Bob Hoffman Tries To Hold The Ocean Back With A Broom

Our favorite Ad Contrarian takes the stage in an Adweek article, raising alarm about the pervasiveness of tracking on the Internet. Here’s the conclusion he draws:

There’s no reasonable way that this is a good development for a free society. There is no realistic vision of the future in which this will not lead to appalling mischief.
It’s time for us to say no. It’s time to put aside our petty self-interest, take a step back and see where this is leading. We need to stop tracking people and their behavior now. Right now.

Of course, what Bob knows, and most everyone in advertising knows, is that it is the tracking and collection of consumer information that is driving everything we do now. Clients want more data because it’s measurable and can look good in a PowerPoint presentation full of charts and graphs. They’re making tracking and analytics a part of every major initiative, whether they make the most of the information or not.
I wrote about this very subject on Talent Zoo back in June:

Collecting consumer information through digital tracking works primarily because it’s so impersonal, not a human two-way conversation. Many people aren’t comfortable revealing their grooming, shopping, dining, and Web-surfing habits. I could ask you, in 60 seconds, a series of personal questions that would make you squirm, yet I’d be prodding to get the kind of information that’s freely available on the Net, or for a price, in the databases of firms like ChoicePoint or Experian.

Hoffman wants to stop progress–progress as in what the ad industry is capable of doing for clients from a technological standpoint, not progress in the sense that it makes our industry automatically better. It’s not going to happen. Marketers, and in turn their agencies, know no restraint and they’re all too happy to pursue more data collection and data mining. But it’s always good to have an agency owner like Bob say what many in the industry don’t want to hear.



About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.