Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

People Lie, Data Doesn’t

Dr. House - Everyone Lies

Dr. Gregory House is my all-time favorite TV show character. My dad and I would often talk about his taste in turntables, Mcintosh Amps, sneakers, and canes. Fun fact, I actually once owned a replica of his flame-styled cane. I received it as a Christmas present.

Beyond his great taste in “things”, we both admired his mantra of, “everybody lies”. At its widest aperture, he’s 100% right. People will eventually lie about something. Granted, we all know all lies aren’t created equal. There are white lies, grey lies, black lies, red lies, and probably every other color in the rainbow.

I want to focus on the lies that are used when we don’t like what the data says. This happens more often than you’d think and you’re probably guilty of having “lied” when it comes to data. Let me give you some familiar scenarios.

Steady and Strong: Let’s say you’ve been trying to lose 10 pounds. If after hitting the gym 3 days a week for a month, eating healthier, cutting out soda, and walking more your weight was exactly the same as it was when you started. Would you characterize your weight, relative to your goals, as steady or strong? Sure, there’s a glass is half-full view that would say, but I didn’t gain any weight, therefore, my weight is holding steady. That’s true. But, the goal was to lose weight. Characterizing your progress as steady, while not a lie, isn’t exactly telling an honest story. A more truthful interpretation of the data would be something like – I have been unable to make meaningful progress towards my goal. If you take that approach, you might revisit your strategy and approach and ultimately achieve your goal.

Full of Opportunity: When the data shows you continue to spend more on advertising than you’re generating in net-profit you could characterize the situation as being full of opportunity. When you say that it comes across as some things are working, some things aren’t, but with just a few tweaks we’ll be right as rain. A more honest characterization of the situation might be, our current implementation strategy is not working, we’re losing money with every dollar spent, and we must change course.

We’re Seeing Lots of Activity: This comes across in a wide variety of flavors. For example, we’re getting a lot of traffic. Ok – but what about the conversions? Then, we have, there’s a lot of engagement. Ok – but was engagement the goal? And, there’s the infamous we’ve got a lot of initiatives going right now. Ok – but are we those initiatives generating results? The core truth of this situation is that activity does not equal accomplishment. Some call this the “busy trap”, where looking busy gives a false sense of value being created.

It’s tough to look in the mirror and face the data. Sometimes the data offers you good news. Other times it’s a stark reminder that you’re failing. But, lying to yourself and others, by putting lipstick on the pig that is the data is not the path forward.

So, how do you avoid doing this and help your organization not fall into this trap? Here’s 3 recommendations:

  1. Make your Insights Team, Switzerland: One of the reasons many organizations outsource their analytics and insights functions is to eliminate bias. But, you don’t need to outsource to achieve that goal. However, having a centralized analytics and insights function, not attached to any single goal, project, or asset is crucial. This operating model ensures your analytics team can look across goals, projects, assets, initiatives, channels, audiences, etc. to tell an honest assessment, without fear of retribution.
  2. Democratize Data: Why do we hide the data? Often, because we’re ashamed of what people will think when they see it or we’re fearful of how others will react or what people might do with the data. Think about it, how many times have you heard someone say, “let’s keep this report to a limited audience”? The best organizations and the most modern organizations understand the key to avoid all of that is to simply make the data accessible to everyone. There’s a retailer that has digital screens in each hallway that show the out of stock rate, the current consumer satisfaction score, the stock price, and the wait time to speak with customer service. Everyone is accountable to those metrics. Everyone. You can’t hide from them. In fact, when you democratize data and give everyone access, you don’t want to hide from it – you want to talk about it.
  3. Reward Outcomes: Strong, measurable, detailed, roadmaps and plans are hard to create. It requires discipline. It requires tough and honest conversations. It requires constant pruning, optimization, and reviews of performance. But, when you do adopt this approach to planning you’ve shifted from emphasizing activities to focusing on outcomes. The activities, no matter how sacred they might be, become interchangeable so long as you’re achieving the right declared outcomes. All voices in the room become equal because it doesn’t really matter whose idea it was. The person 6 months out of school has as much of a voice as the Executive Leader. In fact, you could argue, instead of people protecting their favorite ideas (often known as their own ideas) the start embracing and supporting the ideas that drive the outcomes.

Culture drives changes. Changing culture can be hard. But, if you want a culture of accountability and a focus of accomplishments over activity, consider adopting the data-driven model I shared above.

Also – this isn’t limited to the office. One of these days I’m going to be honest with myself about why I haven’t lost those last 10 pounds.

Put it There

From RollingStone.com - Sir Paul McCartney

My dad – huge Beatles fan, but loathed Paul McCartney. He found his post Beatles music to be pedantic, his politics to be misguided, and his self-idolization to be distasteful. As fathers and sons go, of course, my favorite of the post-Beatles careers was McCartney. He endures. My dad, always a fan of the “quiet Beatle”, George Harrison.

