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Stupid Media Watch: Weeping from Pure Ignorance


By Ken Magill

What is it about marketing that leads so many writers at big publishers to file so much ignorant garbage about it?

In the latest case of a writer having no clue how marketing works but still thinking he can write intelligently about it, we have IT columnist Dennis Howlett over at ZDNet.

He published a piece last week headlined “CMO to have more spend power? Don’t make me weep” in which the second sentence pretty much tells us all we need to know.

“Traditionally, marketing departments have been largely unaccountable in terms I understand,” Howlett wrote.

He then spent the rest of the column demonstrating how true that statement is.

“They run projects, campaigns and the like, the success of which is often measured in useless terms like ‘Our NFL ad spot was tweeted a gazzilion (sic) times--result,’ or ‘We sent out a ton of press releases and Howlett did a really great write up, we got a great spot in the FT and the WSJ. Awesome work.’ You get the picture,” Howlett continued.

Certainly, some marketing departments measure some questionable things, but to say the entire profession operates that way is the height of ignorance.

Howlett is apparently unaware of the existence of the entire profession of direct marketing. He is also apparently unaware that marketing doesn’t spend a dime without justifying the buy to the chief finance officer.

Howlett also apparently fails to understand the fundamental concept that anyone working in private business who is not in sales is in sales support. This includes IT.

Every paragraph in Howlett’s column on marketing is—as my father used to say—pure unadulterated BS. You could literally close your eyes and throw a dart at the column—a rubber suction cup one so you don’t hurt your monitor—and be sure to hit a steaming pile of pure unadulterated marketing BS.

“For example,” he wrote in an example of pure unadulterated BS, “I hear marketers salivating over the potential to mine social graphs. I hear other marketers drooling at the possibility of getting their colleagues to mine data with (name your vendor here) tools. But in advance of being able to do anything remotely useful, marketers and their bastard half-child PR, continue to rely on databases for spamming distributing information to anyone they think will be remotely interested in whatever they are flogging. It is the bane of mine and most other technology commenters' lives.”

He then describes a typical spamming operation while implying all of marketing and PR works this way. Get ready to hold your nose:

“In case you are wondering what's happening, an agency somewhere along the line has picked up who you are, found your email address, added it to a database, and sold that data to as many people as possible. It doesn't care whether you wish to receive information. It is simply selling names.

“The PR or marketing organization doesn't care who you are, as long as they can say in all honesty that they sent ‘X’ thousand emails that produced ‘Y’ result. If they are really, really fortunate, they'll get a 0.5 percent response rate, often less. But that can be enough to justify the investment in acting as a ramrod with which to invade your or my privacy. What does it matter if it annoys a lot of people along the way?”

Um, Dennis? It matters to anyone who cares about their brand. Howlett then delivers the ultimate marketing ignorance.

“To make matters worse, some agencies pretend that they don't sell that information when that statement is patently untrue. But then, heh, this is PR and marketing we're talking about. Who said truth has any real place when it comes to execution?”

Insult much?

Howlett also trots out the patently absurd claim that 95 percent of his inbox is spam, to which I say: What kind of spam filter are you using? Get a Gmail account. I promise your spam troubles will end immediately.

Marketers are human. As such, there are smart, honest marketers, dumb, dishonest marketers, smart, dishonest marketers and dumb, honest marketers.

This concept is apparently completely lost on Howlett.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: ScoMule
Date: 2013-02-05 14:04:29
Subject: Howlett

apparently has other issues as well
Posted by: Amy
Date: 2013-02-05 11:48:07
Subject: ZDNet doesn't like email marketing?

They have no issue mailing marketer offers to their subscriberbase:;jsessionid=3AB61BD8ACFCA89E56700CAE723A86B4?page=order/online/datacard&id=247655