Online Exclusive: Media Analysis


Sixty-Eight Percent of Poll Voters Agree With Bob Garfield; 32% Don't; Read Their Letters

Published on .

NEW YORK ( -- In an epic 5,500-word front-page article published last week on and in the 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. Entitled "The Chaos Scenario," it postulated that the broadcast TV model was moving toward collapse in the near future as marketers continued to
Read Bob Garfield's Original Article.

abandon it. But meanwhile, despite their glitzy promise, the aggregate of new digital technologies -- from Web sites and e-mail to cell phone content and video on demand -- lacked 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.

The article has sparked widespread marketing industry discussion and debate since its publication. Last Monday, asked its readers to vote and comment on the question: "Do you agree with Bob Garfield's 'Chaos Scenario'?"

The voting tally was 68% in agreement with Garfield and 32% opposed. Simultaneously during the week, nearly 100 readers sent in their own comments about Garfield and the issues he raised. Below is a sampling of those letters.
-- Hoag Levins, editor,

Garfield Is Wrong

Garfield couldn't be more wrong. In fact, changes in media structure will not result in chaos, but in an advertising renaissance. Change will force greater sophistication in behavioral interpretation and media use. TV networks will seek greater advertiser participation in developing new programming that meets the challenge of brand leverage. Viewership of single programs may decline, but advertisers do not care about viewership over time, but about persuasion per dollar spent. Agency's will find more ways to bring greater exposition to brands through a choice of vehicles that have a clearer associated ROI. This is not the end of the agency business, it is the rebirth.

Jeffrey Grill
The Romann Group
New York
~ ~ ~

Garfield Is Right

You need not do much more than watch TV or go to the movies and you realize that marketers are under huge pressure. Advertising today is increasingly intrusive and irritating. Instead of trying to build relationships with potential customers, it appears we just want to hit them between the eyes. I believe the ad creative reflects the stress of the people who have produced it.

Garfield is right that it is time to step back, take a wide view and start over again with the simplest questions of whom do we want to talk to and what do we want them to believe.

Media fragmentation and its future ramifications have thrown off a lot of basic strategic thinking.

Bob Austin
General Manager, Communication
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
Woodcliff Lake, N.J.
~ ~ ~

Sensationalism and Absurd Commentary

Certainly changes are occurring in the advertising business, but to call it a "Chaos Scenario" is sensationalism. To think that TV commercials will be obsolete for major brands is an absurd commentary. Clutter has been a factor for years. Some critics and consultants tend to opportunize this fact. Others, in advertising, think harder and come up with better campaigns and more insightful and intrusive commercials. And consumers pay attention. Certainly, nontraditional marketing efforts have become much more important to the marketing mix. That's simply being smart at communicating with a consumer on all levels. I doubt that an "implosion" will ever occur. Perhaps Mr. Garfield hopes it does. That would make another interesting column.

Richard M. Coad
Creative Strategist and Consultant
Richard M. Coad
Park Ridge, Ill.
~ ~ ~

Garfield's Painfully on Target

Like it or not, Bob Garfield's vision of the 2020 marketing world is painfully on target, unless mindsets change. (And some, but not nearly enough, are showing signs of change.)

The Big Three automakers refused to believe American car buyers would switch allegiance to the Japanese, and look where they are now.

The Big Three broadcast networks refused to believe TV viewers would switch channels, and look what's happening to them.

What will happen en masse to marketers and agencies that refuse to believe their world is inalterably changing will be worse. Digital media is ubiquitous. It's uniquely available, surprisingly affordable, highly engaging and incredibly compelling to its burgeoning market. And it will be hugely destructive to any marketer who doesn't treat it with respect.

Hopefully the generals will heed Garfield's warnings, join the revolution and stop the rising chaos before it reaches those frightening tsunami proportions. As an old Chinese proverb says, "May you live in interesting times." Boy, do we ever!

Bud Liebler
Liebler-MacDonald Communications
Rochester Hills, Mich.
~ ~ ~

Not a Tsunami

I disagree that the effect of new technology will be like a tsunami. It will be more like Chinese water torture -- but at a gradually accelerating rate.

