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The Bullshit AdTech Guru: How to Spot a Fake Expert in a Sea of Snake Oil Salesmen

Adtech is a confusing maze, and let’s not kid ourselves—it’s a veritable circus out there. Even the so-called top experts often seem like they’re just throwing jargon at the wall to see what sticks.

 Take the Colossus Mess, for instance: a prime example of industry veterans floundering like fish out of water. They claim to have all the answers, but really, they’re just adding to the noise.

Enter the self-proclaimed adtech gurus, those walking, talking embodiments of the Dunning-Kruger effect, strutting around like peacocks in a pigeon coop. You’ve seen them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and every platform where their soapbox fits. They preach their gospel of nonsense with the fervor of a televangelist, ready to save your marketing soul. These characters, barely old enough to grow a proper mustache or so ancient they’re still talking about “cell phones” and “the world wide web,” claim to have the “top 10 tips for better copywriting,” the “ultimate workflow hacks,” and a “foolproof” way to beat creative block. Spoiler alert: it’s all shtuyot.

Their profiles read like a parody of success. “Adtech guru. Innovator. Thought leader.” 


 More like self-appointed czar of jargon and king of buzzwords.

They recycle the same tired advice, wrapped in shiny new packaging, hoping you won’t notice it’s the same old snake oil.

Their so-called wisdom is nothing more than a mishmash of pseudo-intellectual babble and generic tips you could find in a ten-second Google search. 

It’s the digital equivalent of selling ice to Eskimos—completely unnecessary and utterly laughable.

And let’s not forget the cherry on top: their unsolicited advice on everything under the sun. Need help with your ad placement strategy? They’ve got a hack for that. Struggling with your creative process? Don’t worry, their “foolproof” method will solve all your problems—if you can decode their cryptic language, that is.

 It’s all a grand performance, designed to dazzle and confuse. 

The reality is, these so-called experts are as useful as a chocolate teapot. If their advice were any good, they’d be busy running successful campaigns instead of hawking their questionable expertise on social media.

Nathan J. Robinson nailed it in Current Affairs, calling this the “Age of The Bullshitter.” He lumped together Donald Trump, Elon Musk, and Sam Bankman-Fried as prime examples. The tech world is fertile ground for these characters, and adtech is no exception.

Case in point: there’s this guy with less than two years in the industry who decides to launch a podcast, boldly claiming to be the “ultimate adtech expert.”

His resume? A glaringly empty page, save for the words “Professional bullshitter.” It’s the kind of audacity that makes you both laugh and cringe at the same time. Here’s someone who’s barely had time to learn the difference between CPC and CPM, yet he’s out here doling out advice like he’s the second coming of David Ogilvy. It’s laughable, but unfortunately, this type of hubris is frustratingly common in today’s adtech landscape.

This phenomenon is emblematic of a broader trend: the rapid rise of the instant expert. These self-proclaimed gurus have a knack for showing up in your feed with flashy graphics, motivational quotes, and dubious “pro tips” that promise to revolutionize your marketing strategy. They speak with unwarranted confidence, throwing around buzzwords like “synergy” and “paradigm shift” as if they’re playing a game of corporate bingo. The worst part? Their following is often substantial, filled with folks who are desperate for guidance and end up swallowing this nonsense hook, line, and sinker. It’s a sad commentary on the state of our industry when these charlatans can gain such traction, perpetuating myths and misinformation that do more harm than good.

These self-anointed experts have never met a buzzword they didn’t like. They’re the folks who will tell you that your unconventional, but wildly successful, strategies are all wrong. They preach conformity while your quirky methods outperform the market. Best practices, they say. Bullshit, I say. The term “best practices” has become a lazy shortcut for people who lack the creativity to find real solutions. It’s the safety blanket of the mediocre.

The real experts? They make the complex understandable. Bullshitters thrive on confusion and big words. If you’re left scratching your head after listening to one of these clowns, you’re likely dealing with a certified Grade-A bullshitter. They love to obfuscate and dazzle with their pseudo-intellectual babble, hoping you won’t notice the lack of substance behind their claims.

