Tuesday, September 19, 2017

13830: Targeting Racists Is Easy!

Advertising Age reported it’s possible to target advertising messages to racists. Is this news? Is anyone surprised that an industry featuring lots of people exhibiting unconscious bias—as well as conscious bias—would have any trouble connecting with like-minded bigots? However, Ad Age insisted, “But it also turns out advertisers aren’t all that interested in deliberately reaching anti-Semites.” Maybe not, but advertisers are interested in deliberately conspiring with White advertising agencies where diversity remains a dream deferred, diverted, delegated and denied.

Turns Out, Brands Can Target Ads To Racists. But Would They?

By Garett Sloane

Turns out the ability to target specific bigotries is more widespread than first thought. But it also turns out advertisers aren’t all that interested in deliberately reaching anti-Semites.

On Friday, two more media outlets uncovered the ability for advertisers to target groups of people based on racist interests, this time on Google and Twitter. Racist-inspired ad targeting had first been discovered on Facebook on Thursday by investigative journalist group ProPublica.

Internet outrage aside, most advertisers are not surprised by this darker side of ad targeting. While ugly, targeting racists isn’t as much of a risk for brands as having their ads show up on racist websites through automated media buying, which is the typical brand safety concern with online ads.

“In theory, anyone could hack ad targeting tools on Facebook, but why would you unless you’re a Trump alt-right type,” asks one digital agency exec, speaking on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitivity of the subject. “Anyone could reverse engineer what racists are interested in. Like if they were interested in, say, Breitbart or some other publication, you could then target lookalike audiences. There are all sorts of crude tools to target them.”

Another agency exec discussed how those same ad targeting tools can also be used for good. In one instance, YouTube is able to identify young people who are prone to radicalization and customize the videos they see to offer content that could help discourage their violent tendencies.

YouTube has developed ad campaigns that target these types of youth, who are deemed to be at-risk of joining groups like ISIS.

“Think about how much is uploaded to YouTube every day,” the agency exec said. “The fact that it can flag as much as it does, is amazing. And anything can be used for evil.”

On Thursday, ProPublica had found areas in Facebook’s self-serve ad system where it could find groups of people based on their education history, and in more than 2,000 examples people on the social network had listed anti-Semitic terms as their fields of study. People had listed “Jew hater,” “how to burn Jews” and other offensive language, and they were able to be discovered in the ad system, and they were made available for targeting. Facebook said it was taking steps to shut down the ability to target against such offensive terms.

BuzzFeed and The Daily Beast found similar flaws in Google and Twitter’s ad platforms. On Google, there were racist search terms available for targeting—“black people ruin everything” and “Jews control the media,” among a number of others, according to BuzzFeed. Twitter had similar categories available, according to The Daily Beast.

The targeting loopholes weren’t a big concern to most advertisers, because they say they wouldn’t use them, however the issue does expose more problems with automated online advertising. Leaving machines to do much of the work, and with artificial intelligence taking over more of the thinking, there are more opportunities for these types of embarrassing mishaps.

“The lesson here for Facebook is this: People are crass, stupid, and sometimes evil,” says a social media agency executive. “Don’t automate anything without some level of human oversight or guardrails in place. Machines aren’t perfect.”

Monday, September 18, 2017

13829: Beam Diversity Up, Scotti.

Adweek reported on the dubious progress revealed by Verizon CMO Diego Scotti, who had mimicked HP CMO Antonio Lucio’s request for White advertising agencies to primarily promote White women and secondarily consider colored people. Sure enough, the fuzzy figures exposed by Scotti showed a big boost for White women and questionable results for people of color. When asked why he didn’t force quotas on his White ad shops, Scotti explained, “We don’t really believe in quotas, we believe in progress.” Okay, but how does one measure—and ultimately judge—progress if specific numbers aren’t applied to the equation? Scotti then segued to hyping his company’s latest diversity scheme, which involves an internship program for colored college students. Wow, that’s original. When discussing diversity, Scotti admitted, “This is not an easy thing to solve, so for me I never expected to have crazy results quickly, but I learned a few things that are important.” Whatever. But everyone should learn one thing that is important: High-tech companies like Verizon and HP are diversity dinosaurs—and these companies have maxed their quotas for conspiring with White advertising agencies.

