Tag Archives: New England Patriots

Your Own Deflategate

I’ll say right at the top I’m not a New England Patriots fan.  Being a loyal fan of the Michigan Wolverines, however, puts me into a state of cognitive dissonance over the Tom Brady “deflategate” issue.  I’m writing his bad behavior off to being immersed in a bad environment – he didn’t learn this stuff in Ann Arbor.  By the way – I’m amazed how some folks think he was suspended for conspiring to deflate the footballs.  As I understand it the issue is his lack of cooperation with the investigation and not his guilt or innocence with respect to the rules violations.

New England Patriots at Washington Redskins 08...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You might wonder why I’m bringing this up on a business blog.  I suspect there are many folks in the digital marketing business who are shaking their heads at what went on with the footballs.  Maybe there is a sense that cheating your way to a win diminishes both the win and the game itself.  Most of these folks would say they’d never do something like that and yet I’m willing to bet many do on a regular basis.

All of us in the digital media business are aware of fraud.  There are publishers who buy traffic which they know is not human traffic and which they turn around and sell on the ad exchanges in a form of arbitrage.  They might make a couple of hundredths of a cent on an impression but do it a million times a day and suddenly real money is involved.  It’s easy to spot anywhere in the media chain – the publisher sees it, the exchanges see it, I suspect the ad agencies see it and perhaps even the clients see it.  How?  Analytics.  When lots of your users are running a 10-year-old version of flash and a 5-year-old version of a browser (doesn’t happen in the real world, kids), someone is cheating.  If you’re buying really cheap traffic from someplace, you can assume it’s not human.  Yet no one is putting their hand in the air saying “I’m not going to take the money because I know it’s wrong.”  Like the Patriots, they just want to win.

The rage now is “viewability.” The problem is that the folks who are making money off of ad fraud – and the marketers who knowingly support it – will come up with a way to defeat the tactics to measure real ad views.  You don’t think any real marketer would do that?  Who is putting their ads on the ad injectors – the thieves who steal traffic from websites and layer their own ads on top?

There is an old expression in sports: “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough.”  When the most penalized team in the NFL wins the Super Bowl (the Seahawks a year ago), what does that say about pushing the limits, which is what the Patriots were doing?  More importantly to your business, you need to think about how far you’re willing to go and to what degree you are willing to push the limits to win.  Personally I like to be able to look at myself in the mirror without shame.  You?


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Filed under digital media, Reality checks

Worst. Call. Ever.

I suspect you watched the Super Bowl last night. Hopefully you did so all the way to the end and you witnessed the subject of today’s rant. For any of you who missed it, the Seahawks were driving and were on the 1 yard line, about to win the game. They just had to run it in and had 3 tries to do so (OK, maybe 2 since they only had one time out left). I’ll let the Times explain:

The San Francisco 49ers' Super Bowl XXIX troph...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A team with Marshawn Lynch, one of the best goal-line running backs in football, instead opted for a far riskier option, and Malcolm Butler made them pay, intercepting the ball at the goal line to effectively end the Seahawks’ hopes of winning a second consecutive Super Bowl.

Coach Pete Carroll took responsibility for the call after the game. So did his offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell. Whoever actually made the call, the decision joins an ignominious list of the worst coaching decisions in sports history.

There is a business point in that decision.  Simply put, rather relying on the proven strengths of his team, the coach opted for trickery.  Obviously, it backfired and they lost the game.  It’s a good lesson for all of us.  We invest a lot of time in building our team and our business.  We come to realize over that time the things at which we excel and which help us win.  Those are the things upon which we must rely, especially during crunch time.  Trying “trickeration” may seem like a fine idea but it usually isn’t as good as doing what is known to work.

It wasn’t absurd to think of trying a pass play when everyone is expecting a run.  What made it such a bad call was that the passing game hadn’t been particularly effective and the Seahawks had lived on Lynch’s running ability all season.  Expecting him to run at you is not the same as stopping him and the Patriots hadn’t done so without at least a yard gained during the game very often.   In business it’s not about what the competition is expecting.  It’s not about trickery or fooling anyone.  It’s about executing better than they do and producing a better product or service.  Ask Apple.


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