Here’s mud in your A.I.

If you’ve been paying attention to the industry news, there’s been a LOT of chatter about AI, (artificial intelligence,) and its various applications. And some of them are really intriguing and useful. With the ability to run predictive diagnostics, artificial intelligence (better described as data-driven machine learning,) is ideal for applications that can benefit from robust and speedy automation.

As is our way, it doesn’t take long for something useful and intriguing to be repurposed into something base and silly. Case in point: AI is also being used now for some fairly sophisticated parlour tricks, like recreating the Mona Lisa.

(Moves soapbox to the foreground.)

But the application of AI in marketing, and most specifically in the creative process, is really (in this sentient blogger’s opinion,) an overreach.

There’s no data set for creativity. In fact, there are no rules. What makes something “creative” is that it is indeed CREATED. By a human being. Part of why we buy paintings, and music and novels and sculpture is because we know there’s a backstory of someone who sweat it out in a studio or at the typewriter. Someone whose fingers bled. Someone who made mistakes, and tried variations, and threw whole passages in a trash can. We celebrate that humanity and that pain and the entire process when we consume anything creative. Not just the end result.

The same is true in marketing. Writing anything – an ad, a blog post, a commercial script – is hard. It’s taking business rules and mandatories into consideration and asking a creative person to then do intellectual gymnastics, linking sometimes disparate ideas in unexpected ways, without a net. Can you write an algorithm for that? Sure, but the results are likely to be shit – the kind of shit a hack would conjure.

For instance, you’ve probably seen these kinds of promotions for having AI write your next blog post.

What’s really happening there? I don’t claim to have knowledge of any of their algorithms, but I’d bet my last dollar that these are search bots that crawl the web for every piece of content written in the last 10 years about a particular subject. They ingest this huge data set, pick out bits and pieces using sorting criteria that prioritize those with the most clicks, comments and instances, and then rearrange and reconstruct a new version for you.

That’s not creating. That’s recreating at best. And theft at worst.

ChatGPT, the latest and supposedly greatest iteration of AI language prowess, has added a sexy wrinkle into their algorithm. Instead of just swiping content and repurposing it, it adds a level of dialogue formatting to make it sound more conversational, and thus more natural and believable. It claims to “answer follow-up questions” and “admits its mistakes.” And given that it is machine-based learning, it gets “better” the more often it’s used. (It’s driving educators crazy, as students who use it can be deemed to be cheating, not researching.)

What a paradox: a machine learning model that improves the more often it’s used, but also degrades the craft proportionately in the process. [Some disclosures: OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT is funded in part by Sam Altman, Elon Musk, and just got a billion dollar injection of capital from Microsoft.]

In a recent viral kerfuffle on social media, recording artist Nick Cave (throaty lead singer with The Bad Seeds) reacted to a song that was “written” by ChatGPT “in the style of Nick Cave.” He could not have put it any better:

“Songs arise out of suffering, by which I mean they are predicated upon the complex, internal human struggle of creation and, well, as far as I know, algorithms don’t feel. Data doesn’t suffer. ChatGPT has no inner being, it has been nowhere, it has endured nothing, it has not had the audacity to reach beyond its limitations, and hence it doesn’t have the capacity for a shared transcendent experience, as it has no limitations from which to transcend. ChatGPT’s melancholy role is that it is destined to imitate and can never have an authentic human experience, no matter how devalued and inconsequential the human experience may in time become.”

Okay, back to marketing, and particularly the art of writing good advertising. Part of the craft is developing a sense of counterintuitive thought and embracing lateral thinking. Another big part is the symbiotic relationship of the headline and the image. But so much of modern advertising is about contextualizing the brand into the cultural moment from which it arises.

Think of how many great headlines and taglines would never – could never – be written by AI, by virtue of this necessity for divergence and a sense of the cultural periphery.

“Think Small” from DDB was a radical notion at the dawn of the 1960s. As Americans – less than two decades removed from World War II – were upwardly mobile, one of the most pervasive (and comical) trends in automobile-dom was an oblique obsession with size. Bigger was better, and American cars looked like ocean liners. The nation was also wildly nationalistic at the time, and DDB’s assignment was to sell a small, quirky German car to this audience.

To get to the heart of these cultural undertones and suggest an opposite notion was a radical idea. And paired with the spare art direction (bless you Helmut Krone) and that sea of white space, it became a touchstone for our industry. Could AI ever reach that level of insight? Of rebelliousness? Of sheer chutzpah?

