adtech team is team B, at best. It’s safer and smarter to assume that Team A–team ad fraud–is already using AI and machine learning to outsmart you. After all, they don’t even need to fool your eyes and ears. Only your second-rate ad tech.

Think I’m being overly critical? If you buy anything on any ad network, look at your site transparency report today. I mean really look at it.

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The silence of the fake influencers and lack-of-thought leaders is deafening…

The Malcolm Auld Blog

Those who have read my missives or attended my seminars, are aware I’ve been calling out the online zealots and their snake-oil since the invention of the information superhighway. So here’s today’s polite rant.

The internet and all it brings, is one of the most positive developments in the marketing industry. Yet the industry has been infested with dodgy, dishonest and downright diabolical deceivers, the likes of which have never been seen before.

Though it’s been quite comforting to have a number of industry heavyweights step into the fray these last couple of years and join the cause for honesty and integrity in digital marketing.

But something struck me recently. Given the public revelation about the major players in the digital media landscape, and their lack of ethics around privacy, data usage and the real number of users, something was missing. To recap:

  • Facecrook – data dishonesty, deletion of almost…

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Your Facebook Rebate

Q2 2018 Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 7.17.50 AMis in the books. Plenty of time for advertisers and their agencies to true up Q1 and really start work on the second half of the year.

As a reminder, in Q1 Facebook removed:

  • 583MM fake accounts.
  • 21MM pieces of content featuring sex or nudity
  • 2.5MM pieces of hate speech (I don’t think they were looking hard enough here)

and added 10,000 low paid and poorly-trained contractors moderators to help remove bad content.

So how big was the rebate that you received from Facebook for showing ads to all those bots and in front of that hate speech?

Thought so.

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Talent > Systems

“Any industry that values systems and processes over talent is an industry in decay.”

Wrote Bob Hoffman today, reminding us that the adtech, martech, …aaS, and whatever other stuff we’ve cobbled into a tech stack isn’t our secret sauce.

Like the Warriors, it is the talent and experience that makes the difference.

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Default Power

switch_offFacebook recently said that most of the 2 billion people on their platform had their personal data scraped. The reason, aside from Facebook’s appallingly sloppy controls over access to data, is defaults.

Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg admitted that most people kept their privacy settings in the default configuration, allowing almost anybody to scrape their data. Facebook set up the defaults that way to allow them to sell more advertising. They just set things up in an incredibly stupid and careless fashion.

Dan Ariely and other behavioral economists have done much research on the power of defaults. Pre-checking boxes works, sometimes in ways that are unintended, as Facebook has learned. As marketers, we use defaults for things like ship-till-forbid and negative option sales systems. Those tools will have to be rethought in the EU when GDPR goes into effect in May.

I hope that Facebook’s irresponsible data protection policies will result in something like GDPR in the U.S. although that probably won’t happen in today’s regulatory regime. I believe that EU has done the right thing with consent under GDPR.

An interesting talk on defaults from Dan Ariely:

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The Forgotten Boolean NOT

Reef-KnotI spent last week in Glasgow and London, with a UK SIM card temporarily in my phone. As part of my daily routine of checking Twitter, I learned that many social media advertisers and agencies have forgotten how to use Boolean operators, specifically NOT.

I saw a huge array of poorly-targeted “audiences” used by UK companies within 48 hours of activating my Three phone number. And notice that it took a full 48 hours for the magical, real-time capabilities of adtech to start wasting advertiser dollars. Consider that the next time you hear “real-time” in some pitch from a middleman or clueless agency.

For want of a Boolean operator, lots of advertiser dollars are being wasted. Some examples:

Continue reading

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Were You the Same in 2014?

Facebook is pumping out a lot of spin these days. They’re trying to make us forget they ran (and continue to run) a massive, unregulated surveillance operation. They’re trying to distance themselves from Cambridge Analytica in any way possible, before the orange jumpsuits get passed out.

One of the things you’ll notice is the constant inclusion of “2014” in all messaging.  That’s the date the Facebook Graph API was changed to reduce the amount of PII leaked out through their Custom Audience creation tool. They’re using 2014 because it sounds like a long, long time ago. Practically a lifetime in Internet years. So really, nothing to see here.

Four year old data couldn’t possibly be useful, right? Except at the time, it was only two years old. Now how much have you really changed in the last four years? I’ll bet that aside from the age of the kids, your spring break photos on Facebook look pretty much the same this year as they did last year and the year before. You may have moved or purchased a new car. But your fundamental beliefs and values, as indicated by the Big 5 personality traits, probably have not changed.

I think Facebook is running a little scared right now. Everything they say is spin and should be treated with extreme skepticism. Unfortunately, I also believe they’ll probably wriggle out of most of the fines and jail time. Just like they did anything they wanted with our data, they’ll do anything to squirm out of this. There’s nothing a Silicon Valley billionaire fears more than a little time in the big house, next to his or her suckers users.

 

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Algorithms: Recipes for Disaster

When we purchase digital advertising, we place our faith in the algorithms–a fancy word for “recipes”–used to determine things like the final price of the inventory, which creative is shown, and the frequency at which those impressions are shown. There’s additional recipes to figure out if there’s a real person on the other end of the impression and whether they might be interested in the products we’re selling.

It’s comforting to believe that the recipes are neutral and unbiased. We are told constantly that they are a fair system, void of irrational human biases, where only the cream rises to the top. A meritocracy, in other words. After all, how could pure mathematics be wrong?

I’m often the one questioning the recipe and the recipe-makers themselves. I’m constantly told that “we’ve never been asked that question before.” I used to think that comment was hyperbole. I know there’s lots of smarter people than me out there. Surely somebody must have asked that question before, right?

I now think the recipe-makers are telling the truth. I think they’re often faced with skepticism, which they usually wave off with a version of the “you don’t get it, man” that’s been used since before the first dotcom crash. But I believe that they’re almost never faced with the specific questions about how exactly they arrived at the recipe. The blind faith in math by untrained digital “marketers” (who can’t do math themselves) has resulted in a dearth of common-sense questions.

Do you want to know what the impact of lousy recipes looks like? Read this article about how crummy algorithms, that nobody understands, are literally putting people’s lives at risk. Maybe these recipes aren’t being written by the best of the best, sure. After all, the best of the best are trying to make a quick buck at Facebook. But at least they let anybody with a sack of rubles pilfer our PII for nefarious purposes take good care of the data.

Algorithms are built by people. People are flawed. The algorithms are flawed.

Takeaway: Stop blindly trusting algorithms–they are being used to siphon off your advertising dollars. Start with strategy. Segment-Target-Position. Fight the Philistines. Don’t be a magpie. And win.

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Attacking You With Retargeting

torches-and-pitchforksWebKit recently updated WebKit to address

“An attacker seeking to track site visitors can take advantage of the user’s HSTS cache to store one bit of information on that user’s device.”

in an interesting and understandable technical blog post by Brent Fulgham.

It’s the same loophole used by Criteo and possibly other retargeters.

Said another way, your retargeting vendors are probably more akin to malicious attackers than they are to traditional agencies.

It pains me to see that the profession of marketing has devolved to the state where many advertisers have resorted to hacking customer and prospect computers.

Are you attacking your own customers with your retargeting efforts? And if you are, are you doing business in the EU or targeting EU citizens? Are you sure?

Bonus question: If you’re using Criteo or another retargeting vendor (not “partner”), do they contractually indemnify you for transgressions of GDPR? I’d read that contract today. May 28 is fast approaching.

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