Ad Guys And Gumshoes

Thanks to a stolen next-gen iPhone and one “reporter’s” willingness to buy it, there’s a lot of interest today about who is a journalist and who is not.
The Gizmodo/Apple story led me to think again about a topic Steffan Postaer recently took up an on his personal blog, Gods of Advertising.

In order to build a credible blog, I cannot shill for my agency, much less my own work. I have done it and paid a price. Readers pummel me for being a pimp. Worse yet, they stop reading me at all. On the other hand, I can’t criticize my agency’s work, even if it is my own, as this infuriates colleagues and clients. In many respects the same applies to me commenting on other agencies, their work or any number of industry related matters. Commentary from me is liable to incite someone somewhere. I know that. That’s true of almost any blog. The good ones anyway.

I made a comment on his post, saying I too sometimes struggle to find the balance needed to work in the industry and report on it. I also made mention of the fact that people I know, and like, are right now filling Twitter with self-promotional garbage, grinding axes that are already plenty sharp on their blogs, and worst of all, making bad advertising. All of which forces me to choose between being a critic and being a friend. Of course, one can be both a critic and a friend, provided the friends in question have exceptionally thick skin.
Speaking of friends, a new one recently encouraged me to put more bite in our coverage here. Having worked as a journalist in the past, he knows all too well what “sells.” I appreciate the push, believe me, and I appreciate where his criticism of AdPulp is taking me. Frankly, it’s making me question what business I’m in. Am I in the ad business or the content business?
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I’ve long thought of AdPulp as “proof of concept” for the content marketing model I’ve been forwarding with clients. Clearly it is that, and what you see here, and have seen here every day for 5.5 years, can be replicated for any audience with a shared interest. If you want to talk to kite boarders or organic gardeners, that’s fine, the people who bring you AdPulp can also reach those audiences with a modified, but related, content strategy.
At the same time, Shawn and I have always thought of AdPulp as a stand alone media property–one that we want to see succeed, editorially and financially. Therein lies the tension. For AdPulp to do better financially, it may be time to tweak our coverage (and some noses). Why is that a problem? It’s not, as long as I never again look to the agency partners in question for income.
Once I returned to Portland in 2008 and W+K lost my book and failed to compensate me for it, I stopped needing to praise them. I still praise them, but not automatically, and not universally. For AdPulp to be fully functional, we need to get to this same place with everyone else we cover.
And there’s no time like the present…
Portland agency, North, recently introduced new TV spots for their client Umpqua Bank and pointed to them from Twitter. Unfortunately, the spots fail to reveal who Umpqua Bank is as a brand. That’s a shame any time it happens, but in this case it’s worse, for Umpqua has a strong brand at the retail level and a commitment to customer service that far surpasses their rivals.

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About David Burn

Native Nebraskan seeking the perfect pale ale in the Pacific Northwest. Copywriter and brand strategist at Bonehook. Co-founder and editor of AdPulp.

  • http://marktrueblood.posterous.com/tweet-with-boldness Mark Trueblood

    Personally, I’m sick and tired of the Shiny Happy Social Media People style of twittering and blogging.
    It’s such a sad testament to the groupthink and the conformity we’ve thoroughly embraced out of fear.
    In the end, all we have to offer are ideas. And if your ideas are the same as everyone else’s, you’re replaceable by anyone.
    Everybody, do yourself the favor of being transgressive at least once a day.

  • http://adpulp.com David Burn

    Thanks Mark. I will do my part!
    Ultimately, it’s about striking the right balance. AdPulp isn’t going to get all George Parkeresque all of a sudden. I don’t want us to swim in too narrow a channel.
    For me it’s like this…I’m not going to say something here that I wouldn’t say to your face. Of course, there isn’t much I won’t say to someone face-to-face, so it’s a pretty liberal policy ;0

  • msD

    Rock on with your bad self, Burn. I, for one, am all for it. And in this land of ultra-PC inhabitants that are so afraid to seem like the East Coast cultural elite people that they really are (or hail from), your honest, straight-forward coverage can only prove to be a breath of fresh air.
    Or at least, it will be a breath of fresh air to those of us who aren’t too busy kissing the asses of our colleagues and superiors.

  • http://www.londoncopy.co.uk/team Al

    Agencies losing creatives’ books is the worst possible sin. Without digital files, my career would have been killed off by one offending agency.