Bob Hoffman
Nov 23, 2020

Clueless and out of touch

THE AD CONTRARIAN: How can professional people who work in an industry that is largely constructed on media behaviour be so astoundingly misinformed?

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

You gotta laugh to keep from cryin'.

Marketers spend half a trillion dollars a year on advertising. You'd think they'd take the time to understand what the hell they're doing. There is incontrovertible evidence that they are alarmingly out of touch with the people they are trying to influence.

This week Ipsos Canada released a study on behalf of ThinkTV comparing the beliefs of 300 marketing "professionals"  to the self-reported activities of consumers. The results are striking, if not shocking. Using the data from the Ipsos study, I've made a little table.

One would expect there would be some degree of variance between the beliefs of professionals in a field and reality. It's only natural. You could excuse it if the variance was 10 or 20%. Maybe even 30%. But to be off by hundreds of percent in virtually every measure? This is not a standard error of judgement. This is gross ignorance and incompetence.

The obvious question is this—how can professional people who work in an industry that is largely constructed on media behavior be so astoundingly misinformed? The answer is pretty simple. Marketing people are living in a world of their own. They don't wear the same clothes as "average" people, they don't go to the same restaurants as average people, they don't drink the same booze, buy the same food, watch the same programs, drive the same cars, see the same movies, or live in the same neighborhoods as average people. The only time they come into contact with real people is at the DMV, which they find disgusting.

They think they "understand the consumer." They don't understand shit.

While 58% of marketers and advertisers have "smart speakers" in their homes, 19% of real people do. While about 45% of adults in the US are over 50, in ad agencies about 6% of employees are. According to the COO of Ipsos, “Some of these differences really are quite gigantic.”

Every day hundreds of millions of media dollars are committed based on the supposition that marketing people know what the hell they're doing and are spending media money wisely. I wouldn't hire half the marketing "professionals" I've worked with to walk my dog.


Bob Hoffman is the author of several best-selling books about advertising, a popular international speaker on advertising and marketing, and the creator of 'The Ad Contrarian' newsletter, where this first appeared, and blog. Earlier in his career he was CEO of two independent agencies and the US operation of an international agency.

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