Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wanna Read a Great Book?

Get yourself a copy of "The Chaos Scenario - Amid the Ruins of Mass Media, the Choice for Business is Stark: Listen or Perish" by Bob Garfield.

I know the title sounds HEAVY and it does discuss some very serious topics, but this book is a joy to read. Garfield, who writes for Ad Age as an editor-at-large and co-hosts NPR's "On the Media", writes with simplicity and humor that border on brilliance. The book is really fun to read.

Garfield says early in the book that he considered naming it "Listenomics" but that the titles "Wikinomics" and Freakonomics" made him re-consider. In any event, he proves in 300 pages that the "Digital Revolution" is really a revolution. And, he didn't need to persuade me. I have watched over the last few years as everything I knew about PR, for instance, changed. Garfield discusses and proves this paradigm wittily.

He calls his first chapter "The Death of Everything"! In it he shows how traditional media are slowly fading with fewer audiences, fewer revenues and many more competitors. This reflects Garfield's theme of nothing less than "...the re-ordering of media, marketing and commerce triggered by the revolution in digital technology."

Now, I guess most of us knew this was happening, right? But, Garfield quotes many who should know better who have their heads up their $%#s who don't seem to think there's any urgency to the problem. In proving his points in the book Garfield visits You Tube, Lego, Barack Obama, the Dallas Morning News, Rupert Murdoch, Jesus, Satan, Vista and a hundred other media, moguls and movers-and-shakers to prove his points, all of them entertainingly.

To TV executives, Garfield days, "So long boob tube, hello You Tube" and he does everything but call CBS CEO Les Moonves an incompetent. In proving our need to change things and listen better, Garfield cites Jim Stengel, retired CMO of P&G, who, in discussing where to spend P&G's $6 billion marketing budget, said, "The old model is broken."

In another chapter, "The Post-Advertising Age", that will surely capture the attention of his employer, Garfield quotes Randall Rothenberg, CEO of the Internet Advertising Bureau, who says, "Today the average 14-year old can create a global television network with applications that are built into her laptop." And, so it is. Have you ever watched "Fred" on You Tube? If not, check it out!

Proctor & Gamble serves Garfield well and often in the book. He quotes P&G CEO A. G. Lafley who said, "We need to reinvent the way we market to consumers." (A. G., hear me; give up using "market" as a verb). To make the point, Garfield tells the story of Six Flags who wanted to celebrate its 45th anniversary by giving away 45,000tickets to the place. They told their agency, OgilvyInteractive North America, to do whatever needed to be done. (Agencies love to hear that.) But, someone in interactive put the tickets on "Craigslist" and they disappeared in five hours. Ogilvy took little solace (and less commission) on that.

As in the Six Flags example, agencies aren't sure what exactly to do. Media are going out of business, agencies are going out of business or trying to figure out how to be of any service to anyone, and we, the Great Unwashed, are being put in charge! And, to top it off YouTube, Facebook and the rest have no revenue models. Interesting times we live in! A real Chaos Scenario!

But, whatever Garfield discusses, he does it with humor and a voice all his own. For instance in talking about viral messages and SEO, Garfield tells us about the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty "Unilever and Ogilvy had waged the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, with website, ads (online and off), Dove Self-Esteem Fund and an ongoing education campaign aimed mainly at girls, to inculcate them with a sense of confidence and worth. They weren't lectured that beauty is only skin deep, and that what really counts is our inner selves; children aren't that stupid, and they know that how we all look matters in ways large and small. But, they were told, and presented with many lovely examples, of physical beauty that doesn't conform to the freakish standards of Hollywood and the fashion industry. From the beginning it was a fascinating exercise.

"From one perspective, all involved were vulnerable to massive eye rolling on basic hypocrisy grounds; Unilever also makes Slim Fast, which encourages yo yo dieting. And it sells Axe and Lynx, body sprays advertised to young males as surefire means to get in the pants of steamin' hot babes, who, of course, look like human Barbie Dolls. As for Ogilvy, in a bit of horrifying/delicious irony, it is the ad agency for actual Barbie Dolls."

The book is full of such funny and meaningful examples with Garfield romping through anybody's garden, trampling on our rosebuds and tearing the blinders from all of us who think the King still has clothes on. He does it with wit, sarcasm, and none-to-subtle stabbing at the most sacred of our cows. If you want to learn and prepare for the current chaos, read Bob Garfield's "The Chaos Scenario". You will have one helluva good time doing it.

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