Episode 118: Bob Garfield on Ammonia-Scented Writing, Listerine Breath Strips and the Chaos Scenario
Bob Garfield is back -- DishyMix redux with the "district attorney of advertising."
Bob's book, "The Chaos Scenario: Amid the Ruins of Mass Media the Choices Are Stark: Listen or Perish," finally made it to our bookshelves and Kindles after five years of build up via his AdAge column, his global speak ops open loop and his On The Media NPR gig.
We know the Internet is forever altering the landscape of marketing, we are the ones changing it. So you'll love hearing Bob's advice for agencies and media companies and the new ad modes and models he think will be our future.
Listen in as Bob and Suz have an f*bomb laden heyday with their fatalist predictions for the world of advertising.
Susan Bratton: Welcome to Dishy Mix. I’m your host Susan Bratton, and on today’s show you’re going to get to meet Bob Garfield. Now for those of you who have been Dishy Mix listeners for many hundreds of episodes, you’ve met Bob before. He’s been on about, oh I don’t know, a year or so ago. Bob, if you don’t know it, is the editor at large at Ad Age Magazine. He’s the co host of NPR’s On The Media, and he has a new book that he’s been fomenting, fermenting, bubbling for years now called The Chaos Scenario. Amid the ruins of mass media the choices are stark; listen or parish. I’d suggest we listen. So lets get him on the show today. Hi Bob.
Bob Garfield: Hi Susan.
Susan Bratton: How are you?
Bob Garfield: Oh I’m just fantastic. I’m just fantastic because marketing a book means you get to speak to every drive time AM radio host in pretty much North America, then plus you.
Susan Bratton: Plus me. Don’t put me in that category. I’m in the fabulous category of podcasters.
Bob Garfield: Oh you’re definitely in a class by yourself; there’s no question about that.
Susan Bratton: Oh, that’s for sure. That’s for sure. And so one of the things you were telling me about the book – and I’ll let you lay out the basic premise right now – was that even the drive time AM guys totally get this sea change, this shift in the way the world of media is playing out. Tell us just at a top level about The Chaos Scenario, ‘cause you’ve been working on this for a long time.
Bob Garfield: Yeah, and I’m sure I’m not going to say anything in the next thirty minutes that all of your listeners don’t understand with a degree of granularity far exceeding mine, because, you know… What you know, because we’ve talked before is that I’m fundamentally an ignoramus. I, I’m not an expert at anything. I’m not an economist, I’ve never written a word of copy, nor worked at an agency, nor been a marketer. You know, I’ve never had any responsibility for profitability. I’ve never had to move the market share needle. I’m just a kid that served from way back. But, you know, one of the opportunities that you get when you just canvass on everybody else’s system, you can, you know, you have a perspective from a distance and you can see things and, you know, if you’re not an absolute moron you can connect some dots that may be more obvious to someone from the outside than they are from the people who are hunkered down inside just, you know, trying to make the numbers.
Susan Bratton: You’re our heads-up device here.
Bob Garfield: Exactly so. Exactly so. And, you know, your audience is the fighter pilots and I’m just trying to, I’m just trying to show them what should be on their screen. So, you know, it occurred to me, I don’t know, a little more than five years ago, that the basis of the media and marketing symbiosis that had served us so fantastically since the Elizabethan are could not be sustained, that mass marketing was not at the beginning of collapse, but in the middle of collapse, and then flowing from that naturally would be mass marketing. They’re utterly independent. They are the yin and yang. And that among the early victims would be the agency business, which occurred to me would have zero future, at least based on the economic model that they continue to embrace, and, you know, that we work in a real apocalyptic response to the digital revolution. That’s what occurred to me. And then I set out trying to report it and to see if it was true, and at the end of many months of reporting, I concluded, yeah I’m onto something here and wrote a piece in Ad Age called The Chaos Scenario, laying it out and then watched what happened next. And, you know, well several things happened next. One in some quarters just the shit hit the fan. I mean people freaked. Others paid no attention because they were too busy earning money in the old world order and others are resorted to various degrees of hubris and denial.
