People Can Be So Mean, Yada Yada Yada

On his personal site, Brian Morrissey, a journalist at Adweek, takes note of a colleague’s piece on Eric Silver leaving BBDO for DDB.

This is out of my depth: two traditional creatives who mostly make TV spots. What’s interesting is the intense discussion that has ensued in the comments section, where there are 162 responses in less than a day. Like Cathy (Taylor), I think it lays bare the jealousies and fears of the ad world. The backbiting in advertising is legendary, but it’s event like this that put it into full focus.

There’s also this:
alan_wolk_ddb_tweet copy.jpg
What’s happening is people who don’t participate in social media on a daily basis are lost. Take this comment, for instance:

Adweek should be ashamed they allow this to be anonymous. This is the internet at its worst. A bathroom stall in a gas station with graffiti all over the walls has more integrity.

I haven’t even read the nasty bits in the comment string. I’m not drawn to that type of material. I’m more interested in the fact that people can’t tell the difference between a blog and an online magazine and that they expect both places to be free of defamation and sordidness.
I’m not judging that response to media. I’m noting that it’s all media to the reader or viewer. It can be made by a pro, or it can be the guttural spew of a mad man. When it’s published, it’s media. Here’s the thing-the very concept of media carries with it the burden of responsibility.
There’s no putting Genie back in her bottle–modern, global and instant media is here to stay. Other than hitting the delete button there’s little that can be done with poor behavior in an anonymous setting. When it comes down to it, every publisher, amateur and professional, has to decide where their line is.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. I think it’s another indicator of Adweek’s laziness. Ad Age will delete comments they deem inappropriate. Adweek only recently started allowing people to comment on articles. But it’s clear they have no one monitoring things. Didn’t bother reading this latest thread, but quickly scrolled through it. Not sure it’s right to think the number of comments is high, as a few individuals made multiple postings. Wouldn’t be surprised if all the agency downsizings are spiking comments across the board. Even the terrible Agency Spy is starting to receive comments again. The unemployed have nothing better to do than troll the ad blogs waiting for opportunities to trash management.

  2. Adweek did take down many comments, like ones that referred to Paul Tilley. Some stayed up during the night because we can’t moderate the comments remotely with our CMS. (That’s getting fixed supposedly.) This isn’t AdAge vs Adweek. Debating the thoroughness of comment moderation in trade publications sounds like a real snoozer. The interesting bit is what the reaction says about what the ad industry is going through, a painful transition for a group of people who for whatever reason love tearing each other apart. Read the comments, it’s all there: fear, loathing, uncertainty, jealousy — and above all, a yearning for the way things were.
    One point: readers aren’t calling Adweek a blog, not that it matters, but the comments section. I just see it as semantics from people who aren’t all that steeped in the Internet.

  3. I find Brian’s analysis spot on: that’s exactly how I saw it too.
    What I also found telling about people calling the comments section a “blog” was that it seemed to reflect (a) a complete unfamiliarity with online media in general and (b) a conviction that “blogs” were places where mean-spirited anonymous sniping took place.
    Which, if (a) is true and your only familiarity with blogging come from certain of the more popular ad-industry blogs, is not that far a stretch.
    @David – if you remember the post I did a week ago, where you dubbed me “Dr. Wolk” – one of the things I “prescribed” for the industry was that it needed to be less evil, to stop enabling a culture of back-stabbing, bad-mouthing, glorification of prima donnas and the like that makes law firms and Hollywood talent agencies look like Care Bears. I’d call the comments to the DDB article “exhibit A”
    One more point- @Adweak (HJ?) – Adweek’s had comments up for a while now- maybe as long as 6 months. Most articles get one or two comments, generally pretty mild in nature. The fact that this piece got 200 is pretty notable, unless, given your point about multiple posts by the same person, you’re prepared to tell us you’re personally responsible for 195 of them.

  4. Just a few rambling responses.
    Didn’t mean to imply this was about Ad Age vs. Adweek. Perhaps was responding to seeing instances at where comments became, imho, unnecessarily rude and sophomoric – like what sometimes occurs at places like Adfreak. It would be interesting (albeit difficult and probably illegal) to determine exactly who constitutes Adweek’s audience. Is it a true range of the industry players? Probably not. But knowing would help to really understand what’s happening in the industry.
    Did agree that much of the negativity is based on what’s happening in the industry, especially in the area of employment/downsizings/firings/politics/etc. This specific case really spotlights a very old societal ugliness: those who talk about ideas versus those who talk about people. Alan, you’ve been in big agencies, so you know the deal. Where there is politics, there will be poison. The ad industry continues to be fueled by things like competition – and it’s competition based on mostly subjective opinions. It’s a thoroughly old school system. It will be difficult to eliminate what you’re calling “evil” because you need to be “evil” to move forward in the system (FYI, your other prescriptions will be difficult to administer too, and there are few indications anyone is even trying to change things).
    Not sure about the implications of people using the term “blogs” in this case. It might also be an indicator that traditional journalism and blogs are starting to blur in people’s minds (perhaps fueled by having related entities like and Adfreak?).
    Finally, the number of comments was obviously based on the subject matter. The majority of Adweek stories – as well as Ad Age stories – don’t warrant comments. Or perhaps don’t inspire comments is more accurate. It’s sad to see what inspires some folks.