Recent blog entries for dmarti

Update on users: they're still not morons

From a SiteScout blog post on retargeting:

Users who recognize your brand will now see your advertisements displayed across thousands of websites, creating the impression of a large-scale advertising campaign, but for a fraction of the budget.

That's unrealistic. Users have figured out retargeting, and it's already motivating them to block ads, not creating the impression of anything.

As David Ogilvy once wrote, The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife. If retargeting is something that you can explain in a blog post, users who see it every day already have it figured out.

Users still aren't morons.

Following a user around the Internet with an ad creates the impression of following a user around the Internet with an ad. And that's about it.

Too often, adtech overcomplicates the technical side, but oversimplifies the human side. People who participate in markets are good applied behavioral economists, because they have to be. That goes for buyers as well as sellers.

The adtech scene assumes that we're in some kind of controlled experiment, where adtech people are the experimenters and users are the subjects. In fact, we're all market participants, everyone is an active player, and ignoring or blocking potentially deceptive information like retargeting is a reasonable move.

Related: Why users will have a L.E.A.N. beef with adtech

Syndicated 2015-10-18 14:00:50 from Don Marti

Watering the data lawn

News from California: Big month for conservation: Californians cut water use by 31% in July.

Governor Brown said to cut back by 25%, and people did 31%.

Why? We were watering and maintaining lawns because we were expected to, because everyone else was doing it. As soon as we had a good excuse to cut back, a lot of us did, even if we overshot the 25% target.

Today, advertising on the web has its own version of lawn care. Ad people have the opportunity to collect excess data. Everyone is stuck watering the data lawn and running the data mower. So the ad-supported web is getting mixed up with surveillance marketing, failing to build any new brands, and getting less and less valuable for everyone.

Clearly, the optimum amount of data to collect is not "as much as possible". If an advertiser is able to collect enough data to target an ad too specifically, that ad loses its power to communicate the advertiser's intentions in the market, and becomes just like spam or a cold call. By enabling users to confidently reduce the amount of information they share, advertisers make their own signal stronger. (Good explanation of signaling and advertising from Eaon Pritchard.)

Where's a good reason to justify a shift to higher-value advertising? Everybody wants to get out of the race to collect more and more, less and less useful, data. So what's a good excuse to start?

Could a good news frenzy do it? No IT company is better at kicking off a news frenzy than Apple, and now Apple is doing Content Blocking. Doc Searls covers Content Blocking's interaction with Apple's own ad business, and adds:

Apple also appears to be taking sides against adtech with its privacy policy, which has lately become more public and positioned clearly against the big tracking-based advertising companies (notably Google and Facebook).

It's a start, but unfortunately, Big Marketing tends to take Apple's guidance remarkably slowly. Steve Jobs wrote Thoughts on Flash in 2010, and today, more than five years later, battery-sucking Flash ads are still a thing.

So even if Apple clobbers adtech companies over the head with a "Thoughts on Tracking" piece, expect a lot of inertia. (People who can move fast are already moving out of adtech to other things.)

Bob Hoffman writes:

The era of creepy tracking, maddening pop-ups and auto-play, and horrible banners may be drawing to its rightful conclusion.

But things don't just happen on the Internet. Someone builds an alternative. It looks obvious later, but somebody had to take the first whack at it. Tracking protection is great, but someone has to build the tools, check that they don't break web sites, and spread the word to regular users.

So why just look at tracking protection and say, wow, won't it be cool if this catches on?

Individuals, sites, and brands can help make tracking protection happen..

And if you really think about it, tracking protection tools are just products that users install. If only there were some way to get the attention of a bunch of people at once to persuade them to try things.

Syndicated 2015-08-29 14:28:16 from Don Marti

Web advertising link dump

In case you missed these the first time.