Susan Bratton: Well let me ask you a question on that. Do you think that you pissed off the advertising agency heads or the old guard media more?
Bob Garfield: Well that’s a really good question…
Susan Bratton: They both hate you.
Bob Garfield: You know, I’m not on Christmas card lists for either of those categories. And, I mean I don’t know the answer to that question. What I do know Susan is this: nobody, no-bo-dy, apart from dismissing me and just saying, “Oh, posh”… Is it posh pish? Pish posh…
Susan Bratton: It’s pish posh.
Bob Garfield: But nobody actually was able to present an argument against my case except, you know, here were the arguments against the case for a complete disruption. One, “Well that’s impossible, we need our, need our mass media. I mean we totally depend on them.” Well, yeah. “And we love them and our audience is growing”, yeah, yeah, yeah; well I loved my mom too. She’s dead. So that argument is just an irrelevancy. The other is that, you know, that one that was decided as recently as last Monday by Jeff Goodby - the genius principle of Goodby, Silverstein and Partners, one of the greatest advertising agencies that has ever existed in the world – and he said, “Well, you know, creativity and rigor are going to come to the rescue, and oh by the way, nobody can afford for this infrastructure to fail. There’s too much money out there, too much riding on it.” Well, you know, this guy went to Harvard and he’s a really, really smart guy, but that’s not an answer either, because it is, how much is riding on it is irrelevant. There is a lot riding on the Gilds in pre industrial revolution England, but, you know, came the steam engine and every cobbler was out of work. And, you know, millions of lives were affected then and millions of lives and livelihoods are going to be affected now. So, you know, it’s a mess. It is a real mess and a lot of good stuff is going to flow from it, but for the intervening time we’re going to see a period of chaos and blood will be in the street.
Susan Bratton: One of the quotes from your book is that “the internet is not some newfangled median. You know, that it is replacing television, displacing radio, etcetera. It’s a revolutionary advance along the lines of fire, agriculture, the wheel, the printing press, gun powder, electricity, radio, manned flight, antibiotics, atomic energy and maybe Listerine breath strips.
Bob Garfield: Yeah, I’m not sure about that last one because those things are…
Susan Bratton: Me neither.
Bob Garfield: they’re remarkable technology.
Susan Bratton: They’re nasty. They taste bad. But we all agree with you. We’re yes to the fact that the internet is going to change all of it. We’re also a yes to the fact that what our industry has been trying to do is scale the medium so that we can aggregate mass audiences now that they are online. Where I think we have the disconnect is that our ad units suck on the internet…
Bob Garfield: Yeah. Well that’s quite a disconnect…
Susan Bratton: What do we do about that?
Bob Garfield: One might even call it a fatal disconnect…
Susan Bratton: Right.
Bob Garfield: But for reasons we can discuss in a little while the internet is everything that its ever been credited for and much, much more. It is just an astonishing phenomenal world changing technology, and it is also, you know, creating more content and more advertising industry than, and inventory, that has ever existed in the history of the human race. So, you know, lets say that’s stipulated. But there’s two fundamental structural problems with the internet advertising market and why it will not be sustainable as an advertising medium. One, nobody will look at an ad if they have the option not to. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, we love “Where’s the beef” and the FedEx fast talking guy and lemon and, you know, whatever. But given the opportunity to avoid advertising at least seventy-seven percent of the public does. Nobody has ever clicked on a banner ad, you know except for click fraud and mouse error, and we all employ spam blockers of various kinds and so forth. So this ad avoidance is one problem and that’s the smaller one. The larger problem, the larger problem is the simple law of supply and demand. The internet is a nearly infinite supply of content, and therefore a nearly infinite supply of inventory. Naturally in a clot that depresses price, and it’s going to depress price forever and ever and ever; it’s the law of supply and demand and no publisher will ever be able to – even with the most sophisticated targeting – will never be able to fetch CPM’s of the sort that we were able to, they were able to fetch in the old media world for, you know, three hundred and fifty years. Not to put too find a point on it if you’re, if you’re looking to reach masses of people in one fell swoop, you’re fucked. If you’re looking to be, make a profit selling advertising on the internet, you’re fucked. If you are in the media and marketing business or are an online publisher you’re just plain fucked.
