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ex-Facebook insider says covert data harvesting was routine

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No Information Left Of Any Kind
No Information Left Of Any Kind

The Facebook exposé continues at The Guardian. Privacy enthusiasts have known or suspected this was Facebook’s business model all along, it is good to make Facebook’s practices more well known to the general public.

Hundreds of millions of Facebook users are likely to have had their private information harvested by companies that exploited the same terms as the firm that collected data and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica, according to a new whistleblower.

Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012, told the Guardian he warned senior executives at the company that its lax approach to data protection risked a major breach.

 “My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data,” he said.

Parakilas said Facebook had terms of service and settings that “people didn’t read or understand” and the company did not use its enforcement mechanisms, including audits of external developers, to ensure data was not being misused.

Asked what kind of control Facebook had over the data given to outside developers, he replied: “Zero. Absolutely none. Once the data left Facebook servers there was not any control, and there was no insight into what was going on.”

Parakilas said he “always assumed there was something of a black market” for Facebook data that had been passed to external developers. However, he said that when he told other executives the company should proactively “audit developers directly and see what’s going on with the data” he was discouraged from the approach.

He said one Facebook executive advised him against looking too deeply at how the data was being used, warning him: “Do you really want to see what you’ll find?” Parakilas said he interpreted the comment to mean that “Facebook was in a stronger legal position if it didn’t know about the abuse that was happening”.

He added: “They felt that it was better not to know. I found that utterly shocking and horrifying.”

(click here to continue reading ‘Utterly horrifying’: ex-Facebook insider says covert data harvesting was routine | News | The Guardian.)

As a side note, if you have a few dollars to throw at the feet of The Guardian, they’ve done heroic work on this story, and don’t have a paywall. Support heroic journalism!

Written by Seth Anderson

March 20th, 2018 at 8:24 am

Posted in Advertising,Business

Tagged with ,

Food manufacturers are leaving the Grocery Manufacturers Association

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Produce Center
Produce Center.

Probably good news for the American food consumer1 – the GMA is crumbling.

A succession of high-profile, global companies have terminated their memberships with the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—the self-professed “voice of the industry”—rapidly undoing some 110 years of work the trade association had done to amass influence in US politics. In July 2017, as first reported by Politico, the Campbell Soup Company decided to leave GMA by the start of 2018, saying the trade association no longer represented its views. Three months later, the world’s largest food company, Nestlé, announced it was following suit. Then the floodgates opened, with Dean Foods, Mars, Tyson Foods, Unilever, the Hershey Company, Cargill, the Kraft Heinz Company, and DowDuPont all opting to leave, as well.

These high-profile departures will likely cost GMA millions of dollars in lost membership dues; one top lobbyist with a former member company speculates the association may lose about half of its former financial might. In 2016, GMA reported spending nearly $35 million on lobbying initiatives.

Publicly, the companies that left GMA are mostly vague about their reasons for defection. Privately, though, their executives have complained about disagreements with management, arthritic association bylaws, and a seeming unwillingness to budge on issues. As the lobbyist puts it, rather than trying to evolve with consumer demand, GMA leadership chose instead to be pugnacious about issues like GMO transparency and improved food-package ingredient labeling.

New York University nutrition and food studies professor Marion Nestle says a wounded GMA is unequivocally a good thing for everyday people eager for better access to information about the foods they’re eating.

The positions that GMA took were really, really retrogressive on a range of consumer issues,” Nestle says. “All these companies are trying to position themselves as being consumer-friendly.”

(click here to continue reading Food manufacturers are leaving the Grocery Manufacturers Association, signaling an end of the Big Food era — Quartz.)

Onions  Lower Yurtistan
Onions – Lower Yurtistan

From Ms. Nestle a few months ago:


What’s going on?  Easy.  GMA just isn’t keeping up with today’s marketplace.


Politico’s analysis (these are quotes):


  • Companies are increasingly under pressure to find growth in a market where more and more consumers are seeking healthier fare, whether they’re buying organic baby food, cereal without artificial colors or meats raised without antibiotics.
  • As legacy brands lag, food companies have two options: Change to compete or buy up the new brands that are already growing rapidly.
  • With each episode of discord, both internally and publicly, it becomes harder for GMA to convince its members to pay fees to belong to a trade group that’s rife with division and, at times, fights against issues they either don’t want fought or don’t want to be associated with.
  • “More than one food industry lobbyist has told me that they spend more time lobbying their industry association than they do Capitol Hill,” said Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group.
  • Many in Washington think GMA has been tone deaf as it has, in some cases, kept up lavish spending even as its members are cutting costs and laying off workers to meet their quarterly targets.
  • “I don’t know a single challenger brand that’s said ‘hey, I need to join GMA,’” said John Foraker, the founder and former CEO of Annie’s.

My favorite quote comes from Jeff Nedelman, who was a VP of communications at GMA during the 1980s and ’90s: “To me, it looks like GMA is the dinosaur just waiting to die.”



(click here to continue reading Food Politics by Marion Nestle » GMA(Grocery Manufacturers Association).)

Non GMO Project
Non GMO Project

  1. i.e., people who eat []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 6th, 2018 at 12:52 pm

P&G Slashed Digital Ad Spending by $200 Million Last Year

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Be A Better Lover
Be A Better Lover

More signs that the bottom hasn’t yet been reached for the advertising industry, as we’ve mentioned previously…

The consumer products giant says that its push for more transparency over the past year revealed such spending had been largely wasteful and that eliminating it helped the company reach more consumers in more effective ways.

P&G , PG +0.18% whose brands include Crest, Tide and Pampers, says it cut its digital ad budget by more than $100 million from July through December. Those reductions were on top of the more than $100 million in digital marketing spending the company had already cut in the June quarter, which P&G said had little impact on the business.

The ad dollars were pulled back from a long list of digital channels but also included reducing spending with “several big digital players” by 20% to 50% last year, according to Marc Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer. He has been leading the charge among marketers as a vocal critic of digital advertising clutter, ad fraud and brand safety issues on platforms like YouTube.

Once armed with more measurement data, P&G discovered that the average view time for a mobile ad appearing in a news feed, on platforms such as Facebook , was only 1.7 seconds. The Cincinnati-based company also realized some people were seeing P&G ads far too many times.

“Once we got transparency, it illuminated what reality was,” said Mr. Pritchard. P&G then took matters into its owns hands and voted with its dollars, he said.

Long the biggest advertiser in the world, P&G carries significant weight among marketers and its efforts are closely tracked.

(click here to continue reading P&G Slashed Digital Ad Spending by $200 Million Last Year – WSJ.)