The thing about McCartney, for me, is that I keep finding gems from the catalog. For example, how I’d never listened to ‘Put it There’, from the 1989 album, “Flowers in the Dirt”, is a mystery. But, after recently discovering it, dang – it just gives me all the feels. In a 1989 interview, McCartney offered this about the song, “‘Put it there’…was an expression my Dad used to say when we were kids. He used to hold his hand out and say, ‘Put it there if it weighs a ton’… My Dad died over ten years ago now, but you remember those things with affection, you know. And so I wrote a song about that, which I think will become one of my favorites.”

No doubt, ‘Put it There’ is a deep cut, but how this short, pithy, harmonic song escaped me for 20 years is a mystery.

Give me your hand I’d like to shake it
I want to show you I’m your friend,
You’ll understand if I can make it clear
It’s all that matters in the end.

Put it there if it weighs a ton,
That’s what a father said to his young son
I don’t care if it weighs a ton,
As long as you and I are here, put it there.
Long as you and I are here, put it there.

If there’s a fight I’d like to fix it,
I hate to see things go so wrong.
The darkest night and all it’s mixed emotions
Is getting lighter sing along.

Put it there if it weighs a ton,
That’s what a father said to his young son
I don’t care if it weighs a ton,
As long as you and I are here, put it there.
Long as you and I are here, put it there.

Career Limiting Decisions

CREDIT: A.POTEMKIN / ISTOCKPHOTO and ScienceMag.org

During my time at Leo Burnett, I crossed paths with a smart, grizzled, and jaded Creative Director who I’d often lean on for advice. He’d been at Leo for more than two decades. Which, if you know agency life, is simply remarkable. During a happy hour at Catch 32, I asked him how he’d been able to survive for so long? When I say survive, keep in mind agencies are notorious for mass layoffs after they lose an account, being incredibly fickle with creative staff, and often listen to clients about personnel decisions. So, yeah, survive. He offered me two pieces of advice that explained his ability to survive.

The first was there are only two types of decisions you make. There are career-limiting decisions and there are ones that aren’t. Sure, there are decisions could that could be career accelerating, but simply put, you either make decisions that limit your career or you make ones that don’t. There are no guarantees that you can make a decision that will advance your career, but there are very clear decisions you can make that limit your career. He always chose the decisions that were guaranteed to not limit his career. Push back on the client? Nope. Take a cab with a Jr. female staffer after hours? Nope. Ask an honest and hard question at a town hall? Not going to happen. The list goes on and on. He focused on simply avoiding the career-limiting decisions, even at the expense of his potential career growth. While he didn’t grow as fast as his peers, he was also never without a job.

The second was to avoid gossip and be judicious in who you trust. Gossip, as I’ve written about before is one of the worst things that can happen in an organization. Like a virus, it infects companies, culture, teams, and people. He explained that he never peddled gossip and he never listened to gossip. The idea of a “circle of trust” isn’t new. It’s been made into some memorable movie moments. However, I don’t think he even considered the idea of a circle. That seemed even too big and inclusive. He more favored the idea that trusting people is playing with fire and eventually you will always get burned. I remember saying something like, but isn’t that a lonely way to go about things? And, as if the conversation was happening right now, I remember his answer, “Adam, there are two types of decisions you can make, career-limiting decisions and ones that aren’t.”

This was in 2003. He’s still there.

Silver Screen Conversations With My Dad

From ScrollDroll.com - Michael Corleone

On April 15th, my dad would have been 68. I would have called to wish him a happy birthday. We would have discussed work, the family, COVID-19, the lack of sports, and a bunch of other topics. Eventually, we’d end talking about a movie he caught on TNT, HBO, or AMC. I’ve lost count on the number of times we’ve discussed The Godfather, Shawshank, or The Prestige. The man loved music and talking about movies.

So of late, I started thinking about the movies he and I discussed the most. And then, I started watching them. The guy had some great taste and I miss those conversations. Even though they always covered the same ground and we always covered the same points, our chats never felt stale.

After thinking through those discussions and rewatching a bunch of them, I’ve compiled a top 10 list of the movies that seemed to come up the most. To be clear, these aren’t the best movies or even his favorite movies, although many of them would probably make his all-time Mount Rushmore of movies.

