Private Fraser was a character in Dad’s Army a long running TV show in the UK. He was a pessimist frequently observing in any crisis that “we’re all doomed” in a high-pitched voice. (It’s in Abe Simpson’s repertoire too)
This came to mind reading Alan Moore’s summary of Bob Garfield’s article in the print edition of Advertising Age. It all strikes me as an over-reaction – but perhaps an indication of how troubled the business is by recent trends.
Boiled down, his theory goes something like this: The marketing industry is currently whistling past the graveyard and largely ignoring signs of massive, fundamental changes in how the business of mass marketing will be conducted in the near future.
The broadcast TV model is working less well each year and will eventually cave in on itself as it reaches ever-fewer viewers with a fare of low-quality programming and mind-numbing clutter. Marketers will increasingly abandon it. But despite their glitzy promise, the aggregate of new digital technologies — from Web sites and e-mail to cell phone content and video on demand — lack 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.
Alan’s a bit sceptical about Bob’s views but he notes that some big comms groups are thinking of buying mobile companies in response to this sort of anxiety. Sounds a bit like they’re flailing around here.
I think there are way more serious threats to the peace of mankind than technology which gives people more freedom to create the conversations and ideas that excite them. When people are addicted to the illusion of control, the idea of losing it makes them panic. Personally, I have much more faith in people’s ability to organise their own lives – and in our natural human desire to collaborate and to belong. We don’t need big media to keep us all together.
Yes, for conventional ad agencies, it’s clear that the conventional business model is not going to work too well in future. But Bob seems to be projecting his own fears for one narrow interest group – admen – onto the whole of western civilisation. Which I think is a bit much.