Translated, Facebook and YouTube ads were fairly useless for P&G, so they cut back on spending on them, without noticing much of a difference on sales. If P&G, with its sophisticated marketing analysis teams thinks digital/mobile ads are missing the mark, what about other businesses? I’d assume many will follow in P&Gs footsteps, and the digital ad world is about to have revenues sliced drastically.

Prevent Cross Site Tracking
Prevent Cross-Site Tracking…

Large advertising holding corporation WPP is already feeling the pinch:


Advertising’s digital upheaval took a heavy toll on WPP LLC as the world’s largest ad company Thursday logged its worst performance since the financial crisis, triggering jitters among investors across the sector.


On Thursday, WPP said net sales fell 0.9% on a like-for-like basis last year, spooking investors who were expecting signs of recovery after the company cut its forecast three times, predicting a “broadly flat” 2017. The firm also said it is setting budgets for 2018 on the assumption of no growth in revenue and net sales.


WPP shares tumbled 9%, and the fallout quickly spread to rival ad giants like Publicis Groupe SA, which fell 4%.


Digital disruption is leading Unilever PLC, Procter & Gamble Co. and other consumer-goods giants that once splurged on ad agency-led campaigns to redirect their spending. That is saddling ad firms with their slowest revenue growth in a decade and pressuring agency holding companies to revamp organizational structures that are out of step with the digital age. Advertisers are demanding agencies provide services that target consumers relentlessly over the internet as well as coming up with traditional campaigns for print and TV.

The question is whether the big ad companies can evolve fast enough. P&G, long the biggest advertiser in the world, has said that it is looking to cut an additional $400 million in agency and production costs by 2021, having already saved around a combined $750 million in recent year. Unilever, meanwhile, has also been slashing agency fees and production costs, in part by reducing the number of traditional ads it makes and bringing more of its marketing work in-house.



(click here to continue reading Ad Industry’s Digital Upheaval Rocks WPP; Shares Fall 14% – WSJ.)



The packaged-goods sector, which accounts for close to a third of WPP’s sales, is the key problem. Big advertisers like Procter & Gamble have been driving hard bargains with their suppliers as they trim and reallocate ad budgets in response to new consumption patterns and new media.


This malaise could spread to other industries challenged by new tastes and technology. Car makers, for example, are trying to work out how their approach to advertising needs to adapt if, as many expect, individual car ownership gives way to “mobility as a service”—renting cars by the hour through tech platforms. They accounted for 12% of WPP’s revenue last year.


Then there is the question of whether the ad industry itself is challenged by new technology. This is far from clear in the data: WPP’s 19% margins in media buying—the ad business most vulnerable to a more digital approach—haven’t slipped. Such high margins could also be a reason to worry at a time when clients are seeking big savings.



(click here to continue reading Is WPP Cheap Enough to Own? – WSJ.)

Interesting times. And like the Chinese proverb says,1 to live in interesting times is not actually fun.

  1. or doesn’t actually say []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 1st, 2018 at 10:09 am

Posted in Advertising,Business

Tagged with , ,

P&G to Cut More Millions Of Agency, Production Costs

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Waiting For the Winds To Change
Waiting For the Winds To Change

Not the best time to be an ad agency, especially an agency that works with P&G. I’m guessing a lot of executives lost some sleep this weekend tossing and turning. There are many people in the ad industry who have exactly one account: P&G, and if that revenue vanishes, so does their job.

Chairman-CEO David Taylor said in an investor presentation that the company plans to reduce such spending by $400 million through the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021. That comes after a combined $750 million in such savings over the past three fiscal years. ….

The process has involved cutting the number of agencies that P&G works with by 60 percent since fiscal 2015, but Taylor said the company will cut further, reducing them by 80 percent from the original base. P&G also is also changing how it works with agencies, he said, with more “open sourcing” of project work instead of solely relying on agencies of record. So agencies should get ready to start bidding more.

While P&G historically has spent a large portion of its agency fees on fixed retainers, says spokeswoman Tressie Rose, “Moving forward, we intend to take a more balanced approach between fixed retainers for a portion of the work, and project-based fees for other work. Open sourcing in this context means we will look both at our existing agency partner who is on retainer in addition to other agencies on our roster for the project-based assignments to determine the best quality, capability and value for each project. If a crowd-sourcing platform makes sense, we would consider this, but our first step will be to look at our roster agencies.”

(click here to continue reading P&G to Cut Another $400 Million in Agency, Production Costs | CMO Strategy – AdAge.)

and of course, P&G is only one such corporation slicing back on marketing budgets…

P&G isn’t the only giant packaged-goods marketer squeezing agency and ad-production costs. Unilever, the number-two global ad spender, also has been cutting agencies, their fees and production costs in recent years, in part by reducing the number of traditional ads it makes and by bringing more work into in-house studios.

Unilever will keep up cutting, Chief Financial Officer Graeme Pitkethly said in a speech to the same CAGNY conference on Thursday. Overall, around $2.5 billion of the $7.5 billion Unilever plans in cost savings by 2019 will come from a combination of marketing and overhead reductions (such as thinning the internal management ranks), Pitkethly said. 

Written by Seth Anderson

February 25th, 2018 at 11:35 am

Posted in Advertising

Tagged with ,

The Big Loophole That Helped Russia Exploit Facebook: Doctored Photos

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No Alien is Illegal
No Alien is Illegal

Not this photo, but a similar photo…

A decade ago, at a pro-immigration march on the steps of the Capitol building in Little Rock, Ark., community organizer Randi Romo saw a woman carrying a sign that read “no human being is illegal.” She took a photograph and sent it to an activist group, which uploaded it to photo-sharing site Flickr.

Last August, the same image—digitally altered so the sign read “give me more free shit”—appeared on a Facebook page, Secured Borders, which called for the deportation of undocumented immigrants. The image was liked or shared hundreds of times, according to cached versions of the page.

This use of doctored images was a crucial and deceptively simple technique used by Russian propagandists to spread fabricated information during the 2016 election, one that exposes a loophole in tech company defenses. Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google have traps to detect misinformation, but struggle—then and now—to identify falsehoods posted directly on their platforms, in particular through pictures.

Facebook disclosed last fall that Secured Borders was one of 290 Facebook and Instagram pages created and run by Russia-backed accounts that sought to amplify divisive social issues, including immigration. Last week’s indictment secured by special counsel Robert Mueller cited the Secured Borders page as an example of how Russians invented fake personas in an effort to “sow discord in the U.S. political system.”

The campaigns conducted by some of those accounts, according to a Wall Street Journal review, often relied on images that were doctored or taken out of context.

(click here to continue reading The Big Loophole That Helped Russia Exploit Facebook: Doctored Photos – WSJ.)