“Think Different.” When this campaign (from TBWA/Chiat/Day) was released in the 1990s, it was paired with images of pioneering artists, thinkers and doers, like Einstein, Picasso and Miles Davis. It also featured zero body copy. What’s so interesting about the head/tagline is that it’s not even good English. But it was a fine encapsulation of the Apple brand in that moment and what it stood for. Would AI dare to break grammar rules to create an emotional response?

I suppose it’s mildly ironic, or at least cheeky, that I chose two classic advertising examples that use the word “think” in the headlines. And perhaps that’s exactly what I’m driving at, and what Nick Cave was fuming at.

Maybe I’m an old fart, but I prefer the consternation. The suffering. The pacing and the waiting and the wondering if this “idea” has legs. Give me time to think about what’s going on in the world. Give me the sudden burst of insight when the neurons start to fire. Give me the end of the sentence that starts with “wouldn’t it be cool if…” Give me a person, thinking about another person, and getting them to actually think different.

There’s nothing artificial about that.

A marketing strategist walks into a retail store…

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. You go to a retail store. Let’s call it Guitar Center. You’re looking for a new gig bag for your Fender bass, because your old one has seen one too many gigs and had one too many beers spilled on it. (Okay, maybe you were also hoping to find a MusicMan four-string with the maple neck and dual soapbar humbuckers…sigh.)

You walk in – on a Monday morning at 10:30 where you’re maybe the ONLY customer – and browse the bags. Two are on display. One cheapy-thingy on sale for $49.99, and one demonstrably superior name-brand bag with lots of padding, secret pockets and the extra thick handle. No price on that one. Hmmm.  Maybe someone will come by and help. You’ll look around and do that neck-and-eyebrow-raise thing, so someone will know you need help. After five to seven minutes of being ignored, you’ll walk out. Your first and sadly, only, thought is “I’ll just get it on Amazon.”

Think of your own recent experiences in big- and medium-box retail stores. How many of us have gone to a store in the hopes of finding that “perfect” item only to find that it isn’t on the shelf, or isn’t available in the correct size? We’ve even gone to the store in the hopes of finding something we weren’t expecting and being pleasantly surprised, just because we were in the “shopping” mood. We’ve all done it. That’s one of the real allures of brick and mortar retail. But very often, those hopes are dashed by any number of obstacles: traffic, a messy store, lack of trained sales or service professionals, and of course the old standby: the in-stock conundrum. 

On its own merits, the brick and mortar interaction provides a unique personal experience (and the associated dopamine rush) of acquiring something you want or just found out you want immediately. That’s the buzz of retail: “I will walk out of this store and have this thing that I want. Right. Friggin. Now.” Pretty nifty. And it has served retailers well for more than a century in our modern economy. Cue the trendy décor, the zippy displays, the music playing, yada, yada, yada.

But one of the many issues that retail now faces – an issue it has been avoiding the last decade and a half – is competition. Not competition from like purveyors, that’s always been there. But a more intellectual, conceptual competition, from a now-proven and alternative option of almost-real-time satisfaction of needs, but with greater/broader filter-able choice, and often at a similar or sometimes lower price point. And in consumer consciousness, choice is a mammoth motivator. Online shopping has removed borders, opened up consumers to entire lines of inventory, and added convenience across every possible variable.

This competition has come into sharp focus because consumers are also smarter now than they’ve ever been. Not necessarily on an IQ level, but on an informational level. We know that there are more than two colors of that dress we saw in Zara. We know that there is more than one charging base option for that hammer drill we saw in Home Depot. (And we know that there are more than two kinds of bass guitar gig bags, and that they should have a price tag on them! Ahem.) We KNOW, because we saw them online, when we did our pre-shopping research.   

And there’s the rub. Retail offers instant gratification, yes, but at a premium, and with noticeable limitations, particularly in the amount of both inventory and information available in-store. And today almost every consumer experience, in almost every category, starts with an online search.

In order to survive and even thrive, retail has to now compete the way any brand category competes against direct and indirect competition: by outlining and exploiting a discernible difference, and then promoting an entirely different kind of experience. (In a manner similar to how cruise ships compete against other forms of travel.)