Corey Weiner: The Real Victims of Ad Fraud Might Surprise You

Mark Duffy: Copyranter: Native advertising is killing ad creativity (via Digiday)

Michael Sebastian: Publishers Stare Down an 'Oh Sh*t' Mobile Moment

cks: Web ads considered as a security exposure

Alex Kantrowitz: Tensions Run High as Advertisers, Publishers Discuss Fraud at IAB Meeting

Sell! Sell!: Advertisers Are Like Prison Cafeteria Cooks

Hacker News: The Law of Shitty Clickthroughs

Alex Kantrowitz: Ad Tech's Rough Ride on Wall Street Continues With Latest IPO

Mathew: Thoughts on media business models

jbat: A Few Questions For Publishers Contemplating Facebook As A Platform

Brendon Lynch: An update on Microsoft’s approach to Do Not Track

MediaPost | RTB Insider: How Agencies Can Win The Battle Against Ad-Tech Companies

Sell! Sell!: TellUsYourStoryItis

BOB HOFFMAN: Bob's Keynote To NAB Radio Show

Christian Sandvig: The Facebook “It’s Not Our Fault” Study

John Herrman: Notes on the Surrender at Menlo Park

Jason Kint, CEO—DCN: Bad Ads: Research Shows They May Cost More Than They’re Worth

Ken Doctor: Newsonomics: Razor-thin profits are cutting into newspapers’ chances at innovation

BOB HOFFMAN: Take The Refrigerator Test

Owen Williams: You should be using these browser extensions to keep yourself safe online

Alex Kantrowitz: Inside Google's Secret War Against Ad Fraud (via Google Online Security Blog)

Jack Marshall: Major Advertisers Are Still Funding Online Piracy

Friedrich Geiger: Facebook Like Button Lands German Sites in Hot Water

Monica Chew: Tracking Protection for Firefox at Web 2.0 Security and Privacy 2015

Research Team—DCN: Content Pirates and Ad Hijackers Earn $200 million a Year

MediaPost | Online Media Daily: Useful Vs. Creepy: The Jury Is Still Out

Internal exile: Quantifying quislings

Cog Blog: Contracts and Enquiries; Rebates and Dark Pools

Rick Waghorn: Wall Street and it’s minions set their sights on a media futures market where the hedge funds get to play with advertising’s future. Cost + Complexity = Collapse

Frederic Lardinois: Chrome Now Automatically Pauses Flash Content That Isn’t ‘Central’ To A Web Page

Baldur Bjarnason: iOS 9 content blocking extensions are not a mobile advertising armageddon

Massimo: The Problem With Targeting

Alex Hern: I read all the small print on the internet and it made me want to die

Mark Duffy: Copyranter: It’s time to kill Cannes

Joshua Benton: How big a deal will adblocking on iPhones and iPads be for publishers?

Martin Beck: Snapchat CEO Promises Better, Non-“Creepy” Digital Advertising

SamuelScott: The Alleged $7.5 Billion Fraud in Online Advertising

SC Magazine: Study: Click-fraud malware often leads to more dire infections

Reuters: Business News: Ad executives cautious about growth, gear up for contract battle

Eric Picard: Fixing online advertising's privacy woes

Mark Duffy: Copyranter: Everybody’s definition of ‘branded content’ is wrong

Deeplinks: XKeyscore Exposé Reaffirms the Need to Rid the Web of Tracking Cookies (via WhiteHat Security Blog)

Mindi Chahal: Consumers are ‘dirtying’ databases with false details

Dean Takahashi: Facebook’s planned customer-data change called ‘land grab’ by publishers (via Marketing Land » Marketing Day)

Jason Cooper, Integral Ad Science: Mobile advertisers need a cookie-crumb trail to follow

Jim Edwards: I used the software that people are worrying will destroy the web — and now I think they might be right

The Tech Block: Google’s ad system has become too big to control

Frédéric Filloux: News Sites Are Fatter and Slower Than Ever (via Digital Content Next)

Alexander Hanff: Why CTO’s should enforce adblocking on their networks

David Barton: Should Parents Adblock to Protect Kids?

Google Security PR: More Visible Protection Against Unwanted Software (via Marketing Land » Marketing Day)

yan: lessons from the ad blocker trenches

Ben Thompson: Why Web Pages Suck

Felix Salmon: Ad tech is killing the online experience (via CMO Today)

Meenaskshi Mittal: Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) and Digital Ad Leaders Announce New Program to Block Fraudulent Data Center Traffic

Darren: The “oh shit” moment for the web

Syndicated 2015-07-25 14:14:40 from Don Marti

Broadcasters, fighting, and data leakage

Bob Hoffman wants to see broadcasters standing up against adtech. He writes,

They are being taken to the cleaners by hyper-motivated digital evangelists who understand what predatory thinking means.

