The Chaos Scenario

513ihgn95al_sl500_aa240_Bob Garfield is a very funny, very smart Ad Age columnist who has stirred up a lot of people with his new book, ‘The Chaos Scenario’.

His core observation is – the sky has already fallen on both the media and advertising businesses and things will never be the same. Never.

His core solution is – Listenonmics. Listen to the conversations of your customers and engage them directly in your growth. Don’t tell them what to do. Don’t talk at them. Listen to them.

Bob makes perfect sense.  We are starting to see ‘chaos’ in media and advertising.

But, a lot of people don’t like what he says, especially about the implosion of advertising and media as we know it. Even Ad Age, his employer, ran a mostly negative review of his book.

This got my interest, so I called Bob to ask more about the chaos – and how business can capitalize on it. We ended up talking for hours.

The highlights are covered in a series of short, interview blogs over the next few days.

This blog is set up as a Q&A. It is NOT verbatim. It is based on the sense of the long conversation Bob and I had.  Bob has gone over all the text and said — and this IS verbatim — “looks good to me.”

The Chaos

John: When you talk about the ‘chaos’, you seem to be referring to the breakdown of the old rules of media.

You suggest that the old rules were based on scarcity of two things – ad inventory and ‘sources’ of entertainment and information, such as TV or newspapers.

You also suggest that the new rules include unlimited online ad inventory, an explosion of ‘sources’, and a very empowered consumer. Tell me more.

Bob: There’s too much ad inventory. It will push ad prices down. This means that a lot of models based on ad-financed content won’t work.

As ad prices go down, there is less money available to create ‘content’, which means that both the internet and traditional production will be seriously impacted.

John: This suggests that there is no ‘there’ there – that a heavily ad supported internet isn’t close to feasible. And, that a drop in the price of advertising will affect broadcast media and agencies, too.

Bob: That’s what it looks like. We won’t see as many ‘scripted’ shows on TV and we will see a real impact on what’s available online if it isn’t funded by advertising.

Reaction to The Chaos Scenario

John: Who will make all the shows? What will happen to advertising?  This could be seen as scary stuff. How have people reacted to this?

Bob: When I first started putting out the ideas, a few people said that the book was mostly right, a lot rolled their eyes and the rest curled up a fetal position.

John: So, mostly it was disbelief or paralysis.

Bob: Yes.

John: I saw disbelief in the recent review of The Chaos Scenario by Bob Goodby in Ad Age. In the review, he basically ‘rolled his eyes’ and used a ‘too big to fail’ argument for the current ad model.

But, perhaps you shouldn’t be surprised by counter-attacks from the establishment – especially since the first chapter of your book is titled ‘The Death of Everything’.

Death and Birth

Bob: Yes, everything is changing and it can happen very fast. YouTube is only 4 1/2 years old. The iPhone is just over 2 years old.

And, they were invented by companies that weren’t even in the TV or phone business. They are transformational technologies.

I’m trying to get everyone’s attention that the status quo is dead. But, even more important, something is being born at the same time.

John: In The Chaos Scenario you say, “When the TV Age finally succumbs to the Digital Age, we will be living a different world. And (mainly) a much better one. But for those entrenched in the status quo, involuntary change can be a difficult concept to accept.”

So, what does this mean for TV, radio, ad agencies, the internet and manufacturers?

Tomorrow – Part 2. What you can do about the ‘chaos’. And, Bob tells us what he’s going to do about the threat to his own job if he’s right about the Chaos.

Leave a Reply