  1. Frequency: My dad was always a bit of a science-fiction nerd and had a soft spot for Dennis Quaid. This movie about a ham radio leading to some form of time travel meets people coming back from the dead was right up his alley.
  2. Needful Things: Most Stephen King books that become movies are bad. They really are. There’s a few that stick out. The Shining, Pet Cemetary, and Fire Starter are a few examples. I think he loved this adaptation, not because it’s a great movie, but because he found Max von Sydow’s performance to be brilliant. This line in particular always came up, “The young carpenter from Nazareth? I know him well. Promising young man. He died badly.”
  3. Godfather II: If there was one movie that we disagreed about often, but in the best way, it was Godfather II. He thought it was a better movie than the first Godfather movie. I thought he was crazy. But, if you want a great discussion, have two opposing viewpoints. He loved the line from the scene where Michael explains, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” While a great line, I always preferred the lesson that comes from this line, “Now listen, whoever comes to you with this Barzini meeting, he’s the traitor.” Both, are invaluable.
  4. The Shawshank Redemption: Great movie. Great story. Great adaptation of a short story. Great cast. It was always on tv, which made for frequent conversations. But, what tickled him the most was the reality that Zihuatanejo was not this beautiful paradise, but actually one of the most dangerous places in Mexico.
  5. The Prestige: The only movie on this list that I haven’t seen. I bought it last week and I’m going to watch it on his birthday. He loved the performances of Jackman and Bale. In particular, what he often waxed about was the drive they both had to be the best. The guy loved a great Christian Bale movie, which brings me to #6.
  6. American Psycho: Christian Bale at his very best. I don’t know if this a good thing, so to speak, but he would generally open the conversation by saying, “Caught American Psycho last night. That scene where Bale talks about the business cards. You really remind me of him and his appreciation for details.”
  7. The Natural: If there’s one thing my dad loved, it was a movie with a great line, designed to teach a lesson. As we discussed the success of Cora and John in basketball and soccer, he would often quote from The Natural, “You’ve got a gift Roy… but it’s not enough – you’ve got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift… then… you’ll fail.”
  8. Rocky IV: Not a great movie. No one is winning an Oscar. But, it remains one of the most vivid memories for me – as a child, my dad took me to the theater to watch Rocky take on Drago and I can still hear the crowd yelling at the screen. Our discussions would frequently cover who was more devastating, Mr. T’s character from Rocky III or Ivan Drago?
  9. Back to School: My dad loved Rodney Dangerfield and while this was not a great movie, there was always something about his performance that made my dad chuckle. We’d start out talking about the movie and end up discussing the standup routines of Dangerfield, Carlin, and Pryor.
  10. Coming to America: Eddie Murphy. That’s it. That’s all you have to say. The genius of Eddie, the wide range of characters he played, the absurd story-line, and the memorable quotes kept us talking for hours.
  11. Unforgiven: My dad was never a big westerns guy. But, something about this gritty western appealed to him. We’d always end up discussing this quote from Eastwood’s character, “It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away everything he’s got and everything he’s ever gonna have.”

I could go on and on. Movies have a way of bringing people together, even when they disagree about the movie. I miss those conversations. But, I look forward to having them with my own kids.

What Happens Post COVID-19

I’m a fairly optimistic person. Some would even call me Pollyanna-ish. I’d like to believe we’re going to get past COVID-19 and that we’ll all end up healthy, safe, and well on the other side. I suppose, like many, with extra time on my hands at home, I’m getting back into things I enjoy doing, but had little time to do. For me, that means writing about trends and riffing on the intersection of tech, marketing, and consumer behavior…with a COVID-19 lens. 

I don’t think I’m overstating when I say, things will change dramatically post COVID-19. Here’s where I think we’ll see persistent, long-term change across the world. I looked to emphasize the “positive” change we’ll see.

  1. Accelerated Shift to Digital Commerce: For companies that hadn’t fully embraced digital commerce before COVID-19, we’re going to see a rapid acceleration to play catch-up. Off the shelf commerce platforms like Shopify and payment platforms like Stripe will become major beneficiaries of this surge. This will have a massive ripple effect across retail.
  2. The Acknowledgment that Maybe It’s Ok to be Big: Large companies and wealthy people are often quick to receive blame, hear calls for a break up under anti-trust laws, and be derided. But, take a look around, who’s stepping up. Who’s keeping your pantry stocked, funding the innovation needed to battle COVID-19, and investing the most to keep life as normal as possible? It’s those same large companies and wealthy people. Here are 3 great examples:
  3. The Acceptance that Cash, is No Longer King: Contactless payment really hasn’t taken off. In most countries, cash transactions still represent more than 25% of all transactions. But, with COVID-19, merchants are emphasizing credit card or tap to pay transactions. Credit card transactions still require some level of human interaction and physical touching. But, ApplePay, Google Pay, and similar phone-based tap to pay transaction platforms will grow exponentially. 
  4. An Evolving Employee Experience: The ability to “work from home” has been one of the most covered shifts, but it’s only part of the equation. VPN, company email on your phone, video-conferencing, cloud-based document access, and instant-messaging are just a handful of other spokes that are going to modernize and become part of a new normal for how people work. Physical corporate real estate may shrink and become more WeWork in style. Additionally, new classifications for what constitutes “work” will need to be created to ensure proper timekeeping and compensation.
  5. A Short-Term Renaissance of Experiences: Read a book. How many times have you heard that as shelter in place, reduced gathering, or self-quarantining measures were introduced? How many people fell back in love with vinyl, took up knitting, or started learning how to cook. Can’t go to the movies, right? But, what about drive-ins? The very nature of a drive-in means you’re appropriately practicing social distancing. You’re in your own car, separated by metal, glass, leather, plastic, and yes distance. I emphasize the short-term, however; I don’t see many of these trends sticking long-term.
  6. The Rapid Modernization of Laws: We’re going to see a lot of policy changes that essentially extend provisions put in place during COVID-19. For example, do you know why most telemedicine platforms struggle to scale? It’s because in most states the physician you speak to must be licensed in that state. So, if you live in Idaho, you can only speak with a doctor via a telemedicine platform, if that doctor is licensed in Idaho. By default, it’s nearly impossible to scale and provide care to those who most need it.

