KELLY RAMSAWAK STEWART

© 2023 by Kelly Ramsawak Stewart

My 3 Takeaways From Frenemies

FRENEMIES is a captivating examination of the advertising industry and the forces of disruption that have turned the entire media landscape into a battlefield. Insert knife emoji, followed by a smirk face. This is a book for “Mad Men” who rule advertising agencies and their employees who are confined by traditional agency walls. It is a book for data-driven "Math Men" who need to understand the smoke and mirrors of traditional advertising. It is also a book for digitally-savvy consumers who are the target of an alarming amount of irrelevant advertisements. It's a book for everyone with a smartphone and I'll tell you why.


Auletta starts by explaining the birth of advertising during the Industrial Revolution. Informative, digestible and suspenseful, he highlights the industry power players, as well as key events that lead to advertising becoming a 2 trillion dollar industry. Advertising in its early stages was the only bridge between the seller and the buyer. But with the rise of social media platforms, influencers, algorithms, and big data, there are now many bridges for sellers to cross.

You can feel the rivalry brewing as you read agency opinions on the creation of Facebook and YouTube in the early 2000s, as well as the introduction of the iPhone by Apple in 2007. Auletta thoughtfully articulates how technology has become a frenemy of the advertising industry. Furthermore, he discusses how technology has given consumers power, and why technology eliminates the need for the standard advertising intermediary.



Auletta raises important, timely questions. Is advertising still a creative business? Is it worth investing in extraordinary creativity to help consumers discover new products? Is it smarter to invest in data companies that can aim rifles (using machines) to directly target consumers? Are there any considerable differences in the services offered today from ad agencies, publishers, PR firms and social media platforms? Is the popularity of ad blockers consequently increasing? And my favorite question: why should clients give millions of dollars to a traditional agency to produce a spot, when a digital influencer can produce superior, quality content for a fraction of the cost? Is Instagram the new “spot”?


With the amount of success D2C e-commerce companies are having, it is imperative for everyone in the current media landscape to buy and read this book. The new generation of consumers are not only interested in quality products, but also quality shopping experiences. If you are a brand, this book will make you reevaluate how you spend money to gain exposure. If you’re a traditional advertising agency, hopefully, this book inspires you to analyze, appreciate and embrace what Auletta calls the digital hurricane.


Without giving away too much more, below are my three takeaways from this book (in no particular order).


1. The war for advertising dollars is real.

Last year, Facebook made $40 billion in revenue. $39.9 billion came from digital advertisements. If you Google top 10 advertising agencies, Facebook does not show up in the results. But do you know who does appear in the search results? A handful of companies that I've never heard of. Auletta calls companies like Facebook "the invaders" because they are disrupting the flow of money that "should" belong to the Donald Drapers of advertising. Other invaders mentioned in this book are Vayner Media, Refinery29, FullScreen and pretty much every company that can offer a substantial digital audience in addition to providing creative ideas, content production, and strategy. Traditional advertising agencies are aware that they cannot match Facebook’s ability to scale, reach and drive results. Auletta draws attention to a few scenarios where traditional advertising agencies are required to play nice with Facebook and other invaders to keep clients happy. With the increasing amount of companies, today that offer services such as integrated communications and influencer marketing, the war for ad dollars is real. Insert money bag emoji.


2. There is no longer an excuse for unmeasurable work.

This is where Math Men know what’s up! Being able to precisely report on performance metrics and results from a campaign is crucial to the success and longevity of your client relationship. Thinking about how a campaign will perform is just as important as developing the creative concept. In our era of information, Auletta argues that data can help shape creativity. To rival with the Math Men, traditional agencies should ask:

  • How can our research and data drive creativity?

  • How can we plan to measure this work?

  • What types of targeting can we use to make this the most effective campaign yet?

  • If we have an influencer strategy, did we select influencers who have proven their ability to drive clicks and sales?

Start considering ways to make targeting and technology apart of your creative recipe. #MakeMathMatter Insert all mathematical symbol emojis.


3. Everyone and everything is a content studio.

If you think about it, it’s true. Aside from well-known content studios such as Netflix, Amazon, Conde Nast, and Vice -there are also independent, entrepreneurial content studios known as influencers. Now, some argue that the influencer bubble is about to burst any second now. I believe it's only going to burst for influencers who don't have a talent and buy fake followers. Traditional magazine editors are now influencers which means they are content studios. FRENEMIES specifically highlights BETCHES, but even celebrities like Will Smith and Cardi B invest in creating original content for brands on Instagram. They are content studios. I am a content studio because I’m writing this review. You are a content studio when you tweet and post on your platforms. As a brand, you can tap just about anyone or anything to partner with on content. But what exactly differentiates all of these different types of content studios? Content quality and audience quality. Brands need to focus on identifying who or what makes the most sense for a content partnership. This is not a process that should be rushed. You should avoid partnering with a content studio simply because they have a massive audience. If the content studio lacks the quality you need, there are better content partners out there. You also should avoid partnering with a content studio because they can deliver quality content, but lack the audience who will buy your product. Auletta highlights that brands with the right partners can draw quality audiences and build successful businesses. Insert trophy emoji.