Too Big to Succeed?

I’ve been in advertising for almost 20 years now, starting with traditional brand advertising but in those days, in the unique and new position of digital developer. Way back when, that meant the cutting edge technology of Adobe Flash. Archaic now, but at the time a good Flash developer could roll out money by the wheel barrow on Madison Avenue. In those days, during and post “Dot.com” bubble, digital meant Photoshop and Illustrator. Add Microsoft Project and that was your typical “technology stack”.

But traditional businesses, large and small, no matter what sector, knew that any media buy now required a presence on the Internet. But traditional brand agencies were not nearly prepared to deal with html, css, javascript..etc. Nor did they really want to. All that digital stuff was, well, digital! Traditional agencies, and most non-traditional, as well, focused on radio and tv ads, print ads in magazines and newspapers or even billboards and flyers. I may be dating myself here but that was the advertising world pretty much for most of the entire 20th century. So it’s understandable when the McCanns, the Y&Rs, the Greys, the Sterling Cooper’s (Sterling Cooper?) did not deem it necessary to make radical staff changes. They settled for the old reliable “outsourcing”. No, not to foreign shores as was becoming the vogue, but to the “techie” shops off in the wild frontier of Brooklyn.

After all, brand agencies come up with ideas and strategies but when they want an actual commercial they find a production company to do the scripting, shooting and editing. They do not keep actors, directors and cameramen on staff. The agency just hands them the script, more or less. In any case, you get the idea. If a client wants an interactive web site, with cool transitions and flashy animations, just hand it off to those up and coming “digital shops” with their snotty little propellerheads and geeks. As long as they meet their deadlines, more power to them. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Internet. Clients, finding out it was these little geeky startups under the Brooklyn Bridge that were creating all those cool, flashy sites, at a fraction of the overall budgets they were paying their big brand agencies by the way, they began to skip the middleman. Now those little “geeky” shops became the RG/A, the Huge, the Big SpaceShips of the world.

Simultaneously, with the rise of the banner ad, this fueled their tremendous growth even more as the banner ad has become ubiquitous in all Internet marketing. And then, last but not least, the real fuel being added to the fire…social networks! Back in the 2000s, News Corp, tried selling ads on MySpace the same way they did for their magazines. It didn’t work. Bad tech, bad attitudes and bad timing eventually did them in. But these were lessons not lost on the next generation of “digital” advertisers, Google, Instagram and, yes, Facebook, Myspace’s heir apparent and winner in the social market sweepstakes.

That brings me up to today. Recently, the almighty Facebook has shut down my ad accounts for both Facebook and Instagram, stating that I am not a legitimate advertiser. These are accounts I’ve had since Facebook’s inception when I was working at agencies trying to convince my directors this was the future of advertising. Some believed me, most didn’t, but here we are. Now Facebook, in all their daunting glory, now wields the soul power over who is an advertiser and who is not, at least, in Facebook land.

Fair enough, it is their platform, they built it, they own it. They have enough problems dealing with the Dunning & Kruger effect, extreme partisanship over the simplest issues and censorship. Hey, it is media afterall, and even during the brand agency error there were always Do’s and Don’ts, but although there were always rules as to how you can advertise no one ( with the possible exception of the Ad Council) could say who or could not be an advertiser!. Is Facebook really so over-blown and conceited with billions of dollars and billions of users that they have the audacity to tell me that I am NOT an advertiser. To be blunt, Facebook can kiss my astrological sign! How dare they!? How dare anyone?! Yes, in one short stroke, they have cut off a sizable and important source of revenue for me (And many thousands of others I’m sure) and a smaller less significant source of revenue for themselves. They obviously could care less about me or other small advertisers like me. I can only assume it’s because being the gargantua that they are they see themselves as simply too big to fail! They crush little guys like me like ants and just keep going, oblivious to any damage they may cause. But I suspect that soon, perhaps, sooner than they think, they will actually find themselves too big to SUCCEED! I certainly hope so. Remember, before Facebook, MySpace was the largest social network on the planet, however, briefly. When Facebook’s days are numbered I, little old me, a veteran of the ad wars, the tech wars and the internet wars, will dance on their grave. As someone somewhere one said, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely!”

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