Garfield's "Chaos Scenario"

If you haven't read Bob Garfield's "Chaos Scenario" you might want to head over to and have a read. It does bring up quite a few good points and although some might say his argument is one-sided, he does take a look at both sides of the mania over the death of TV, the rush to new media and ponders where we might be heading. Update He expanded on his thoughts into a book: The Chaos Scenario

One of the things that bothers me the most about this whole argument, and I'm sure I've brought it up before, is the claim that viewers are now in control. Viewers have always been in control. If they hadn't been, then all those TV shows that the network executives loved but the population hated would have continued to air, and not be killed after less than 10 shows getting to air.

I also have to protest the theory that people have, prior to this "new freedom," taken everything that has been fed to them. Under that philosophy advertising has much more power than we all thought.

But it's not just the ad model; it's the content model, as well. Writer and former venture capitalist Om Malik looks at TiVo and the video-on-demand horizon and is prepared to call in the backhoes for the institution of the prime-time schedule.
"Hasn't it collapsed already?" asks the author of Broadbandits: Inside the $750 Billion Telecom Heist. "Look at their viewership. Isn't it going down every day? I mean, we can pick and choose what foods we eat, what car we drive, what clothes we wear and what colognes we use. And some guy sitting in New York decides how I should watch?"

Since when were we not able to eat what we wanted? This isn't anything new and it drives me crazy that some people are sticking starbursts on, claiming it's new. Garfield's phrasing is probably the most accurate that I've seen- stating that "As more control has been placed in the hands of the consumer, the consumer has shown every intention of exercising it." And of course they are. Isn't that the whole point of creating such devices as TiVo?

The biggest issue in my opinion has nothing to do with media. It's not TV vs. Internet. It's quality of content. Good ads are watched. Bad ads aren't. And it doesn't matter what media you are talking about. It's about making the connection to the audience. It's about creating effective ads and communication pieces that engage. If people aren't watching network TV then perhaps the networks need to have a re-think of their programming. Quite frankly I think the majority of it stinks. Personally there are only two shows in particular that I can think of that I watch on network TV- The Simpsons and Law & Order. Everything else I watch is on cable. And that has to do with the quality of the programming. Feeding people more reality TV isn't going to solve the problem, and quite frankly I think we're hitting a saturation point with all the reality crap. At least I hope so.

But it all goes back to the point of creating something engaging for people. Quality not quanity. And if people don't think ads get watched, they should check out the number of people who posted over at Adland about that Darius Rucker BK ad. There were people who signed up just to be able to comment on it. And, true, there were a large number who hated the ad, but it also shows that it was watched. It had impact.

Jumping to new media willy-nilly doesn't make sense if you're just going to create more clutter for that medium. Not that there's really a way to avoid clutter, because it's going to happen...there's already clutter on the internet. But to cut through that clutter and to get people to want to participate or interact with you- it's going to need to be engaging.

And perhaps the discussion in Garfield's article about fragmentation isn't a bad thing either. Fragmentation also allows for more targeted messaging. Which leads to the ability to make communication pieces more engaging to a particular audience. And whether that fragmentation occurs through new media or cable, it doesn't matter.

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Dabitch's picture

Hear hear.
I don't understand this fear of fragmentation. I long for the day when I don't get stupid media in my briefs such as "Target: Sk8-kids Media: Double Page Spread in Conservative newspaper". I've seriously gotten briefs that read like that. I spent lots of time figuring out where the target was so I could reach them there as part of the creative process, media-buy should be part of it, and media buyer should be a creative job. Now, there's less wheelin' and dealin' for discount prices when bulk-buying but nobody wanted those four o'clock in the morning cable-channel spot-slots anyway. Media is not a bulk commodity, for great campaigns it never was, perhaps this 'fragmentation' will finally make people realize this. Media buying shouldn't be willy nilly, but well thought out as part of the entire creative strategy.

aiiobo's picture

Creatives disagree with Garfield. News at eleven.

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