EOW Thought: Something's Foul

Why tricks and hacks are dying...

Greetings loyal readers.

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Onto a thought to propel you into a mindful weekend…

EOW Thought

Lost tricks. I have a confession. I hate meetings with media companies. I hate the 101s. I hate the lunches. I hate the lunches where you also learn. I hate the outings, the dinners, the everything. I know I need to attend them, but I try to avoid them.

Why? Because deep down, I’m a little socially awkward. And because there’s a superficial gloss to all of the events. A “are you really my friend, or are you buttering me up before you fuck me?” quality that leaves a weird taste in the mouth.

50% of media spend (more?) is soaked up by Google and Meta. No relationships needed there. Just buttons. It’s probably more when you factor in other self serve platforms.

But I read an article in the New York Times last weekend that got me thinking of the past. It was about how the art of baseball players intentionally tipping off foul balls is apparently all but gone. Stretching an at-bat used to be important, strategic in tiring out a pitcher’s arm or pushing them to throw more meatballs down the middle.

But now baseball only cares about home runs and getting on base. You don’t need to swing at bad pitches to keep an at-bat going, you should just focus on the good ones while taking balls on the bad ones.

This trick used to be part of the game though. A savvy way to get what you wanted.

I heard a story recently about an old media buying hack. A media buyer would catch wind that a publisher or media company would have a sales meeting every Tuesday morning. In that meeting, the sellers would have to give an update on how they’re tracking towards revenue. 15-30 minutes before the meeting, the buyer would call the ad seller with a “new budget.”

Why? Because they knew the seller would give better rates and do more to close the deal so they could highlight it in their rapidly impending meeting.

But with AI, there’s no need to time your calls to the schedule of another.

It’s all about exit velocity - being faster to insights, automating buying and negotiating in real-time, cutting down on tasks - to focus on home runs - strategic thinking, big picture concepts, etc.

In that line of thinking, you leave media buying and negotiating behind to “focus on more important things” - implying that the former was never important to begin with. Were these tricks and tactics the hacks, or were we really the hacks?

In some ways, media buying is dead - Cody Plofker just wrote a great newsletter analyzing how “creative is the new targeting” in performance marketing.

But really, I’d like to add another word or caveat to that line.

Bullshit media buying is dead. The media that we know is overrated anyway - SEM, paid social, etc.

Performance agencies currently operate a racket - they sell a bill of goods of being hyper involved in campaigns, when everyone knows the best approach to direct response media buying is keeping hands off the wheel and letting algorithms do their thing.

And the art of the deal is still necessary if you’re trying to pull off things that break culture. You need to have strong relationships to get people and companies to agree to upset their way of working, to push themselves and their peers to new things, to do things that have never been done before - especially when the check that you’re writing is pretty small.

So, you still need to know how to foul off pitches intentionally, to hit the eventual home run later in the at-bat.

How to time a call to an opportune time.

How to hand to hand combat your way to great work.

It’s still why, despite my reluctance, I’ll go to a few lunches.

Because we need to prioritize AI for what’s bullshit.

And prioritize our time and tricks to achieve what could be revolutionary.

(Shout out to Justine Vidal, a stellar peer of mine, for some inspo here).

Stay thunkin,