Here's a screenshot of a radio station site.

The purple bar on the right is a Ghostery list of all the trackers that are data-leaking the KFOG audience to the "adtech ecosystem."

So if a media buyer wants to reach radio listeners in the Bay Area, he or she can buy a radio commercial on KFOG (good for KFOG), buy an ad or sponsorship on the KFOG site (also good for KFOG), or just leech off the data leakage and use adtech to reach the same listeners on another site entirely (not so good for KFOG).

The radio station builds an audience, and the third-party trackers leak it away.

At the same time, a radio station can't unilaterally drop all the third-party trackers from the site. Protecting the audience is hard. That's where a radio station can use a tracking protection plan. Get the audience protected, stop data leakage, get more advertisers coming to you instead of sneaking around.

On air, when someone interferes with your signal you can call the FCC. On the Internet, well, this is getting too long, so just call Bob.

Syndicated 2015-06-29 14:07:54 from Don Marti

NIMBY + ISDS = Profit?

Random idea for how to make some cash from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Step 1: Buy a piece of real estate in a city with a severe NIMBY problem. (See How Strong Property Rights Promote Social Equality for more info.) Sell an ownership interest in the property to a foreign company.

Step 2: Get an architect to design a building for the site that is technically 100% legal, but that will provoke a severe NIMBY reaction. Something like "Section 8 housing for TaskRabbit workers and tech bus drivers." Put up posters and buy some newspaper ads, to get the local NIMBYs fired up.

Step 3: When the local government starts giving you grief about the building plans, don't even go to the City Council meeting. Take it straight to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, and get the US Federal government to pay the foreign company for its investment loss.

Buy back the foreign company's share of the property and repeat. Do this enough times and a vacant lot could be more profitable than a luxury condo development. (Sucks to be a person actually looking for an apartment, but hey, are we going to do Free Trade or what?)

Syndicated 2015-06-25 02:25:36 from Don Marti

One dad's FREE weight loss tip will blow your mind!

"Don, it looks like you lost weight," someone said to me last week.

That is true. Since December 2013 I have lost about 15% of my body weight.

Not a rapid decrease, but sustainable so far. I'm not at my ideal weight yet, but I have made some progress, including having to buy new pants.

The main change that I had to make was to get some kind of personal Hawthorne effect going. If I keep track of how much food I eat, and make rules for myself about when I eat food, then I'm more likely to eat the right amount.

Think of it as a kind of mindful consumption thing.

I have zero claim to be an expert on this subject. I just think of it like IT spending within a company. If my "inner CIO" is doing his job, the overall level of stuff coming in the door should be manageable, even as the users keep asking for more. Sometimes, some extra stuff will get in, over the CIO's objections, but in general, the IT department can handle it and things keep working.

So let's look at today's surveillance marketing news.

40 kcal of rogue IT

Can Mondelez, Facebook Sell More Cookies Online?

The new arrangement also covers 52 countries and will "focus on creating and delivering creative video content and driving impulse snack purchasing online," according to a statement issued on Tuesday.

Hold on a minute.

"impulse snack purchasing"


I'm not allowed to do impulse snack purchasing.

My inner CIO has a snack approval policy, and my inner impulsive cookie-eater has to fill out a form and wait.

So, if you want to sell me food, you have to come in the front door and pitch the mindful eating department. Or my inner CIO will set up the filters to block you.

If you want to rely on Facebook's power to manipulate emotions instead, and try to get around the CIO, you just lost your access.

David Ogilvy once wrote, The customer is not a moron. She's your wife. That's being generous. The customer is a little of both. An inner moron and an inner non-moron who comes home and yells, What the hell did you eat all those cookies for, you moron?

In an environment where advertisers are trying to "engage" my inner moron, information diet is a prerequisite for food diet. I don't have Facebook on my phone, and I have the web site as a mostly write-only medium (thanks to for gatewaying this blog). But Facebook does have an online behavioral advertising operation. In order to protect myself from that kind of thing, I have tracking protection turned on in my browser.

