The amount of garbage data that flows through the advertising ecosystem is gross.

It’s like the plastic grocery bags mucking up the ocean and killing whales. They’re ubiquitous, cheap and convenient, but everyone knows they’re terrible.

If you want to get a laugh, go to the Oracle Data Cloud Registry (aka BlueKai) and see what they “know” about you. Apparently, I’m a Baby Boomer with a graduate degree, not the Gen Xer I thought I was, who limped through a liberal arts party school.

My Google ad profile is pretty accurate, but they also believe I’m into romance movies, home interiors, and combat sports. I’m not, I swear; not that there’s anything wrong with that.

And I can’t count how many times I bought something – like a new grill – then saw nothing but grill ads for the next month. But hey, who doesn’t need two grills?

A hundred years ago, John Wanamaker surmised that half of his ad dollars were being wasted and didn’t know which half. In 2016, Nielsen estimated that only 42% of digital ads reach the people they’re aiming for. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 8% worse over a century.

I had no idea how bad it was until we started building our own ad-tech offering this year. I was always against it – to the dismay of many a VC – because I didn’t want to do all the creepy spying and fleecing that powers much of the web. That was seen as a pretty naïve and Pollyanna point of view until Facebook became a sacrificial lamb last spring. Now people care.

So, we’re going all in. It turns out the magic box we’ve built can solve a lot of those other advertising problems, using data that are responsibly-farmed. You can, in fact, show people ads they won’t find useless without stealing from them or creeping them out.

Wish us luck. It’s an ugly, messy sewer we’re wading into.

By the way, I’ll be on a panel at Advertising Week in New York next week. If you’re around, I’d love to say ‘hi.’

Here’s what we’re seeing right now:

In related news, almost no consumers believe the digital ads they see are relevant to them. Beating a dead horse, we ran a study this week about consumers’ perception of internet ads and it was ugly. 73% of U.S. adults said the majority of digital ads they see are “not at all relevant.” The numbers looked a little better among Millennials but they also comprise the group with the lowest current spending capacity – ie. they’re not buying two grills.

Tiger Woods is popular again and the ripple effects are astonishing. When the NFL bragged about its great Sunday Night Football viewership last week, they failed to mention that NBC got to promo the game all day while Tiger was winning the Tour Championship and setting ratings records. Tiger Woods is the most commercially-influential, needle-moving athlete of your lifetime (maybe any lifetime) and he’s back. For the first time since we started tracking it in 2012, Woods’ favorability numbers surpassed his unfavorable ones this week. That’s great news for just about everyone, apparently even the NFL. Nike should see a bump from it too, adding to their nice run of good news lately.

McDonald’s is winning over healthy people. Mickey D’s announced this week that they’re yanking artificial ingredients from their classic burger lineup, just another in a long line of moves towards a healthier menu. So, I looked back at our data over the past 8 years to see how the strategy is working. In short, it’s working. Big-time. In 2015, among people who consider health and fitness activities “important” or “a passion” in their lives, 34% had a favorable view of McDonald’s and 42% were unfavorable. Today, those numbers have jumped to 40% favorable and just 27% unfavorable. That’s a net improvement of 21 percentage points in three years. Very, very impressive.

Young people aren’t altering their lifestyle to help the environment and I had no clue. Our team published an in-depth report on environmentalism this week and it reminded me how clueless I am when I don’t have actual data in my hands (you’d normally need to submit a form on our website for this but here is the private version because, well, you know people). To my surprise, Gen Xers are far more likely than Ms or Zs to change their habits to save the Earth. Why? It has a lot to do with income – people are pro-environment if they can afford to be. I was also surprised to learn that environmentally-conscious folk are far less tech-addicted, digitally-oriented, or media-obsessed. The picture I had in my head was all wrong.

Language learning apps are nearing a plateau, at least in the U.S. One of the trendy new things we’re tracking as part of our tech adoption work is the emergence of language learning apps like Duolingo and Babbel. I assumed they were growing fast, mostly because Duolingo is right down the street from us in Pittsburgh and they’re a rocket ship. But I’m guessing most of their growth is coming from outside the U.S. because adoption here is nearing one of the chasms we see in emerging tech. 76% of Americans have no interest in (or have never even heard of) these apps. Feel free to go on some rant about self-centered Americans who have no interest in other languages or cultures. You’re probably right. (Note the fancy new infographics )

Some Random (Speaking) Stats of the Week

  • 56% of professionals speak up in meetings, 44% keep quiet; (Guess which one I am)
  • 30% of people fear snakes the most, 25% fear death, 20% fear public speaking, 4% clowns (Clowns, definitely clowns);
  • 37% of people can speak Pig Latin;
  • 27% of people admit to speaking with an accent;
  • 78% of Americans speak one language, 17% speak two, and 5% speak three or more;
  • Most common languages spoken in the U.S. (after English) in order: Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Arabic.

Hoping you’re well.