EOW Thought: Goin' Blind

Why TikTok might be TOO good...

Happy Friyay fellow Let Me Thinkers, cheers to the weekend.

Whatever you did this week, I’m sure you crushed it.

A little housekeeping before we get going…

Jim Thompson is today’s sponsor. To put it simply, Jim’s a great fucking dude. I’ve known him across a couple of the different places he’s been at, and now he’s at Gemini XIII, an upstart audio company. Jim is a great collaborator and even better hang, so hit him up, grab some lunch, and talk some shop - Jim’s buying (right, Jim? That wasn’t in the talking points…)

Sunday is my birthday. I know what you’re thinking - bonus birthday posts (“33 media headlines that smell like shit…”). Maybe! We’ll see how inspired I am this weekend. I got at least one more in the tank for tomorrow or Sunday.

My birthday wish is for you all to send this newsletter to one friend or colleague you think would benefit from my bullshit words of Friday wisdom.

Onto an end of week thought…

EOW Thought

Big shots, boredom, and blindness.

There's a web and / or marketing term called “banner blindness.”

If you don’t know what it means, let this 2018 article help you:

Banner blindness is a long-known user behavior. It describes people’s tendency to ignore page elements that they perceive (correctly or incorrectly) to be ads.

Studies are apparently now saying that this “phenomenon” is coming not just for display banners, but for search ads too: people are scrolling right past search ads, without so much as registering what they say or batting an eye.

“Banner blindness” is really just an industry euphemism for, “shitty ad placements.”

But what if a platform’s content was so good, it made you blind to its ads?

What if it was too good?

Last weekend, my wife was away, so you know what that means: endless hours aimlessly walking around New York City, sitting on my couch, and binging Hijack on Apple TV+.

Amidst all of that, I dove head first into TikTok. I’m not a huge Toker. But boy, that algorithm gets me. The content I was being served was an all you can eat buffet of shit I like, personalized to yours truly.

The only thing that felt out of place? The ads.

I couldn’t scroll faster through them. I was blind, deaf, and immune to them.

All I wanted was to get back to my beloved content. They were THE roadblock.

And these weren’t repurposed brand ads that stuck out like a sore thumb.

They were influencer ads, made for TikTok ads, perfectly endemic to the feed.

Which made me realize: blindness isn’t just for shitty ads on right hand rails or below the fold.

Blindness also kicks in when you’re too immersed, too captivated by the content you’re consuming.

It’s why podcast ads are a tad overrated. Ads in the great podcasts get skipped. Ads in the good podcasts get ignored.

It’s also why the most captivating social platforms - TikTok, Reddit, even Twitter - struggle to perform for advertisers. Each time I run an ad campaign on one of these places, the quality of people clicking through to the site is very poor.

Why? They much prefer being on their platform. Anything outside of it is a distraction, or an accident.

So what to do then? How do you plan media, to grab people’s attention, if people are blind to what’s shitty in boring places, or what’s trying too hard in immersive ones?

I have a new pyramid for that. Partially inspired by my fellow LinkedIner Charles, who wrote a great substack on this topic yesterday - check it out here.

I’ve said before that every paid media tactic on a campaign or plan should be really cheap or really cool. If you’re spending lots of money against something, you better make sure that thing is cool as fuck. It can’t just be custom, it has to be special.

And if it’s not really cool, it better be the cheapest thing humanly possible.

What to do: cheap video ads.

What not to do: $25-$30 CPM podcast ads of producer reads.

But I want to expand on that a little. Here’s my new formula for media planning:

One big shot. Every campaign needs a hero. This bucket has the most cultural potential, but the lowest amount of inventory, and the highest cost. So pick one. Maybe two. It could be a premiere podcast host / ambassador, sporting event, PR worthy partnership, etc. But you need one of these as a lightning rod to lead the charge.

Maximize boredom. Here’s where media plans and campaigns win or fail (sorry, or learn).

The majority of media is not with big shots. Its around boredom or blindness.

Blindness we covered. But boredom is different. Boredom is trapped on a subway car looking at your phone. Boredom is flipping through TV channels or streaming options looking for what to watch. Boredom is mindlessly scrolling through Instagram or kicking back on a YouTube rabbit hole.

Boredom is voluntary captivity to put your mind at ease. It’s where a lot of media lives. And its where a lot of ads are seen.

To paraphrase the woman looking at the Kramer painting, the ads are loathsome, offensive brutes…and yet I can’t look away.

You can’t ignore this bucket. You need to maximize it. Maximize it with cheap media. Maximize it with creative messaging that gets a bit more noticed in these bored environments. Maximize it with coverage, reach, and just enough repetition.

You likely won’t get a strong reaction, but if you do it right, you’ll at least get a head nod.

Avoid blindness. Don’t buy shitty ads. But even more, don’t buy ads that are going to be overshadowed by the content they’re in or around.

I’m weary of TikTok. I’ve already been weary of Reddit and Twitter (X???). I think these places sound good in theory, but they are not for brands.

And you can wind up spending a ton of money in these places, only to feel the wrath of the blind - which is silence.

So there you go. Some (really cool and really) cheap free advice.

One big shot. Maximize boredom. Avoid blindness.


Go plan your next campaign using this formula and let me know how it goes.

If you get fired, that’s on you for taking free newsletter advice.

Stay thinkin this weekend,