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The Psychopaths Have Taken Over The Asylum

Welcome to the 21st New York Times DealBook and the first face-to-face session in three years.

By Greg Paull

Welcome to the 21st New York Times DealBook and the first face-to-face session in three years.  I was privileged enough to be one of the 300 attendees to learn how to lose $32b in eight easy steps from Sam Bankman-Fried but generally, the day convinced me that we need to get psychopaths out of the C-Suite and return some normalcy.


By coincidence, I sat next to Jeff Zucker (looking well-rested), the same moment that CNN announced more layoffs – and the day started uneventfully enough with the least Psychopathic (…and only female business leader of the day…sad…) of the day, Janet Yellen.  The good news is that she has optimism for the economy in the future – but with so many psychos involved, we need to keep our fingers crossed.



Volodymyr Zelenskyy talked to Andrew Ross Sorkin for forty minutes on a range of topics, but mostly it was how to deal with the challenges of that psycho Putin and the unpredictability of his actions.  Making long-term plans in this scenario is a challenge and as Sorkin noted later in the day – corporations pulling out of Russia was no big deal, a small impairment charge – but if Starbucks and Apple and others have to pull out of China because of Taiwan, this won’t be so pleasurable.



Ben Affleck is now a CEO.  Ben Affleck has a new production studio. Ben Affleck has a new movie March 2023 streaming on Amazon.  Ben Affleck also came across as a massive psychopath, talking about how the whole studio system needs to change and how poorly he and fellow artist have been treated all these years.



After lunch, it was time for the king of Psychopaths. Mr. Zuckerberg took center stage, showed off his new tech, and talked about the softening of the market and how, despite plowing billions into the metaverse, he’s still on track for his long-term goals. It’s a challenge for marketers to look at Meta without understanding just how focused he is on his non-core activities right now. You have 3 billion active users but all your energy is not on user experience or content moderation, but on how realistic your avatar can look.



Next on stage was former VP Mike Pence, who only managed to mention his book six times, but did not spend the same amount of time dwelling on his psychopathic boss for four years.  It’s clear he’s posturing for his own 2024 run, but if history is any guide, he clearly lacks what it now takes to create attention and impact.



Of course, the reason we were all here was to hear how a 30-year-old could lose $32m, amidst an incredible marketing flurry of Tom Brady, Giselle, Larry David and others, without any form of real oversight.  The full transcript is an incredible read that makes you realize how little you understand about the world of crypto, while at the same time being glad you don’t.



Ultimately, DealBook more than served its purpose of stimulating curiosity.   There were also excellent sessions with Reed Hastings of Netflix, Andy Jassy of Amazon (…fun fact – Amazon built more fulfilment space in the last 24 months than the previous 24 years…). TikTok’s new CEO, Singaporean Shou Zi Chew was probably the most confident and astute of all the cast of characters, explaining how he was keeping China out of his data.


And of course, the #ChiefTwit (another famous psychopath) was mentioned in just about every session.


For marketers, there’s a few simple truths:

  1. Get Beyond the Noise of the Psychopaths – It’s easy to get distracted by bright shiny objects. The real leaders stay true to themselves and build consistency and integrity.
  2. Partnerships Matter – The track record for psychopaths surviving is not exceptional. Build partnerships with platforms, with agencies, with internal stakeholders and let bigger, better ideas flourish.
  3. Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant – Marketers that continue to have FOFO (Fear of Finding Out) will continue to struggle to get into the C-suite. Use data as your friend. Test that metaverse campaign with real metrics. See if Twitter is truly working or not. Validate if advertising on Netflix will actually help your brand.


Avoid drinking the Kool-Aid of psychopaths.

High in calories and no long-term benefits.

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