There is an advantage to having actual humans involved – not every decision tree can be outsourced to computer algorithms. I know tech companies like to reduce their costs by eliminating staff, but there are consequences.

Written by Seth Anderson

February 22nd, 2018 at 1:11 pm

Posted in Advertising,politics

Tagged with ,

Talking Points Memo and Intelligent Tracking Prevention

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Prevent Cross-Site Tracking

I’ve been fascinated by the discussion about Apple’s new anti-3rd party cookie moves, especially in Mac OS X High Sierra and in iOS 11. The digital advertising companies are freaking out of course, but I don’t have much sympathy for their position.


The biggest advertising organizations say Apple will “sabotage” the current economic model of the internet with plans to integrate cookie-blocking technology into the new version of Safari.


Six trade groups—the Interactive Advertising Bureau, American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, the 4A’s and two others—say they’re “deeply concerned” with Apple’s plans to release a version of the internet browser that overrides and replaces user cookie preferences with a set of Apple-controlled standards. The feature, which is called “Intelligent Tracking Prevention,” limits how advertisers and websites can track users across the internet by putting in place a 24-hour limit on ad retargeting.



(click here to continue reading Every Major Advertising Group Is Blasting Apple for Blocking Cookies in the Safari Browser – Adweek.)

Apple Coffee Thermos

Apple answered:

Apple responded to that criticism this afternoon by fully explaining what they are doing for the consumer and standing up for themselves.

“Apple believes that people have a right to privacy – Safari was the first browser to block third party cookies by default and Intelligent Tracking Prevention is a more advanced method for protecting user privacy,” Apple said in a statement provided to The Loop.

“Ad tracking technology has become so pervasive that it is possible for ad tracking companies to recreate the majority of a person’s web browsing history. This information is collected without permission and is used for ad re-targeting, which is how ads follow people around the Internet. The new Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature detects and eliminates cookies and other data used for this cross-site tracking, which means it helps keep a person’s browsing private. The feature does not block ads or interfere with legitimate tracking on the sites that people actually click on and visit. Cookies for sites that you interact with function as designed, and ads placed by web publishers will appear normally,” the company said.


(click here to continue reading Apple responds to ad group’s criticism of Safari cookie blocking.)

Apple Logos

Josh Marshall, the publisher of the long-time political blog, Talking Points Memo, has some thoughts about Intelligent Tracking Prevention, and thinks, in general, it will be good for sites like his. 

Here’s where it gets especially interesting to any publisher. We rely on tracking in as much as tracking is now pervasive on the ads running on basically every website, including TPM. But really tracking has been a disaster for publishers, especially premium publishers.

Here’s why.

I’ll use TPM as an example. But it’s only for the purposes of illustration. The same applies to countless other publications, particularly quality publications as opposed to content farms. TPM has an affluent, highly educated, generally progressive audience. They also tend to be political influencers. Our readers also have a strong brand affinity with TPM. Our core audience visits day after day. All of those attributes make our audience very desirable for many advertisers. So great, even though we’re small, advertisers want access to that kind of audience. So we can command good rates.

Tracking has shifted that equation dramatically. (And again, TPM is just here as illustration. This is an industry-wide phenomenon.) Let’s say we take the whole core TPM audience, this set number of people. They have these attributes I mentioned above. Tracking now allows the ad tech industry to follow those people around the web and advertise to them where they choose. So an advertiser can identify “TPM Readers” and then advertise to them at other sites that aren’t TPM. Or they can find a group that has the attributes that I describe above and track them around the web regardless of which site they’re on. You don’t have any reason to care about that. But we care about it a lot because it basically takes from us any market power we have. Tracking means almost all publishers are being disintermediated in this way. This is one big reason the platforms and the data vendors are scarfing up all the new revenue.

So in many ways, disruptions in tracking are good for publishers. Actually basically in all ways it’s good. In this way, we have a vaguely common interest with Apple since we see our business future as tied to paid services, memberships, etc. Apple does too. In practice, the little players have the least ability and resources to protect themselves during periods of market chaos. But in theory at least, if Apple’s self-interest led it to disrupt the cookie architecture and wreak havoc in Google’s business model, that would likely be good for publishers.

(click here to continue reading What’s Apple Up To? – Talking Points Memo.)

A visit to TPM.com this morning brought up sixteen 3rd-party cookies as reported by Ghostery. Cookies from Amazon, Google, Facebook, as well as sites I’d never heard of, like Adsnative, Krux Digital, RevContent and others. /shrug…

Written by Seth Anderson

October 22nd, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Advertising,Apple,Business

Tagged with ,

A Sean Hannity Conspiracy Theory Finally Went Too Far

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Don't Forget to Suffer In Brooding Silence
Don’t Forget to Suffer In Brooding Silence.

We live in a new world, a world where advertisers don’t want to be associated with toxic scum like Sean Hannity. Finally!

Sean Hannity has been peddling his Roger Ailes-inspired schtick for a long, long time. Fear, hatred, anger, and related emotions are the currency Hannity and his ilk traffic in. But these days, there is a precedent for consumers to directly contact the advertisers for these shows, and pressure the corporations to withdraw their support. Sometimes the corporation is enlightened enough to act on their own.

Cars.com, Casper, and several other companies pulled advertising from Sean Hannity’s Fox News program Wednesday as the host continued to push a conspiracy theory about Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer who was killed in Washington, DC, last year.

For days, Hannity has been peddling a theory that Rich’s killing was ordered by the Clintons in retaliation for leaking DNC emails to WikiLeaks. Police have said his death was the result of a robbery gone wrong.

“Cars.com’s media buy strategies are designed to reach as many consumers as possible across a wide spectrum of media channels,” a Cars.com spokesperson said in a statement to BuzzFeed News when asked about Hannity’s focus on the conspiracy.

“The fact that we advertise on a particular program doesn’t mean that we agree or disagree, or support or oppose, the content. We don’t have the ability to influence content at the time we make our advertising purchase. In this case, we’ve been watching closely and have recently made the decision to pull our advertising from Hannity,” the company added.

After learning its commercials ran on Hannity’s show, Crowne Plaza Hotels said it terminated its relationship with its third-party ad-buying agency.

“We do not advertise on Fox News, Hannity or any political commentary show. We have a specific do not advertise list for this type of programming. Unfortunately, our expectation to adhere to this list was not met by a third-party agency. Since we learned of the airings, we addressed the issue immediately and terminated our relationship with the agency. We have no plans to advertise on Fox News for the foreseeable future,” the company explained.

Ring, a video doorbell company, and Peloton, a cycling studio, announced that they had directed their media agencies to stop advertising on the show.

Mattress companies Casper and Leesa Sleep also said Wednesday that they had pulled ad buys from the show. Casper said it was “reassigning the allocation.”

