Let’s Go, Brandon

I admit I’ve got a shorter than usual fuse these days.  I have barely seen the sun in perhaps the gloomiest June I’ve endured in Los Angeles since I relocated, and I don’t need to bore any of you yet again that my quest for something resembling a decent level of living has hit more roadblocks than I’m seeing on a perpetually under construction Wilshire Boulevard.  My inbox is littered with increasingly urgent and angry requests and demands for payments that I honestly cannot address at this time.

So it didn’t help my mood when someone whose actual name is that of the one I noted in this musing’s headline (no, I havent defected to THAT team) sends me a response to a message I sent them on LinkedIn that has what for me was a first-time caution note:

This message may contain unwanted or harmful content.

Let me set up what triggered this Brandon, and you tell me the degree of overreaction involved here.

I’ve made no secret of my disdain and dismissal for an aggressive company named Parrot Analytics.  Headed by a well-heeled New Zealander under the age of 40, they’ve made significant strides in the wars for relevance among emerging measurement companies by aggregating a lot of data points, many relating to readily scrapable data points such as Google searches, to create a tool they call “demand metrics”.  Simply put, their assertion is that there is a value to be placed upon whether people are merely interested in watching a show or making a purchase rather than reflecting any data from any source, including any third party panel they may construct, that actually shows if such purchase or consumption actually happened.  At the risk of redundancy, I’ve continued to point out to anyone who asks that were I running a business, I wouldn’t be able to monetize browsers or foot traffic.  So trying to represent to marketers that there’s a tangible value to getting attention is, at best, a correlative talking point, not a KPI.

And that is exactly what I told Sony’s top executives after the well-heeled New Zealander, after several futile and feverish attempts to solicit my business, as well as those of my colleagues, went over our heads and somehow talked his way into their offices and did their multimedia song and dance that included examples of all of the tech companies and (at the time) more liberally funded competitors that chose to overlook these realities.  Once I patiently explained to these top tier veterans exactly what Parrot Analytics’ data indicated, they wholeheartedly agreed that I was spot on in refusing to make a deal.

The next time I saw this well-heeled New Zealander, while he was scarfing down several cocktails at an outdoor meet-and-greet schmoozing some younger and less experienced mid-level executives from my competitors, he specifically sought me out to express his disdain, saying in an elevated and agitated tone “You know, old man, you’re nothing more than the helicopter parent who should be banished to the upstairs while the rave is going on”.  Even the whippersnappers who were happily taking advantage of the $20 mojitos he was plying them with were taken aback.

So, no, I’m not a fan of Parrot or their CEO.  And when I saw a recent article from this Brandon, who is now a contributing writer to stories that Parrot pays publications and platforms to look like objective reporting, that took a completely misguided and strategically inaccurate angle that somehow tried to sell the concept that one of Sony’s most popular IPs, recently sold to a streaming platform for a long-term deal that was part of an even more comprehensive alliance, would somehow be able to be offered to a competitor who has shown zero interest in making any outside acquisitions based on this “demand” metric that somehow correlated this appeal with a hypothesis that connected it to one of the competitors’ lesser-viewed IPs, I honestly felt badly for this Brandon.

Because either he was being guided to write something that to someone sounded plausible and relevant, since this was an article Parrot PAID the platform for, or, more likely, he was simply jumping to a conclusion that had no support from any other supporting data and clearly was meaningless to Sony or what he believed to be the platform that should break the bank to somehow try and steal it away.

So I shared my views privately with Brandon.  And I prefaced my message with “you seem like a decent dude”.

The prophetically labeled response that I got from him was as follows:

Unsolicited direct message to make baseless insults about me and my company? I can say confidently that you don’t seem like a decent dude. Would have been happy to have had a constructive conversation with you had you approached this is any sort of mature and civil manner. Hope you do better moving forward.

Dear boy, me thinks you protest too much.

As I’ve established above, my observations are anything but baseless.  Parrot has engaged in many other tactics to sponsor their data with entities such as the Guinness Book of World Records and NATPE to spread their “gospel”.  They regularly contribute lengthy articles to Puck that represent themselves as authoritative when the reality is the data it’s based upon is anything but an empirical reflection of actual purchase or engagement.   What somebody intends to do is NOT what they actually do.  I INTEND to pay my mounting bills eventually.  My creditors remind me over and over how much they think of INTENT.

And as someone who actually HAS worked for the company you chose to write about, and who at the time knew some of the executives who shared my beliefs, my intention in this case was to HELP direct you into perhaps coming up with a more viable use case, Brandon.

Now, upon reflection, I’m willing to admit I could have handled this a notch better.  I’ll admit I probably came off a little less civil than I should have.  But mature–sorry, Brandon, I’ve got way more experience than you.

And trust me, I handled myself WAY better than your boss did with me.  Or how he did by going over all of the heads of the people who he couldn’t get to buy into his spiel.

How have you felt, Brandon, when someone would go around YOU to try and make something happen?   Have you ever been high enough in any organization, or even in your family, to have experienced something so insulting and disrespectful?  I have.  For decades.  In decades where common courtesy still mattered.  At least more than it appears to in your company.

All your well-heeled New Zealander would have had to do, at some point, is simply apologize for his tone.  We all get caught up in the heat of a moment, especially when $20 mojitos are involved.   And I’m willing to admit that under my circumstances of late I’m perhaps a bit more sensitive than I typically am.

So if you truly feel that I was insulting to you, I’ll take ownership of that and will agree that I could do better moving forward.

But I’m not going to accept or forgive you or your boss for being overly aggressive purveyors of questionably relevant data and extracting the kind of license fees from increasingly shrinking budgets that have resulted in myself and plenty of my more seasoned peers now scrambling for work since the actual ability to use your data for real monetization, not to support an inexperienced marketing executive trying to cover their ass, is a lot less likely than you might want folks in high places to believe.

I’ll let anyone who reads this make their own judgements as to whether or not this qualifies as “constructive conversation”.  In my mind at least, it qualifies as such.

I merely ask you might want to consider being a notch less reflexibly defensive about the people who sign your paycheck.  Whether either of you are capable of acknowledging it, you’re trying to peddle your wares to an increasingly challenged and micromanaging industry.  With CEOs who have zero patience for anything that doesn’t have true capacity to move a needle.  If you think I’m an old fogey who’s spoiling your rave, you might want to give pause to who those of us still working answer into.

And, believe me, they wouldn’t be as measured in their response to your unwanted or hurtful content as I am being.  Especially considering my lot in life these days compared to theirs.

So perhaps we should both resolve to do better going forward, Brandon.

Let’s go.

Until next time…



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