One Year After Calling on Agency Partners to Be More Diverse, Verizon CMO Shares the Results

Diego Scotti on new hires and Verizon’s Ad Fellows program, which kicks off today

By Katie Richards

One year ago, Verizon CMO Diego Scotti sent a letter to all of the brand’s agency partners. In that letter, Scotti called on each of the 11 agencies on the Verizon roster to focus on improving the number of women and people of color working for them.

Scotti’s letter came around the same time that HP and General Mills put out similar demands, laying out quotas for their agency partners to reach. Verizon didn’t ask for agencies to meet a certain quota because as Scotti explained, “we don’t really believe in quotas, we believe in progress.” Instead he asked that all of the agencies share the current state of their workforce 30 days after the letter was sent out and deliver an action plan to improve upon those numbers in the future.

“Now we meet every quarter with all the agencies together, and everybody needs to report their progress in front of everybody else, which in and of itself is changing the dynamic of how we are having this conversation,” Scotti explained. It holds everyone accountable.

Now one year after making that call to action, Scotti shared how both Verizon and its partners are doing on the diversity and gender front.

At the agencies, 31 percent of employees at the leadership level are people of color, up nine percent from last year. Eleven percent of those in leadership positions are hispanic, up 5 percent; 51 percent are female, up 3 percent.

“This is not an easy thing to solve, so for me I never expected to have crazy results quickly, but I learned a few things that are important,” Scotti said. One of those important lessons Scotti learned came from starting an in-house agency that launched in February.

There are already 70 people working on Verizon’s in-house team and the staff is split, 50 percent white and 50 percent people of color. Additionally, 52 percent of the staff is female and 48 percent is male.

“The number one lesson is when you build something from scratch and you put the filter of diversity in it, you can do it,” he said. “If you create the right environment, then you can do it.”

Looking specifically at new hires, 210 employees have been hired in the past year to work on the Verizon account across agencies; 41 percent of the hires were people of color and 53 percent were women.

Creating an in-house agency and focusing on improving agency and internal diversity numbers was the first prong in Scotti’s diversity-focused approach for Verizon. Another prong is the Ad Fellows program, which officially kicks off today.

The Ad Fellows program selects 20 college graduates from across the country, all with diverse backgrounds, to participate in an eight-month fellowship program. Scotti hopes that at the end of the program, 90 percent of the fellows will score full-time jobs at one of the six companies participating in Ad Fellows.

What makes Ad Fellows different than your typical fellowship, though, is that Verizon tapped five of its agency partners—McCann, Momentum, Rauxa, Zenith and Weber Shandwick—to participate in the program.

Over the course of eight months, the 20 fellows will be split into smaller groups and rotate between Verizon and a handful of the participating agencies (which cover creative, media and PR). That way the recent graduates have a chance to explore different parts of the marketing and advertising business and find out what it is they want to do with their career and what parts of the business they excel in.

The program is fully paid and covers housing and expenses for all 20 fellows to ensure that people of all backgrounds can have the chance to participate.

While the program just kicked off today, Scotti already has big plans for its future. Outside of holding more cycles each year, Scotti hopes that the idea of an Ad Fellows program can extend beyond Verizon. He hopes one day that, “every company in America has an Ad Fellows program and they gather agencies to work with them. I would love to partner with the ANA or The Ad Club or some organization that could help bring other clients to partner with the ad agencies and make it a really big thing.”

Sunday, September 17, 2017

13828: Stock Schlock.

