Review: "Life After the 30 Second Spot"

Editor's Note: We launched the iMedia Book Club last fall with Don E. Schultz's list of five books  that every marketer should read. The goal of the Book Club is for marketers, researchers and thought leaders to share what books, journals or magazines they have on their nightstands and why. If there's a book you think marketers should be reading, please consider reviewing it for us and let us know.
 
“This is the book I wish I had written.” That’s what Don Schultz -- integrated marketing communication guru and professor emeritus of marketing at Northwestern -- penned in his forward to Joseph Jaffe’s just-published book, “Life After the 30 Second Spot.” Quite a statement from one of the most accomplished figures alive today in the world of marketing. After just reading the book myself, I want to say the same thing.
 
I read the book prepared to find fault with it. Joseph is a good friend. It is his first book. He was tackling a subject that has gotten a lot of lip service over the past decade, but is ultimately a pretty complicated and complex story to tell. While I’ve always enjoyed listening to him speak about issues in advertising and marketing, I’ve wondered whether he had the ability to generate the same sort of impact in prose that he has been able to create as a public speaker, where he has had his physical enthusiasm and entertainer-like gyrations to lean on. Finally, in his title, Joseph had raised a lot of expectations; and prospective readers will pick up the book pretty much expecting Joseph to define for them the future of the trillion dollar global marketing industry.
 
Well, Joseph pulled it off.
 
Joseph makes a strong case for what the current ills are in the world of advertising and marketing, from media fragmentation to consumer empowerment to the internet. He talks about the causes, the effects and the long-term impact of these ills. And, he doesn’t leave the reader hanging, worried that this sky is falling on advertising and that there is nothing to be done. He offers his vision of the future of advertising -- what he calls New Marketing -- and offers twelve concrete examples of New Marketing channels and strategies.
 
Here is why I liked the book:
 
It is provocative. Joseph takes the 30-second spot head on, saying that if branding as practiced today “is a shiny apple, the core of this apple is infested with a worm in the form of the 30-second spot.” He holds nothing back when criticizing some of the worlds’ greatest consumer brands and most respected ad agencies, as well as their advertising strategies. He calls out stupid and wasteful things that some of them have been doing. He challenges many notions that are widely held and rarely questioned.
 
Its arguments are sound. Joseph wrote the book clearly spoiling for a fight. While his pronouncements are bold, they are not bald. He is transparent about his biases. He leads with facts. His arguments are logical, well-supported and well reasoned. This will help immeasurably as the book makes it way to C-suite executives. I suspect that the contents of the book will provide ammunition for aspirational middle managers in marketing and advertising who are trying to effect change and make a difference. Joseph has given them some great ammunition.
 
It charts new ground. Much has already been written and spoken of on the topic of the challenges facing marketers today and the impending (always “impending” it seems) demise of television advertising as we know it. Joseph covers both the old ground and new ground, and he brings it together in a way that no one else has before. He did not just rehash old thinking and old criticisms. He adds real value to the existing body of knowledge of advertising and marketing with new case studies, new analysis, and a new way of thinking about the future of marketing.
 
It is comprehensive. There is a lot to talk about on this topic. “Life After the 30 Second Spot” is ambitious in its coverage and does the job. If someone wants to get a good general handle on the issues which will shape the future of advertising and marketing in 300 pages or less, this is the book.
 
It has a voice. Jaffe is a passionate and enthusiastic guy when it comes to New Marketing. There are lots of people that can deliver verbal passion, but they fall flat with the written word. Not so with Joseph. He captured his unmistakable voice and makes the pages talk like him. It was hard not to get infected by his enthusiasm as the chapters sped by.
 
Of course, the book is not perfect. Joseph’s pronouncements are a bit over the top sometimes, and he lets his passion and enthusiasm for the topic get the best of him at several places in the book, assuming the self-evidency of some of his points where it is not always so clear. And, for those already well initiated in the world of interactive advertising, reading the first 30 or 40 pages requires some patience, because he spends a fair amount of time setting up the basics of the current state of the industry for those without that experience.
 
Given my friendship with Joseph, and knowing that I wanted to write an objective and accurate review, I read the book trying not to like it. Then I wrote this review trying not to puff it.

I couldn’t. Joseph wrote a great book, and reading it made me smarter.
 
Dave Morgan is the CEO of TACODA Systems, Inc

 

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