Bob Hoffman’s new book targets Facebook, Google and Twitter as villains in an online world running amok

As the former CEO of two advertising agencies, Bob Hoffman knows a thing or two about the advertising world.

he US-based former advertising executive has garnered a lot of attention for busting many myths about online advertising and remains a thorn in the side of the industry.

Hoffman’s blog, The Ad Contrarian, is, in my opinion, required reading for anyone concerned about the future of advertising, while his many books on the subject make uncomfortable but necessary reading.

His latest tome Adscamis long subtitled “How online advertising led to one of the biggest frauds in history and became a threat to democracy” (published by Type A Group).

It’s Hoffman at his best and leaves the reader in no doubt as to why the advertising industry is “in dire need of an overhaul.”

At just 92 pages, the book picks up where it left off Evil manwhich was released in 2017. Not surprisingly, the targets of his outrage continue to be Facebook, Google, Twitter and the many anonymous and sometimes corrupt actors who have been allowed to pollute the digital supply chain.

The book examines a “dangerous and destructive wedge that has been developing in the political life of democratic nations.”

It asks how the online advertising ecosystem and big tech platforms have been complicit in enabling criminals to siphon billions of dollars from legitimate companies that have invested their hard-earned cash in digital advertising.

Finally, Hoffman poses the most obvious question of all: Why has the advertising and marketing industry “turned a blind eye to the damage that tracking-based marketing tactics have done to the public?”

Back in 2017, Hoffman described a rapidly evolving digital advertising and social media industry that was running amok — and largely unaccountable to anyone, including lawmakers.

While the full extent of Cambridge Analytica’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election had not yet come to light at the time, the revelations were in many ways Hoffman’s “I told you so” moment.

Unfortunately, five years later, the many problems Hoffman identified in 2017 are still there — and have only gotten worse.

Not only are social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter as divisive and toxic as ever, they are still the platforms of choice for anyone desperate to spread misinformation and disinformation.

Heads should roll, Hoffman says — including those of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, a longtime bete noire of his.

Hoffman also says the grim world of ad fraud is a lot worse than it was in 2017. Some estimates put it at up to $120 billion a year.

But the fact that no one seems to know exactly how much is being siphoned makes the scale of the problem even more confusing, Hoffman says.

A major problem is the ad tech industry, which Hoffman says is “run by dumb fools whose lack of wisdom creates a crisis for democracies, a haven for crooks, a dangerously cruel social environment for children, and an unsafe space for the… created truth.”

Just how bad the problem has gotten was perfectly illustrated earlier this year by digital analytics firm Adalytics, when it revealed that a number of websites set up and managed by Russian intelligence agencies, including the Federal Security Service (FSB), were accepting advertising revenue… wait google

Needless to say, the mostly US-based advertisers were unaware of this — and it ended up requiring intervention from the US Senate Intelligence Committee to bring this “issue” to Google’s attention.

Despite the committee’s intervention on February 25 (the day after Russia invaded Ukraine), Google’s Ad Exchange still appeared to be running digital ads on many of those sites as late as April 13.

Keep in mind that according to Adalytics, this was at a time when the Russian websites were specifically listed on the US Treasury Department’s sanctions list.

So the Russian authorities not only spread disinformation, they were paid to do so.

As Hoffman likes to say, you can’t make this shit up.

Back on course

After a four-way pitch, Publicis Dublin have retained the creative account for Iarnród Éireann.

It’s the third time the agency is keeping the account.

According to Stephen Murray, Interim Head of Marketing at Iarnród Éireann, the agency has “demonstrated a strong understanding of our business and vision and is the ideal creative partner to drive growth in 2023 and beyond”.

Other Publicis clients include Spar, Virgin Media, Heineken Ireland and PTSB.

A generic move

Havas, the French advertising and PR group, has launched its new sustainability offering in the Irish market.

Called Genus, it was set up by Communications Secretary Eamon Ryan and offers clients access to an integrated global network of sustainability professionals.

Genus’ Irish office will now offer business transformation, strategic communications, creative and branding services to its existing and new clients. Bob Hoffman’s new book targets Facebook, Google and Twitter as villains in an online world running amok

Fry Electronics Team

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