Leave it to stock image suppliers to invite you to “Elevate Your Work With Powerful Images”—via banner ads featuring thoroughly mediocre and forgettable images.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

13827: Googling Diverted Diversity.

Campaign reported Google is being slapped with accusations of gender discrimination in a U.S. lawsuit—ultimately proving the power of diverted diversity. After all, the tech company admits that women account for only 31% of the workforce; however, Latinos represent 4% and Blacks represent 2%. So where’s the lawsuit for people of color? Sorry, racial and ethnic minorities, but you’ll have to get in line behind all the angry White women.

Google accused of sex discrimination in US lawsuit

Google is being sued by three female former employees, who are claiming that it discriminates against women, paying them less and favouring men for promotion.

By Ben Bold

The three women have filed a lawsuit that claims that the technology giant while aware of the situation has done nothing to remedy it.

The suit has been filed in a San Francisco court; it argues that Google discriminates against female staff with lower pay and limited opportunities for promotion compared with men.

One of the trio, Kelly Ellis, a former Google software engineer, tweeted that she hoped to “force not only Google, but other companies to change their practices”.

Ellis joined Google in 2010 and despite her four years’ experience was given a role typically given to graduates. A male colleague with a similar level of experience was given a higher-ranking role, she said. She resigned four years later due to the “sexist culture”.

The plaintiffs are seeking class-action that would cover women who had worked at the company in the past four years, demanding unpaid wages.

Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano said in a statement: “Job levels and promotions are determined through rigorous hiring and promotion committees, and must pass multiple levels of review, including checks to make sure there is no gender bias in these decisions.

The majority (70%) of Google staff are men, with 80% of tech staff male and 75% of leadership positions.

The news follows a row that broke out last month at Google over an engineer’s memo criticizing its diversity initiatives, arguing that “psychological differences” explain why women are underrepresented in tech.

The 10-page memo, “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” argued that “we need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism”.

Google is also under investigation by the US Department of Labor over its pay practices.

Friday, September 15, 2017

13826: WPPoop.

Adweek reported WPP is merging five shitty consultancies and design agencies to form a global pile of poop. Of course, blending shops from different countries will allow WPP to continue peddling the lie that it represents “the most diverse example of diversity of any single organisation.” Now, that’s a monumental bunch of bullshit.

WPP Is Merging 5 Consultancies and Design Agencies to Form a New Global Brand Offering

The unnamed agency will launch in January

By Erik Oster

WPP announced this week that it will combine five of its brand consultancies and design agencies to form a new global brand agency.

The new group, which has yet to be named, will combine Brand Union, The Partners, Lambie-Nairn, Addison Group and VBAT. The launch is set for January 2018, with the latter shop continuing to operate under its own name.

The network will include around 750 employees across 20 countries, with client billings estimated at over $100 million worldwide. Jim Prior will lead the network as the global CEO and Simon Bolton will serve as executive chairman. Prior currently serves as The Partners CEO, while Bolton serves as Brand Union’s worldwide CEO.

“Our clients and our industry are ready for change and by bringing these agencies together, we can serve clients across the full range of sectors, capabilities and geographies,” Prior said in a statement. “This convergence builds the next generation brand agency and is motivated by the opportunities for growth—for our clients and for us.”

“Bringing our agencies together will instantly give our clients the benefit of scale and single point of access to a breadth of services that covers almost every aspect of brand and communications,” Bolton added.

WPP’s decision to merge the entities seems to be keeping with reorganization trends at the holding company as it attempts to rebound from a disappointing first half of 2017. Despite some major account wins, WPP failed to meet first half revenue goals in August and saw its stock plummet as a result. That stemmed largely from U.S. clients reducing ad spending totals, but it placed additional pressure on CEO Martin Sorrell to reduce overall operating expenses to increase the network’s efficiency, but some observers called for a more radical reorganization at the holding company.

“The pressures that we’re seeing accelerate the need to simplify what we’ve got,” Sorrell said at the time.

