No business today--large or small--has any business or any real excuse for being stupid about media buys. The smartest players today know that resources are finite and that they have to be strategic and smart about their spends or they will be left in the dust. Smart reach (getting to the right people at the right time and place with the right message) is still the only game that's gonna grow your business. But to a certain extent those tools and technologies are now just the most basic requirements. Because the tech keeps charging ahead and the bar keeps rising and yesterday's miracles are just today's "so whats."

What remains of the ad biz these days is much more about science and measurement (transparency and efficacy) than it is about someone's speculation, smell test or best guess about what will work. And, by the way, the revolution isn't limited to ads-; in fact, we've already seen the whole game change in music and movies. But the "Mad Men" are still just mostly stuck in yesterday's mud. The best sets of "ears" in the music business (apologies to Ahmet Ertegan's memory and condolences to Clive Davis) are simply no match for Spotify's statistics and Pandora's playlists. And while it still helps to be "creative," the content directions at Amazon and Netflix are much more likely to come from calculations and computations than from Spielberg and Soderbergh. Ready Player One was a C+ piece that was more about the numbers (and trying to play to the new masses) than about any coherent and compelling narrative-; and it sucked accordingly. Data today is trumping drama and even Steven seems to be running scared.

Honestly, every time you start to believe that you're getting close to getting on top of this stuff or almost reaching the finish, they move the goalposts and kick you in the teeth a couple of times just for good measure. You've got to have new strategies for dealing with the noise, clutter, confusion and sheer fatigue that everyone out there is experiencing, and you've got to capture what little slice of my attention you can and really hit hard when your moment arrives because that moment couldn't be more fleeting. Being in the room isn't enough; you've got to catch me when I'm in the zone and interested or you'll end up just talking to yourself. 

And then, you better show me something special-;something that I care about-;  and that represents real value to me. If you don't, I'll be gone in a flash, but if you do, you get me and my buddies as well. The deal is simple: if you take care of me, I'm gonna share actively and willingly. You can't buy that kind of authentic recommendation and direct influence for all the money in the world.  Seems straightforward, but millions of marketers still don't get it. They're into tonnage and pushing paper. But they're just pissing people off and life is only going to get worse for them and their clients. The pressures from consumers and regulators for permission-based access and new affirmative disclosure and consent rules are growing. Congress is still sound asleep, of course, but that may be the best thing for us. In any case, the remaining bad actors will eventually be barred and shut off as their results continue to crater and the people still stuck doing business with them end up throwing their money down the drain.

But this is just the start of tomorrow's story because even if you get to the right time and place and target customers, your pitch, production and product better be as close to perfect as possible because the stakes for screwing up have never been higher. The list of companies burned in an instant on social media for transgressions that seemed too trivial to even talk about just keeps growing. Ask the Gap about their China T-Shirt, Dodge about RAMming MLK Day, Pepsi about handing a pop to a policeman, Nivea about "Whiter" deodorant or Heineken about "Lighter" beer. The message is always the same: "Who Knew?" or even better yet, "Who Would Have Imagined?" and yet, in retrospect, the stupidity seems obvious and the anger and eruptions inevitable. These guys all whine about needing a crystal ball to do business today.

And you know what? There is one. It can tell you if the right audience is interested and listening. Where to put your money and your media. It can tell you what won't work. And it can even help you figure out what to say. Amazed? Flabbergasted? Dumbfounded? Nope. The answer is Dumbstruck.

Dumbstruck is a Chicago and New York-based business that is already working in the background with some of the biggest brands and agencies in the world. They built a machine that reads minds and emotions. On the fly and in real time. They're "coming out" at the Cannes Lion 2018 International Festival of Creativity in France in June. I think they didn't want to steal any of Meghan and Harry's thunder. And they're gonna make a big noise and some huge changes in the ad biz and the momentum is already building.

That's all I can tell you at the moment, but their moment is right now. Check 'em out.

Published on: May 22, 2018