Meet the new model. Same as the old model.*

meet the old boss

It’s fair to say that the fact that the advertising and marketing world has gone through a complete revolution is a given. Everyone now accepts that old models are through. “Digital disruption”. “Media fragmentation”. “Consumer in control”. “Push marketing is dead”. These are the ways our industry has been speaking of the new normal. Business as usual is kaput.

So if the old model is dead, what is the new model? Well, I think I’ve seen an indication of what the market thinks. Game of War. The digital game (yes, the one with Kate Upton). You may expect that I’d be speaking of a wonderful case study and demonstration of how to leverage the liquidity of media, of the new cross-channel consumer, about access to and leveraging of the reams of data we have on each consumer and their individualized path.

But as the French say, “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose”. Because this example is really just the old model, in all its moldy glory. And on steroids.

I discovered this example because I play a solitaire game on my phone. I’m not proud of it – but I find it a relaxing way to kill a few moments in-between (let’s not get into the psychology of it…). The app I use recently had an “update”, where once you’ve downloaded it, you now get ads between new solitaire hands. An unwanted interruption. Irrelevance. Not connected to the game, the user experience, the context or anything about the player. But that’s another story, as well.

About six months ago, one of the interruptive ads I began getting was for the Game of War. And six months later, that I’m still getting these ads. By the hundreds. Yes, lots of different ads, different visuals, different scenarios, different calls to action. But the same game and the same campaign. They also appear in Facebook and in digital and mobile banners. It still boggles my mind.

I wonder what the strategy that spawned this campaign looked like. “Bombard annoy interrupt badger consumers as often as possible and with a frequency unmitigated by any half-reasonable notion”? That’s what it looks like in the real world. And with all the varied, available approaches for leveraging advanced targeting, who could their target be? I’ve never downloaded a video game or displayed any interest to do so before. I guess bored solitaire players represent a large part of their target.

And how could they be leveraging campaign performance data? I’ve never displayed any interest in their ads or in playing the game. I’ve never clicked, watched, or viewed additional content. I’ve never liked, posted or shared anything on social media. In fact, I’ve never even played any online games such as these. But I keep getting Game of War message interruptions every day, dozens of times. I am not kidding when I say that I have seen a Game of War ad at least 1,000 times.

Clearly data, an assumed key component of the new marketing model, plays no role in their campaign. How could it? Data is supposed to help find the right people, optimize the effort over the course of the campaign, deliver more and more relevancy, timeliness and value over time. Move me closer to conversion, across platform, time and action. No, no and no.

But the campaign keeps on going. So, against all odds, it must be working. So the question is – is this the new model? Take the old interruption model, and simply apply it to modern channels, at enormous scale and insane frequency. Rinse and repeat.

Am I wrong? Is this an okay strategy? Is it okay to seek results by any means necessary? Perhaps this is a game of war we are playing.

*This post was originally posted in Troyanos’ Groups “Gamechangers” newsletter 7/25/15.


  1. Michael, you’re not wrong, it’s NOT okay, and despite the development (maybe because) of digital technology …. lazy planning still exists. It still frustrates me that ‘effective frequency’ has obviously not been fully understood by some of today’s implementation planners. Keep your chin up!

    1. Thanks, Martin. Laziness is definitely a big part of it – but so is the mindset of big budget brands/initiatives to simply bludgeon their way into the consumers’ experience, vs. earn it or plan it insightfully. It’s baffling!

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