“The brand consulting business has always struggled to achieve the critical mass that ad agencies and media agencies have achieved. WPP’s hands were tied on this to some extent as they continue to push for efficiencies and scale,” Greg Paull, founding principal of international consultancy R3, said.

The pending formation of the new global brand agency also follows on the heels of WPP announcing the merger of MEC and Maxus to form a new global media network earlier this year as part of its ongoing reorganization.

Like the newest offering, that one went without a name for several weeks before the holding group introduced the world to Wavemaker last month.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

13825: Enter The Little Dragon.

Advertising Age reported China loves hip hop too.

Rapper’s Delight: China’s Hip-Hop Talent Showcase Boosts Brands

By Angela Doland

A rapper named Little Dragon struts across a stage, baseball cap slung low on his forehead. The camera cuts to glistening McDonald’s chicken wings, and Little Dragon plugs the product in a rap couplet—in Mandarin. “Hip-hop snack box/share it and it’s better.”

Welcome to “The Rap of China,” a new singing contest and a major vehicle for sponsorships and product placements. It’s also the first rap talent show in a country not known as a thriving hotbed of hip-hop culture. More: It’s a massive hit. The online video platform that shows it, iQiyi, says there have been over 2 billion combined views in 10 episodes of the show, in which Chinese rappers in huge gold chains and slouchy sweats try to outdo each other.

It’s a success with sponsors too, including local brands Nongfu Spring water and Xiaomi electronics, as well as Absolut vodka, Chevrolet Camaro and McDonald’s. As is standard in China, sponsor content and product placements are a huge part of the show, and nobody is surprised to see a supposed rebel rapping about the pleasure of sharing McDonald’s snack boxes.

Big investment, big payback

Doing a rap show “was kind of a gamble—before it actually started, nobody knew what would happen,” says Kevin Cao, iQiyi’s commercial marketing director. “We put a lot of time and resources into it, investing more than $30 million.” The program has more than made that back, taking in almost $46 million in ads and sponsorships.

One reason for its success is that mainstream stars appear too. Heartthrob Kris Wu, an actor-singer and former boy band member, is a celebrity mentor for the rappers, and though people online mocked his hip-hop credentials, he draws huge audiences. His catchphrase “Can you freestyle?” became a meme that publicized the show all over China’s internet.

Until now, rap had been more subculture in China than mainstream, but nonetheless attracted government attention. In 2015, the Ministry of Culture blacklisted 120 songs, including hip-hop tunes, because of their subject matter (from flatulence to suicide). But the Communist Party apparently doesn’t object to rap music itself, since the state broadcaster put it in a propaganda video in 2015. That song sampled speeches by President Xi Jinping and included lyrics like “Reform the supply side and upgrade the economy.”

Online TV boom

IQiyi, part of Chinese search giant Baidu, originally planned to hold a mainstream singing contest, a common form of TV entertainment in China, and had collected $46 million from sponsors to do so, Cao says. When iQiyi scrapped that project to go the rap route, it returned the $46 million and started over.

China has 751 million people online, according to official statistics, and online TV has been stealing ad dollars away from traditional TV in China as it has elsewhere. Each of the local internet giants owns a big video platform: Baidu has iQiyi, Tencent Holdings has Tencent Video and Alibaba Group Holding owns Youku Tudou. Most of the programming is free to watch, though people who buy subscriptions for a few dollars a month get extra content and see fewer ads. With so many people skipping interruptive ads now, more branded content is being built into the shows, from song lyrics to branded “stickers” dancing across the screens.

Chinese brands, more than multinationals, have embraced the zany sponsorship opportunities as they tend to be more experimental with their marketing. But foreign brands seemed to grasp the potential of rap on the mainland. Ruey Ku, Publicis media content general manager in greater China, says she believes “foreign brands saw the high relevance of hip-hop culture with the youth they’re targeting.”