Susan Bratton: I completely understand your sentiments. And here’s the other question that feeds into that as well, and that is – and you talk about it in your book under the Death of Everything chapter- “The fact that the unspoken compact between media and consumers having to endure commercial messages as the quid pro quo for free or cheap content has never applied to Gen y and will be difficult to impose exposed facto; never mind that the generations property ethos, quote/unquote, “All content wants to be free” is stupid and criminal on the face of it.” So advertising isn’t going to support it because the prices are going to drag down and frankly the online advertising as we know it in the world of the banner is a very ineffective medium and Gen Y doesn’t want to pay for content, where do we go?
Bob Garfield: Yeah and therein lies the problem. Well, what publishers are trying to do now of course as you and your audience well know is to put the tooth paste back in the tube. About ten or twelve years ago, publishers, online publishers, came, all came to the same conclusion; that their play was an advertising play and that audience was the god had and they should build audience no matter what, and then with the larger audience, they can, you know, make a lot more advertising revenue and it sort of gave more stuff for free. Well that’s great. Now the entire world is accustomed to getting everything for free and it is going to be very, very, very difficult, especially for the under 30 generation to ever pony up for anything that they’ve been accustomed to getting for nothing. I mean how do you, how do you persuade them to do that? Well I, you know, I just don’t think it’s, you can’t. And when making that play, the advertiser play, they, all of the publishes as a group just, you know, forgot about that pesky law of supply and demand and they just didn’t realize that their CPM’s were going to be so piteously low. They also didn’t factor in the fact that the New York Time’s online audiences bigger by a factor of whatever, twenty or a hundred, than their paper audience was in the best of days, but you know, most of those people are utterly out of reach of Bloomingdale’s. So Bloomingdale’s doesn’t want to pay to talk to them. So, you know, unbelievable strategic mistakes, and now they’re trying to undo them in various way, talking about charging them for content and putting up pay walls and….
Susan Bratton: You don’t think it’s a good idea to charge for content if you can get the money?
Bob Garfield: Well it was a good idea, it was a fantastic idea when the time was right to make a decision on what the business model, but you know, now it may be too late expose facto to institute a new business model because they have trained the audience worldwide that everything is free. You know, I’d like to think micro payments are a solution and various kind of subscription are a solution for some publishers that’ll work, but micro payments are a very, very complex infrastructure to create and not everybody, most people even in the, among the academics that have advanced the notion of micro payments in the most sophisticated way, you know, they just don’t think it’s going to be feasible anytime soon. So…
Susan Bratton: I think that micro payments, I think that that’s a, that’s the wrong word - and maybe we’re mincing words, maybe this is semantics – but micro payments to me are like a penny, a half a penny, like down in that category. I think that if you look at how many of the line items on our credit cards are now paying for web services, that there’s going to be an intersection of brands creating experiences and services that consumers may be willing to pay for, and I’m not sure that they are. And I also think there’s access to content that instead of being micro payments are small payments, you know; “I’ll pay you a dollar a month” or “I’ll pay ten dollars to download that book to my Kindle.” It’s still content, a content experience. It doesn’t need to be a book, it can be this show. Another thing that I think is interesting, I want to get your take on, is if you saw this – you probably didn’t, it’s probably brand new for me – but I love the reports that Razor Fish puts out. Their latest one is their social influence marketing report. It’s called Fluent. And you can download it for free from the web or you can get David Deal to send you the hard copy, which is what I like. And they’ve got a lot of great people writing articles and they put these out on an annual or quarterly basis depending on what they are, and one of them was an article with Chris Boller and Shiv Singh – Shiv’s been on the show – called The Future of Social Influence Marketing, where they talk about social advertising. And I just want to read you a little quote and get some of your feedback on it. What they say is, “Now advertisers can build social features into ad units when and where appropriate. The range of possibilities is as broad as the social media space itself. Some examples; how about starting a conversation within the ad unit? Or having the ad unit show just posted ratings and reviews? Why not have a social ad make it possible to send a coupon to a friend for a store sale and invite that friend on a shopping trip? Or have an ad unit tell you that your friend recommends a specific movie. Both the brand and the consumer can upload content and social ads; the brand can push content from a website into an ad unit such as publishing the latest product reviews, or the consumer can use the social ad to begin an interactive experience with the brand. Think about uploading a photo into a social ad, which then drops into a community page on the brands website.” One of the things I noticed Bob was that your marketing The Chaos Scenario in a buddy media ad; you have an ad on a number of pages, I saw it on Ad Age, I saw it on MPR, on your book page, where you actually have an ad that’s kind of like that. So I’m think you’re going to say this is a good idea, but I want to hear.
