CN#3. Bob Hoffman, The Ad Contrarian, hero newsletter

Featured Newsletter: The Ad Contrarian Newsletter

Status: Weekly, professional, free

Newsletter Type: Hero, Engagement

Purpose: Spreading the views and raising the profile of Bob Hoffman, a veteran US advertising and marketing commentator who doesn’t mince his words.

The target audience is "anyone interested in advertising or marketing".

Launched: 2016

Subscribers: 11,000 free members

Word count: 1,239

Sent From: Bob Hoffman (Sent from Bob himself so it feels like a more personal message).

Subject Line: The $120 BILLION QUESTION. (Capital letters are unusual in a subject line, so their consistent use in the header stands out. As a communication that goes against the flow, it doesn’t seem odd that the online convention to avoid capitals (for being too shouty) is ignored. Bob’s opinions and language don’t hold back either.

Design: There’s nothing fancy or pretentious in the layout or design. Headlines and text are plain sans serif, and the use of graphics provide information.

Simple, unprentious design with a homemade look.

The format doesn’t have design agency polish but that’s irrelevant, and if anything part of the personality the newsletter projects.

Illustrations for information purposes are just about big enough. Images for illustrative purposes are relatively small and don’t block the flow of writing, though arguably they add little.

Editorial: There’s only one thing Bob wants you to do in his newsletter and that’s read it. Bar a couple of links by way of attribution or linking back to his blog by way of reference, nothing gets in the way.

The newsletter neatly tapers from longer pieces (although the longest is only 400 words) to shorter ones at the end, having the effect of accelerating the reading process and pushing the reader to the end.

More serious issues are dealt with at more length, slightly lighter ones are shorter.

Meanwhile, the tone changes too, from serious and driven (verging on ranting) to light hearted and humourous. It's a nice balance.

Taken as a whole, it's an engrossing read on Bob’s specialist subject, led by his passion for what’s right and wrong.

There are 7 items in 1,239 words of forthright comment and curated news.

  1. Adtech fraud. Further update on original research highlighting alleged massive advertising fraud in the adtech industry, with brands not getting the page views or clicks they are paying for. This is an expert view on a serious industry issue. The comments are refreshing and honest and Bob “tells it like it is” although the industry probably disagrees. Example: The response of the advertising industry association to ad fraud is a “crock of shit” from “a preposterous organisation.” Link to last week's blog article.
  2. Customer monitoring by a burger chain. Comment on a curated piece from the New York Times on how a Canadian burger chain’s app records customer location data. Link to New York Times.
  3. In the online tracking debate, Bob hits out at the industry’s response to proposed legislation to make online tracking an opt-in. For not defending individual privacy rights, industry leaders are “impotent lying bastards” and a disgrace.
  4. Quote from an insider about “everybody being inside on the con” of ad fraud. The anonymous comments are reproduced in their entirety.
  5. Highlighting a report of an investigation into former Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg’s use of corporate resources. Bob is not a fan of “Sandbag” or Facebook, and comments accordingly. Link to Wall St Journal.
  6. A thank you to an organisation that invited Bob to speak recently.
  7. Tweet of the Week. Screenshots of a tweet by Twitter bidder Elon Musk highlighting scam ads, with Bob’s tweeted response.

Aside from putting the adtech world to rights, the purpose of the newsletter is to raise the author’s brand profile, to attract consulting clients or get speaking engagements.

Advertising: There’s 1 house advert for Bob’s books, linking to his website.

Calls to Action: None, in line with the newsletter’s intention that readers should stay and read, rather than click away.

You get so immersed in Bob's commentary that my guess is that clicking to the source websites for his curated news doesn't happen much.

The non-prominent advert for Bob’s books is at the bottom after the editorial. It is followed by three navigation buttons linking to his website.

The only advert in the newsletter, linking back to Bob's website 

Even Better If: The column width comes up small on mobile in portrait orientation and can be hard to read. It’s more easily readable in landscape, which means tediously turning the phone and resizing the frame.

Conclusion: Subscribers get a smooth, barely interrupted reading experience in The Ad Contrarian Newsletter, supercharged by Bob Hoffman’s strong, well-informed opinions, and no shying away from plain language (including profanities aplenty).

This all reflects his passion and deep subject knowledge. There’s room for the passing promotion of services like books and public speaking but these are by no means prominent.

The Ad Contrarian Newsletter is specialist journalism and comment with a mission, wrapped in a fearless and sometimes amusing take on industry self-interest.

There's unflinching campaigning for justice and what's right in a professional field, making it a Hero Newsletter with huge engagement credentials.

In an ocean of bland, safe corporate newsletters that couldn’t possibly rock the boat, Bob Hoffman offers the full force of his personality. As always, it’s a unique personal touch that makes the difference.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this issue and learned something of value. I'd love it if you'd consider sharing Champion Newsletters with friends and colleagues working in newsletters, publishing or content creation. They can sign up here.

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