The decisions came after Rich’s brother sent a letter to Hannity’s executive producer pleading for the show to stop spreading rumors about Rich’s death. On Tuesday, Fox News retracted a story tying Rich to Wikileaks and wrote in a statement, “The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require from all our reporting.”

(click here to continue reading Sean Hannity’s Seth Rich Obsession Just Cost Him Several Advertisers.)

Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic
Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic

Corporations want to sell their goods and services, not support hate speech. Thus in the last few years there have been several instances of advertisers fleeing toxicity: Sandra Fluke vs. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Breitbart, Bill O’Reilly, and probably other incedents too. The right wing tried these tactics on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show, but without much success, so far.

Media Matters added:

Fox News’ two decades of peddling bigotry, misogyny, and extremism are finally coming home to roost. After former president and CEO Roger Ailes was forced out last year, Fox News parted ways with Bill O’Reilly and co-president Bill Shine last month after their central roles inside the network’s workplace culture of sexual harassment and racial discrimination were put in the spotlight and advertisers started to flee.

At Media Matters, we know Fox News. We’ve spent more than 10 years watching the network profit from a dangerous mix of hate, lies, and propaganda. Ad buyers may think that because Fox dropped O’Reilly and some of the old guard executives who enabled him, it’s safe to get back in the water there. But we know that the network’s new prime-time lineup — featuring the likes of Sean Hannity, Eric Bolling, and darling of the “alt-right” Tucker Carlson — is just as bad. They’re committed to the same “culture war” racism and misogyny that made Fox culture toxic in the first place — and as a federal investigation into shady practices at Fox ramps up, there are no indications yet that this network is any less risky for advertisers than it was before.

The bottom line is this: When companies knowingly advertise alongside hate, they incentivize and enable more hate, and they put their reputations on the line. Like our ads say, “It’s one crisis after another with Fox. Don’t forget: Hate, misogyny, and racism are bad for business.” Advertisers beware.

(click here to continue reading Media Matters Launches “Know What You’re Sponsoring” Ad Campaign Targeting Buyers At Upfronts.)

Hannity had been one of the main purveyors of a widely discredited theory that DNC staffer Seth Rich was shot and killed near his home in Northwest Washington last year because he had supplied DNC emails to WikiLeaks. District police say Rich died in a botched robbery. His parents have pleaded with news outlets to stop speculating about his death.

Facing a wave of criticism over its reporting, Fox News retracted an article on Tuesday that said Rich made contact with WikiLeaks before he was shot.

At first Hannity refused to follow suit, telling listeners on his radio show, “All you in the liberal media, I am not Fox.com or Foxnews.com; I retracted nothing.” On his Fox News show Tuesday evening he said he would back off the story “for now,” but he continued to post cryptic tweets about Rich’s death.

The left-leaning media watchdog Media Matters published a list of Hannity’s sponsors on Tuesday — a move many interpreted as a call to boycott his show.

Hannity responded in a series of tweets saying “liberal fascists” were trying to bring him down.

(click here to continue reading Sean Hannity loses advertisers amid uproar over slain DNC staffer conspiracy theories – The Washington Post.)

This Man Was Talked To Death
This Man Was Talked To Death

Even some at Fox question why Hannity is allowed free reign…

Fox News staffers have told CNNMoney that they are frustrated and embarrassed by Hannity’s peddling of the conspiracy. “It is disappointing because it drags the rest of us down,” one senior Fox News employee said earlier this week. Several staffers have also questioned why Fox News leadership continued to allow Hannity to spread an unproven theory on the network.

The most common theory circulating among staff is that Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, doesn’t want to run the risk of losing Hannity by upsetting him. Fox News has already lost its two biggest prime time stars — Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly — in the span of just five months. Losing Hannity would be a crushing blow to the network, these sources said.

(click here to continue reading Sean Hannity’s conspiracy theory puts pressure on Fox – May. 24, 2017.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Seth Anderson

May 25th, 2017 at 9:01 am

Posted in Advertising,Business,politics

Tagged with ,

Google now data mining credit card data

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Cougle Comission - Fulton Market
Cougle Comission – Fulton Market

Inevitable, and yet still creepy

Google has begun using billions of credit-card transaction records to prove that its online ads are prompting people to make purchases – even when they happen offline in brick-and-mortar stores, the company said Tuesday.

The advance allows Google to determine how many sales have been generated by digital ad campaigns, a goal that industry insiders have long described as “the holy grail” of online advertising. But the announcement also renewed long-standing privacy complaints about how the company uses personal information.

To power its multibillion-dollar advertising juggernaut, Google already analyzes users’ Web browsing, search history and geographic locations, using data from popular Google-owned apps like YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps and the Google Play store. All that information is tied to the real identities of users when they log into Google’s services.

The new credit-card data enables the tech giant to connect these digital trails to real-world purchase records in a far more extensive way than was possible before. But in doing so, Google is yet again treading in territory that consumers may consider too intimate and potentially sensitive. Privacy advocates said few people understand that their purchases are being analyzed in this way and could feel uneasy, despite assurances from Google that it has taken steps to protect the personal information of its users.

(click here to continue reading Google now knows when its users go to the store and buy stuff – The Washington Post.)

Of course it buys happiness
Of course it buys happiness

especially since all this data is vulnerable to hackers

Paul Stephens, of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer advocacy group based in San Diego, said only a few pieces of data can allow a marketer to identify an individual, and he expressed skepticism that Google’s system for guarding the identities of users will stand up to the efforts of hackers, who in the past have successfully stripped away privacy protections created by other companies after data breaches.

“What we have learned is that it’s extremely difficult to anonymize data,” he said. “If you care about your privacy, you definitely need to be concerned.”

Such data providers have been the targets of cybercriminals in the past. In 2015, a hack of data broker Experian exposed the personal information of 15 million people.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 24th, 2017 at 10:05 am

Posted in Advertising,Business

Tagged with ,

Smart TVs Just as George Orwell Envisioned

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You Are Being Film
You Are Being Film. 

As I mentioned recently, I’ve been immersed in dystopian novels. George Orwell would mutter I told you so about these latest Smart TV revelations if he was still around.

Careful what you say around your TV. It may be listening. And blabbing. A single sentence buried in a dense “privacy policy” for Samsung’s Internet-connected SmartTV advises users that its nifty voice command feature might capture more than just your request to play the latest episode of Downton Abbey. “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party,” the policy reads.

Samsung’s privacy policy notes that in addition to voice commands being transmitted, information about your device, “including device identifiers,” may also be beamed over the Internet to the third-party service, “or to the extent necessary to provide Voice Recognition features to you.”
McSherry called that bit of qualifying language “worrisome.”

