Bob Garfield Nails It With 'The Chaos Scenario'

  • by , Featured Contributor, August 20, 2009
I'm just finishing Bob Garfield's "The Chaos Scenario" -- the much-anticipated book follow-up to his Advertising Age essays of several years ago with the same title. In those magazine cover stories, he not only predicted the impending collapse of "old media," but controversially proffered that "new media" wasn't ready or able to replace it -- that chaos would reign for some time between the collapse of the old and the development of the new. Garfield was talking about analog media dollars turning into digital pennies long before NBC/Universal's Jeff Zucker adopted the concept. I really liked the Ad Age pieces. I love the book.

Garfield's Chaos Scenario is about the "historic reordering of media, marketing and commerce triggered by the revolution in digital technology." As America's foremost advertising critic, he is able to tell the story from a unique perspective and with his signature style: straightforward writing, strong analysis, logical arguments, great examples and a very healthy dose or irreverent humor. The book will make you laugh. And sometimes, it will certainly make you cringe.



Unlike so many other digital revolution writers, Garfield is neither a late-comer nor revisionist to this upheaval. When he writes about the collapse of analog media -- "The Death of Everything," as he calls it -- he delivers arguments that he has developed and refined over the years. Analog media of old like newspapers, music publishers and magazines, are dying because: 1) their audiences are shrinking; 2) their methods of distribution are obsolete and carry unsustainable costs; and 3) every computer user in the world is now competing with them.

Fortunately, "The Chaos Scenario" doesn't just predict doom, depress all who make a living in media and marketing, and leave you wondering how you will pay the bills once your analog employer collapses. Rather, Garfield offers prescriptions for the future of marketing. He has chapters critiquing a number of the emerging technologies and companies in digital marketing, from YouTube to widgets to behavioral targeting (disclosure: he does mention my former company, TACODA, and include a couple of quotes from me), to his own foray into word-of-mouth marketing, his well-chronicled run-in with Comcast and his "Comcast must Die" campaign.

Garfield's primary prescription for marketing in the future is Listenomics: that marketers must truly listen and respond to people at the individual, not mass level, if they are to have a hope of surviving and prospering in the post-advertising age. He even offers his own Top 10 List: Garlield's Top 10 Principles of Word of Mouth. Finally, in reading the book, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is published by Stielstra Publishing, the new imprint founded by Greg Stielstra, the author of "PyroMarketing" and the executive behind the marketing of "The Purpose Driven Life," whom I wrote about a couple of years ago.

If you care about the world of advertising, media and marketing, or just want a great read and some really good laughs, you should read "The Chaos Scenario."  Those of you who have already read the book or the earlier Chaos essays, please tell us what you think in the comments section below.

3 comments about "Bob Garfield Nails It With 'The Chaos Scenario'".
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  1. Charles Buchwalter from Nielsen Online, August 20, 2009 at 10:47 p.m.

    Dave: your review was so good I went ahead and downloaded Garfield's book to my Kindle. And you're's great!

  2. Dave Morgan from Simulmedia, August 21, 2009 at 1:18 p.m.

    Glad to hear that the review was helpful ... have a great weekend!

  3. Gene De Libero from Digital Mindshare LLC, August 21, 2009 at 2:08 p.m.

    Garfield is right on - the consumer is in charge and the days of interruptive, scattergun approaches to marketing and advertising just won't work anymore. Giving the consumer relevant messages (not junk) when they want and in a format of their choosing is where it's at. Two pieces of advice for everyone reading this article - listen to the consumer and read this book.

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