- Paperback: 306 pages
- Publisher: Stielstra Publishing; First edition (August 3, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0984065105
- ISBN-13: 978-0984065103
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 24 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,137,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Chaos Scenario Paperback – August 3, 2009
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Everywhere Bob Garfield looks, he sees upheaval. No wonder he called his survey of the media, and beyond, The Chaos Scenario. As Garfield explains soon enough, The Chaos Scenario; addresses the historic reordering of media, marketing and commerce triggered by the revolution in digital technology. Or, put another way (yikes), it's about crawling from the wreckage of the old order to establish a new one. Seems the mass audiences that TV used to attract aren't so keen on being massed anymore. They like getting their content (while interacting with it) elsewhere, from ever-more-fragmenting digital media that give them at least a measure of control. Nor do they like being preached to by advertisers, as they seize every opportunity to dodge TV commercials. That means TV is getting less and less cost-effective for advertisers, who are now looking elsewhere to tell their story. Which means TV channels are driven to air cheaper shows to make ends meet which, over time, could drive even more viewers away. Fortunately, this particular collapse, like the many other propositions Garfield puts forth, is far more entertaining as depicted in his book. Anyone who knows Garfield from his writing for Advertising Age or as a co-host of public radio's splendid On the Media knows he's irreverent along with informed. So The Chaos Scenario is more than a wonkfest: It's sassy. And it's startling. Garfield doesn't just sound the death knell for traditional media. He's arguing that every human institution must forge a new responsiveness to its constituency or else. Listen or perish. Why, all of a sudden, Garfield poses to the media establishment, is it so important to listen? Here's why: Because hardly anyone anymore is listening to you. Garfield has coined a term, listenomics, which he defines as the art and science of cultivating relationships with individuals in a connected, increasingly open-source environment. One of his shining examples: the Danish-born maker of Lego products, which tapped a global community of Mindstorm fans to help reinvent (not just buy) its line of robot toys. There at Lego headquarters in Billund, Denmark, writes Garfield, he started his journey as a chronicler of revolution. Not surprisingly, Garfield poses far more questions in his book than he has answers. (He has many suggestions for how YouTube could be profitable and he doubts any of them would work.) But the questions are themselves illuminating for the reader, that is, when they aren't triggering panic attacks. This is a revolution! summed up Garfield on the phone. Nothing is going to be the same! It is fundamentally changing the relationship between every citizen, consumer, congregant and audience member and the institutions that used to constitute The Man. Now, for the citizens, consumers, congregants and audience (plus members of the media's teetering Old Guard), The Chaos Scenario; just might be the killer app to help sort out those changes. --Frazier Moore, Associated Press
Tales of total industrial collapse have never been so fun! Garfield's analysis of the total disruption of the media industry (and how it may be reborn) is right, prescient and wildly entertaining. --Chris Anderson, editor, Wired, and author of The Long Tail and Free
In The Chaos Scenario, Bob Garfield ad critic for Advertising Age and co-host of the NPR show On the Media argues that the long-standing, two-way partnership between advertising and content is due for a violent rejiggering. This notion is a familiar one by now, but Garfield asserts that the big ad agencies and media companies haven't yet managed to fully internalize it. (Particularly television networks, which have so far weathered the storm in a way that newspapers haven't.) Garfield also claims that the painful consequences of this upheaval will extend to you, the content consumer. You've probably already noticed the punishing body blow delivered to your local newspaper after once-lucrative advertising niches such as classifieds and real estate got eaten by the Internet. Garfield's feeling is that your beloved television shows will soon meet a similar fate. It all portends chaos for the television industry. But Garfield foresees equal tumult in store for the big-time ad agencies. He predicts the gradual demise of the classic, 30-second TV spot, which has been the lifeblood of major agencies for half a century. His prescription: Advertising will need to be less about displaying hip imagery and implanting mood associations and more about interacting with consumers online, analyzing their complaints and desires (as revealed in their blog posts and Web site comments), and providing utilitarian information to those who seek it out. This