Bob Garfield: Well yeah. My ad is a widget, and you can grab it and put it on your Face Book page or your MySpace page or your Dishy Mix home page, you can send it to friends, you know, and so forth and so on. And, you know, I’m pretty high on widgets for a whole host of reasons, all detailed, you know, to the nth degree in one of the chapters in the book which I believe is titled The Widgetal Age. But, you know, as to that white paper you just quoted, I don’t believe that advertising is going to utterly disappear from the face of the earth. What I’ve said is that it will, there will continue to be a place for it, mainly as a signpost or as a kind of utility itself. Advertising will prosper exactly to the degree that it creates utility, information and relevance to users that it becomes a sort of content itself, and then, you know, enables you to connect and begin to forge a more direct online relationship with whoever the marketer is. And I don’t think that’s going away, but the business of putting up that kind of advertising is going to be very different than the business of advertising as imagined over the last couple hundred years, a hundred years or so by the advertising agency industry, that I think it’s pretty much game over for that entire industry because their business model, which still despite all of the kind of shell games that have hidden it, is still pretty much contingent on the size of the media buy, and your revenue from your client, even though there’s no fifteen percent revenue anymore, still hinges pretty much on the size of the clients media budget, and forget that deal. And, you know, the money’s just going to stop flowing and it’s going to stop flowing very quickly. But sure, you know. People will live online in various places, on mobile, on their desktops, notebooks and their TV’s, but they, but, and they don’t pay attention to people trying to be clever at them, but they do pay attention to things that are useful and information to them so, yeah that, I think that Razor Fish report is, it’s certainly corresponds to what I’ve written in the book, so therefore it must be true.
Susan Bratton: Alright. I want to go to a break. Of course I still have sponsors, and I want to thank them. So lets go to a break, and when we come back I do want to talk a little bit more about the advertising agency model, I want to talk about smells and I want to talk about listenomics and I want to talk about cynicism and some other things. So lets do that.
Bob Garfield: Oh lets do.
Susan Bratton: Okay. Hang on and we’ll be right back. I’m your host Susan Bratton. We’re with Bob Garfield, The Chaos Scenario. Stay tuned.
Susan Bratton: We’re back. So Bob, you were on a very nice little rant about the advertising agency business model and the fact that it’s all based on media spend. But in fact there’s a lot of web services development, creations of experiences, you know, widget production, significant web work, lots of social influence marketing, still tons of search advertising. Can that grow big enough to supplant the traditional media budgets, or do you think there’s just not, it’s not, the money’s just not going to flow over to the internet side, it’s going to shrink, and then how will marketers promote their products and build awareness so that people want to buy their stuff?
Bob Garfield: Well let me answer the last part of the question first, then we can move backwards. I think marketers, lets say P&G, like every other institution of human endeavor, whether it’s government or whether it’s media or whether it’s the Vatican, the days of standing at the Apex of the pyramid and dictating your message and the time that message will be received and the means by which that message will be received, those days are nearing an end.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, we’re with you on that.
