Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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The Truth & Fiction of Y2K.

Okay, I know this isn't exactly on topic, but now that the Lewinsky thing is pretty much lost its steam, it seems that the media is intent on destroying whatever optimism we have left by trumpeting its latest sensationlist story, the Y2K thing.

Now, before anyone gets all riled up about this -- and I already know who's going to be writing the hate mail on this one -- let me just say that I do believe that New Year's Day is not going to be pretty. But the reason I believe that, is because New Year's day is never pretty. It's filled with dopey parades and endless football games, both of which are hosted by chatty, obnoxious announcers with no regard for your hard-earned hangover.

But that's not what the experts would have you believe. To hear them tell it, January 1, 2000, is the day the world will end. The day the plug gets yanked and sends the global economy hurling toward instant Armageddon. The conventional wisdom is that the first circuits to pop will be the power grids, followed close behind by everything and anything else that depends on power for its existence.

Me? I don't buy it. Not for a minute.

Oh, sure, I expect a few brownouts here and a couple of hiccups there. And I fully appreciate the math that goes into figuring out how even if twenty million elves worked furiously around the clock, every single motherboard in the country still couldn't be fixed in time. But I'm more realistic than that.

Okay, more cynical.

Call me hard-boiled, but for the life of me I can't imagine one fat banker or title company not safeguarding their operations to make sure their money stays exactly where it should come hell or high water. For crying out loud, these guys have data recovery plans in place for nuclear holocaust and you think a few days without power is going to make them flinch?

I think not.

There's another reason why I don't believe in the Y2K hysteria: lawyers. America's favorite pastime used to be baseball. Then it was football. These days its lawsuits. And I don't care how long the power is out, I'll bet you your freeze-dried fruit that the minute the Xerox machine blinks back to life, those attorneys will be cranking out suit after suit against the utility companies whose power failures caused their clients' to lose their livelihoods.

Am I the only one to whom this thought has occurred? Again, I think not.

I suspect the boardrooms of corporate America -- many of whose very existence are fuelled by fear of legal reprisal -- have had their strategies well esconced for quite some time now. After all, they pay lawyers to keep other lawyers away from them.

But headlines screaming "SOCIETY WELL-EQUIPPED FOR Y2K" just don't sell as many newspapers as the ones that show color photographs of air disasters.

Finally, let's say the worst does happen and the lights really do go out. For how long will they stay dark? Not too long, I assure you. Oh, you might get a little glitch here or there, but nothing you can't handle. Heck, it might even spark a little romance into that over-lighted, Nintendo-infested marriage. But when all is said and done, I assure you, your boss will be on the phone a lot sooner than you expected, asking why you're not at your desk.

So where does that leave us with the Y2K thing? Well, I'm not going to lose sleep over it. And neither should you. On the other hand, I'm backing up my data like a wild man.

Rob Frankel

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