Sol Friedman
Moses & Singer
New York
~ ~ ~

Laced With Some Truths

Bob Garfield's assessment of the current and future marketing landscape is laced with some truths -- and many pessimistic assumptions. He's not the first pessimist to predict our end. Many did so when radio arrived on the scene, then TV, then VCRs, then the Internet. Now DVRs and cell phones are in the headlights.

But change, as we all know, is a natural phenomenon. And sweeping changes, especially those prompted by advancing technologies, have always been a part of history.

Yes, reaching consumers via "mass market" broadcast is fading in power. Yes, the consumer is now in control. Yes, new infrastructures and new skills will need to develop around emerging media platforms. And yes, profitability may suffer. This view of the future, however, is not all that scary. Many of us in integrated marketing have bumped up against these realities time and time again -- and welcome the opportunities they deliver.

We take our lead from consumers who, in word and deed, have made it abundantly clear that they are in control -- and that the best way to capture their attention and loyalty is through invitation, not intrusion. We now have a myriad of ways to reach people. Reallocating dollars from mass broadcast to other means does not spell the end of marketing and making money -- but rather more opportunities to respect and reach consumers with relevant messages at the right time.

Let's face it, marketing is not static -- never has been. Change is upon us. We can't turn back now -- and many of us would not want to. But to paraphrase one of my favorite musicians: "Let's give the future a chance."

Howard Draft
~ ~ ~

Mediums Don't Disappear

Garfield is, at best, part right. Yes, it's all looking difficult. No, the "new" media and "new" techniques like product placement, etc, don't have the critical mass/infrastructure to bridge the gap. But the "old" media aren't going to disappear: all that is happening is that their relative importance is being shifted. (When did a medium last disappear? The panels on sedan chairs?)

Roderick White
United Kingdom
~ ~ ~

Change or Die

Garfield's column reminds us again that every industry, every brick and mortar facility, every entity that can be digitized will eventually confront the choice of abandoning the culture that made them successful or embracing a new model.

John Lenear
Vice President
Call & Post Newspaper
Cleveland, Ohio
~ ~ ~

Garfield Underestimates Electronic Media

While traditional media may be less and less effective, I think Garfield underestimates the power of more targeted, electronic media. New generations of sophisticated consumers will be reached in new, and I believe more effective, ways than the traditional mainstay of mass marketing, a 30-second commercial that may amuse, but doesn't sell.

Michael Rybarski
~ ~ ~

Garfield Is Right on the Money

Garfield is right on the money. The scary part is how advertising pretends to evolve with knowledge of multiple media, but can't step forward and discover how best to reach a consumer. The problem rests with the inability to effectively budget in new-form media in ways that allow for fair compensation and fair delivery of results to the marketer client. Plus, most marketers are so risk averse in both media selection and in creative development that the demise of the industry will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Jim Wojtkun
Director of Marketing
Hathaway Brown School
Shaker Heights, Ohio
~ ~ ~

Why the Surprise?

Garfield's premise shouldn't come as a "revelation." The trend line is consistent and relentless. Too many brands are increasing their share of "clutter" rather than of "market." Traditional evaluative measures are crumbling. Consumers use TiVo and its clones to simplify and reduce "clutter" more than to "skip" ads. While an ad's message may still have real value to the target market, broadcast advertising is becoming an increasingly unaffordable and an antiquated implement in the marketing toolbox. Ostriches beware!

Paul Masaracchio
PPM Strategy Assessments
Adventura, Fla.
~ ~ ~

He's Correct, Broadcast TV Will Tank

We no longer have a captured, mass audience. We have consumer diversification and they're in control of how and when they get their information. Broadcast TV will significantly tank. The spending level is where it is today because too many marketers are still hanging on to old beliefs/paradigms.

Dori Molitor
CEO & President
Company: WatersMolitor, Inc.
Minneapolis, Minn.
~ ~ ~

Turning Around the QE II in a Creek

Garfield's right, but how does cataloging the obvious help? I'm sure, like Mr. Garfield, buggywhip critics were perplexed by the carryings on of the crazy Packard brothers. So, Mr. Garfield, how DO YOU turn the QE II around in Angel Fish Creek? Or is it just doomed to run aground? Maybe you should ask the kids in the lifeboats.