Retail has to deep-dive into what the online channel cannot physically or intellectually deliver, put a package of features together, deliver them well and consistently, and promote the snot out of the “new” and exciting experience. Heck, they could even lobby to have JD Power or some other authority rank “best retail experience” or “best in-store vibe” as new categories, if they don’t already.

And retail is chock full of delicious experiential differences that online will never be able to deliver. Not even in a metaverse: Trying things on. The new car smell. Seeing the HD picture in person. Playing the guitar for half an hour in three different amps. Hitting the new irons. Sitting on the couch.

If retail wants to survive into future decades, it’s going to have to differentiate on those attributes that online shopping simply can’t offer. We may – dare I say it? – return to a world where retail stores are wondrous destinations staffed with super-knowledgeable professionals that make the buying experience really fun and interesting…and worth “the trip.” Consumers would go for that.

Super Bowl 56 Grins and Groans

Super Bowl 56, the second super bowl to feature a team winning in their home stadium (total coincidence) is in the books, and so are the 70 or so ads. There was a lot of pre-game hype, with the game being in Los Angeles, at a brand new stadium, with the “mega” halftime show (that wasn’t that mega,) and of course, all the leaked ads.

Ultimately, it turned out to be about a six – and this has been a trend over the last several years…there are no ads that are flat out terrible, and no ads that are tear-your-hair-out great. Super Bowl has become an expensive arena for fairly vanilla ad executions. Maybe it’s our ticklish cancel culture that lurks around every corner. They could have been better. But there were some highlights.

Crypto had its coming out party this year, with five spots for various coins, platforms and exchanges making themselves known to a broader audience. So did electric vehicles. Snack foods and sodas were noticeably absent. And while celebrities are always a staple of Super Bowl ads, this year went extra heavy on the celebs, with a side of celebs, and then had celebs for dessert. (Perhaps big ideas are delayed due to supply chain issues?)

SOME HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Hologic – Mary J. Blige gets major props for a.) embracing her age as an asset and b.) for encouraging others to get regular mammogram screenings. This is an issue that many celebrities might politely duck out on, but Ms. Blige got to shine in an important public service announcement-meets-healthcare-ad.

Expedia.com tapped Ewan McGregor for a solid spot that poked fun at previous Super Bowl ads (including a couple nice little jabs at Budweiser and Bud Light,) while choosing “experiences” over “stuff.”  This was a solid idea, elegantly executed in the meta style, for a brand that is about to get super busy when people start traveling again. Well done!

BMW’s all-electric iX got a nice, um, jolt from Zeus and Hera (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Selma Hayak) in a cute spot, where Zeus retires to Palm Springs, only to find it leaves him flat. BMW reinvigorates his godliness, with some nice turns, including a pet Pegasus and a closing frame with Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue” to keep this one fresh. Overall, a well-made, well-executed ad from a brand that has learned to take itself less seriously over the last couple of years.

Chevrolet hawked its new, all-electric Silverado with a perfectly executed nod to the legend of the Sopranos television show. Actors  Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Robert Iler reprise their roles as Meadow and AJ, in what looks like a rebooted back story to the final Sopranos episode. Fans of the show will notice she had no problem parking this time!

FTX recruited Larry David to do his “Larry David” thing, saying “no” to epic discoveries and inventions throughout history like the wheel, the fork, the toilet, and the light bulb.  So when he says no to FTX, “a safe and easy way to get into Crypto,” the joke works great. As far as Crypto ads went this Super Bowl, this was the second best execution.

GRINS

Coinbase took 60 seconds of airtime to flash a QR code across the screen.  (For those of you scoring at home, that’s an open rate of about $14 million.)  Tens of millions of people snapped it to reveal one of two things: an opportunity to learn more about Coinbase, or for most of them, a crashed app. Big idea, big gamble, and big props for doing something really different.  Unfortunately, also a big fail since the tech couldn’t keep up, and Coinbase ends up making a poor first impression.

Uber Eats poked fun at themselves and their own name when people try to eat the various deliveries they receive using the service. People end up eating diapers, (with a disclaimer that reads “Prop food. Do not eat diapers” that adds to the joke,) cat litter, dish detergent, and my favorite, Gwyneth Paltrow taking a bite of her own “anatomy” candle (nice easter egg there.) Great ending super: “Now delivering eats.  And don’t eats.” Great example of how to take a simple idea, stretch it out with humor, and deliver your core brand message in a memorable way.  Very nice.