Bob Garfield: Okay. So, so the trick is to create connections essentially with individuals or individual clusters of people, and to gradually aggregate communities of the groups formerly known as the audience but now very much stakeholders, partners, a part of a very real community. It’s very painstaking work, but the value of every one of those people who you, you know, over time accumulate is so much greater than the value of some random person you’re reaching with a TV message or a print ad message because they are, they have bought in. You know, people, advertising may be dead, but brands aren’t dead. People care deeply, even perversely about brand.
Susan Bratton: Right.
Bob Garfield: And there are, you know, many people are astonishingly willing to participate, not just in being a customer but in, I mean there’s a lot of aggregated IQ out there. There’s a lot of aggregated passion and energy and evangelism and by the way a rage, which they’re also perfectly willing to share. And we’re all in this together. You know, I got to tell you Susan, my great epiphany for listenomics occurred long before the internet. It occurred back in the mid 80’s when Coco Cola tried to give the world new Coke. Now in the end it worked out fine for Coke because it kind of changed its soft drink business with all sorts of brand extensions, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and they were able to squeeze non, you know, marginal brands off the shelves and in the end it worked out fine, but it was a catastrophe in the beginning. And it was a catastrophe for this reason; they did all this research, they decided that they could come up with a better formula and they taste tested it to a fare the well, and they knew to a moral certainty that the population at large preferred the taste of the new formula to the old, but they neglected to ask this valiant question, which wasn’t “Which of these two blind flavors do you like better?”, but, “Do you want us fucking with the taste of Coke?” And the answer to that question as they discovered way too late was no. The public had a very proprietary sense of ownership in Coca Cola because after all hadn’t Coca Cola spent, you know, close to a hundred years trying to convince them that we’re all part of the Coke, the Coca Cola world and some hand in hand on the top of the hill singing pretty songs. They sure had. And the world of Coke users did not want the company to just unilaterally making decisions for them. Well that was a foreshadowing of the world of connectivity. And all of sudden we no longer regard ourselves as a dumb audience. We are not the hoi polloi, we are part of these brands, which can bedevil marketers that think the old fashioned way, but the benefits that this reservoir of energy and commitment and loyalty and evangelism is so viable that if you’re willing to go through the painstaking effort and to, you know, kind of buy into the idea that you are no longer in control, the rewards that will flow from that are immense. But it’s a whole different way of cultivation and the thirty second spot sure as hell isn’t the way.
Susan Bratton: You know, it was interesting when you were talking about - I’ll use your word, it’s a good one - cultivating your customers one person at a time in listening and social media and connecting with them through events and experiences you create with them etcetera. I was thinking about Unbound Technologies. I’ve talked about this company on the show before. Do you know about them or should I brief you?
Bob Garfield: No.
Susan Bratton: Okay…
Bob Garfield: I told you I’m an ignoramus…
Susan Bratton: Well…
Bob Garfield: The things I don’t know would fill the libraries of the world.
Susan Bratton: Amen brother. That’s all of us. I just happen to know this thing, so I’ll tell you ‘cause it’ll be interesting to you. It’s a Palo Alto based start up and what they’re doing is tracking, they started out at a core and just – I should probably get an update on this – but they started out as a core tracking people who fanned brands on Face Book. Then they looked at those individuals and - for example lets just take Coca Cola as a brand and this is not a true story, I’m using them as a analogy. They would take Coke’s customer lists, anything that they had, you know, maybe they’d done sweepstakes or, you know, they’ve done a lot of those kinds of things. They would match all of the fans that Coke had on Face Book, and of course Coke’s number one Face Book fan page wasn’t even created by the Coca Cola company, right. It was created by some fans, and you have that in the book. They would take all of the people who were fans, the millions of fans of Coca Cola’s fan page, and they would take Coca Cola’s customer lists from other, you know, other things they’ve done and they would cross tab that, and they would do some other lookups on Linked In and Twitter and other social media sites and essentially come back to Coke and say, “This is your list rank ordered of the most influential people that care about your brand that are talking about your brand or connected to your brand online. And they are the most influential because they are saying something about you, they have a lot of followers and friends themselves, they can exert conversations about you online.” And I think that is a very interesting area where we’re starting to see brands - maybe Coke, maybe not, ‘cause it’s just an example – quantify the value of an individual customer and how they can exert their social influence around that brand online. Very interesting.