“Samsung may just be giving itself some wiggle room as the service evolves, but that language could be interpreted pretty broadly,” she said.

(click here to continue reading Your Samsung SmartTV Is Spying on You, Basically – The Daily Beast.)

Samsung eventually admitted the 3rd party:

Samsung has confirmed that its “smart TV” sets are listening to customers’ every word, and the company is warning customers not to speak about personal information while near the TV sets.

The company revealed that the voice activation feature on its smart TVs will capture all nearby conversations. The TV sets can share the information, including sensitive data, with Samsung as well as third-party services.

Samsung has updated its policy and named the third party in question, Nuance Communications, Inc.

(click here to continue reading Samsung warns customers not to discuss personal information in front of smart TVs.)

Lonely Zenith
Lonely Zenith

Hmm, sounds familiar. Remember this from a few weeks ago:

Consumers have bought more than 11 million internet-connected Vizio televisions since 2010. But according to a complaint filed by the FTC and the New Jersey Attorney General, consumers didn’t know that while they were watching their TVs, Vizio was watching them. The lawsuit challenges the company’s tracking practices and offers insights into how established consumer protection principles apply to smart technology.

Starting in 2014, Vizio made TVs that automatically tracked what consumers were watching and transmitted that data back to its servers. Vizio even retrofitted older models by installing its tracking software remotely. All of this, the FTC and AG allege, was done without clearly telling consumers or getting their consent.

What did Vizio know about what was going on in the privacy of consumers’ homes? On a second-by-second basis, Vizio collected a selection of pixels on the screen that it matched to a database of TV, movie, and commercial content. What’s more, Vizio identified viewing data from cable or broadband service providers, set-top boxes, streaming devices, DVD players, and over-the-air broadcasts. Add it all up and Vizio captured as many as 100 billion data points each day from millions of TVs.

Vizio then turned that mountain of data into cash by selling consumers’ viewing histories to advertisers and others. And let’s be clear: We’re not talking about summary information about national viewing trends. According to the complaint, Vizio got personal. The company provided consumers’ IP addresses to data aggregators, who then matched the address with an individual consumer or household. Vizio’s contracts with third parties prohibited the re-identification of consumers and households by name, but allowed a host of other personal details – for example, sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership.  And Vizio permitted these companies to track and target its consumers across devices.

(click here to continue reading What Vizio was doing behind the TV screen | Federal Trade Commission.)

Continuous Video Recording in Progress
Continuous Video Recording in Progress

You didn’t realize that your habits were worth so much money to the corporate surveillance world did you? Too bad the data mining industry doesn’t share in any of the profits they’ve harvested from your habits and propensities.

Plus the whole listening to you every second might not always be in your own best interests:

Upon further investigation, however, police began suspecting foul play: Broken knobs and bottles, as well as blood spots around the tub, suggested there had been a struggle. A few days later, the Arkansas chief medical examiner ruled Collins’s death a homicide — and police obtained a search warrant for Bates’s home.

Inside, detectives discovered a bevy of “smart home” devices, including a Nest thermostat, a Honeywell alarm system, a wireless weather monitoring system and an Amazon Echo. Police seized the Echo and served a warrant to Amazon, noting in the affidavit there was “reason to believe that Amazon.com is in possession of records related to a homicide investigation being conducted by the Bentonville Police Department.”

That warrant threw a wrinkle into what might have been a traditional murder investigation, as first reported by the Information, a news site that covers the technology industry.

While police have long seized computers, cellphones and other electronics to investigate crimes, this case has raised fresh questions about privacy issues regarding devices like the Amazon Echo or the Google Home, voice-activated personal command centers that are constantly “listening.” Namely, is there a difference in the reasonable expectation of privacy one should have when dealing with a device that is “always on” in one’s own home?

The Echo is equipped with seven microphones and responds to a “wake word,” most commonly “Alexa.” When it detects the wake word, it begins streaming audio to the cloud, including a fraction of a second of audio before the wake word, according to the Amazon website.

A recording and transcription of the audio is logged and stored in the Amazon Alexa app and must be manually deleted later. For instance, if you asked your Echo, “Alexa, what is the weather right now?” you could later go back to the app to find out exactly what time that question was asked.

(click here to continue reading Can Alexa help solve a murder? Police think so — but Amazon won’t give up her data. – The Washington Post.)

Luckily, my “dumb” tv still chugs along…


Update: the Samsung story is from 2015, the Amazon and the Vizio stories are more recent. Main point still stands however…

Written by Seth Anderson

February 16th, 2017 at 9:54 am

Budweiser Naming Itself ‘America’, America Rolls Its Eyes

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Really, A-B InBev?

Ernie's Old Time Saloon

Ernie’s Old Time Saloon, Sitka, Alaska…

Budweiser…  brand has sought approval for new labels that replace the Budweiser name with “America,” according to a filing with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. The labels don’t stop there. They include phrases such as “E Pluribus Unum” and “from the redwood forest to the Gulf stream waters this land was made for you and me,” as well as “indivisible since 1776.”

A-B InBev on Tuesday, May 10, confirmed the limited-edition label change, saying “America” would replace “Budweiser” on the front of 12-oz. cans and bottles. The packaging will run from May 23 through election season in November, the brewer stated. The agency that handled the design change is Jones Knowles Ritchie, New York. The packaging will be accompanied by a summer-long campaign called “America is in Your Hands.” A national TV spot featuring the cans and bottles will premiere on June 1.


(click here to continue reading A-B InBev Looks to Replace Budweiser With ‘America’ on Packs | CMO Strategy – AdAge.)

Honestly, this makes me laugh more than anything I’ve read recently. Maybe I’m not the target demographic, no, not maybe, definitively. Even when I was a young, beer swilling college student without much money, I still didn’t drink Budweiser. Mind you, this was back in the dark ages before the craft beer explosion – which meant if a bunch of us went on a camping trip, or had a party, we’d scrounge together enough money to purchase Shiner Bock, or if we couldn’t swing that, we would buy a case of Carling Black Label, or Stroh’s, or Lone Star, something like that, or frequently, wine. I honestly cannot think of a single time when I had a choice of beverage that I chose Bud. Maybe at some low rent sporting event? 

And also, Budweiser is made in massive factories, probably by robots, and is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, a conglomerate headquartered in Leuven, Belgium. You know, MURICA! Whoo hoo!

Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV makes beers such as:

Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois, international brands Beck’s, Hoegaarden and Leffe and local brands such as Bud Light, Skol, Brahma, Antarctica, Quilmes, Victoria, Modelo Especial, Michelob Ultra, Harbin, Sedrin, Klinskoye, Sibirskaya Korona, Chernigivske and Jupiler.