McDonald’s and Absolut were among three sponsors that came on board before shooting started, iQiyi says. Some sponsors joined afterward. McDonald’s, the second-biggest sponsor, went all in; it tapped Wu to appear in commercials, and it has a snack box to match.

The show’s top sponsorship cost $18 million and went to Chinese water brand Nongfu Spring, the name of which is emblazoned on the show’s logo. That’s at the high end for sponsorships of online TV but still affordable compared with traditional or satellite TV, where prices for a top show can run four times that.

Merchandise is another potential revenue stream. IQiyi created a brand called R!ch for the show, including big golden chain necklaces that feature in the contest. They’re on sale on iQiyi’s online shopping mall for $14 each. The company is also working on licensing deals with other brands.

But one of the biggest beneficiaries of the show has undoubtedly been the New York clothing brand Supreme, which Wu, the show’s star, wears. On search engine Baidu, queries about Supreme are up about 170% this summer compared with the same period last year, according to Kantar Media CIC. That’s just a stroke of luck for the Supreme brand: IQiyi says it’s not a product placement.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

13824: Conservative Crybabies.

Advertising Age published a Bloomberg News story about how conservatives in the tech industry feel “more isolated than ever”—especially after the backlash inspired by former Google employee James Damore’s notorious rant. The career-based isolationists should connect with Carl Warner for a tech-advertising pity party. It’s interesting that two fields where exclusivity is a major problem also allegedly discriminate against conservatives. Hell, it’s quite probable that each industry features a strong representation of culturally clueless conservative people at all levels. If these conservatives feel marginalized, well, they’ll have to get in line—plus, realize they still receive far more privileges than the average person of color.

Conservatives in Tech Say They’re More Isolated Than Ever

Shashi Ramchandani, who manages a team of engineers at Google, has never been shy about being a conservative working in Silicon Valley. He showed coworkers emails he exchanged with Ivanka Trump after he mailed her photos he took at the Republican convention, and on election night, he texted colleagues snapshots from the floor of Trump’s victory party in New York City. “They saw me first as a Googler, then as a conservative,” Ramchandani says.

In his 14 years at the company, he says he hasn’t felt like he had to keep his mouth shut—until last month when Google fired an engineer who penned a memo saying biological differences partly explain why more men work in tech than women.

Politics often don’t mix easily at work, but it’s particularly fraught in tech, where free thinking is prized yet the workforce is predominantly liberal. Now, as President Trump stirs up the culture wars at the same time as Silicon Valley faces a backlash for being so white and so male, conservatives in tech have their guards up like never before.

Ramchandani, whose parents came to the U.S. from India, wasn’t a fan of the memo. He particularly objected to its assumption that Google’s hiring favors women and minorities, which ran counter to his experience as a hiring manager. But he was also “extremely disappointed” Google fired the engineer. Ramchandani felt, for the first time, that he had to reconcile his love of Google with his conservative support for free speech and distaste for bureaucracy.


Tech has seen ousters for unpopular political or cultural views before, like when the chief technology officer at Business Insider was forced out in 2013 over old racist and homophobic tweets, and the next year when the CEO of Mozilla stepped down after facing criticism for a $1,000 donation he’d made to a group that opposed gay marriage. But those were executives. The Google memo, which exposed a rank-and-file engineer exposed in a public way, hit closer to home for many conservatives, who say the current environment is more hostile than ever before. “Before it was, ‘I don’t agree with you,’ but now it has evolved into this new thing that is much more aggressive, ‘don’t even say something that is counter to what I believe,’” says Aaron Ginn, co-founder of Lincoln Network, which looks to connect conservative techies with government and political work.