Planters makes a big splash in a really interesting and special way to promote their mixed nuts. Ken Jeong and Joel McHale ask the Internet about whether or not you should eat mixed nuts all together, or one at a time. Chaos (and hilarity) ensues, neatly wrapped with the line “who knew America would tear itself apart over a relatively minor difference of opinion?” Enough said. And very well done.

WINNER:

Rocket Mortgage taps Barbie, Skeletor and a cast of characters to sell mortgage-related financial services and technology in the easiest way possible:  so kids can understand. Great use of house-hunting archetypes, like “better offer Betty,” and “cash offer Carl,” to underscore today’s market challenges. And Anna Kendrick has the perfect off-beat delivery to hold the entire thing together. This was a big win, and considering they owned the Super Bowl last year with the Tracy Morgan “pretty sure isn’t sure enough” spot, I’d say they’re on a roll.

GROANS

Listen, when you have 70+ ads in a four-hour window, there are bound to be some clunkers. Even Morgan Freeman and his delicious voiceover couldn’t make an ad for Turkish Airlines work. E-Trade tries to bring the talking baby out of retirement to no avail. And Cheetos (in one of the few “animal” spots of the night,) kind of fell flat, and apparently got the ire of animal activists up over human processed snacks finding their way into natural habitats. Oooof. Speaking of animals, Disney+ tapped Awkwafina to do a “goats” spot. And Gillette, who have been on a roll embracing social issues, went bland this year. But here are the ones I thought really missed:

Salesforce – Matthew McConaughey in a big-budget sprawl of a commercial, floating around in a hot air balloon, waxing poetic in that McConaughey you’re-cute-but-I-don’t-get-it kind of way about space, trees, trust and the new frontier. A 60-second miss, and for a brand that could have gotten way more mileage by NOT being in the Super Bowl.

Avocados from Mexico took a cheap shot at Bills Mafia, and therefore they’re dead to me. In separate news, they were banned from imports just this morning after an inspector was threatened.  Not kidding.  Karma, kids. Karma.

Hellmann’s wins the it’s-a-bad-spot-because-that-was-done-already award with Jerod Mayo tackling anyone who is not thinking about food waste. Now, I get “reprising” an idea if it’s timely and makes sense.  But then Terry Tate should have been in this commercial. Maybe they thought no one would notice? Or perhaps they banked on the idea that most people watching wouldn’t have even seen those old Reebok spots? Either way, it’s a bad look for Hellmann’s with anyone who follows advertising.

LOSER:

It pains me to say this, but Dolly Parton shares the worst-of-the-night award along with Miley Cyrus in these loosely-linked and poorly-thinked commercials for T-Mobile. First, Ms. Parton, who is basically a national treasure, has to stoop to a bad boob joke to “get something off her chest.” Ugh.  Then Miley Cyrus comes in during a follow-up spot and does a “We Are the World”-style number to “do it for the phones.”  I know it’s a joke.  I know it’s tongue in cheek. But it’s in poor taste nonetheless. Had they tagged this spot to say they were ACTUALLY doing something good, (like recycling phones and donating to those in need, or using the lithium ion batteries to power a high school football field’s lights, I’m just spitballing here,) this spot might have won the evening. But they didn’t, and the joke didn’t land.

Many thanks to all of you who were live tweeting with me last night.  Would love to know your thoughts on the Super Bowl ads from this year – please leave your comments here!

The reports of the cookie’s death have been grossly exaggerated.

“The death of cookies,” to borrow a phrase, is (mostly) fake news. I wouldn’t be concerned with this topic, except that so many reputable media outlets have been publishing misleading and sensational headlines about it.

Take a look:

Adweek sent an email special report with the headline:  “The Death of Cookies.”

AdAge with Cheetah Digital posted on social with the same frenzied phrase: “The death of cookies”

And Segment (Twilio’s customer data platform) went even further with this social gem: “Digital Advertising in a Cookieless World.”

But here’s the problem: It.  Isn’t. True.

So let’s get to the bottom of why all these authorities are spewing all this gunk.

The first thing that’s important to know is that there are two primary kinds of cookies:  these are called “first-party cookies” and “third-party cookies.”  (I know, it’s weird that there’s no “second party cookies.” Somebody got ripped off in this deal.)