    Separately, if you’ve been to Europe and South America, and parts of Asia, you’re familiar with the ability for the habit of people drinking a beer on the street or taking their un-finished cocktail to go. If you’ve tried that in the U.S.A (nearly all states), you’ve probably received a ticket. But, measures being taken in response to COVID-19 include ordering a cocktail for delivery. There are going to be a number of policies that were put in place, with the intent to be temporary, that will expose the unnecessary red tape in place, and lead to them becoming permanent.
  7. The Reinvention of the Education System: Many universities are still charging students tuition, as classes shift online and become virtual. They’re also waiving the room and board fees. Both of these make sense. But, they call into question – why weren’t we doing this all along? Online Universities were once mocked and considered second or third rate. But, it’s likely that the idea of a virtual education will resonate with potential students and administrators. Costs become controlled, if not reduced, and educators can scale beyond the physical constraints of classroom sizes. But, I’ve always felt the real reason one goes to college is not for the book knowledge, it’s for the knowledge you gain from social interactions, relationship dynamics, and the introduction of a more diverse set of people to interact with. How will we replicate those benefits in a virtual world?
  8. The YOLO and Save for Tomorrow Dichotomy Will Widen: I don’t think 9/11 is a good parallel for COVID-19, but given that it’s often used as a reference point, let’s explore what happened post 9/11. Snopes, yes Snopes, has a wonderfully eloquent passage about the changing behaviors…or not, of adults.

    “The September 11 attack on America caused many to take a long, hard look at their lives. For some, that re-evaluation led them to realize that the time to start a family was now. September 11 was a major shock to their systems, jolting them from a state of somnambulistic “We’ll get around to it someday; we’ve all the time in the world” complacency into the wide-awake appreciation that life was both precious and uncertain, and that the perfect tomorrow they were waiting for might never come. There were those who in the wake of the attacks quit putting off what they’d previously been half-hearted about, and they started families, got married, or recommitted to their existing marriages. Times of crisis cause us all to look into our hearts and see if we’re truly concentrating on what really matters rather than stumbling along in unthinking routines. But that realization is a double-edged sword, a fact the pundits who predicted a startling upsweep in the number of weddings and births failed to take into account.”

    I think we’re going to see a wider dichotomy post-COVID-19. There will be those who thank the fact they saved for the rainy day, minimized debt, didn’t take that random vacation to Hawaii, passed on the 3 Star Michelin restaurant, and kept at it with the same 12-year-old Honda Civic. And, there will be those who take a, “anything can happen at any point, so live for the moment” approach to life. The space in between those fence posts will be wider than it’s ever been.
  9. Infrastructure Investments Will Scale, But Not Where You Think: When we often hear the word, “infrastructure”, we think of roads, bridges, and plumbing. But, what the mass shift to work from home and spending more time in the house will expose are the needs to improve the pipes for network traffic. What you once thought was good enough at home, for speed is likely to be stressed under the surge of increased usage, traffic, and activity. But, it’s not about just upgrading those pipes, what about the main pipes being offered by Comcast and others? They need to be upgraded. Then, tack on cellular. We’ve started to hear about 5G, but the reality is, the real question should be how can we get to 6G faster, and will that finally be the point when cellular speeds become fast enough that they can be used as the default pipe for people?

    Additionally, and completely separately, what has become clear is that many businesses rely on labor in China and the rest of Asia. With supply chains disrupted and normal business operations impacted, it’s likely we will see companies diversify their manufacturing footprint and start to invest more in local supply chains. Doing that will require significant infrastructure improvements across water, rail, and roads, but will only be possible with additional deregulation initiatives.
  10. The Environment Will be the Biggest Beneficiary: Fewer people driving, fewer people eating out, fewer people using straws, cups, bottles, etc. The big winner – the environment. As an example, “The European Space Agency released a new video this weekend that shows air pollution vanishing over China as the country goes into COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown, then returning as business resumes.” That’s one of many examples where the reduction in activity is simply making the environment better. While it’s unlikely that this will persist at scale, it’s not crazy to believe we will see a permanent, small, positive bounce.

When The Fireman Is The Fire Starter

Image Source, Digital Spy

How often have you seen it or heard it – “thank you for moving so quickly, you and/or your team adapted, were nimble, and incredibly agile”? Or maybe, it was something like, “wow, I can’t say enough about you rallied, took on more, stepped up, and quickly pivoted!”

On the surface, these accolades, that praise, and those words sound great. And often, they are demonstrative of true outlier moments, where extraordinary feats are necessary.

However, more often than you’d think, the acknowledgment of speed should never have happened. Not because gratitude isn’t important. But, because the reasons speed is often required are some combination of lack of planning, a self-created fire drill, an over-promised arbitrary milestone/timeline.

Without realizing it, we often perceive the best firemen as the people who start the fires. Think about this for a second. How often have you seen a person’s:

  • Poor decision making
  • Missed deadline
  • Inaction
  • Bad planning
  • Over-promising

create a “fire” – only for them to spin up a bunch of resources, workstreams, and actions to successfully put out the fire? Those firemen are then recognized as leaders who marshaled resources, pointed them in a focused direction, and then…well, like I said, put out the fire. We’re actually rewarding the people who create the fires.