approach, which Garfield dubs "listen-omics," may well turn out to be a more effective method of marketing. But there's also far less money in it. To illustrate this point, Garfield relates an anecdote about the Six Flags theme park deciding to give away 45,000 tickets as a promotion for its 45th anniversary. They told their big ad agency to figure out the logistics. Once upon a time, the agency might have spent lots of time and resources creating radio spots or billboard ads, and then securing placements for them, to make the public aware of the free tickets. Instead, recognizing the new reality, the agency just typed up a little blurb on Craigslist. The tickets were gone in five hours. Worked great, but as one of the agency executives subsequently wondered: How do you bill the client for that? --Seth Stevenson, Slate
About the Author
Bob Garfield is a columnist, critic, essayist, pundit, international lecturer and obscure broadcast personality. He isn t exactly a media whore, but he's extremely promiscuous. Garfield's Ad Review is a prominent feature of Advertising Age, where each week he singles out an ad for praise or ridicule and thus has become among the more pitifully groveled-before figures in trade-magazine history. In another life, Garfield is co-host of National Public Radio's weekly Peabody Award-winning magazine program On the Media. This followed a dozen years as a commentator/correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered. Dubbed by The New York Times the Charles Kuralt of Bizarro World, he specialized in quirky Americana -- an act he took to television, as well, producing pieces for public TV, syndication and CBS News. He also served as a political-advertising analyst for CBS, before being bounced in 1992 following an unfortunate Green Room incident. It was his most traumatic TV experience since Oprah in 1991, when he was humiliated by Mr. Whipple before a live studio audience. For many years, Garfield was the advertising analyst for ABC News. He's been a regular on Financial News Network, CNBC's Power Lunch and Adam Smith's Money Game on PBS. He also has been quoted by every major American newspaper, news magazine and broadcast news program, owing to his fearless willingness to speak authoritatively on subjects he doesn't necessarily understand. That technique is the secret behind his third book, The Chaos Scenario, to be released in August 2009. As a lecturer, panelist and emcee, he has appeared in 30 countries on five continents, including such venues as the Kennedy Center, the U.S. Capitol, the Rainbow Room, Broadway's Hudson Theater, the Smithsonian, Circus Circus casino, Nashville's Ryman Auditorium (Grand Ole Opry), the United Nations and, memorably, the ballroom of the Westward Ho! motel in Grand Forks, N.D. He is a founding contributor to the Watchdog Blog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He's been a contributing editor for the Washington Post Magazine, Civilization and the op-ed page of USA Today. He has also written for The New York Times, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Wired and many other publications. A collection of his work, titled Waking Up Screaming from the American Dream, was published by Scribner in 1997, favorably reviewed and quickly forgotten. His 2003 manifesto on advertising, And Now a Few Words From Me, is published in seven languages (although, admittedly, one is Bulgarian). Garfield co-wrote Tag, You re It, a snappy country song performed by Willie Nelson, and wrote an episode of the short-lived NBC sitcom Sweet Surrender. It sucked. Garfield has won many journalism prizes including some big ones and two National Press Club poker championships. He lives in suburban Washington, DC, where, in separate incidents 11 months apart, he has twice been rear-ended by federal employees.
Top customer reviews
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Version One of The Chaos Scenario changed my mind. I bought the premise, and moved deeper into cyberspace. As of this writing, in 2011, I believe we have entering the marketing chaos Mr. Garfield predicted. I've seen it first hand with my clients. Almost all of my marketing consulting work is now focused on the Internet.
The book "The Chaos Scenario" expands on Garfield's Ad Age essays and combines ideas from his blog, The Bobosphere. My criticism of the book is that it feels more like a collection of essays and blogposts than a coherent whole, but since his title hinges on the word "chaos," perhaps this ad hoc approach simply delivers on the brand promise. In the prologue Garfield does admit "writing a book about the digital world is like trying to sketch the Kentucky Derby."
Criticisms aside, this book is packed with useful perspectives and real world examples. Garfield persuasively expands his case that mass media is dying due to high overhead, new technologies that bypass commercials, audience fragmentation brought on my more choice, and steadily declining reach. And he points to the need for the transition from telling and selling to building relationships through the social capabilities of the Internet.