First-party cookies are data files that are shared between your browser and any website you visit.  When you visit a site, especially a site that you may go back to multiple times, say a news site like NYTimes.com, a small text file is generated and stored on your browser. It contains information about you (nothing too personal, unless you choose to save passwords via your browser, and please don’t do that,) like the browser you’re using, the operating system, where you’re located (via your IP address,) and even the browsing history.  They were originally created to optimize the performance of websites.  Since there’s a history encoded in the cookie, the website does not have to fully reload each time you visit it – it sort of restores the previous session, and then updates the site with its latest content. This is why your shopping cart on e-commerce sites is “remembered” and preferences on other sites are stored.  Each time you go back to the site, the cookie is updated with more information.  So it’s a bit of a history log between your browser and a specific domain. 

Disclaimer: This is an oversimplification of first-party cookies, but it will serve to help distinguish it from the other type.

Third-party cookies are different in many ways. First, and most important, they are stored under a different domain than the one you are visiting. They are typically “shared” from the domain you’re visiting with – you guessed it – third parties. The most basic example is this:  you go and visit NYTimes.com to read the news, and you see banner ads on the top and along the right side from a brand like Toyota. Since NYTimes is a publisher, and has sold advertising space to Toyota, they may have also agreed to share your data, and allow Toyota to drop a third-party cookie to track your browsing behavior.  The thinking with this was “it would help Toyota to know what other kinds of sites readers of the New York Times might visit, and what their browsing behavior is, so we can build a better profile of potential targets.” 

Disclaimer:  this is also an oversimplification of third-party cookies, but it should serve to help distinguish it from the other type.

Okay.

So, the headlines you’ve been reading are misleading, because they leave out a very important qualifier: the only thing that’s “dying” is the third-party cookie.

Pushing out headlines like “the death of cookies” or “a cookieless world” is like saying “music is dead” just because we’ve banned Justin Bieber. It’s sensationalizing the story at best. It’s clickbait at worst.

First-party cookies are here to stay, and there’s no way they’re going away, since it would cut off hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue being transacted every year. First-party cookies form the basis of ad targeting, retargeting, (yes, you can still be retargeted via first-party cookies,) display advertising (banner ads,) most social media platform algorithms, and the mighty Zeus of them all, search engine marketing and its associated retargeting.

[The post ends there, but I have a few words to say about WHY third-party cookies are getting the axe.]

The whole kerfuffle over third-party cookies is generally about privacy, and not having one’s data shared without one’s knowledge. But who are we kidding? Our data is getting shared every day, all over the place, whether we a.) like it or not and b.) know it or not.  Did you ever Google yourself? I’m sure you didn’t actively and purposefully put all that information there – it was aggregated from across the web without your knowledge or consent. How do you think data marketing companies make money? They go and mine data they already have, or it’s getting shared with them from retailers, credit card companies, and others. Yes, GDPR legislation has been adopted, but all it effectively does is add another annoying click before I get to the content I want on any new website. Ugh. And if the last year has showed us anything, (since third-party cookies have started phasing out and Apple’s iOS tracking regulations have been adopted,) it’s that you can still run effective and even mobile-friendly ads without third-party cookies and nobody is any worse for wear.

This author’s preference is to have his data shared (no social security numbers, credit card numbers or bank account numbers, thank you very much,) so that my general Internet experience is more carefully curated and more fully tailored to my preferences. Killing third-party cookies was accelerated as a knee-jerk reaction to the 2020 election and fears of the “echo chamber” effect, and more sensitive issues like child welfare, gender identity, and other possibly incriminating privacy gaffes. All the while, forgetting that you can still be retargeted via first-party cookies. They could have worked that stuff out and still made the Internet an interesting and contextualized place.

If Toyota wants to follow me around for two weeks to find out that I’m not a fit for their brand, so be it.  At least I won’t see ads for the 2022 Camry hybrid anymore.

Facebook’s Meta transition. A mashup that proves hardware is the new tech.

Late last month, noted CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook is changing its name to Meta, and changing its official stock ticker from FB to MVRS.  The name Meta is a shorthand for the metaverse, which is itself shorthand for an almost fully immersed online world, where people can play, work, and gather in groups in the virtual sense. Zuckerberg is betting big on building it, even though it’s been tried before. (More on that in a bit.)

That this massive shift away from one of the world’s most recognizable brand names comes amid a slew of scandals is indeed curious.  But let’s leave all the political soundbites and sexy headlines aside for the moment.  This is not about the Facebook Papers, nor about Russian disinformation, nor about Cambridge Analytica, or data collection, or facial recognition…man, they do have a lot of shit swirling around the campus out there, don’t they?