Bob Garfield: It is interesting. And, you know, and that’s just one means of trying to evaluate the dynamics of word of mouth. But there are others; I mean there is the ability to monitor all of the buzz about a given brand…
Susan Bratton: Right, of course.
Bob Garfield: online and it then yields immense amounts of data, and you don’t necessarily have to connect individuals, but, I just imagine the worlds largest most efficient focus group and, you know, you don’t have to serve a cheese ball and the conversation is going to be hijacked by some alpha male know it all and so on. I mean you can actually get real data, not the phony data that focus groups have been, have been serving up for the last whatever, 40 years.
Susan Bratton: Well that’s interesting because Razor Fish had another report – I always read all their stuff, you should definitely subscribe too – and one of the things they were talking about is doing market research where they would go out and they would find a key influencer, you know, in one of these ways that I’ve described or similar, and then they would have that person come in for a more classic focus group, but they would bring that person and a couple of their influential friends with them. They were trying to expand out the social graph and understand not just what that key influencer was saying about or thinking about their brand, but the other people who were influential and connect to them. It’s a new, you know, it’s a new cut on traditional market research that I thought was very interesting.
Bob Garfield: It is. I mean it’s a little suspiciously Gladwell from my point of view. You know, in the book I am host to a, I think, a pretty complete take down of the tipping point notion that there are these magical influences out there who persuade people out of proportion to their, to the rest of the population. The research shows under any kind of mathematical scrutiny that the effect of that kind of super influencer really dissipates very, very rapidly as the outward circles of connectivity move outward, and it’s utterly unclear that whether over time that they really create much of an influence. The other problem with the tipping point of the book is that Gladwell is false prey to the classical fallacy of favorable enumeration. You know, he looks at the fact that hushpuppies were embraced by the, you know, a certain crowd of hipsters and then it succeeded, but he neglected to consider all of the other reasons that may have influenced hushpuppies success. He considered only the possibility that, you know, a few hip people in Chicago and New York were behind it, but there is a lot of other dynamics going on in the world that could equally been responsible and he neglected to consider them at all. So I would advise caution in investing huge amounts of resources into locating these, you know, what the people in modern level marketing call ‘hotdogs’, who are going to be disproportionately successful in spreading the word. But I would encourage you in every case to invest time and resources and infrastructure into locating groups of people who are clearly loyal out of proportion to the numbers in the population.
Susan Bratton: Good advice. I want to read an excerpt from the book and then I have a question about it.
Bob Garfield: Go ahead. This is one, this guy’s like one of my favorite writers.
Susan Bratton: Mine too. That was cute. Okay. “It’s not just that you can talk to your refrigerator or bank online or EZ Pass your way through the tollbooth while those other suckers in the right lane are backed up clear to that horrible rest stop with the price gouging Sonoco and the ammonia scented Sbarro. Those are just minor conveniences afforded by the very same binary code fueling the real conflagration. Maybe you’ve been too busy fiddling with your Smart Phone to notice, but the mass media and mass marketing structures that have more or less defined your connection with the world for more than a century are in flames.” I like that paragraph, and here’s what I liked about it…
Bob Garfield: It scares the shit even of me.
Susan Bratton: It was good, wasn’t it? I thought I read it pretty well. What I liked was the ammonia scented Sbarro. One of the things that I noticed about your writing, in addition to the fact that you love to make up corny phrases and you just, you’ll go anywhere, you’ll do anything for a good sentence. You will…
Bob Garfield: Yes, including making up words; not facts, but definitely words.