Some fear losing their jobs while others worry they’ll be ostracized by colleagues. (That’s in a sector where 76% of technical jobs are held by men, and blacks and Latinos make up only 5% of the workforce.) Adding to the stress is Silicon Valley’s penchant for open floor plans, which make it hard to tune out an officemate on a rant, and the way companies encourage workers to socialize and bring their whole selves to their job. Several tech workers say they don’t post about politics on Facebook, where they’re friends with many coworkers. “My wife is very paranoid about me sharing my opinion, even on private WhatsApp groups with my friends,” said a former Amazon engineer who now works at Oracle. Most employees who spoke asked not to be identified because they worried about their job security.

An engineer at Microsoft first realized just how in the minority his political views were back in 2004, when George W. Bush was up for re-election. At lunch one day, his coworkers one by one slammed the Republican candidate. The engineer, just a few years out of college, recalls saying, “I’m probably going to vote for him.” He wasn’t prepared for the response. “They says, ‘You stupid person. How can you think about that?’” Things got so heated, he says, his manager sent a memo to his 100-person team, that said, in essence, “Hey, cool it. We have engineering tasks we have to focus on.”

Affecting the product

As contentious as 2004 may have been, it’s nothing compared to the polarizing election and presidency of Trump. The Microsoft engineer says now it’s even harder to have a productive political conversation, as colleagues lump him with a president whom he said doesn’t represent his conservative values, threatening the ability to do his job well. “Thirty years ago, there was somebody in their garage doing something amazing,” he says. “Now these projects have thousands of people on them. People have to work with you and like you. If you get labeled as a bad person because you voted the wrong way and start getting ostracized, it will impede on your job because most people can’t flip modes. They can’t have a heated political debate with you and then flip modes and have a heated technical debate with you.”

Google’s office felt like a funeral the day after Trump was elected, according to an employee who describes himself as libertarian. “A lot of people didn’t come,” he says. “The people who did were very quiet, almost like their aunt died.”

This Google employee believes the now infamous memo was relatively well-reasoned and that Silicon Valley’s diversity initiatives ignore data that conflict with their ideology. He’s regularly reminded of what he refers to as the company’s “social justice agenda,” like when he gets corporate email touting a donation to a non-profit that supports minorities, or hears an executive talk about hoping to have half of his leadership team be female, which he believes shows the company prioritizes some groups over others. He worries that the company is under pressure to reach 50-50 gender equity too fast, and it will impede the promotion opportunities for men. “Just do the math,” he says.

The Oracle engineer says the bro culture in tech is real and knows of female colleagues who face sexism, but with women making up fewer than a fifth of computer science graduates, the goal of reaching anything close to a 50-50 split feels “misguided” in the near term. “Some people are better than others, and when I work with a woman who is below average, I always have a thought that maybe she is a diversity hire, and I don’t think that’s healthy,” he says. He bristles slightly when he hears about female colleagues being heavily recruited by top firms.

Some confide in colleagues they consider friends. One liberal Google product manager says a conservative teammate who used to work at Goldman Sachs told him the environment now reminds him of his time in banking during the Occupy Wall Street protests, when he tried to lay low.

Ramchandani, who said he’s fiscally conservative but socially liberal, says the pressure on conservatives is “less of a Google thing than a Silicon Valley thing.” In the suburban Bay Area at large, he says, “I had more trouble coming out as a conservative than I did with my race or orientation or any other minority status.” He believes Google should recognize his fellow conservatives more but is nervous that conservatives are becoming more polarized themselves in recent weeks. He says on internal Google employee email groups for conservatives, he notices “a few loud voices” stoking an “us versus them” mentality, for example contemplating legal action against the company. “I found that distasteful because it’s biting the hand that feeds you,” he says. “We are here to do a job, not expound political values.”

The Oracle engineer, like some others, have opted to lay low during this tense time. “Work is work, and not everything needs to be about politics,” he says. While he sees liberal colleagues who sit nearby don’t seemingly need to filter their comments, he’s decided it’s not worth engaging, adding “I don’t want to be known as that guy who wants to argue with everybody.”

—Bloomberg News