Tuesday, June 19, 2018

“What the f--- is happening to our business?’: As ad execs hit Cannes, New Yorker scribe Ken Auletta’s new book chronicles the industry’s various existential crises

From Business Insider, June 16:
As hundreds of high-powered advertising and media executives descend on Cannes this week for a flurry of meetings, marketing stunts, and boozy yacht parties, there's an undercurrent of deep uncertainly about the industry's future.

As well chronicled in New Yorker writer Ken Auletta's new book, "Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else)," advertising faces a crisis at every turn. People are asking scary questions such: "Do ad agencies have a reason to exist?" "Is TV advertising — and interruptive advertising — nearly over?" "Do consumers hate us?"

Business Insider spoke with Auletta about his experience writing the book and his take on the state of affairs in adland.

Mike Shields: In your career, you're written a lot about media and tech. How much did you really know about the ins and outs of how the ad business really operates?
Ken Auletta: Not enough. One of the attractions of doing this book. Covering the media for a long time, if you adopt the Watergate mentality of follow the money, you say, my god, you've gotta look at advertising. There's the piggy bank for much of the media. And I don't just mean legacy media. I mean Facebook, Google, the internet.

The other reason I do what I do is visiting another planet, and finding the natives and how they operate. And for me I was visiting a new planet. The advertising-marketing planet. And so for me that intellectually was a challenge.

Shields: Was there anything that really surprised you in your reporting?
Auletta: Among the things that surprised me was how fast the disruption was happening. I was stunned by the idea that 20% of Americans use ad-blockers. And a third of Western Europeans have ad blockers on their cellphones. Those are huge numbers.

And [another surprise was] how the cellphone becomes a real impediment to advertising. It's such a personal instrument. It's like your wallet or your purse. You don't lend it to anyone. And suddenly people are pinging you. Before you read what you searched for, we want to divert you for 20 second or 25 seconds. It really is annoying. So people are really turned off by ads as an interruption. And that was a punch in the nose.

Obviously you watch television, and you kept getting bombarded. You're interrupted 19 minutes or so every hour.

Shields: Right. But TV was sort of built that way.
Auletta: The thing that makes it more annoying, even though it was built that way, is you can turn to Netflix, let's say, and you can watch what you want without commercial interruption, and you can watch as much of it as you want. It just accentuates your feeling of being interrupted....