Susan Bratton: But what I like about your writing that I really seldom get anywhere else except maybe Henry Miller, is…. I’m reading The Colossus of Maruti right now…
Bob Garfield: Wow!
Susan Bratton: because…
Bob Garfield: That’s, I promise you, a comparison that has never been made before, but thank you. I appreciate it.
Susan Bratton: He’s so good at the sites and the smells and the sounds, and for what is essentially a business book that you’ve written, you really bring, you really evoke a lot in your writing, and so much of what we do now as marketers is writing. We’re moving way past the jingles and the taglines and the vision statements, and we have to create a ton of content now to be found and competitive with our brands on the internet. Writing has become more and more important and not just the tight copywriting. And you do a beautiful job with that. When you’re writing are you going back and saying, “Now, do I have a smell in this chapter? Do I have a visual in this chapter?” Like, does it just come out of you that way or are there any little tips you can give us?
Bob Garfield: Well, I’ve been at this a long, long time Susan. I am, I’m almost 200 years old. And my style of writing has evolved. No, I don’t, you know, go over something I’ve written and say, “Do I have this? Do I have this? Do I have this? Do I have this?” You know, I’ve just been in the noticing thing business, noticing things business now for 30 years and it’s just, you know, it’s in my DNA. And also I’ve been kind of a funny guy my whole life, and I am on the verge of being compulsive about that. So I like to be observant and entertaining and I hope thoughtful and not trivial, and, you know, you try to throw that all together and if you succeed you come up with something good, and if you fail, then you fail.
Susan Bratton: Well you’ve done a lot of writing. I’ve read Waking Up Screaming From the American Dream a couple years ago. You also, did you really write a Will Nelson country song, Tag You’re It?
Bob Garfield: Yeah, I, that is a fact. I wrote a song titled Tag You’re It that was performed by Willie Nelson. Now I got to tell you, it’s not like he cut the record and that it was, you know, you could hear it on your country music station. It was for a story I did for NPR back, I don’t know, ten or fifteen years ago. It was a pretty great song, I got to tell you.
Susan Bratton: Well we dug it up and here it is.
(Song introduction and then plays)
Bob Garfield: Yeah, so you sound, you may have noticed that Willie sounds a little odd there. That’s because he’s… Well there’s several reasons. One is he, for whatever reasons, decided to sing lead harmony instead of the lead melody. This is because, I mean, I can’t prove anything; all I know is that when I was in the studio working on it I said to the engineer, “Okay, I see you go reverb. Do you have anything there for detox?”
Susan Bratton: Apparently not.
Bob Garfield: Yeah. You know, we had three, we had three different tracks of Willie singing and he wasn’t on key in any one of them, so we were sitting there cutting and pasting, sampling a phrase here and a phrase there, but we couldn’t get away from the fact that he was singing lead melody and that’s because he was using as a scratch track – Rivers Rutherford, my co-writer – he was using him as a scratch track and he was singing the melody and so Willie naturally decided to sing the harmony, and ay, yay, yay, yay, yay, yay. But it was one of the funnest exercises I’ve ever been involved in, even though funnest isn’t technically a word…
Susan Bratton: I wondered about that, but you’re not above making things up.
Bob Garfield: Funnest, as I told my 8 year old many times, it’s not a word but it’s a much better way of saying, to describing the quality of more fun, than, most fun, than the correct way of saying it and therefore I use it all the time.
Susan Bratton: Well you just…
Bob Garfield: And so does she.
Susan Bratton: started a new word; funnest is good. So a couple things; one, you told me that, when I ask you what the top five things on your bucket list were, you said there was only one and it was not die. So I…
Bob Garfield: It’s a high priority.
Susan Bratton: I say good luck with that. Here’s the other question, and we’re running out of time but I wanted to just sneak this in. I asked you if you could change one thing about the business world what would it be? You answered cynicism and for a guy that’s been called every bad name in the book, really frankly unfairly because of what you do, I was surprised to hear you say cynicism, so tell me about, ‘cause you could be called a cynic.