(click here to continue reading Anheuser-Busch InBev – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

and have annual revenues in the neighborhood of $50,000,000,000. So obviously, somebody drinks that swill. A lot of people apparently. But I wonder what percentage of their gross revenue goes to pay American taxes? I’m guessing they are in Belgium instead of St. Louis because the tax climate is friendlier there. 

If you are a Bud drinker, you aren’t really drinking it for its flavor, I’m assuming. Especially in light of:

After the November 18, 2008 InBev takeover, several cost-cutting measures were implemented that negatively affected the flavor of the beer. Whole rice grains were been replaced by broken ones, and the high quality Hallertauer Mittelfrüh hop was phased out. A former top AB InBev executive told BusinessWeek Magazine, in an article published on November 8, 2012, that the company had saved approximately $55 million a year by substituting cheaper hops in Budweiser and other U.S. beers

(click here to continue reading Budweiser – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Anyway, I’m sure summer sales will be brisk, lots of ironic purchases of six packs that will sit in refrigerators around the nation, collecting dust…

Written by Seth Anderson

May 11th, 2016 at 9:24 am

Checking In On Wired’s Ad-Blocking Experiment

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Speaking of privacy and technology, Wired Magazine’s Mark McClusky boasted to Ad Age that everything is going great with their ad blocker gambit.

Ad Blockers - Wired
Ad Blockers – Wired

In early February, Condé Nast’s Wired took a stand against the rise of ad-blocking technology, which was being used on more than 20% of visits to the magazine’s website. It gave ad-blocking Wired readers two options: whitelist Wired.com, allowing ads to be served as intended, or pay $1 per week for an ad-free version of the site. “We know that you come to our site primarily to read our content,” Wired said in a note to readers at the time, “but it’s important to be clear that advertising is how we keep WIRED going: paying the writers, editors, designers, engineers, and all the other staff that works so hard to create the stories you read and watch here.”

Nearly three months in, Wired Head of Product and Business Development Mark McClusky pronounced himself pleased with the early returns.

“Overall, it’s going great,” he told Ad Age. “We’ve exceeded sort of our hopes and expectations in terms of the performance.” “The uptake in whitelisting has exceeded our expectation, the subscriptions have gone better than we projected, the abandon rate has been lower than we projected,” he said.

(click here to continue reading Checking In On Wired’s Ad-Blocking Experiment | Media – AdAge.)

Here’s the thing: in general, I support magazines and news organizations desire to stay solvent, in fact going as far as to give subscription dollars to several of them1 including even for a long time, to Wired Magazine. But the print edition of Wired was somewhere around $12 a year – by their new model, they want to charge me $52 a year to read their content. 

OVER THE PAST several years, there’s been a significant increase in the number of people using ad-blocking software in their web browser. We have certainly seen a growth in those numbers here at WIRED, where we do all we can to write vital stories for an audience that’s passionate about the ongoing adventure of our rapidly changing world.

On an average day, more than 20 percent of the traffic to WIRED.com comes from a reader who is blocking our ads. We know that you come to our site primarily to read our content, but it’s important to be clear that advertising is how we keep WIRED going: paying the writers, editors, designers, engineers, and all the other staff that works so hard to create the stories you read and watch here.

We know that there are many reasons for running an ad blocker, from simply wanting a faster, cleaner browsing experience to concerns about security and tracking software. We want to offer you a way to support us while also addressing those concerns.

Therefore, we have restricted access to articles on WIRED.com if you are using an ad blocker.

(click here to continue reading How WIRED Is Going to Handle Ad Blocking | WIRED.)

I happily use Ghostery, which is not strictly an ad blocker, but rather an enhanced cookie blocker. I just went to random Wired.com article, (http://www.wired.com/2016/05/adblock-plus-now-wants-pay-browse-internet/) and these are the trackers that Wired wants to serve me in lieu of my $52 payment:

  • Adobe Audience Manager
  • Adobe TagManager
  • Amazon Associates
  • ChartBeat
  • Disqus
  • Google Adsense
  • Google AdServices
  • Optimizely
  • Parse.ly
  • Pinterest
  • Polar Mobile
  • Rubicon
  • ScoreCard Research 
  • Yieldbot

plus one I keep turned on because I like fonts and appreciate web designers who use specific fonts: 

Typekit by Adobe

In other words, Wired wants me to agree to sell my data to these corporations in exchange for reading an article about Adblock Plus. I don’t know each of these entities, but I’m guessing most2 don’t only report to Wired – they sell the data they’ve accumulated to multiple parties. And they don’t give me any slice of the revenue.

Hmm, on balance, I’ll keep my $52, and I’ll stop clicking through to Wired articles. Sounds fair.

  1. Tidbits.com, NYT, WSJ, Chicago Tribune, The Nation, Harpers, etc. etc. []
  2. or all []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 3rd, 2016 at 8:43 pm

Tech Tuesday – Part One – Selling Your Own Data

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This sucky blog’s editor1 has assigned Tuesday’s topic as technology. Like all good topics, that’s a bit vague, there are lots of threads that can be collected here. 

Don't Worry - Keep Shopping
Don’t Worry – Keep Shopping…

We’ve discussed the weird state of consumer data many times, where companies such as Acxiom and thousands of others collect every scrap of information about us they possibly can, by whatever method, and then sell it to marketers. Our data, our habits, our propensities, but their profits. Seems like a bum deal, for consumers. 

So when I read the headline on this Fast Company article, I got interested. The headline and sub-head reads:

This Startup Lets Users “Sell” Their Own Shopping Data
InfoScout’s apps sell their users’ shopping data to marketers—and give those users a cut.

but that is not quite truthful. Or at least, InfoScout isn’t selling shopping data in a manner I was hoping. No, they mean that if you willingly give InfoScout information about your shopping trips by photographing/scanning your receipts, they’ll drop a few pennies in your cup now and again. If you are lucky.

San Francisco-based InfoScout offers a set of smartphone apps that lets users snap pictures of shopping receipts in exchange for incentives like credit card-style reward points and sweepstakes entries. The company digitizes the receipts with a mix of optical character recognition and crowdsourced help from services such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

Then it bundles that purchase information into reports it offers to companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever, letting them see how consumer preferences evolve over time and how discounts and promotions affect sales.

“Our ability to provide these insights back to the brands in near real time, literally within days, is something they’ve never had before,” claims CEO Jared Schrieber, who cofounded InfoScout in 2011.

Schrieber says that while brands can get some data from programs like supermarket reward card programs, those usually only track customer activity at one particular retail company.

“We’re not trying to change what people buy,” Schrieber says. “We’re just trying to observe it.”