Spend any time on social media, and you’ll see these charlatans in full swing. They’re everywhere, like a bad rash—dishing out advice on everything from ad placement to copywriting, even though their own campaigns are nothing to write home about. They craft viral posts filled with grandiose claims and generic advice, the kind you could find in a ten-second Google search. Their strategies are so shallow, you wonder if they’ve ever actually managed a successful campaign themselves. Yet, they continue to peddle their nonsense, hoping to attract followers like moths to a flame. They’re the modern-day snake oil salesmen, peddling their wares to anyone gullible enough to listen.

These self-proclaimed gurus often pay a hefty price for their dubious fame. Many of them shell out $5,000 for the honor of bullshitting on platforms like Forbes, buying their way into credibility. It’s a clever scheme: pay-to-play articles that give them a veneer of legitimacy. With a glossy feature on a reputable site, they can market themselves as thought leaders, when in reality, they’re nothing more than clever marketers of their own personas. Their followers, unaware of the pay-to-play game, lap it up, thinking they’re getting insights from the cream of the crop. It’s the ultimate con—a veneer of respectability masking a core of pure hokum.

Their advice, recycled and repackaged, is as stale as last week’s bread. They spout off on ad placement strategies, creative processes, and marketing hacks, but it’s all surface-level fluff. They thrive on jargon and buzzwords, creating an illusion of expertise that’s as thin as tissue paper. These gurus are the embodiment of the phrase “fake it till you make it.” They’ve mastered the art of self-promotion, but scratch beneath the surface, and there’s nothing of substance. Their true talent lies not in their understanding of adtech, but in their ability to spin tales that sound just plausible enough to hook the unwary. It’s a sad commentary on the state of our industry when these charlatans can gain such traction, perpetuating myths and misinformation that do more harm than good.

Real experts, on the other hand, are rare gems. They’ve been in the trenches, made mistakes, and learned from them. They know that no theory works all the time and are willing to discuss the limitations of their advice. They don’t shy away from admitting their failures because they understand that true wisdom comes from experience. They simplify complexity, making it accessible to the rest of us mere mortals.

If you want to spot these real deal experts, ask them to back up their claims. Don’t let them get away with vague references to “studies” or “leading theories.” Challenge them. Real experts welcome tough questions because they have the answers. They don’t just spout off what sounds good—they can walk the walk.

And here’s a pro tip: beware of anyone who never admits they’re wrong. If someone claims to have all the answers and has never failed, they’re either lying or they’ve never taken a risk in their life. Failure is a natural part of the learning process. If they can’t talk about their mistakes, they’re projecting a fantasy, not reality.

In this grand circus of adtech, 2024 marks a fascinating chapter. With the rise of AI tools like ChatGPT, the bullshit factory has found its perfect accomplice. Now, even machines can generate persuasive nonsense with alarming efficiency. The line between human and machine-generated bullshit is becoming increasingly blurred, making it even harder to sift through the muck.

So, the next time you encounter an adtech “guru” spouting off on social media, remember: the real experts are the ones who simplify, acknowledge their limits, and have the scars to prove their wisdom. Everyone else? Pure, unadulterated bullshit.

The real adtech experts? Look no further than Ari Paparo, who, while admittedly annoying as hell, actually knows his stuff. He’s the kind of guy who can break down complex adtech concepts without resorting to the typical buzzword bingo. He’s a genuine expert with a track record to prove it, even if his delivery can sometimes make you want to pull your hair out. Contrast that with the insightful conversations you’ll find over at Digiday, where seasoned professionals talk to reporters instead of fake experts preaching to other fake experts. Digiday’s approach is a breath of fresh air, offering real insights from people who’ve been in the trenches, not just the latest self-appointed gurus looking for their 15 minutes of LinkedIn fame.

And of course, my podcast, where we ask the complex questions, find what is really going on, and don’t hesitate to call out bullshit.

Pesach Lattin
Pesach Lattin
Pesach "Pace" Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pesach Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.

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