So if you're reading this blog for the weight loss tip, here it is. Take the tracking protection test and get protected. Bonus tip: How can I break the Facebook habit?

I'm fortunate. For me, the consequences of impulse buying are low. Yes, I like Oreo cookies, and no, I don't trust myself not to be manipulated into eating more Oreo cookies than are good for me. But it's not that big of a deal. I'm not being targeted for predatory lending or gambling. My inner CIO could have a lot worse problems.

(If anyone has a blog about mindful eating, I should probably read it to learn more about this stuff, so let me know where to find it, please.)

Photo: Balfabio for Wikimedia Commons

Syndicated 2015-06-24 02:50:55 from Don Marti

5 five-minute steps up

Jason Kint writes, in "5 Ways Industry Leaders Need To Step Up",

Needless to say I found myself shaking my head at a recent publisher event where sites were discussing how they could block Facebook from tracking their users. How on earth did this become a responsibility of the publisher to hack together a short-term solution?

It's not all the publisher's responsibility, but it's a fact of the Internet that (1) stuff keeps getting broken, often on purpose, and (2) in order for things to keep working, everyone has to keep his or her own piece safe. If you want to run a mailing list or email newsletter, you have to understand the current state of spam filtering and work on deliverability. And if you want to be on the web, you have to think about protecting your users from the problem of third-party tracking.

Do the short-term solutions right, and they don't take too much effort individually, but they turn into continuous improvement. And nobody has to wait for big, slow-moving companies to change, or worse, cooperate.

So here are five, count'em, five, quick ways to step up and make a difference in the problems of tracking-based fraud, users seeing ads as untrustworthy and blocking them, and data leakage. Should take five minutes each on a basic site, longer if you have a big hairy professional CMS.

It's not the responsibility of an individual site to fix the whole problem, but there are plenty of small tweaks that can help slow down data leaks, encourage users to adopt site-friendly alternatives to ad blocking, and otherwise push things in the right direction.

Syndicated 2015-06-17 00:46:30 from Don Marti

Team Targeting, Team Signal

Academics tend to put the conversation about the targeted advertising problem in terms of companies on one side, and users on the other. A good recent example is Turow et al:

New Annenberg survey results indicate that marketers are misrepresenting a large majority of Americans by claiming that Americans give out information about themselves as a tradeoff for benefits they receive. To the contrary, the survey reveals most Americans do not believe that ‘data for discounts’ is a square deal.


Our findings, instead, support a new explanation: a majority of Americans are resigned to giving up their data—and that is why many appear to be engaging in tradeoffs.

From that point of view, the privacy paradox has an almost-too-easy answer: privacy is hard. Most users aren't seeking privacy, for the same reason that they're not training for the World Series of Poker. They would prefer winning a large poker game to not winning, but they rationally expect that unless they get really good, poker playing will result in a net loss of time and money.

But the academic model that puts all businesses opposite all users is probably an oversimplification. Advertisers, agencies, publishers, and intermediaries all have different and competing interests. Businesses are not all on the same side.

In most cases, brand advertisers, high-reputation publishers, and users have a shared interest in signaling that tends to put them into an adversarial relationship with the surveillance marketing complex. The kinds of media that are good for direct response and behavioral techniques are terrible for signaling, and vice versa.

The natural dividing line is not between users and companies, but between Team Signal and Team Targeting. Team Signal includes users, legit publishers, and reputable brands—everyone who wins from honest signaling. Team Targeting is mostly adtech intermediaries, fraud hackers, low-reputation sites, and low-quality brands.

For the business members of Team Signal, the privacy poker game has a positive expected value. Which is why independent web sites can benefit by helping their users get started with tracking protection. Users, resigned or not, are not alone.

What about the agencies?

Required reading if you're into this stuff: Pitch Mania by Brian Jacobs.

Agency managers have been quick to herald this flood of pitches as proof positive that advertisers have finally recognised what they (the agencies) have been preaching for years. Their future-gazing is they say finally coming to pass. This they contend is the dawn of a new model, based around integration, joined-up thinking, big data analytics and the rest.