The company says it has collected data on more than 100 million shopping trips and is processing about 300,000 receipts per day. Users can of course choose not to scan receipts that include purchases they find embarrassing, but Schrieber says many just upload every receipt, so the apps gather quite a bit of data about sensitive purchases, such as condoms and feminine hygiene products. Ultimately, what type of purchase information users feel is worth trading for a few cents or a sweepstakes entry is up to them.

Users can participate anonymously or receive additional rewards for linking the app to their Facebook profiles, answering demographic questions, or taking occasional surveys.

(click here to continue reading This Startup Lets Users “Sell” Their Own Shopping Data | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.)

We have no hours. We are always closed
We have no hours. We are always closed…

InfoScout is not even alone in using this model. I recently saw a presentation that included mention of Ibotta– a smartphone app where consumers photograph their receipt and theoretically get future coupons. Or rebates, whatever.

1. Download the App Download the Ibotta app, available on iOS and Android. The app is required to submit a receipt.

2. Unlock Rebates Before you go shopping, unlock cash rewards on great products by completing simple tasks.

3. Go Shopping Buy the products you’ve unlocked at any supported store.

4. Verify Your Purchases Scan your product barcodes, then submit a photo of your receipt.

(click here to continue reading How it Works – Ibotta.com.)

If you jump through the hoops in precisely the correct way, you may get a few pennies. According to some internet complainers, Ibotta mostly uses the small print to avoid paying out.

Complaints like:

I read about IBOTTA on Facebook and decided to try it out. Downloading the app was easy and the instructions were straight forward. Two days ago I wend grocery shopping and decided to use the app for rebates on bread, milk and eggs – all of which were on my shopping list and I was shopping at a listed store. When I returned home I scanned the items as requested by the app and took a picture of the receipt. All items were accepted. Today I received an email stating that my account had been deactivated because of fraud. From what I understand I am being deactivated for taking a picture of the same receipt. Well, duh..I bought the items at the same time, so they would be on the same receipt. No where in the instructions does it say that you have to have a separate receipt for each item purchased. Plus you are going to spend more time sorting out your groceries and paying for each item separately – not worth the money they say they will pay you.

(click here to continue reading Ibotta App Reviews – Legit or Scam?.)

or like:

I downloaded the app and it isn’t terribly hard to figure out. Verified the items and got the approval for receipt. All fine. Now when it comes to actually getting paid, all that happens is a notice on the site saying “working on the site”. Seems everything works that makes them money but nothing works where they pay money.

I am guessing they are out of cash and so just stick this sign up to avoid the real issue.

(click here to continue reading Ibotta App Reviews – Legit or Scam?.)

and many, many more. 

I suppose you’ll have to decide for yourself, is willingly giving corporations intimate shopping data about you and your family worth a few pennies? Your data is much more valuable to them – building smartphone apps and Point-of-Sale and coupon redemption infrastructure is not cheap. A corporation wouldn’t invest millions unless it was worth it to their bottom line.

Not This Store
Not This Store

I’m still waiting for one of the companies that Ghostery tracks to start offering me a real cut of the sale of my data, I’d whitelist their tracking cookie, and they would pay me a percentage every month. Ha! Zero is a percent…

  1. me []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 3rd, 2016 at 9:11 am

How Vermont Got Big Food Companies To Label GMOs

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Non GMO Project
Non GMO Project

If you hadn’t heard, Vermont recently passed a GMO labeling law, and Congress, since it is so dysfunctional, could not muster a response. Thus Vermont’s law will become the de facto law of the nation, at least for a while…

You’ll soon know whether many of the packaged foods you buy contain ingredients derived from genetically modified plants, such as soybeans and corn.

Over the past week or so, big companies including General Mills, Mars and Kellogg have announced plans to label such products – even though they still don’t think it’s a good idea.

The reason, in a word, is Vermont. The tiny state has boxed big food companies into a corner. Two years ago, the state passed legislation requiring mandatory labeling.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has fought back against the law, both in court and in Congress, but so far it’s been unsuccessful.

Last week, as we reported, Congress failed to pass an industry-supported measure that would have created a voluntary national standard for labeling — and also would have preempted Vermont’s law. Which means for now, food industry giants still face a July 1 deadline to comply with the state’s labeling mandate.

And since food companies can’t create different packaging just for Vermont, it appears that the tiniest of states has created a labeling standard that will go into effect nationwide.

This statement, from General Mills’ Jeff Harmening, sums it up:

“Vermont state law requires us to start labeling certain grocery store food packages that contain GMO ingredients or face significant fines,” Harmening wrote on the General Mills blogs.

“We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers and we simply will not do that,” explains Harmening.

So, as a result: “Consumers all over the U.S. will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills products,” he concludes.

Chocolate giant Mars struck a similar tone in its announcement: “To comply with [the Vermont] law, Mars is introducing clear, on-pack labeling on our products that contain GM ingredients nationwide,” the company statement says.

(click here to continue reading How Little Vermont Got Big Food Companies To Label GMOs : The Salt : NPR.)

All Your Bonnie Plants Come from Non-GMO Seeds, and All Your Base are Belong to Us
All Your Bonnie Plants Come from Non-GMO Seeds, and All Your Base are Belong to Us

For the record, I’m ok with the Vermont labeling law. I don’t know if genetically modified food is good or bad, but truthfully, nobody really does. The American government’s regulatory agencies are permanently tilted towards the interests of corporations, always, and nearly without exception; the FDA cannot be trusted to protect the health of consumers. Do we really know if gene splicing pesticide resistance into apples or wheat is going to alter our bodies? The corporations pinky-swear GMOs won’t have long-term effects on cancer rates and other health-related concerns, and maybe they are right.

But maybe they are not.

Last spring, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization declared glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide on GMO crops, to be a probable carcinogen. And just last month, the FDA announced it would begin testing food products sold in the U.S. for glyphosate residue.

State legislators across the nation introduced 101 bills last year pertaining to GMOs. Of the 15 that passed, four had to do with labeling, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A bill introduced by Illinois state Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, requiring disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients stalled in committee.

More than 90 percent of corn and soybeans grown in Illinois is genetically modified, said Adam Nielsen, director of national legislation for the Illinois Farm Bureau.

The GMO crop movement took off in 1996, when Monsanto Co. introduced Roundup Ready soybean seeds, genetically modified to resist Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide. Similarly marketed cotton, canola, corn and sugar beet seeds soon followed.

For farmers, glyphosate represented a safer, cheaper, more effective way of controlling weeds, thwarting pests and growing crops, Moose said. It’s since become the standard in large-scale agriculture.