Nah, this smells like a big bet hardware play, plain and simple.

This whole Meta rename is nothing more than a cosmetic corporate restructuring that will now control Facebook and its other well-known brands, including Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Oculus.  A lot like when Google changed their name to Alphabet, and rolled up all their brands, including Google itself, under the holding company.  (PS – only investors care about this stuff, and THEY still call it Google. And the stock ticker for the company known as Alphabet is…GOOGL.)

So why isn’t Zuckerberg saying that?

I have an idea. Maybe it’s because the metaverse isn’t a great idea.  Or, rather, maybe it isn’t a great idea to shelter it under the enormous loads of cash that the artist formerly known as Facebook has at its disposal.  It’s been widely reported that the year one budget is over $10 billion, and that 10,000 people, mostly in hardware, will be recruited to make it go.

When any entrepreneur wants to launch a new idea, especially a broad and ambitious one like the metaverse Zuckerberg envisions, it’s good practice to prove it can actually accomplish something on its own merits.  It’s a good practice to seek capital from investors and show milestones that prove the concept.  In the absence of that kind of oversight and objective grownups in the room that business incubator model provides, it’s just another lavish vanity project.  The Metaverse is to Zuckerberg what space is to Bezos, Musk and Branson: a vast unknown that he hopes to monetize.

And let’s remember two important things about Meta’s metaverse:
First, the road to the metaverse was paved by Second Life way back in 2003, a full year before Mark Zuckerberg’s “hot or not” turned into “thefacebook.” It is a metaverse full of avatars and provides an almost identical experience to what Zuckerberg envisions: an interesting alternative online environment, where you can have virtual meetings and other whatnots.  (Kinda mostly trying to ply a virtual shopping mall, though.)

Second, and far more interesting: Meta’s virtual world will require, not suggest, that you purchase some very real and very significant pieces of hardware to access it. Oculus VR goggles are currently retailing at around $300, and may not have the full range of capabilities to access what will eventually become the Meta metaverse. It’s a long way to go to sell a bunch of accessories, but it sure sounds like a hot hardware play, doesn’t it? Build the metaverse, get a lot of good press, then tell those who can afford it that the only way to get on board is to buy some rechargeable VR binoculars, now available in six avatar-worthy colors!  All of this is coming right on the heels of Facebook (can we still call it that?) inking a deal with Ray-Ban to sell some fancy Smart Wayfarers that take photographs and play tunes, also for about $300.

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear Zuckerberg was trying to emulate Steve Jobs in some way. After all, Apple’s most successful product was/is the iPhone, not the Macintosh, its former flagship. It required the purchase of a significant piece of hardware. It was an ambitious project and came decades after the company launched. And Jobs didn’t just have the phone developed with a base OS and software.  He outsourced the smartphone “experience” to third party developers via the app ecosystem so every user could customize their device to their liking and have a uniquely personal interaction with it. It’s what ignited the phone’s insanely fast global adoption, and may be a route that Zuckerberg is similarly exploring.  The metaverse will require the purchase of significant hardware.  It, too, is an ambitious project that will launch decades after the Facebook flagship. Let’s all pay attention over the next couple of years and take notice when third-party developers – under a watchful eye and strict guidelines, of course – are invited to curate and broaden the metaverse experience in various ways, like shopping, gaming, utilities, fitness, and others.

Other tech CEOs have also profited marvelously in various ways on and off the Internet, and have pivoted to hardware in the process. Brin and Page monetized consumer intent with paid search advertising. Then they sold us Pixel phones and Google Home and acquired Nest for broader reach with devices. (And they’re betting big on Waymo.) Musk made his money online with PayPal when it sold to EBay, then monetized major hardware with Tesla electric cars. Bezos is a retailer and monetizes markup. He also likes hardware – Kindle and Echo both do just fine, thank you very much. With Meta, Zuckerberg seeks to do all of the above, just in the opposite order. He’ll first sell hardware to access the metaverse. Then he’ll sell advertising (likely highly contextualized) with a new model that combines search history, affinity, and basic demographics to a mostly Gen Z audience. He’ll build in some exchange system (maybe crypto-based) in the metaverse that costs real offline dollars. And he’ll most definitely build some kind of online shopping component.

So…what color would you prefer for your new goggles?