Are large advertisers really just looking to switch between brands of adtech/adfraud as usual? Or will an agency that wants to keep the prospective clients awake (instead of boring them with the same Big Data woo-woo as all the other agencies) do better with a tracking protection component to its pitch?

Syndicated 2015-06-06 15:48:16 from Don Marti

News sites and the tracking game

Here's a screenshot of a recent story from The Nation. Click to see full size and check out the purple bar on the right.

Yes, Ghostery detects 54 trackers on a story about web tracking. Isn't that special?

But that's not the point.

First, go back to that story and read the whole thing. If your direct experience of adtech comes from inside Marketing, from the artisan-cheeseburger-eating point of view, you're not seeing the ads that the rest of the world sees. Not only do a lot of adtech and malware look the same to users, many of the real ads are deceptive. The ad blocking problem makes more sense when you see some of the actual hinky ads out there that are motivating people to block.

Second, The Nation is rational to let those 54 trackers raid its audience. Really, even though data leakage is a bigger problem for high-quality sites than ad blocking.

Henk Kox, Bas Straathof, and Gijsbert Zwart, at the CPB in the Netherlands, explain, in Targeted advertising, platform competition and privacy.

We find that more targeting increases competition and reduces the websites' profits, but yet in equilibrium websites choose maximum targeting as they cannot credibly commit to low targeting. [emphasis added] A privacy protection policy can be beneficial for both consumers and websites.

High-value content sites are participating in ad targeting systems, even though it would be in their interest to work more like the magazine business.

If websites could coordinate on targeting, proposition 1 suggests that they might want to agree to keep targeting to a minimum. However, we next show that individually, websites win by increasing the accuracy of targeting over that of their competitors, so that in the non- cooperative equilibrium, maximal targeting results.

An individual site can't become trustworthy in an untrustworthy medium.

So what can The Nation, or any other publisher in the same situation, do about the tracking problem? Regulation might work in the Netherlands, but in the USA, it would just be subject to regulatory capture by surveillance marketers. Sites need a workable fix, a way to turn users' state of creeped-out-itude into action.

Sites can help users get protected

That's where tracking alerts come in. A high-reputation site such as The Nation can help move users from more to less trackable without interfering with existing third-party services.

Helping users get started with tracking protection is one or two lines of JavaScript. Easier than adding a social button. Cut, paste, save Journalism, and still have time for that artisan cheeseburger.

Syndicated 2015-06-02 04:36:26 from Don Marti

Hey, kids, let's play Adtech or Malware!

It's time to play "Adtech or Malware?"

For each of the following Fair Use news excerpts, can you figure out if it's from a story on recently discovered malware, or from a story on a new advertising technology? Answers at the end.


If "a person with a smartphone takes the metro, a/an (Adtech or malware?) application" uses accelerometer readings to trace the person, to infer where the (victim/consumer) gets on and off the train. They said that "metro trains run on tracks, making their motion patterns distinguishable from cars or buses running on ordinary roads."


It detects your actual address and uses it to scrape and gather all the data associated with where you live. The application is so powerful, say (adtech developers or malware researchers?) that it can know when you’re at home or away.


Once users enable the macro content, it creates a VBScript, a batch file and other files around the version of Windows victims are running, (security researcher or adtech analyst?) said. The files then download the (ad or malware?) payload and a “statistics image” from a public picture-hosting service. The (malware writer or ad agency?) can then see how many times the image was downloaded.


This looks like a real site (except for those weird empty scrollbar windows; not sure what's up with those...). It has very professional text content, not the normal randomly-scraped junk that often populates sites being used for Search Engine Poisoning attacks -- and that's because this network isn't doing SEP.

Scroll down for answers...










1: malware

2: adtech

3: malware

4: heck if I know.

How did you do?

3-4 right: I salute your mad skillz. You are truly among the 31337. Just don't hack my site....please?

1-2 right: You're on the right track. Better take a quick tracking protection test just to help protect yourself from this stuff.

0 right: Shouldn't you be working on your Medium piece about how Big Data is transforming Marketing?

Syndicated 2015-05-27 01:57:36 from Don Marti

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