From ZERO to Hero: its Joseph Jaffe versus the world as he shares his theory on surviving the Mediocalypse

“In a perfect world, the optimal paid media would be zero”

and there you have it. in sixteen short syllables Joseph Jaffe yesterday laid the gauntlet to, well, everyone.

in a Mumbrella Hangout with Tim and Nick, Jaffe took aim and didn’t hesitate in pulling the trigger as he took on the concept of paid media, it’s media agency proponents, media owner benefactors and client conspirators – all of whom are collectively woefully unprepared for the coming mediocalypse (that last word is totes all mine fyi).

Jaffe’s alternative vision is ZERO – a word that serves the dual purpose of being, in Jaffe’s opinion, the target investment a brand should make in paid media … and also an acronym for the elements that make up Jaffe’s counter theory … Zealots, Entrepreneurship, Retention and Owned assets (not media).

to say all this is brand new territory would be a stretch, but to say that it’s rarely been delivered with such zeal is not. Jaffe gleefully takes on Sorrell (“self-serving”), media owners (“complacency and mediocrity are not causes to be able to keep your job. being also to achieve … objectives and demonstrate proven value-add and utility and return on investment is a cause to keep your job”) and clients (“morons”). by the time Clive Burcham of The Conscience Organisation joins the conversation the platform is well and truly burning and we may as well all just run for the hills.

it’s easy to line up against Jaffe’s argument and theory: Ehrenberg Bass’ analysis would tackle the importance of Zealots, Entrepreneurship doesn’t offer the guarantee of exposure, success and ultimately growth that shareholders demand of businesses; on ‘Retention is the new Acquisition’ you can pick your counter-play, and there’s no client worth their salt that hasn’t developed and deployed an Owned asset strategy and plan. but here’s the thing … Jaffe is right.

the 30 second-shaped solution is to predominant. the ad venture is coming to an end. agencies and clients aren’t co-conspiring to create sufficient entrepreneurship and innovation. media is commoditised, and media thinking is undervalued. clients customers have become more important than their consumers, and despite billions of dollars of effort the scarcest commodity in the world remains human attention.

run for the hills indeed.

but despite Jaffe’s verging into hubris, he offers some wonderfully salient and sensible advice. his assertion that “the vision of ZERO is to move from being a tenant to a landlord” is a nicely articulated vision for how brands should increasingly approach their media planning; the idea of a “customer-employee ecosystem empowered by technology” makes total sense; that we should be advising our clients on how to redress the balance of their direct to indirect (media) investment is absolutely right; and to ask “why are we paying for attention, when we should be paying attention” is good enough to put on the t-shirt (should that be your inclination).

whatever side of the debate you’re on, you can’t deny that our negotiation of media’s future is the better for having Jaffe’s voice in the chorus. there will be heroes and outlaws aplenty in the coming mediocalypse, which one Jaffe turns out to be will be decided first by your perspective, and then by history.

PS if you want to skip to a couple of highlights in the above video jump to 13:17 to hear Tim deploy Nick to search for someone who has tattooed toilet paper onto themselves with the immortal words “Nick, to the Google …” or 13:44 to see’s Tim‘s earnest nodding and eyebrow raise at the news of Charmin’s acquisition of website ‘sit or squat’

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