Can't We All Just Get a Blog?

There's decent amount of back and forth talk about a post Alan Wolk had over at Agency Spy. I came away thinking there are a lot of issues at work there lumped together under the single banner of why are ad people so damn angry. In talking offline with a few creatives about it, even more points were raised. At the risk of continuing the separation of church and state between creatives and the rest of the world, the focus for me becomes:

1) Why are anonymous comments overwhelmingly bitter/negative on ad blogs? (The flipside to why are ad people so damn angry.) Are we talking in the workplace? Or online. Two different things. If I was stuck in a lousy shop, I'd be angry too. I might even go online to vent about it anonymously. What if they're tired of reading fluff pieces about someone they know to be a prick. Sure beats the mall and rifle approach.

2) What should the tone of online comments be?
That's up to the blogger. I'm not even going to get into whether anon comments should be allowed, suffice to say you can tell the difference between legit crit and someone coming on to start trouble.

Many agency people offer solid comments but also need to remain anonymous for a number of reasons. In general, go after the post, not the poster, for Dalton is your master: Be nice. Until it's time... to not be nice.

Here's where it takes a hard left though: Creatives are passionate freaks, while PR-marketing types are all about transparency and being open. Oil. And. Water. Latter meets former. Former disagrees. Latter expects polite discourse.

Problem is, discussions aren't always nice and neat because writers and art directors are always tearing stuff apart to make it better, much like a work in progress. It's what they do. Compare creatives who blog with PR/marketing types who do and tell me which group is more apt to delete stuff first. (Yeah, it's okay, you know the answer.)

As for remaining anonymous, two different anon comments can have different opinions. It doesn't make their views any less valid or true simply because they choose to remain in the shadows. How do you neg someone for being anonymous simply because they said something you don't like, but then turn around and give props to another anon because they agreed with you? Either ban them all or leave them alone.

3) Why do the vast majority of traditional creatives hate people involved with social media?
No, really, they do. It's one of those dirty little secrets. This is different than a digital vs. traditional creative arguement though. Creatives on the whole have little respect for anyone associated with "Social Media‚ĄĘ because of what the person associated with it represents to them, another version of suit, but more: Snake oil salesmen, change agents and worst of all, direct marketers--with mouses.

Creatives for their part came up as writers, art directors, photographers, etc., each doing something by hand. Writing, sketching, illustrating, etc. Social media gurus talk about how brands should listen to customers. It's hard as a creative to respect someone who you don't feel has ever been in the same proverbial trenches the way you've been.

While a few creatives love their TV/print/radio but hate things like Twitter, concluding then that they have to be out of touch with the net or anything interactive clouds the issue further. A lot of agency creatives are doing killer stuff regardless of the media employed, and will end up in my opinion doing the coolest things with social nets. Lines are blurring between disciplines anyway, so to say the hate is only coming from the traditional agency side doesn't feel right. (Look around. There is a LOT of smugness on the part of Thought Leadership Team USA that they alone are the industry's answer.)

But, what the creative side really doesn't like hearing is a PR-slash-"Social Media Enthusaist" talk about how blogger outreach is all a brand needs, and that ad agencies are a thing of the past. They agency model itself may well change, but the people in it are very much real and still here. An either or attitude like that by both sides accomplishes nothing.

Agree or disagree if you want, but this vibe is definitely out there, alive and well. So, can't we all just...

(Note to Steve and Angela, I swear this is my last megarant. I know how you hate it when I go over my words for the month.)

by Bill Green    Apr-22-09   Click to Comment   

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I think the answer to the first question is: because most of them are talentless scum who think they're really special and creative, but in reality just create boring ads and nick ideas from Youtube etc. They then complain that "the cilent" wouldn't like the quality things they could do, or the account people would let it through, but they never really bother to create those ideas, or even put them on a blog to show what they would have done. They just winge.

I think the answer to question three is because they have no understanding of it, don't know how it works and can't be bothered to learn.

Sorry if this sounds negative - just thought you might like a few truths...

Posted by: Pete Kirk on April 22, 2009 5:19 AM

On reflection I have an answer to number two as well.
It's because they are too damn scared to let their real names be know and actually have an opinion and stand for something. They are happy to hide behind an alias and just talk crap and not try and remedy it or do something for themselves.

Posted by: Pete Kirk on April 22, 2009 5:21 AM

Anonymous ad commenting is great.

It levels the field. The only two kinds of people who get worked up about it are:

Those who enjoy the benefits of status and power and fear a loss due to the democratic nature of one poster/one voice.


Those who think blabbing about how it's cowardly is going to make them look principled and noble, but ultimately are desperately seeking power and status.

Their admonishments are akin to the shrill self-righteous statements of student politicians with ambitions of future grandeur.

Posted by: Mr.Trousers on April 22, 2009 5:46 AM

Another coward! Hilarious.

Posted by: Pete Kirk on April 22, 2009 5:50 AM

I think the creatives don`t like social media because they`ve come up through different channels. Now these social media gurus are reaping the benefits without having to go through the same process.