Activity does not equal accomplishment. And, accomplishments are not necessarily something we should celebrate. 

We need to stop praising the fire starters. They aren’t saviors. They’re the chaos creators. That teams move expeditiously to resolve the poor management of chaos creators, says more about the gaps that exist in process, planning, and leadership, than it does about heroism.

2020 Is Going To Be A Firecracker

Parody and humor about weather reports.

Making predictions in any year is a fool’s errand, but attempting to make meaningful predictions during an election year is simply bananas. But – what can I say, I’m here for the lols.

My 2019 predictions did not age well. I took a point of view on 20 topics and had a 42.5% accuracy rate. Ouch! Although, I think that’s better than the weatherman. However, when you have a no softballs policy, getting 100% of your predictions right is simply an impossibility.

For 2020 I’m focusing on business, marketing, technology, and consumer trends. Although, as noted, being in an election year, we’ll see meaningful overlap between those categories and politics.

  1. Apple will continue its efforts to be seen as the tech company that cares about your privacy by taking one or more of these actions. They will buy/launch a VPN service to keep your internet usage data private from telecom and internet service providers. They will buy DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo is the de facto search engine for people who care about their privacy. In many ways, they are the anti-Google. Purchasing DuckDuckGo and making it the default search engine for all iOS devices and Mac Computers would be a significant declaration. There will be a mass expunging of apps from the App Store that originate from China, Russia, or other countries in the Middle East and/or new rules brought about for the App Store that imposes higher thresholds for data collection transparency.
  2. Global TV Ad Sales dropped by 4% in 2019. Many ad executives believe we’ll see a massive rebound in 2020 because it’s an election year for the United States and the Summer Olympics take place. I don’t think this is going to happen. I see more money in politics shifting online at the expense of TV.
  3. Speaking of politics, President Donald Trump will be re-elected.
  4. This will be a very pivotal year for the retail industry. We’re going to see 3 things happen. First, iconic and historical brands like Macy’s, J.C. Penney’s, and Gap will shrink their footprint. Second, we’re going to see 3 brands of significance change their CEOs and/or file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Likely candidates would include L Brands, Ambercrombie, and Bed Bath and Beyond. Third, we will see brands that were once shuttered come back as online-only operations. For example Radio Shack.
  5. Despite the slings and arrows that continued to be thrown at Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook will continue to thrive. We will see stock growth, record revenues, and 2 or 3 meaningful acquisitions. I could see them buying Roku to bolster TV/content streaming offerings…that would be personalized, of course.
  6. Apple will make all their “+” offerings free, so long as you are enrolled in the Apple upgrade program, have an Apple credit card, or have a phone/iPad that’s less than 2 years old. This includes Apple News+ and AppleTV+. These services become choice differentiators for why you would pick an Apple device over a competitor.
  7. Netflix can’t continue to spend what they’re spending on content creation. The debt they’ve racked up and the current cost structure won’t allow for it. We will see an ad-supported version of Netflix in 2020.
  8. Snapchat will implode. There are too many short-form content platforms to compete with.
  9. Related to #8, TikTok will implode as well. The concerns over data privacy will see it stricken from app stores and parents taking more action to restrict access for their kids.
  10. Much like vinyl sales and record store growth, we will see a resurgence for independent book stores.
  11. We will see the start of companies like Facebook or Google, offering to pay off your debt and/or fund your health insurance, if you actively use their platforms. Impressions and MAUs are the currency for ad dollars. Without them, platforms make less money. Someone will figure out a model where it’s financially sound to pay down $X against your student loan so long as you agree to be tracked in a way that allows the platform to monetize your usage habits.
  12. Tesla will start to license its battery technology to other car manufacturers as a means to bring in an additional revenue stream, increase the number of electric cars on the road, and make the environment better. This could happen through a direct license for building the car or by allowing other car manufacturers to leverage Tesla’s Super Charger network.
  13. With real estate being one of the most costly line items for organizations, 2020 will be the year we see a sizable shift in companies actively pushing for more remote workers and leveraging co-working spaces as part of everyday business. By the end of 2020 will see the % of remote workers go from under 5% to above 5%. That seems small, but it’s a massive number of people.
  14. One of these two new California laws enacted in 2019 will be repealed and/or found unconstitutional. AB5, the law the impacts regarding freelance workers, seems the most likely. But, the mandate for a quota system on a company’s board of directors, SB826, is the other likely candidate.
  15. The robot/automation/AI economy will finally arrive in earnest. There will be more than 1 million jobs lost to robots, automation, or artificial intelligence in 2020. While there won’t be any federal laws enacted to combat this trend, it will be debated and discussed as part of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election.
  16. Peloton is going to have a challenging year. Every few years a new workout fad takes center stage. Eventually, they all fade away, some permanently. The model isn’t sustainable. One of 2 things will happen. The “talent” will seek to unionize, go on strike, or demand something that will reduce the number of personalities that riders have grown to love. There will be a data breach/breach of trust in the data collected from members.
  17. Disney will have a down year at the box office. After carrying 80% of the box office hits in 2019, there’s simply no place to go but down. But, Disney+ will be a massive success.

