Bob Garfield’s Chaos Scenario

“In the April 4 print edition of Advertising Age, columnist Bob Garfield laid out a sweeping vision of an advertising industry caroming toward chaos and disruption wrought by the digital media revolution. Boiled down, his theory goes something like this:

The marketing industry is currently whistling past the graveyard and largely ignoring signs of massive, fundamental changes in how the business of mass marketing will be conducted in the near future. The broadcast TV model is working less well each year and will eventually cave in on itself as it reaches ever-fewer viewers with a fare of low-quality programming and mind-numbing clutter. Marketers will increasingly abandon it. But despite their glitzy promise, the aggregate of new digital technologies — from Web sites and e-mail to cell phone content and video on demand — lack the infrastructure or scale to support the minimum amount of mainstream marketing required to smoothly sustain the U.S. economy. The result, as the old systems are abandoned and the insufficient new systems struggle to carry an impossible advertising load, is what Garfield calls “The Chaos Scenario” — a period of serious disruption moving like a tsunami through the marketing business as well as the economy and the broader society itself.”

I’ve been unable to find the full article but did find a report about the article (audio – transcript) at

I might have mentioned this before but it bears repeating. My dad was a radio guy for 30+ years and I’ve been at it –in one form or another– for 33 years. Radio has been “berry, berry good to me.” And during the dozen years I worked in local radio, I estimate I wrote and/or produced 60,000 commercials. And I believed they “worked” for the advertisers who paid for them. And they believed they worked. And many of them did work. But I now wonder if wasn’t a little like believing the wine turned into blood. A matter of faith, based on… faith. Commercial transubstantiation.

Word of mouth was probably always more effective than radio or TV or newspaper ads. But how many people can one person talk to in a day? Not so many in 1955. In 2005… with a website… you can reach a lot of folks. And when Doc Searls says he likes this IBM Thinkpad, I believe him. Or Halley Suitt recommends an author. Or Chris¬†Pirillo tells me he likes his iRiver mp3 player… I believe them. Because I “know” and trust them.

When I’m shopping for a (fill in the blank), I go online and read the reviews of real people. And yes, some shrewd marketing type could spoof me with a bogus review, but a hundred (a thousand!) others would have a different opinion. It’s getting hard to lie/exagerate/bullshit your way to a sale. Bob Garfield said it much better:

“The total democratization of media, combined with ultra-targeted ads consumers actually opt to see. We, the people, cease to be demographics. We become individuals again.”