It has been a minute.
I have been inconsistently writing this newsletter lately, which is supposed to come out bi-weekly. However lately I haven’t been that inspired to talk about marketing. After doing it professionally for more than 8 years, I’ve hit a sort of ethical wall that has been weighing on me. There are two reasons I have been struggling with this industry: Adtech and what people want from marketing.
First adtech. We’ve known for some time that in general adtech companies aren’t the most ethical businesses. This is partly due to how much data there is to be scraped on the internet and that marketers are addicted to it. What started as resources to see if people opened emails, pageviews, and general engagement on social, has turned into extremely creepy stalkerware.
The marketing industry has turned gross and adtech is happy to keep upping the ante. Item detection in photos, facial recognition
, TV’s that secretly listen
in your home, and 24/7 location tracking are all tools adtech is using to convince marketers to pay for more ads and we happily play along without ever considering any ethical implications.
Second is what Sales, C-Suite, and business owners want from marketing. Another word for marketing is manipulation. Our jobs are to manipulate people into spending money and once the do it, we increase the manipulation to take advantage of our relationship. Where our skills as marketers come in is finding a balance in that manipulation. We want customers to feel good and give them solutions to their problems, without tricking them.
But the above group knows our business is manipulation and they see that it works. So they want more. As they push for greater sales through manipulation, we kowtow to their demands. We spam our customers with emails, texts, voicemails, push notifications, and retargeting. We invade our customers lives and pass the info to Sales.
A particular practice irks me the most. Increasingly marketers are working with influencers who are not disclosing their content is actually product placement and are only getting paid to do a positive review. The number of people involved in these types of campaigns should have at least one person who is willing to draw a line that the will not cross. But paid product placement and the creator industry go hand-in-hand and has now turned into pay-for-play.
Some of this is related to the first problem. Adtech has convinced us that our customers aren’t people, they are just unique identifiers that are in a certain stage of the sales pipeline. We have removed the humanity from marketing and convinced ourselves we are still doing compassionate work. We are lying to ourselves and ethics is leaving without anyone fighting for it.
The last 18 – 24 months have left me in an ethical conundrum. I still feel that marketing can be done respectful. But it doesn’t feel like anyone wants that and they have plenty of others to hire that will merrily play along.