Posted by: Sharon Wilson on April 22, 2009 7:43 AM

You raise some serious issues, Bill. Regarding which I would like to note: That there was one great headline. Ya done Rodney King proud.

Posted by: Dan Barron on April 22, 2009 8:07 AM

I think a big reason when most traditional creatives dislike social media so much is because most agencies don't know how to use it properly.

Some shops will just say, "let's create a facebook page," and be done with it. Thinking that's an effective way to solve the social media problem. I can't tell you how many times I've been in a meeting where a facebook page or user generated YouTube videos have been the IDEA. No, that's called a tactic. WHAT'S THE IDEA?

"Hey, I have an idea, let's do a TV spot..." See, means absolutely nothing unless there's an idea attached to it.

Posted by: Jeff on April 22, 2009 9:33 AM

I totally agree Steve.
I was in a meeting at a very big (think top 10) UK ad agency a couple of years ago and a senior creative asked what Youtube was when I mentioned in and had to write it down.

These are the kind of idiots that are running the game unfortunately. They just don't know how it works and as you say - think you can just set up a Facebook page and that's your online strategy.

There's also the classic line of "Let's get it on 'The Blogs'" when they have no idea of how blogs work, what they are, what areas to target and think 'The Blogs' are some amorphous thing that you can just buy like media space.

Unfortunately 'The Blogs' and the internet in general are interested in good, fresh and interesting ideas and concepts. Something which most traditional agencies (and indeed most agencies full stop) are in very short supply of.

Posted by: Pete Kirk on April 22, 2009 9:44 AM

Bill: Thanks for picking up on this and advancing the conversation. Very well thought out points, I'm in agreement with most of them. Only quibble is I think a lot of the hatred for "social media" is directed less at the "experts" -- I honestly don't think your average ad creative is aware of the sort of experts you point to, who are claiming all you need is a blog. What I think they're reacting to is the notion that you don't really need a creative department to do a social media campaign and this is the first time anyone's ever told them they're unnecessary. That's got to sting.

I hear you re: PR/creatives and tonality, but most ad creatives were not raised by wolves: there's a world o' difference between "that's kind of boring, I think you should have done it this way" and "What a f**king hack! I hope you die a slow painful death along with your crap ideas!"

@Pete I haven't worked in the UK in about 5 years, but reading certain of the ad blogs there, you'd think the internet was banned or something for all the notice anything digital, advertising-related or not, gets.

Posted by: Alan Wolk on April 22, 2009 10:13 AM

^^Just to clarify, I did not mean to imply that social media campaigns never needed any creative input, but many tactics don't and even when there is participation, it's of a very different sort.

Unlike social media platforms, 1.0 web advertising (banners, microsites) mimicked print and TV to enough of a degree as not to feel completely foreign.

Posted by: Alan Wolk on April 22, 2009 10:24 AM

@Alan - yeah it's hilarious isn't it. The thing is most of the audience in England likes digital when it's done well and engages with it and think traditional work is, in the main, pretty shit!
Some people really, really need to wise up fast or they ain't going to have jobs / agencies very long. Especially in this climate.

P.S. I think if Brown and his cronies had their way, the internet would be banned!

Posted by: Pete Kirk on April 22, 2009 10:28 AM

Regarding the anonymous comments: People comment anonymously because they don't feel like getting ripped to shreds by other anonymous commenters.

I remember seeing just recently on another site - someone make a harsh-but-valid criticism of a campaign and then have anonymous posters (who surely were the creatives who did the campaign) track down the guy's portfolio and rip all the work he'd done. Then they posted a link to his site and every other poster jumped in to rip the guy, too.

It's exactly the reason I'd NEVER post my real name on a blog. You're going to get people who want to tear you down just so they can seem big - and you've got no way to combat it because no one knows who they are.

Posted by: Purposely anon on April 22, 2009 11:44 AM

@Purposely anon - getting some balls has to start somewhere. If everyone started using their names and getting in on this, then anonymous commenters would basically have to stop, or look very stupid.

These people are also people who have nothing better to do than sit on the internet and slag people's work. Which means a) they're fucking sad and b) they either don't have a job or they're not working very hard.

All these things kind of mean their opinion has no merit anyway.

Posted by: Pete Kirk on April 22, 2009 11:55 AM

Exposing yourself through a signed rant is worthless.

Posted by: arthurbarbato twitter on April 22, 2009 12:01 PM

@arthurbarbato - well then dude, perhaps it would be better not to rant and be constructive? Or would you rather perpetuate the stereotype of advertising people being a bunch of inadequate fuckwits who need to fuel their own egos and knock one another down (and without even having the strength of character to fess up to it)?

Posted by: Pete Kirk on April 22, 2009 12:07 PM

Pete Kirk,

For someone criticizing anonymous commentators, you display a negativity and surliness that rivals anything Iíve ever seen from the anonymous crowds. The key to success in the industry, regardless of your specialization, requires collaboration and negotiation. It doesnít matter if you sign your name or not, if you insist on being a loudmouthed jerk.