Garfield's recommended start is for brand managers to listen to what people are saying online. The book proceeds to show how the power of brand voice is shifting from the advertising overlords to individuals and groups. People trust ads less and rely on each other more through online search, blogposts, and reviews on Amazon, eBay, and social media. A study by Adidas and Electronic arts showed that 70% of ROI was attributable to customer-to-customer proliferation. So he sees listening and surveying this new landscape as a necessary first step.
The Chaos Scenario also provides many case studies of successful engagement on the Internet. LEGO and Dell have engaged online with customers to develop new products. Office Max succeeded with a fun and interactive promotion called Elf Yourself. Churchlife.tv succeeded in creating a virtual congregation. And along the way Barrack Obama was elected President of the United States partly due to the power of Social Media.
Not surprisingly, as a media critic, Garfield does an excellent job charting the dark side of the Internet. Starting with his own crusade against COMCAST, moving onto his experience with an Internet hater, and ending with sad stories of kid's being bullied into suicide, The Chaos Scenario provides pointed reminders that everything posted online is public and permanent. If people hate you or your brand and Google ranks nasty diatribes about you on the first page there is nothing you can do about it. As Garfield says, "Never mind what Andy Warhol said. In the future everybody will be slandered in perpetuity.'
The dark insight is balanced with a relatively positive assessment of the Internet's ultimate impact on journalism. While Garfield clearly predicts more gloom and doom for mass media, he sees the advantage of democratized journalism. "Now instead of thousands of reporters there are millions." (I heartily agree with the last insight by Garfield. My FlipBoard feed of my Twitter lists on the iPad has become one of my favorite news sources.)
What this book does not do, and what no book can do, is chart a clear course for marketers on this new road. For the first time since the advent of mass media, marketing is in a period of fundamental creativity and innovation. The power balance in marketing has shifted from the manufacturer, to the mass media, to the retailer, to you and I.
Engage, Revised and Updated: The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web
The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, 2nd Edition
Bob Garfield does that in spades. As true thought leaders do, he creates meaning for others and shows us why the death of the advertising industry will have consequences for everyone, even if you are one of the people who hates ads. Love 'em or not, advertisements are the vehicle through which someone other than the consumer has traditionally paid for programming in the mass media. Those great episodes of I Love Lucy or Start Trek that you loved were brought to you by advertisers, who paid the media companies to produce entertainment to serve as a wrap-around for their commercials. The bargain was that producers (of cereal or soap or toilet paper) would amuse us if we, in return, tolerated their sales pitches. And it worked for a long time. Until digital technology killed television as we knew it.
For awhile we just time-shifted our TV viewing and then fast forwarded through the commercials. That was disruptive enough (for the advertisers at least), but now, with the extension of Internet services and the advent of "social media" -- the Web platforms that allow the average person to publish and produce programming (now called "content") -- everyone is a content provider and consumers not only skip the commercials, they are increasingly skipping television altogether!
So now the big question becomes, how does great content get paid for? And just as important, how do we find and nurture the creation of great content, as opposed to all of the schlock that inundates the internet? Read this book and you will have the basic knowledge to become part of the conversation. Highly recommended.
PS: Garfield's account of his fight with the Comcast cable company and his subsequent creation of a site for consumer complaints about the company is hilarious and not to be missed.
And then, as they say, "May we be in Heaven an hour before the Devil knows we're dead".
I do wonder about Garfield's vision of what is on 'the other side', however. For instance, it's difficult to imagine that those seeking an audience for their product would not be tempted to superficially generate 'buzz' with well placed hired opinion generators dispersed to various social gathering websites. In fact this strategy is already in practice, and its effects are in evidence in chatrooms every time the person recommending a product must first qualify their statement with something like, "I know I sound like a shill for this company, but...". And the unforgivable damage that is the result is the continued erosion of trust as advertisers (or anyone with an agenda) so insideously exploits the most fundamental aspects of human interaction. No wonder there is such longing for 'authenticity' these days ( another buzz word that advertisers feel they must decode).
The more advertisers pursue penentration into the minds and behaviors of humans the more people find ways to resist their attempted manipulations. So perhaps it really would feel a little like heaven if Garfield's vision of a receptive rather than aggressive seller evolved out of the chaos. I'd drink to that!