Tom Carroll
Linekin Yacht Club
East Boothbay, Maine
~ ~ ~

Our Future Is in the Creative

I wonder what would happen if the quality of advertising improved? People do enjoy great creative that doesn't affront their senses (witness the interest in Super Bowl ads). I think the mediums' survival depends on creative that captures the mindset of the market more than what is delivered by the content it advertises. What if our work was so good that folks TiVo-ed through that content to get to the commercials?

Don Fosher
St. Louis
~ ~ ~

Root Cause of the Chaos

So things are changing -- there is nothing new in that. TV advertising is no longer the one-size-fits-all solution that it has been for marketers for the last 50 years. But that isn't the root cause of "The Chaos Scenario."

The deeper problem can be traced to the chasm that has opened between the marketing theory taught in business schools and the practical realities of those who create the communications. Few business students are taught that aesthetics and the ability to tell a story are relevant to the practice of running a business. Instead they are taught about planning, strategy and "brand metrics" and led to believe they can measure everything that is important. They are taught a version of consumer psychology that is out of date and incompatible with an understanding of the reality of our fast-changing culture.

Until corporate managers are taught to respect the art of communication and how it relates to the skills of leadership, they will "tolerate the inept and stupid ads guaranteed to alienate their best customers," to borrow Rance Crain's words. And we will have to suffer products that are poorly conceived and confusingly articulated.

To Beakbane
Smart Brand Communications
Toronto, Canada
~ ~ ~

An Industry Seriously Out of Step

Let's take about 10 seconds to think this through. Study after study, numbers upon numbers assert that we are in a period of unprecedented, seismic change in the way people use media, respond to advertising, buy products and form relationships with companies. Yet the industry that was once at the heart of consumer change -- directing it, causing it -- has done almost nothing to adapt, much less to lead. Bob is right -- the industry is seriously out of step, and needs to align itself once more with consumers if it hopes to regain its relevance to clients.

Ray Albergotti
Sheridan Square Strategic Group
New York
~ ~ ~

Wall Street Will Demand Change

The marketing community and resources that serve it have always been resistant to change. However, demands from Wall Street for quarterly results, combined with an increasingly complex distribution channel environment, are going to drive early trial and adoption of new innovative ways to reach and accountably impact the consumer and shopper.

Jon Kramer
Ridgefield, Conn.
~ ~ ~

Symptoms of a Massive Shift

Garfield is dead on in identifying the symptoms of a massive shift, but he misses the undercurrent of measurable marketing communications that are already and will increasingly gobble up advertising share in huge chunks as his scenario plays out. Yes, chaos is breaking surface, but marketing and advertising are not doomed -- they are headed to accountable channels like direct, the Web and transaction-driven applications of the kind that will be delivered via mobile devices, TVs/DVRs, PCs, gaming devices and even utilitarian devices like our cars and energy monitors (thermostats and water meters of the future). Welcome to the world of accountable, personalized communications.

Jeff Walters
Scottsdale, Ariz.
~ ~ ~

Disagree With the Pessimism

Though I agree that marketers have largely ignored the fundamental and very real changes occurring in the marketplace, I strongly disagree with the pessimistic conclusions of this article. The power of network broadcast advertising is in decline, but it has been for years. New technologies and the stratification of mediums allow advertisers to approach niche markets more effectively than anytime in the past. Marketing and advertising companies who evolve with this change will be able to navigate their clients through this period and into a time of even greater prosperity, brand equity and customer satisfaction.

Daniel C. Garcia
Sales and Marketing Director
HIM Corp
Los Angeles
~ ~ ~

Sky Is not Falling

Mr. Garfield, the sky is not falling -- it just has a few transient wispy clouds. The advertisers and marketers will always evolve and succeed, often on the fly. After all, the emergence of e-mail and cell phones didn't destroy the postal service, newspapers or landline phones. Ask paper manufacturers who once bemoaned the "paperless society." Empty the waste paper basket, recycle the paper and hush. We are innovative, properly greedy and economically driven. We will be fine.

Stan Felder
Vibrance Associates
Bowie, Md.
~ ~ ~

Most Popular
In this article: