Bob Garfield, Ad Age AdCritic, NPR Personality, Experimental Essayist and Author, Fearless Journalist – Launch into the Bobosphere!
Susan Bratton

Episode 11 - Bob Garfield, Ad Age AdCritic, NPR Personality, Experimental Essayist and Author, Fearless Journalist – Launch into the Bobosphere!

Crusty the Clown becomes Bob the Super Hero in this revealing discussion with the infamous "Ad Critic" from Ad Age magazine. Susan admits she was scared to interview Bob until she did her homework and realized what an amazing media morals-minder he is. A Superman for justice in advertising. Find out how Bob feels when he has to give zero star reviews to schlock campaigns and why giving a two star review is even worse for him and for the recipient even though "it's nothing personal." Susan uncovers a heart of gold, a man of righteous journalistic ethics, the man not just "On the Media" (his WNYC radio show and podcast for NPR) but "for the media." Suz and Bob talk about the biggest liars in the advertising industry; can you guess who? Yes, political campaign advertisers. Find out why they are the rotting core of the ad biz. Learn why Bob covers this segment less and less and why suddenly with consumer generated media, everyone is a critic. You'll hear Bob's rational credentials for why he is qualified to be the Ad Critic and get detail on his proclamation that "one of the things the market is free of is "consciousness." Since Mickey Rooney of 60 Minutes is no longer with us, Susan annoints Bob the "MDA" -- Marketing District Attorney -- she appoints him to stamp out marketing victimization.



Bob Garfield, Ad Age AdCritic, NPR Personality, Experimental Essayist and Author, Fearless Journalist - Launch into the Bobosphere!

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Susan Bratton:  Welcome to Dishy Mix.  I'm your host Susan Bratton.  Thanks for tuning in to the show today. I have a great guest on the show, Bob Garfield. Most of you know Bob as the ad critic on Ad Age. Bob is ad critic at Ad Age; he is a blogger in what he calls the Bobosphere; he's a personality on NPR; he's the author of two books and some experimental  —    what I'll call essays and we'll talk about some more. He's an international speaker; he's a political advertising analyst, which is a fabulous place to be an analyst; and a fearless journalist. We're going to talk to Bob and some of the things we're going to talk about today include: poker, 2000 flushes, King Rat, Everyman, contemplating suicide, the biggest liars and bigoted buffoons, monkeyvision, brand hickeys, Don Quixote and of course, Bill Gates. So stay tuned.

Bob Garfield:    Somewhere in the Ten Commandments there's one that, you know, that's sort of gone missing that says, "Thou shalt have free entertainment subsidized by ads and live with ads for the rest of your life."

Susan Bratton:  You have called people bigoted buffoons. You have self-described as a media whore. You've talked about people being evangelical cyber geeks. You've mentioned a category of humanity as Godless-tax-and-spend-baby-killing-Osama-loving-Democrats.There's of course the peppered terminology of scumbags. I know it was ironic! Scumbags, racists, liars, fear mongers. You've even discussed drawer soiling.

Bob Garfield:    You know the ones that I say are not going to make it, quickly disappear. But sometimes of course they immediately disappear. Like, I write on a Monday and they disappear on a Tuesday. That happens every now and then.

Susan Bratton:  You are a political advertising an-- analyst.

Bob Garfield:    Yeah, well—

Susan Bratton:  What a green field! I mean like that's like taking candy from a baby, isn't it?

Bob Garfield:  Well as a matter of fact it is.

Susan Bratton:  [laughs]

Bob Garfield:    It's kind of like that with consumer generated video. You know, you put a lot of monkeys at a lot of computers with a lot of digital cameras and eventually they'll come up with something worth watching. But, it's going to take a lot of monkeys a long time. [laughs]

Susan Bratton:  Welcome Bob.

Bob Garfield:    Thank you Susan.

Susan Bratton:  I'm glad to have and thank you. You said you're doing me a favor being on the show. I know you don't do a lot of podcasts, so for those of you listening today you're very lucky to have Mr. Garfield with us today. Mostly it's just hard to pin him down cuz he's always on the road traveling, speaking at some location or other. So Bob, one of the first things I want to talk about is your speaking platform right now. What are the things that you're talking about? Is it listenomics, chaos theory, or are you working on something new?

Bob Garfield:    No, it's pretty much listenomics and the chaos theory.  It's all about what happens when the old structures of media and marketing collapsed before our very eyes, and the brave new world is not quite prepared to replace the cowardly old one. And the consequence is media content producers who don't know where their next dollar is going to come from and marketers not knowing how to reach consumers. So it's pretty chaotic and I present a pretty bleak picture but I think they're all just solutions down the line somewhere.

Susan Bratton:  I'm going to read from a recent article in Ad Age that you wrote. I'm - I'm going to quote it directly. "Digital tools and database marketing will open channels of communication and reservoirs of information that will relegate display advertising as we've known it to a subsidiary role. Most likely it will serve as a series of signposts, logos and simple messages pointing users to websites where the real action is." Now, that makes total sense to me. This, the question I have is, is this still a surprise to people who are doing marketing and advertising?

Bob Garfield:    Oh my God! It's a surprise; it's anathema. I mean, their lives, their livelihoods, their world views are all built around media marketing, symbiotic relationships in which you know people turn to major distributors of content for free programming and it's all subsidized by advertising and everybody lives happily ever after. But you know, and the assumption is that you know, somewhere in the Ten Commandments there's one that you know has sort of gone missing that says, "Thou shalt have free entertainment subsidized by ads and live with ads for the rest of your life."  But you know there is no such commandment and I think what we're facing – and you know I say this as someone who writes for Advertising Age— we're a post advertising age, in where advertising exists but simply is just not as central to the economy and the culture as it has been for all of our lives. That's a tough one to swallow if that's how, you know, you make your living.

Susan Bratton:  So, what is it? People who have a TV budget, a print budget, a billboard budget, what ever it is, they don't know to live by the new rules so they have to hold onto what they have?

Bob Garfield:    Yeah, one of the few things that keeps the old media afloat anymore is that marketers, you know, literally are bereft of other options. They you know, they're putting a little money online and they're putting a little money in you know, outdoor and experiential and so forth. But basically they're still on TV because that's the only place they can, you know, really reach any kind of mass numbers and they're paying increasing premiums to do so, to reach decreasing numbers of viewers and readers. And you know this won't go on forever. The law of diminishing returns will eventually kick in and you know, they may pay more and more for less, but they're not going to pay infinitely for nothing. So —   and the only reason they're hanging on is cuz there's just no other place to reach people. But again you know we'll eventually reach a tipping point where it simply makes no economic sense.  You know, and to say – and as advertisers flee revenues to the original –   to the traditional mainstream distributors of entertainment, the news –  they're going to have less pure resources to produce and quality rules –   actually quality is already dropping precipitously  and, which will create even more fleeing viewers which will create even more fleeing advertisers and so on and you know an endless vortex of ruins. So it behooves everybody to find another solution for a) entertaining the masses and b) reaching the consumer. And it's out there. There's no question but it's out there. But there's a lot of infrastructure that needs to be filled to make it all really come to fruition.

Susan Bratton:  You just said the term "endless vortex" of destruction. Now, you're not –
I'm not hearing a lot of phrases like that in everyday conversation. But in your everyday conversation apparently these are pretty common words. I'm going to quote some of the phraseology from some of the work that you've done. You used terms  —

Bob Garfield:    [laughing]

Susan Bratton:  -- such as –

Bob Garfield:    This is not fair!

Susan Bratton:  Oh, it's fair!

Bob Garfield:    Okay so let's just say the last few years I haven't exactly been a laugh riot.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah . You dish it out man and now, you're going to get it back! Are you ready?

Bob Garfield:    Yeah, go ahead.

Susan Bratton:  You have called people bigoted buffoons. You have self-described as a media whore. You've talked about people being evangelical cyber geeks. You've mentioned a category of humanity as Godless-tax-and-spend-baby-killing-Osama-loving-Democrats. There's of course the peppered terminology of scumbags  —

Bob Garfield:    (( inaudible )) ironic, you know?

Susan Bratton:  I know it was ironic. Scumbags, racists, liars, fear mongers. You've even discussed drawer soiling. Explain yourself.

Bob Garfield:    Well, I  —    truthfully I don't remember the drawer soiling  line  —

Susan Bratton:  Oh, it's there!

Bob Garfield:    But you know, I don't doubt that I wrote it.

Susan Bratton:  [laughing]

Bob Garfield:    (( inaudible )) It's pretty Bob-like, well you know they pay me to tell people what I think and I've got this candor problem....[laughs]

Susan Bratton:  You're  —    you're like this crusty SOB I think, aren't you? You're not really but you write like a crusty SOB. I have a feeling you're like a squishy little teddy bear  —

Bob Garfield:    Oh I am. I am a total teddy bear.

Susan Bratton:  [laughs]

Bob Garfield:    But there  —    the thing is, it makes it ever so much sweeter for everybody when I'm nice  —    which I am by the way, more than half the time.

Susan Bratton:  [laughs]

Bob Garfield:    So, aren't laurels much more delicious when they come from somebody who is equally prepared to cut you off at the knees? I think so.

Susan Bratton:  I think they are- absolutely, the positivism from a fear perspective. So, that's a perfect segway for me into the fact that for a living, you review advertising. How can this ever be nothing personal? You say it's nothing personal when you do it, but gosh, how do you keep it that way? Can you really?

Bob Garfield:    Well the main trick is not to ever know anybody whose work I'm reviewing. I really go to extreme lengths to cloister myself from the industry. You know, I live in Washington DC where, you know, there is no advertising industry. When I come to New York to work on my show I, you know, virtually never encounter anyone from the business that I criticize. The only time I ever see anyone from the business or talk to them  —   apart from the PR people who help me you know get material –  is in Cannes which, I don't even go to every year. So I've worked pretty hard not to have relationships and therefore people may put me  —    write me off as a fool, as a jerk or as a know nothing. But they cannot accurately say that I'm taking care of friends or going after enemies, cuz I don't have any   —   any friends or enemies to help or harm. It's pretty important. And the other thing is of course I'm not in the business. I've never been in the business, so you know, some people say that therefore have no credibility. But my argument is that I actually have far more credibility because I'm not influenced by relationships   —    current previous or future   —    and can say what I think. Which I think if you correctly observe, I often do.

Susan Bratton:  [laughs]  We love that about you, in truth. Now you keep —    keep yourself yourself clean and pure as the driven snow, which is good. How did you get the chops to be an ad critic? What makes you think you can be an ad critic, Bob Garfield?

Bob Garfield:    Well that's a pretty good question.

Susan Bratton:  [laughs]

Bob Garfield:    It doesn't take much. Well first, I'm not stupid. Okay?

Susan Bratton:  No, you aren't. You're a smart man.

Bob Garfield:    Secondly, I've steeped myself for more than 25 years in the industry. I mean I've [laughs] I have thought very deeply, about thousands and thousands of ads. And by the way, I think I can prove by marketplace results that I haven't often been wrong about these things, but....

Susan Bratton:  How do you measure it?

Bob Garfield:    You know by –  you can tell how their campaign is succeeding by how long it exists?

Susan Bratton:  Uh huh.

Bob Garfield:    And over the years the campaigns that I've said are going to do well...

Susan Bratton:  Yeah but maybe they're just running them longer because you said they're good.

Bob Garfield:    Yeah well that may be ...

Susan Bratton:  [laughs]

Bob Garfield:    And others, you know, the ones that I say are not going to make it quickly disappear. Sometimes of course they immediately disappear. Like I write on a Monday and they disappear on a Tuesday. That happens every now and then. So anyway, you know, it's not that complicated a business.

Susan Bratton:  Uh huh.

Bob Garfield:    I mean obviously, the business of the business has many complications. But fundamentally it's about selling goods and services to consumers. And communicating and not lying and being ethical and understanding your audience. You know there's, there's a fairly small checklist of things to do and not do. That you know, it's sort of   —   for someone who's a non-moron it's not all that difficult to, you know,  define that difference between good and bad. And then, you know, you also have to be able to write entertainingly, which I can. So you put those together and you're thoughtful, and you know, you're intellectually honest and it's really not a hard job. In fact, it's an easy job. The only hard part is dealing with the consequences of when something you write, you know, causes people problems in their businesses and their lives. That's not—

Susan Bratton:  Do you feel bad about that sometimes, when you have to just—

Bob Garfield:    Of course I do.

Susan Bratton:  -- shred the crap out of a campaign.

Bob Garfield:    Of course I do.

Susan Bratton:  What goes through  —    pangs of guilt, or sadness? How do you feel when you write that?

Bob Garfield:    Well, I'll just tell you honestly. When I've written cleverly I feel, you know, I like that. It makes me –  and if I think I've done an astute analysis that goes beyond something very superficial  I   —    you know, I'm pleased with myself about that. But when I'm dishing out four stars  —   no, I'm sorry   —    when I'm dishing out 0 stars I never feel bad. Because 0 stars only come from what I think are egregious assaults against you know ethics, morality, honesty and so forth. You know, I think that people who are turning out what I call 0 star advertising deserve to be publicly up rated and whatever consequences befall them, so be it. But it's when I'm giving 2 stars which is mediocrity and 1 and a half stars and even 1 star, for just you know, kind of lame ass advertising.

Susan Bratton:  Uh huh.

Bob Garfield:    I know even though I'm not naming names, obviously the people who worked very hard on these campaigns  —

Susan Bratton:  Yeah.

Bob Garfield:    You know, I may not take it personally but they certainly are.

Susan Bratton:  They're going to be in trouble.

Bob Garfield:    And they're going to be   —   in a minimum embarrassed in front of their colleagues and their clients and sometimes worse.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah.

Bob Garfield:    And of course I, you know, I don't like that. I   —

Susan Bratton:  Do you think anyone's ever lost their job over a bad  —   over a, you know,  2 or a 0 star review?

Bob Garfield:    Yeah.

Susan Bratton:  You think so? Yeah, that's a shame. Well let's go back to those Godless-tax-and-spend-baby-killer-Osama-loving-Democrats, cuz I just love saying that! You are a political advertising an –  analyst.

Bob Garfield:    Yeah, well –

Susan Bratton:  What a green field! I mean like that's like taking candy from a baby, isn't it?

Bob Garfield:    Well, as a matter of fact it is.

Susan Bratton:  [laughing]

Bob Garfield:    Because I think political advertising is  —    or at least until the current administration took office   —     the deepest stain on our democracy.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah absolutely. It is really –

Bob Garfield:    In a very you know, bipartisan way–

Susan Bratton:  All serious  —    yeah .

Bob Garfield:    Republican and Democrat alike, they  —    politicians have lied, misrepresented their opponents, behaved as cynically as possible, not only to mislead voters but I think in some cases actually to repel voters and to  —    you know I think the political consulting industry that is a cesspool and I think they have  —    among them  —   kind of conspired to turn people away from the political process and from civic life and from politics and from ideas; to mobilize people with lies, and bumper sticker kind of ideology and to get  —    and then to just frighten everybody else away.

Susan Bratton:  I would like to see you blog much more   —    I'd like to see you vid blog or whatever it's going to be called, much more often about the political campaigns. You know, you're throwing me a bone now and then. I want it all day, everyday. I want to  —   once a week I want an email from you, with your analysis of the most egregious political battle over   —    through advertising, there is. I'd love that from you.

Bob Garfield:    Well you know in the past I've done that. I've been pretty diligent in past races about covering the greatest excesses, especially from the most significant candidates. But there's two reasons I've backed off from that. One is that you know there's hardly anything new to say. And number two is the area   —     the territory   —    is pretty well covered now. I mean because of the internet —   you can't really float an ad without it being subject to all of the scrutiny that I gave it in the pages of Ad Age for years and years. Now there's hundreds, sometimes thousands of people doing approximately the same thing. And now most of them are motivated by political ideology.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, they're not Bob Garfield.
Bob Garfield: [laughs] Well...

Susan Bratton:  And remember just cuz —

Bob Garfield:    Who among us is?

Susan Bratton:  So, so true Bob. It's the Bobosphere. If you're in the Bobosphere you're in the special place.

Bob Garfield:    So and finally Susan, you know, I'm just so dispirited. I'm so –


Susan Bratton:    Yeah.

Bob Garfield:    --  dispirited. But you know, as you may know, for the last seven years I've also been co-host of a program called "On the Media".

Susan Bratton:  Yes, NPR out of New York. Bob: political advertising. I can understand why you think everybody   –   that you've already covered everything and everybody's already read it but everybody hasn't read it. So even though you've maybe had enough I'd encourage you to rethink that. And we're going to take a break right now, and when we come back I want to talk to you about who you think the biggest liars are (( inaudible ))
cuz you track them. So stayed tuned. We're with Bob Garfield, ad critic of Ag Age, NPR personality, author, international speaker and great guy. And we'll be right back to find out about the big fat liars. Stay tuned.

[commercial break]

Susan Bratton:  We're back and I'm with Bob Garfield, ad critic. And we're talking  —    we left off talking about political advertising and I've (( inaudible )) to Bob about his opinion around are the political advertisers the biggest liars, or is there someone even worse?

Bob Garfield:    Is that my question?

Susan Bratton:  That's your question babe.

Bob Garfield:    Allow me to address it.

Susan Bratton:  [laughs] Yes, remember how it works here. Like, I ask the questions and then you answer them.

Bob Garfield:    I see.

Susan Bratton:  You forgot.

Bob Garfield:    Like a reciprocity deal.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah.

Bob Garfield:    Okay, I –

Susan Bratton:  Dialogue.

Bob Garfield:    (( inaudible ))

Susan Bratton:  Okay.

Bob Garfield:    The  —    no, there is nobody worse than political advertisers because they lie or distort most of the time. And because of self regulation, federal courts and the FTC most consumer advertisers tell the truth the vast majority of the time. Now, they put their best foot forward and sometimes they veer from, you know, into a very sketchy realm of half truth but by and large the claims they make are defensible. I mean, I can talk to you for hours or days about you know how badly they do, at actually making claims as opposed to just you know, wants and entertainment but that's another question. There are however several categories of advertising that I think are, you know, pretty much embarrassments chronically. And you know one is retail newspaper advertising, and either for department stores or for consumer finance. You know a good rule of thumb is anytime there is more than an inch of fine print at the bottom of the ad, you know that everything in the headlines and the copy is you know, is basically untrue. This is very true of lease payments for automobiles, for consumer credit and for department store and furniture store sales. But what troubles me the most is another category and that is over the counter drugs.

Susan Bratton:  Right.

Bob Garfield:    In the same way that I believe that political consultants have either tacitly or explicitly conspired to put people off of the political process, I believe that pharmaceutical companies selling over the counter drugs have deliberately confused consumers about the ingredients of the OTC drugs that they're trying to sell. To create the illusion that, you know, they're a brand of cough and cold medicine or of analgesic or something is somehow different —    has a point of differentiation between others and of course they don't. They are all made of the same commodity —   chemicals, in various combinations. And you know, depending on what symptoms you want to deal with. But they try to suggest that their brand is somehow special and it isn't. And as a consequence I think there are millions and millions and millions of consumers who are mis-medicating themselves, occasionally overmedicating themselves, occasionally under medicating themselves, because they simply don't know the basic of what it is they're buying. And that's a disgrace because after all these are drugs you're putting into your system and sometimes into your children's system and you don't have the vaguest idea  —    because of this quiet conspiracy  —   of what it is you're buying. And I mean, I think that it, it just boggles the mind to imagine that the Food and Drug Administration and the FTC have not stepped in to demand clear labeling of ingredients on the front and exactly the kind of effect they have on the body. You should not go into the supermarket or pharmacy and have to sit there and wonder exactly what the difference is between non-drowsy, aspirin free, you name it.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, we got it.

Bob Garfield:    They should be clearly marked on the label.

Susan Bratton:  So, I have a new job for you.

Bob Garfield:    Okay.

Susan Bratton:  I'm going to appoint  —    Mickey Rooney's dead, so you're my choice. I would like to appoint you the MDA: the Marketing District Attorney where justice prevails and there is no more marketing victimization. Would you take the job?

Bob Garfield:    Well, uhm  —   tell me about the dental benefits.

Susan Bratton:  How much does it pay? [laughs]

Bob Garfield:    [laughs]

Susan Bratton:  How much does it pay?

Bob Garfield:    [laughs]

Susan Bratton:  One million dollars, of course!  [laughs]

Bob Garfield:    Well, I mean if it's just some stupid dental maintenance organization no, forget it! I'll need the full package.

Susan Bratton:  [laughing]

Bob Garfield:    And we'll really have to talk vacation and non-compete. But once we get that ironed out, you know, we can talk. Yeah, that sounds like a pretty good gig.

Susan Bratton:  You're the Elliot Spitzer of the marketing world. I think it would be great to have  —    to have that. And you know what, really do that.

Bob Garfield:    You know  —   we should have that! And you know what that thing should be called?

Susan Bratton:  What?

Bob Garfield:    It should be called the government.

Susan Bratton:  Oh God, are you sure? I'm a little bit of a Libertarian sweetie, I'm not sure I need more guvment.

Bob Garfield:    I'm very sure. You know, I believe in police on the beat. Cuz you know why? Cuz police on the beat reduce crime. But since approximately the early 80s there have been no police on the beat. The regulatory agencies have been gutted, and in fact they've been run by deregulators for you know the better part of the last 25years. There actually  —    you know, the fox has been guarding the henhouse so long it's hard to know what the henhouse even does.

Susan Bratton:  Uh huh.

Bob Garfield:    You know, I think the FTC and the FDA should aggressively regulate the marketing of consumer products, especially ones that are ingested. But they have been asleep at the switch since the Reagan Administration. And you know I can't even foresee—   you know, even in a let's say a Hillary Clinton regime  —   them really coming back to any great degree. And it’s a  —   I think it's a crime. Regulation has –  you know, I don't know if the government should be doing everything in our lives but as a minimum they should be protecting us from the excess of marketers. Because you know, one of things about the free market is  —   one of the things it's free of, is conscience. And since it is free of conscience the government has to step in and make sure that people are behaving right. And unfortunately I think the government has vastly stepped away from that role and consumers suffer.

Susan Bratton:  I want to ask you   —   I'm going to turn the tables on you here. And I have a lot more questions to get to and so you need to spend less time on your soapbox on each one. Are you ready?

Bob Garfield:    Go ahead.

Susan Bratton:  Okay.

Bob Garfield:    The lightening round.

Susan Bratton:  This is the lightening round. The first one is  —    the turn the tables question is something you asked someone that I thought was brilliant, so I am going to ask you. Here we go. Okay Don Quixote, what are your three windmills?

Bob Garfield:    Whoa. Ah... Honesty in the political process. Ah, uhm, uhm uhm ah-- the Phillies reaching the playoffs. Ah, and ah and ah  ... I really want to--- I've only got two.

Susan Bratton:  We'll take two. I like the Phillies in the playoffs, that's a good one. All right, so  you called –  Kevin Roberts from Saatchi and Saatchi wrote a book called "Love Marks". You called it brand hickeys. Were you just being clever or do you think the love marks concept is a little zany?

Bob Garfield:    Listen, I've got to tell you I haven't read Kevin's book, I've only read about Kevin's book. So I, I'm really not in a whole of position to comment.

Susan Bratton:  [laughs] All right. Well, that never stops you, does it?

Bob Garfield:    I'd like to say I'm extremely skeptical (( inaudible )) in the current age about re-branding the whole idea of emotional connections in advertising as something special and calling it  —    you know calling it a, an innovation. That said, I think the Penny's campaign that they broke with that concept was really magnificent. But I continue to be skeptical whether a) he's found anything new and b) whether emotional connections are going to be the future of marketing. I rather think it's the opposite that it’s going to be rational connections that are done, not the advertising. So we shall see.

Susan Bratton:  Interesting, God. Oh I'm so torn. I want to know more about the rational connections not —    I had another question but tell me what you mean by the rational connections not created by advertising.

Bob Garfield:    Well I think people are interested in information. People you know care deeply about goods and services, I'm sorry to say. I mean I don't quite understand what in the human behavior makes us really want to know more and more about Tide, but people go by the millions to the P & G website to learn more about their detergent. And the one thing that has been true about all advertising all over the world for the last 30 years is that it's gotten less and less —    it's less and less a purveyor of information and more and more, you know, a comedy black outs or a you know, production spectacle, that attempts to impress you without telling you anything, and leaving the audience actually craving information. And the internet is perfectly situated for giving consumers just that.

Susan Bratton:  And that ties into listenomics beautifully so I completely understand your explanation. Let's move on. Consumer generated video. You called it monkeyvision. EEE AAA OOOO AHHH..... Why?

Bob Garfield:    Well because you know they say that if you put a million monkeys at a million typewriters, eventually in time, they will reproduce all of the works of Shakespeare?

Susan Bratton:  [laughing]

Bob Garfield:    It's kind of like that with consumer generated video. You know, you put a lot of monkeys at a lot of computers with a lot of digital cameras and eventually they'll come up with something worth watching. But it's going to take a lot of monkeys a long time. But I'll tell you the gems are certainly gems.

Susan Bratton:  Yeah, the video that you recently had on the blog  —  the Bobosphere blog —
was oh gosh, I don't know who –  some guy who works for Microsoft in Brussels, created a video of an advertiser which was the guy in the consumer, which was the woman. And it was the most fabulous clip about  —    they were dating and he just didn't get her. And it was done from the perspective of the marketer and the agency. That was a beautiful clip to surface.

Bob Garfield:    Yeah. I'm writing an entire book on the subject (( inaudible ))
and completely exhausted and perfectly in a two minute video which makes me wonder what the hell I'm doing.

Susan Bratton:  Well—

Bob Garfield:    But it shows the disconnect between the way marketers think and the way consumers think and why marketers who try to dictate their messages to consumers simply don't understand that the tide has turned.

Susan Bratton:  So you've written two books. The two books are "And Now a Few Words From Me: Advertising Critic Lays Down the Law Once and For All". You wrote that a couple years ago and before that in the late 90s you wrote "Waking Up Screaming: NPR's Roving Correspondent Reports From the Bumpy Road to Success."  So you've written two books, but what I notice that you're doing recently with the chaos theory and listenomics, is that you're almost making essays or you're serializing content in adage. You have this chapter by chapter thing you're doing on listenomics on your blog. Why have you moved from publishing books to doing more of this kind of give-it-away-free online stuff?

Bob Garfield:    Well I'm trying to practice what I preach. My theory is that the future is all about creating connections between corporations, government, political parties, interest groups and so forth, and individuals. And in writing the book on that subject I'm trying to do the very same thing; actually engage the very audience that I'm writing about. In theory at least we will have a conversation and the conversation-- I mean it's not a            (( inaudible ))  I'm not asking anyone to write the book for me, but I am interested in feedback during the process of writing the book in case I've missed something or in case I've gotten something wrong, in case I'm on the wrong track. And I want to hear from principles and interested observers just to see —   you know how I can make the book better with their help. And it's not working that well. Right now I'm just writing stuff and getting very, very little response.

Susan Bratton:  You know why though? I'll tell you why. Here's a piece of advice for you.

Bob Garfield:    Thanks.

Susan Bratton:  You know I researched you quite a bit, spent a few hours kind of digging up all the things you've done and really assessing who you are as a person. You have a lot of richness to you that is not getting conveyed because your stuff is scattered. You do your philanthropic media watchdog stuff and on the media and you're on that foundation – media watchdog foundation  —   you are the Marketing District Attorney, you do that in your blog; you do your essays in adage and print. You've got to dig them up on the sight but you can't really get to them unless you're a subscriber which I am but not everyone is. Like there needs to be a Bobspot. Where all the richness of everything you are, from your political advertising to the ad critic work, where there's just  kind of this collective and at the front of that is your latest theories on –  I wouldn't call you a futurist, I would call you a what-the-heck-is-actually-happening-now-ist. You seem to be really good at that. And it's too disjointed to pull together for anyone to –   I might be the only one who could actually sit down and give you some feedback because I did like three hours work gathering this stuff together. So my advice is to put more stuff in one place so we can follow your threads and get that richness and give you some feedback.

Bob Garfield:    Well I think that's good advice. And I'm pretty much all over it. I'm actually in the process because I want to generate speaking engagements with –  that's how I make a big part of my income.

Susan Bratton:  Income, absolutely.

Bob Garfield:    I'm trying to create a sort of central Bob-O page....

Susan Bratton:  Yup.

Bob Garfield:    That is —    my only fear is that that draws people away from Advertising Age which is my principle employer. And I don't want to do anything which takes any of my audience away from the people who put food on my table. So I have to respect my employer. At the same time it's true, I am scattered. You know, there's several Bob Garfields and there's some overlap in the various things I do but it does create a kind of  schizophrenic problem. And I describe myself as a multi-mediocrity and you know, I'm only half kidding when I say that.

Susan Bratton:  [laughing] I love that. Well you're definitely not medi  —    medioc   —   wait, how do I say that?

Bob Garfield:    Yeah, I don't know. It's somewhere between mediocre and media. So you know....

Susan Bratton:  Mediocre. Mediocre. Got me all screwed up. All right. We only have a couple minutes left and I want to get to some of the more Bob-y stuff. So did –   do you like the little yellow –  and do you like the little striped tabby cat? Garfield?

Bob Garfield:    No, no he's destroyed my life.

Susan Bratton:  Has he?

Bob Garfield:    Yeah, I've had many conversations with his creator, Jim Davis, who at the moment has a restraining order against me, but--- the cat has ruined my life ... and we'll just leave it at that.

Susan Bratton:  Well it's funny too, cuz you kind of look like him.

Bob Garfield:    Thanks. It’s very, very sweet.

Susan Bratton:  Well – 

Bob Garfield:    Thank you, you're very kind Susan.

Susan Bratton:  You're leaving me now. No, cuz your hair is – kind of has a little bit of a redish cast to it.

Bob Garfield:    It sure does.

Susan Bratton:  And you've got the little bit of gray creeping in which, I know I'm not supposed to notice that either, right. But that's kind of like a little stripey, so I was thinking that over time, and you know....

Bob Garfield:    Not to mention ---

Susan Bratton:  Put on a few pounds ---

Bob Garfield:    Here's the thing Susan, at this stage of my career I was hoping to sell coffee mugs with MY picture on them. Instead the market has completely been cornered by a frigging fictional cartoon character who-- when I was a feature newspaper columnist-- you know had me, let's say, exponentially outnumbered in the number of newspapers he appeared in. I was in twenty. He was in 2000 and he doesn't even exist.

Susan Bratton:  I'm sorry. [laughs] All I can say. All right, here's something that's a little bit weird, which I like. You're favorite movie is a George Seagal movie called "King Rat" and it's about these prisoners of war who start trading in rat as meat. Right?

Bob Garfield:    Well that's you know, one of the plot points. By the way it's not my favorite movie; it's my favorite movie of movies that are nobody else's favorite movies.

Susan Bratton:  Well, that... there's a.... Yeah, a qualifier.

Bob Garfield:    I think Dr. Strangelove is probably my favorite movie, or maybe The Godfather part two. But King Rat is definitely my, you know, personal treasure. And it's about a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Singapore. And George Seagal plays a kind of black marketeer, who has a perfectly pristine uniform while everybody else is in rags. and it's about the life in this camp. It was a James Clavell novel which was itself a masterpiece. And the film is simply magnificent.

Susan Bratton:  We can get that on Netflix I checked it out. I just watched Iwo Jima last night and that was quite good. Ken Watanabe is so hot that you know it was in Japanese and I still loved it.

Bob Garfield:    [laugh]

Susan Bratton:  Now you also recently read a novel called Everyman by Philip Roth. What a prolific and amazing gift to America that man is. But I haven't read the book, so I was trying to do a little studying about Everyman and why you said, "It's such a masterpiece..." you're contemplating suicide. What I noticed was that it was a partially---
the only thing that caught my eye about the book apparently as you age you get this erotic resurgence opportunity. I thought okay, so I'm 46 next week and maybe I have something to look forward to. [laugh]

Bob Garfield:    [laugh]

Susan Bratton:  This is really frightening, to see this husband is engineering this program

Susan Bratton:  [laughs] Actually we have a fabulous sex life and if know anything about Personal Life Media, it's all very sexy and ... so I have nothing to worry about.

Bob Garfield:    And you can read the book with impunity.

Susan Bratton:  I can. I'm actually in the best sex life of my life right now and certainly loving telling people about that.  [laughs] But tell me why you're now contemplating suicide. We can't lose you.

Bob Garfield:    Because it's because of what I say... You know, this is a novella more than a full fledged novel. It's just a sketch but it's an astonishing sketch because you know literature is all about finding human truth and this book just aids in it. It's about a man who by the way was advertising creative and he had a very vivid life. He made a lot of errors in judgment; he basically screwed up his life, mainly by entanglements with woman most of whom he married. And he kind of spiraled downwards like the media marketing infrastructure we were discussing earlier, and now he is retired and lonely and bored. And yet, he continues to think about his erotic life and the mistakes he made. But mostly he thinks about the deterioration of his physical being and what faces him. And it's not just the death of his body but the death of his erotic life which substantially has been his life. And it's, I mean it's heartbreaking, it's frightening and it's just a little bit of perfection. And why am I suicidal? Because I'm not really looking forward to going through that stage of regret and loss. I'm not ---- yeah, who wants that?

Susan Bratton:  Well, it is the human condition and you shall do it.

Bob Garfield:    Great. Thanks.

Susan Bratton:  So, we're going to end our interview. I've had a lot of fun with you, Bob. Thank you. I was a little intimidated to interview you; you're very, very smart and articulate and doing really great work in so many categories. And certainly someone who is a real draw for our industry. So thank you for giving me the time to let everybody get to know you better. When I do my interviews I email you and ask you to tell me a few little things aoubt yourself. You said what your favorite film was that no one liked and the book that you read that made an impact on you recently. You also said the product 2000 flushes that you can get about 2600 flushes with that?

Bob Garfield:    Yup.

Susan Bratton:  Why the hell did you write that?

Bob Garfield:    [laughs]

Susan Bratton:  Are you just....

Bob Garfield:    Well because I don't have many superpowers and that's one of them.

Susan Bratton:  [laughs] You're such a goof. You do have many superpowers, I would disagree. I would disagree. You are the Marketing District Attorney and you fight for the rights of good media. And for that we thank you. Every single person listening today I'm sure, has been appreciative of anything they have read from you. So keep it coming and get organized. Good luck with that. I've got some ideas about how you can still support Ad Age and do that too, so we can talk offline. And thanks for coming on the show today.

Bob Garfield:    Well thank you Susan it's really been a pleasure.

Susan Bratton:  Good, I'm glad. All right, well thanks so much listeners for tuning  in to day I really appreciate it . I hope I did a good job bringing you the fabulous Bob Garfield and I hope we get you back listening with us next week. I'm your host Susan Bratton, have a great day. Bye bye.


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