A few weeks ago I was sitting in the waiting area of the world’s largest ad agency. Four students, all seniors at Portfolio Center, were waiting for interviews and I struck up a conversation.


asked; “how much time does portfolio center spend teaching you how to create a banner?” They answered “Zero!” So the next generation of advertising creatives are learning how to create…TV and print. As a result, they are not prepared to produce creative for the future of advertising.


I’m a Tom Fishburne fan. My process often involves writing an article and searching for a Fishburne cartoon that hits a nerve…like this one.



A number of key events have come to light in the past few days:

  • Twitter reported earnings (TWTR).
  • Snap Inc. filed for the IPO at a valuation of $25B.
  • It was discovered that Mercedes Benz, Honda and others ‘premium’ advertisers ads have been showing up on jihadist’s web sites.
  • Tremor’s CEO resigned and the stock took a hit (TRMR).
  • Topix bragged about how they garnered $400,000 in revenue off of a single slide show.


Let’s break down each of these as proof points of this continued thesis: Creativity and an overhaul of the digital advertising ecosystem is critical to the long-term health of our industry.

Twitter has yet to create a compelling format for advertisers. Paid tweets are not the answer. While they are part of a package that Twitter should offer to advertisers, Twitter is in critical need of a strategy to garner display dollars.

Snap Inc. filed for their IPO. Brands are salivating at the opportunity to work with Snapchat and create the next greatest ad platform. Snapchat needs to look beyond its app and 158MM DAUs to really have an impact. There’s an ecosystem out there that needs your creative format Snapchat!

Mercedes Benz, Honda and others have been inadvertently supporting jihadist’s web sites. Wow! If I was the CEO of one of those brands, I would be concerned with my digital agency, strategy and approach to marketing. This is a huge red flag and proof point that the we need to “Blow Up the Digital Ad Ecosystem.”

Tremor’s CEO resigned. We do not know all the details as to why. With that said, Tremor is another proof point that just because technology can deliver an ad to an eyeball, doesn’t mean it works. This is a case where a company built a business on replicable technology. Death without differentiation.

Topix is the poster child for everything that is wrong with digital advertising. I’m sure their mission was pure and their product was good at one point. However, as their efforts shifted to forced growth to please investors, the quality turned south.

Topix brags about a $400,000 revenue producing slide show. I can guarantee that the $400,000 in ad revenue generated by that slide show yielded close to ZERO return for the advertisers. A slide show is gaming the system. Pure and simple it is a way to garner volume of ad placements filled by networks and exchanges (some on a Jihadi websites). If you want to experience Topix, just click on a “sponsored” post on the home page of Yahoo.


 If you talk to any quality media company, their mission is rarely to generate the most revenue possible through any measure. High revenue generation is a byproduct of a good product or service. However in digital advertising, it’s become the mission. I call this “Mission Impossible” because the product is flawed. Each example I’ve given today supports this thesis.

 The Walt Disney’s Company’s Mission is: “…to be one of the world’s leading producers of entertainment and information. Using our portfolio of brands to differentiate our content, services and consumer products, we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world.”

 Words like “creative” and “innovative” precede “profitable.”


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-James T. Kirk



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