That’s it. That’s all I got. Let’s hope I do better than my 2019 predictions! As I’ve historically done, I’ll revisit these predictions in the middle of 2020 and then provide an end of year analysis in December.

Don’t Make Predictions

This is always one of my favorite posts to write each year. We’re only 13 days away from 2020. While anything can happen, I think we’re at a point where I can fairly evaluate how my 2019 predictions fared.

As I always do, each prediction will be evaluated as being properly forecasted, forecasted incorrectly, or partially forecasted correctly. I really do try not to assign a partially forecasted score.

I’ve been doing this since 2012 with some inconsistent success:

  • 2018: 18/22 for an 82% hit rate.
  • 2017: 7.5/10 for a 75% hit rate.
  • 2016: 8.5/15 for a 56.7% hit rate.
  • 2015: 6.5/10 for a 65% hit rate.
  • 2014: 8/10 for an 80% hit rate.
  • 2013: 3/5 for a 60% hit rate.
  • 2012: 9/10 for a 90% hit rate.

Quite the nice upswing the past 2 years. Let’s see if the trend continues.

In creating my 2019 predictions I brought forward two predictions from 2018 that didn’t happen, but that I thought would play out as forecasted in 2019.

  • Whiskey will have a down year. Year over year we will see a decline in units sold. The plateau is right around the corner. Rum and Gin will fill the sales gap. People’s love of the brown stuff hasn’t waned at all. I give up on this. Rum did have a great year, but whiskey continued to grow in popularity. Drink up!
  • Robert Mueller’s probe will conclude and will yield nothing of substance. Substance will be evaluated as yielding something that would have grounds for an impeachment vote. There will not be an impeachment vote. This is where the details of a prediction are really important. The probe concluded. By my definition of substance, I was correct. There was none. There was no vote. However, it does appear the House will hold an impeachment vote before the end of 2019…but it has nothing to do with the Mueller Report.

So – out of the blocks I’m hitting at 50%. Not exactly encouraging. On to the full set of 2019 predictions.