Posted by: Rob Schmidt on April 22, 2009 12:26 PM

Thanks for all the comments. Seems like the overall tone when it comes to anon comments is in reference to the negative ones. Nobody seems to care about the anonymous positive ones. In no order, wanted to respond to some points -

@Jeff - It's still that way. And I'd blame brands too because they have even less of clue as to how to connect all the dots.

@Alan - Agree on varying degree of comments. Not everyone comes on looking for a fight. I always use Scamp in the UK as an example of someone who gets record numbers of anon comments that either shred or praise work. (See that thread for typical responses.)

Wanted to say too that this is not new for ad blogs though. When I started the blog in 2005, in Canada was a place that was far worse than stuff I've seen now. FAR worse. People, usually students, sent work in for crit and the level of hate was insane. For students no less. (By comparison, Talent Zoo members were more nurturing when they did their crit.) (Maybe it was George Bush that drove them insane.) Some of the response were from CDs, etc., but even then, you could tell the good remarks from the bad.

@arthurbarbato twitter - curious, why? Is the assumption people can't be honest if you know who they are? I've seen just as much incorrect crit of work from anons as I have people signing their names. Having said that, and to @Mr.Trousers point, I could care less if someone stays anonymous; some of the funniest stuff I've ever read has come from anon comments.

@Pete - Agree. I always felt you needed to put a name down if you were going to rip someone. Contrary to arthur's take, I'm not gonna rip someone anonymously because it's just too easy to do.

Posted by: bg on April 22, 2009 1:24 PM

As a "traditional creative", I believe there's an
ambivalence toward social media for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, the rigid silos in which traditional and alternate-media creatives often operate, which results in tiny fiefdoms and a "don't touch my sh*t" mentality.

Second, there's the fact that most "traditional creatives" believe that good work begins with an idea that carries across all mediums. The core concept should be media-agnostic and trickle down to the executional vehicles, therefore,(and I realize I'm making a vast generalization here) any work that begins with a vehicle is, by it's very nature, a lesser thing.

And lastly, I believe the resistance is a reaction to the increasingly fractionalized way we must reach our target audiences today. No one can just do print/tv/radio/outdoor executions anymore. The fact is, new media has doubled or even tripled the number of legs a concept requires to be viable. And many times, the additional executions needed are far more complex, require far more content, effort and depth of thinking, and simply don't generate a comparative amount of internal appreciation or external recognition that the traditional mediums do.

Posted by: Julie Bowman on April 22, 2009 2:27 PM

I think we should make a distinction between anonymous comments and hateful/destructive/offensive comments. I just visited the post at Agency Spy and came away with a few reactions:

1. There is absolutely nothing new in the theme of the Agency Spy post. This topic has been covered a lot in the past, especially during the tragedy involving the creative director in Chicago last year. The post is a rerun of old musings.

2. It was a bad idea to publish the post at Agency Spy. It seems like a cheap way to get attention, as that blog is notorious for producing negative comments. And at least one person fell victim to lots of unwarranted negative comments Ė Stefan Poster. It reinforces the bad decision to publish the post at Agency Spy.

3. In the thread produced by the Agency Spy post, there are negative comments that were made by people who identified themselves and positive comments by anonymous people. The anonymity factor does not necessarily affect the content.

Asking what the tone of online comments should be is as pointless as asking what the tone of advertising or social media should be. It all depends on the specific situation and audience. Social media is very similar to traditional media in this sense; that is, if you donít like the comments, donít visit the site or blog. There are certainly enough options on the Web for people to go where they want for information and entertainment.

As for the battles between traditional advertising people and social media people, I have found it cuts both ways. I see many social media people making insulting remarks about advertising (usually when selling their own services). Plus, I see many social media people intimidated by advertising people. Even the clients spend more time (and money) with the advertising people. There is much work to be done in this area.

Posted by: Judith Mara on April 22, 2009 5:34 PM

@Rob Schmit - I'm only telling it like I see it mate and if that makes me a "loudmouthed jerk" in your book then so be it.
I also fail to see how what I am doing is not part of the "collaboration and negotiation" you are so interested in.
Surely I am "collaborating" by commenting on this post and then "negotiating" by replying to comments and keeping the dialogue open?
Please correct me if I'm wrong here or tell me if there is anything if what I have written that is off base in your book.

Posted by: Pete Kirk on April 22, 2009 6:03 PM

@Judith Mara - "Asking what the tone of online comments should be is as pointless ... depends on the specific situation and audience."

Not pointless though, if I read your comment right. Sure context matters, but blogs all have different tolerance levels. Some people let anything go, others, delete at the drop of a hat. As a rule, the ones who tend to be delete crazy aren't that tolerant based on blogs I've read.

Posted by: bg on April 22, 2009 7:23 PM

Pete Kirk,

Aren't people who leave anonymous comments also telling it like they see it?

I'm sure there is much you fail to see.

I'll stand by my comments. You stand by yours.


Posted by: Rob Schmidt on April 22, 2009 7:38 PM