Bob Garfield: Yeah, but I don’t think, not if you’re using the word correctly. To me cynicism means…
Susan Bratton: Well you didn’t even use the word funnest correctly, so don’t give me any…
Bob Garfield: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: crap about that.
Bob Garfield: What kind of authority am I on language usage?
Susan Bratton: Exactly.
Bob Garfield: But, you know, to me a cynic is someone who behaves poorly because they can count on the rest of the world to behave poorly too. I mean to me that’s essentially what cynicism is. And, you know, when marketers are sleazy or exploitive or dishonest or, and not just marketers, you know, it makes me unhappy. And when they do things that they know in their heart of hearts they’re not comfortable with but do it anyway just to, just for market share, to me that’s just ugly in the extreme. I am many things; I am hypercritical. I can be brutally blunt. I can be inappropriate. I, you know, obviously quick to find fault, but also happy to lavish praise. But, you know, I don’t think I am in any way cynical. Yes, I have seen the world behave badly, you know, left, right and center before my eyes, but it doesn’t influence my behavior one little bit, and I don’t know, you know, I just, I just, it just infuriates me when people are doing stuff that they know in their heart of hearts they shouldn’t be doing because it’s part of the business culture or for the market share imperative or for any other reason. It’s Machiavellian and it’s ugly and it’s embarrassing, and if that’s how you got to make a living, you know, I don’t know.
Susan Bratton: I didn’t realize that the cynicism was more like a Lemming thing; I thought it was more like a critical thing. So thank you for putting a point on that word; I’m going to go look it up. And I remember calling you the district attorney of bad advertising on our last episode because of the ad reviews that you do, and I really appreciate that you are willing to be the turn that calls people out on their bad behavior. So where someone might not like that about you, I think most people do love that about you. So I want to thank you for continuing to do that.
Bob Garfield: Well my pleasure, although please let me hasten to add I also, you know, just jump at every opportunity when I find something that I think is really ingenious…
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Bob Garfield: or clever or fun to point that out to, ‘cause that’s what really, I get a charge out of, sifting through the haystack and finding a needle there and saying, “Hey there everybody, check out this needle. This is one sharp needle.”
Susan Bratton: Yeah, absolutely. Well, and I also want to thank you too Bob, because you’re giving away two personally autographed copies of the Chaos Scenario. And I want to read the whole title ‘cause I like it: The Chaos Scenario: Amid The Ruins of Mass Media The Choices Are Stark. Listen or Parish. Even if you totally agree with Bob and you see all of this coming because you’re part of the heads up display of this industry like we are as people who congregate around Dishy Mix and our guests, it’s still, as I said, a fantastic read. Bob’s just truly a great pleasurable entertaining writer, writing about the world that we are actually all collectively creating in this Dishy Mix land. So let us give you a copy, personally autographed to you from Bob. And you know how you get it; you go to dishymixfan.com - that’s my Face Book fan page - and post your desire and Bob and I will pick our two favorites and bestow this upon you, so let us do it. Enjoy! And Bob, thank you so much for coming on the show again. I always have so much fun with you. It’s a pleasure, and…
Bob Garfield: Yeah, me too Susan. It’s a pleasure.
Susan Bratton: Congratulations for getting the book done. You’ve been working on this bad boy for quite a while, so I know it’s…
Bob Garfield: Started writing it in 1911.
Susan Bratton: So I know you’ve got more AM radio shows to do; I don’t want to hold you back from that.
Bob Garfield: Oh no. Heaven for fans, man. I’ve got some marketing to do. I’m fixing to market my ass off.
Susan Bratton: Good, you go out and get that done, and good luck with the book. I’ve enjoyed it so far and I will continue to finish it up, and thank you for everything. It’s great to talk to you. I’m your host Susan Bratton. Have a great day, and I will talk to you next week. Bye-bye.