  1. Apple will make a bid for Tesla. Complete and total whiff. Never happened.
  2. Snapchat’s stock will fall below $5 AND the board will entertain methods to replace Evan Spiegel. Also didn’t happen. Snapchat has stabilized around $14. Not exactly lighting the world on fire, but certainly not $5.
  3. Pinterest and Uber will IPO at billion dollar plus valuations. Check and check!
  4. Amazon or Walmart will make a play for Target. I really thought this would happen. It wasn’t for shock value. For a lot of reasons, a move like this would make sense. Instead of Target being acquired they’ve had an incredibly strong year. They’re a reminder of the value in branding.
  5. Netflix’s debt and expenditure for content development will force one of two things to happen. One, it will sell/merge with Fox, Amazon, etc. It will take on a massive share buyback undertaking. Debt continued to be a problem. They also spent more than ever in content. A merger never happened, but Netflix did continue to execute significant stock buybacks. I’m calling this a ½ point.
  6. More than 25% of states in the USA will offer recreational marijuana policies and laws. That tax money is too seductive for it not to happen. The country-wide adoption by Canada simply adds more pressure. This happened, but in a different way than I outlined. Here’s a link to a fascinating map that tracks each state’s status. Between fully legalized states and those that have decriminalized marijuana, we’re at nearly half the country. I’m calling this a win…from a certain point of view.
  7. Accenture will make a bid to extend their ad agency competition model, by doing one of two things. They will either purchase/merge with WPP, ironically becoming that which they’ve tried not to be. But, they’ll need to if they want a foothold on the paid media side of the equation. Alternatively, they’ll avoid the agency models, but instead, choose to own more pipes. Building on their 2018 acquisition of Adaptly, Accenture will look to purchase an organization like MediaMath. This really didn’t happen. Instead, two completely different things did. One, Publicis gobbled up Epsilon, extending their ownership over “pipes.” Meanwhile, Accenture continued to buy creative agencies.
  8. Liverpool will win the English Premier League. Manchester City will finish second but will win the Champions League. In doing so, Pep Guardiola will be back to manage Manchester City in 2020. This didn’t happen and I couldn’t be happier. Manchester City caught up and passed Liverpool to the title. They also did something that had never been done before. They won EVERY single trophy in England. Liverpool won the Champion’s League. Pep was also back for the 2019-2020 season. I will gladly take the loss on this prediction.
  9. Kevin Durant will stay with the Golden State Warriors and the Lakers will fail to recruit another big name to play alongside Lebron James. Half a point here. Durant left for Brooklyn. Lebron was unable to recruit a big name. I don’t count Anthony Davis’ trade as recruitment. He wasn’t a free agent. I’ve also 100% given up on the NBA. The politics, player movement, and gameplay had me leaving the NBA for another soccer team.
  10. In 2014 I wrote about the idea of a Human API, where people would be operating in a more transparent environment and become brokers of their own data. 2019 is the year where it starts to happen. This will be lead out of the E.U., who have a far more restrictive approach to a free economy and are infinitely more anti-data use for commercial purposes. I think in 2019, it starts with a mandate to opt-out of certain data being collected or used and a means for compensation if you specific forms of personal data. Slow steps towards this…lead by the E.U., but not quite at scale. I’m taking it as a win because I said, “2019 is the year where it starts to happen.” And – it did.
  11. Roku will be acquired. It’s too small to beat out the direct competition but just big enough that with the right partner it could scale. I could see AT&T, LG, Samsung or Verizon being potential buyers. This went the other direction. Roku acquired DataXu, enabling them to be a larger player in paid advertising.
  12. Travis Kalanick will be back in a big way. Since I try to be specific, I think a “big way” means founding another primetime startup or returning to the CEO role at Uber. I’m calling this a win. Travis founded a new startup called CloudKitchens that looks to be the WeWork of the restaurant industry. Time will tell if he’s successful. But, he’s back.
  13. Globally, we will see a decline in mobile/cell phone purchases. We are at peak saturation. Last year’s phone is just as good, if not better than this year’s phone. Little reason to upgrade. Decline they did – per Gartner, 3%.
  14. The 5G cellular spectrum will be made broadly available and two things will happen. One, Apple will NOT release a 5G phone. 5G will be so fast and accessible, organizations and countries will forego WiFi in favor of 5G. This was a home run. No 5G Apple Phone. We are seeing countries like India, Switzerland, and South Africa jumping right to 5G.
  15. LiveRamp will sell to someone in 2019. It won’t be Salesforce. If you’re a company like Publicis an acquisition of LiveRamp makes far more sense than yet another “disruptive” creative agency. However, I don’t see them or another large holding company purchasing LiveRamp. I think it will come from someone like Google or Verizon. Why them? They’re two companies who rely on data for ad-targeting, but are generally blind to many forms of 1st party data, but for whom have enough data about people that a LiveRamp acquisition would be like throwing gasoline on a fire. Another one that went the opposite way. LiveRamp did the acquiring this year.
  16. We are at peak subscription box services. Blue Apron, Kiwi Crates, Birchbox, Trunk Club, Hello Fresh, Frank and Oak, and the list goes on and on. Too many services. Not enough money to go around. We’re going to see massive consolidation in the marketplace happen through merger, acquisition or bankruptcy. I think this story from TechCrunch really covers the situation well. Meal kit companies are struggling, we aren’t quite at peak saturation, but we’re close. However, given how I outlined this prediction, it’s a miss.
  17. Ford, GM or Fiat Chrysler will have a bailout/bankruptcy situation. We will see the same happen for one of Indian Motorcycle, Harley Davidson, Triumph or Ducati. None of them offered a lower cost, less exciting and more electric offerings. The market isn’t big enough to sustain all of them. Didn’t happen. Total whiff. But, I think we’re getting closer. Seems more like 2021, not 2020.
  18. The scooter rental craze taking over the country will hit serious resistance. The South Park Scooter episode will become art imitating life imitating art. Too many scooters. Too little regulation. Too many potential problems. This happened. This happened so hard, South Park made an episode about the situation. Bird in particular had a bad year. They’re burning through $100M every quarter.

I walked into 2019 with 20 bold predictions. If you’ve read my annual list of predictions in the past you know I try not to take on softballs. Of course, that means I’m often going to miss more than I get. By my count, I nailed 1 of the 2 carryover predictions and scored 7.5 out of 18 on the core 2019 predictions. The half-point came from #5. Between the two sets of predictions, I scored 8.5/20 for an abysmal 42.5% accuracy rate. Ouch!

That brings the 8-year total to 68/97, otherwise known as 70%. Quite the solid C.

A number of these prognostications are prime for coming true in 2020 or 2021. I have a feeling I’m a year or two ahead. For example, I just don’t see whiskey continuing its boom and I can’t see Roku being anything but an acquisition target.

My 2020 predictions will be up in a week or so. Thanks for reading.

We Are At Peak Streaming Services

Source: https://www.indiewire.com/2019/06/too-many-streaming-services-television-decentralization-1202149596/

Go back 5 – 10 years ago, when “cord-cutting” first burst on to the scene and entered the zeitgeist. The promise to consumers was simple – more options, more screens, and only pay for what you want. Utopia if you will. Sounded awesome. At that point, we had, depending on your point of view, 3 major players:

  1. Netflix: The granddaddy of streaming services.
  2. Amazon Video: Ever growing, but only worthwhile if you’re an Amazon Prime member. It wasn’t until last year that Amazon Video was even available on AppleTV.
  3. HGO Go: The first big-time “traditional” player to enter the streaming wars.

Gosh, things were simpler back then. Certainly, the decision was simpler. You either paid $X to Comcast for local channels, basic cable, and premium channels…or you paid Comcast for local channels and basic cable, buy you chose Netflix or HBO Go as your streaming partner for premium content.