The general public and the scientific community don’t tend to agree when it comes to GMO safety, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey conducted before the World Health Organization finding. Most consumers surveyed, 57 percent, said they considered GMOs to be generally unsafe to eat, whereas 88 percent of scientists surveyed, all of them connected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said GMOs were generally safe.

Genetically modified crops don’t present a health risk, but the herbicides used on them are “a big problem,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, dean for global health at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and an expert on environmental health concerns and children.

As GMO crops have become more common over the years, weeds have become resistant to glyphosate, which has led to heavier use of the herbicide, he said.

Landrigan is among scientists and health experts calling on the EPA to “urgently review the safety risk of glyphosate” and says it’s time for GMO labeling. “Not because I think genetic rearrangement is bad, but because I think consumers have a right to know what they’re eating,” he said.

(click here to continue reading GMO labeling debate puts food industry on defensive – Chicago Tribune.)

The agribusinesses are not being banned from using GMO products, only being required to be transparent if they are. Does this mean General Mills has to change their packaging? Yep. So what? They can’t be complaining about the extra ink required, only that they are being forced to alter their packaging by dictate of the people. Boo hoo. Packaging changes all the time anyway, I don’t see the harm in adding a few words to a package.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 27th, 2016 at 8:29 am

Fetishizing of Super Bowl ads

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Gordon's crisp Potato Sticks
Gordon’s crisp Potato Sticks

Amusingly, Phil Rosenthal agrees with me re: Super Bowl ads being over-rated.1

It’s not Super Bowl commercials I mind. I’ve actually liked a lot of them. I’ve enjoyed disliking others. My objection is how they’ve become fetishized.

Though they sell beer, cars, junk food and sundry other everyday items, services and ideas, we’ve been conditioned to treat them as something between objets d’art and Adam Sandler comedies.

Perhaps adored, perhaps abhorred, they’re tough to completely ignore.

It’s as if the fact that some marketer spent $5 million per half minute — up about 11 percent from $4.5 million last year — to pitch more than 100 million of us in the Super Bowl 50 audience obliges us to actually pay attention.

That attention, as reliable as the way we always dote on anthropomorphic animals year after year, in turn, helps justify the $166,666.67-per-second price, production costs not included.

Somewhere along the line, someone — maybe Don Draper, maybe Darrin Stephens — pitched Americans on the idea that television commercials are as much a part of Super Bowl Sunday as the game itself, and we bought it.

The queasy feeling that too many salty, fatty foodstuffs bring by the third quarter is as much a part of Super Bowl Sunday as the game too. But we’re not carpet-bombed with previews and reviews, encouraged to experience it repeatedly before and after the game and invited to try an extended and more intense version.

(click here to continue reading Fetishizing of Super Bowl ads: How much is too much? – Chicago Tribune.)

Doped Youth
Doped Youth

Should we be impressed by advertising just because it costs a lot to air? And create? Especially since so few ads are even worthy of our attention. Some are even worth our disgust, like:

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA) is hitting us again at the Super Bowl. This time with “All American Girl” – an ad that’s supposed to show that you should care about heroin abuse because it affects pretty white girls, too.

But, of course, the ad then doesn’t show what you do when someone is having a problem with heroin – it lets them just wander off in the distance. No, this is just another one of those frying-pan scared-straight attempts at prevention that have been shown historically to not work.

(click here to continue reading Another SuperBad Advertisement « Drug WarRant.)

  1. and for the record, I didn’t read this essay until just now []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 6th, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Advertising,Sports

Tagged with

Super Bowl Ads Are Boring

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Vintage Asahi Beer Ad (Ramen Takeya)
Vintage Asahi Beer Ad (Ramen Takeya)

Once a year, non-sports fans are encouraged to watch the Super Bowl despite not caring a whit who is playing. The reason? The advertising is supposed to be of elevated quality. 

For instance, one of the most famous Super Bowl ads is the Apple Computer 1984 ad announcing the Macintosh:

Billy Jeans
Billy Jeans

John Ellis Bush! Bush is allegedly going to show his brother’s supportive ad during Super Bowl L:

Former President George W. Bush has cut a TV ad for the super PAC supporting his brother, marking the former president’s most public political activity in the campaign to date.

(click here to continue reading Exclusive: George W. Bush cuts television ad backing his brother – POLITICO.)

Great Price's (sic)
Great Price’s (sic)

Having sat through many boring football games to watch the ads, I’m not falling for it again. I’m not convinced that simply because something is expensive, it is good. The decline of Hollywood as a conduit of interesting films could arguably be dated from the time that box office numbers became the metric of whether a given movie was any good. Plot, character development, those became less important than having great special effects, and thus most films made today are superhero films, animated dross, or similar genres.

One Eye to Rule Them

One Eye to Rule Them

CBS already has the 2016 Super Bowl Commercials website up, so if there is something really interesting shown, you can go and spend your time watching beer, auto, pharmaceutical corporations trying to sell you their products. I wouldn’t say that advertising can never be clever, just that the typical target for Super Bowl ads seems to be 14 year old boys: the commercials are populated with fast cars, women with “child-bearing hips”, and puerile and jejune scenarios. Many ads seem solely as crass attempts at creating a “viral” sensation, or at least stirring up controversy. Alcohol, sugary sodas, packaged snacks, fast food, cars, software, electronics, probably some insurance company; am I missing anything by resisting their pitches? Doubtful.

If you are a football fan, by all means, watch the culmination of the season. For the rest of us, go for a walk or something.

Parenthetically, I’m amused that the NFL is not using the Roman numeral for 50, “L”, but only for this year.

You don’t have to brush up on your Roman numerals because it’s not going to be Super Bowl L for a few reasons. At the top of the list: Nobody wants to be associated with a loser. Especially the NFL.

“Some would ask, ‘The letter L, what does that associate with?'” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says.

The answer, of course, is “Losing.”

Football is a game of X’s and O’s. But it’s also long been one of I’s and V’s, as virtually the only institution in our society that incorporates Roman numerals. Roughly a decade ago, the NFL first began examining what “Super Bowl L” looked like on social media, on mobile devices and on merchandise like T-shirts and caps. The short answer? It didn’t look good.

Using the number 50 was found to be much more appealing than an L, on many levels, from the negativity associated with losing to the aesthetic challenges posed by using the letter. So this year, and this year only, the Super Bowl will use more traditional numbering.

“The genesis is with Super Bowl XL 10 years ago,” McCarthy says. “We spent some time looking at what a block L would look like on its own, and [NFL Creative Services] said, ‘It could be a problem from a creative and design element that the letter L, on its own, without an I after it, looks unusual within the design world.'”

(click here to continue reading What the L? Why the NFL Sacked Roman Numerals for Super Bowl 50 | Rolling Stone.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 6th, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Advertising,Business,Sports

Tagged with ,