Over the last two years, the explosion of streaming service options are at a point where it’s impossible to understand the total cost and the decision to make. In the last 30-days alone, we’ve seen the launch or announcement of AppleTV+, Disney+, and Peacock. Additionally, in the last year or so, add in ESPN+ and Bleacher Report Live.

Here’s where we stand today:

Netflix$15.99
Amazon Video$8.99
AppleTV+$4.99
Disney+$6.99
Hulu$11.99
HBO Max$14.99
Showtime$10.99
Starz$8.99
Cinemax$9.99
YouTube Premium$11.99
CBS All Access$5.99
Monthly Total$111.89

That’s a lot of services, account setups, and monthly recurring bills.

So what about just local channels and basic cable? Monthly that’s $93.49 (normal price) at Comcast. If you elected to leverage the streaming services for premium content and Comcast for local and basic cable, your monthly combined total would be $275.37.

For comparison, going all-in with Comcast for local, basic, and premier channels would be $148.49. Regardless of how you slice and dice the list of streaming services, what is clear – the idea that cord-cutting was a significant cost saving, is simply not true anymore.

In 2004, Barry Schwartz authored, ‘The Pradox of Choice“. This is my favorite passage:

“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.”

Make no mistake – choice can be great. Choice can be helpful. Choice can be liberating. But, when we are at peak choice, it’s difficult, if not impossible to choose well.

My only question – when will we enter the phase of streaming services, where they give the TV away, in exchange for singning a contract of X years?

“You’re Benched” – Tough, But Fair Coaching

I played Little League Baseball up until college. I’d go so far as to say, without lacking hubris, I was really good. How good? Good enough to have multiple college scholarship offers. Good enough to play some independent minor league baseball post-high school.

The Summer between my Sophmore and Junior year, I was selected to our town’s all-star team. That team is selected by the coaches and is the team that theoretically would compete to represent the state in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Normally, the coach of the best team in the league becomes the head coach of the all-star team. That would have been my coach, Frank McNulty. He deferred due to conflicts and my dad decided to step up and coach the team.

Some background on my dad:

  • Never played baseball growing up…or any sport, in a non-recreational capacity
  • Diehard Red Sox fan
  • Lover of math and science
  • Always made time to practice with me and offer coaching feedback
  • Never coached a team

Despite never playing sports growing up, he was definitely a student of the game (s). I remember spending an entire summer reading books and looking at formulas to understand the physics of how to throw a curveball. My curveball was scientifically, very good. He was also a big believer that I would succeed or fail on my own merit, and it wouldn’t be because of equipment. Cleats, balls, bats, gloves – I had them all. And, they were all top-shelf.

So let’s get back to the all-star team. The first game was away at and against Hopatcong. I remember it vividly. I lead off the game with a single. In between the next 3 pitches, I was picked off of 1st base by a left-handed pitcher named Daly. In the 3rd inning with 1 out, I crushed a double. We had some momentum. I got picked off of second base by Daly, again. The next person at-bat hit a single. The next one struck out. I would have scored if I wasn’t picked off. In the 5th inning, I bunt singled and was subsequently thrown out trying to steal second to end the inning.

As I was walking off the field, my dad met me at the 1st base line. I was expecting an arm around the shoulder. Instead, calmly and cooly, he said, you’re head isn’t in the game, you’ve killed three scoring rallies – you’re benched.

We didn’t speak for a week. I was pissed. How do you bench your best player? Not an exaggeration. How does your dad treat you like a stranger? During the week, my uncle had a lengthy discussion with me and offered the following advice:

  1. You played like crap. You let the team down. You let your dad down.
  2. You shouldn’t be mad at him, you should be mad at yourself.
  3. You owe your dad an apology. He only wants the best for you. His job isn’t to treat you differently than everyone else. His job is to do what’s best for the team.

The next game I pitched a complete game shutout. We didn’t get much further in the tournament. After exiting the competition my dad made it clear he would never formally coach me again. It was simply too hard.

Years later, I apologized for being a jerk, a sulky player, and a son who didn’t realize the position he placed his father in. The story above eventually became a joke that would show up on occasion and we’d all laugh about it.

With kids of my own now, it really hits home how hard it must have been for my dad to be my dad, be my coach, and have me, in essence, flip him the bird across both.

The poet, Coolio, once wrote,

They say I gotta learn, but nobody’s here to teach me
If they can’t understand it, how can they reach me

I wonder if he had it 180 degrees wrong. What happens when you gotta learn, there is someone there to teach, they do understand it, but you refuse to listen and be coached? From player to parent/coach, covering the past 20+ years, I think that’s the biggest change I’ve observed with youth sports. When every kid has a phone and youTube to tell them what’s “right”, why should they listen to their parents and coaches?

That my dad didn’t ring me by the neck for being so dismissive and getting into a verbal confrontation before heading to the dugout, still astonishes me. With my own kids I’ve adopted much of his philosophy. John and Cora will never want for top-shelf equipment. I look to invest my time and money into coaching them to be better. But, when they don’t want to listen, much like my dad, I don’t get angry, I simply stop coaching and go back to being a parent. While I know, much like my dad, I would have the conviction to bench them, I know I don’t want to be in a position to do so.