So Sad

A man jumped to his death from the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Chicago yesterday evening.
Word is, it was Paul Tilley, Executive Creative Director at DDB/Chicago.
That the man’s job performance and personality were consistently diminished in the press and on blogs makes this news all the harder to take.
Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.
[UPDATE] Adweek is now out with the story. Ad Age won’t be far behind.

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. Note the highly offensive condolence at Agency Spy (and the convenient editing of her site to remove a previous hurful DDB post). What next, a kind or thoughtful column from that creep at the Sun Times? Paul was a terrific and thoughtful human being who deserved none of this.

  2. unbelieveable says:

    Please. One thing should have nothing to do with the other. If the press or blogs commented on his performance or his emails, etc., it is still not remotely their fault that he decides to take the plunge, so to speak. As far as I could tell, any slights written about him were on his work, his management style and were not personally based. This was his decision, dumb as it may have been. It’s pretty crazy to “blame” Agency Spy or the Sun Times or anyone else but him.

  3. I’m not blaming. I’m saying that those two sources were particularly, and unnecesarily, harsh on Paul and they routinely crossed the line between personal and professional criticism. Is there any other reason why the Agency Spy site has been edited to remove the fingerprints?

  4. Let’s all take stock and remember an oft-used expression: It’s only advertising. It is especially important in yet another economic downturn when people are going to lose jobs in droves, that we realize losing that coveted position isn’t as important as we all think it is. Maybe your life isn’t worth it? Find something you love to do at a place where you love to work with people who you respect. If your job is killing you go find another one. And if you see someone at work going through something like this sit him or her down and say the same thing. Be happy. Be there for your family. Live in a one-bedroom on the wrong side of town rather than coveting the 5,000 square foot McMansion. You’re bigger and more important than your job.

  5. Ed Applebee says:

    Jumping out of a window doesn’t change how you lived your life or how you mistreated the people in your life. It doesn’t give you a free pass to nobility.
    I worked for this guy and trust me, he didn’t worry too much about his wife and kids in his day-to-day life.

  6. @Ed- I agree with your first paragraph. I wish I didn’t have to read the second.
    Can we get to the truth without doing more harm?
    I don’t know, but I will strike needlessly hurtful text or close this string down if it goes South from here.

  7. It seems inappropriate to speculate on this matter, especially since we have no access to the facts. And we’ll probably never have the facts—and that’s how it should remain, as this is a highly personal affair. Let’s be careful to presume the motivations, for everyone’s sake.
    Is it an opportunity for introspection and debate? Absolutely. Is the blogosphere the ideal place to hold such discussions? Probably not. But it seems likely things will get heated in the coming days. Let’s hope that emotions don’t lead to comments that would be better left unsaid.

  8. Condolences says:

    What a tragedy.
    In my opinion it’s not any more appropriate to say “blogs made him jump” then it is to bash him after the tragedy.
    Has it even been determined conclusively it was a suicide?
    There could have been all kinds of stuff going on in his life that we don’t know about. Saying “blogs and Lazare did it” seems to be taking advantage of this poor man’s death.

  9. @Condolences – According to the Adweek piece, the Chicago Police have refused, at this point, to classify it as a suicide.

  10. from the Ad Age piece: The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office today confirmed that Mr. Tilley died after falling from the Fairmont Hotel, which sits next to DDB’s office in the Aon Center, and that the death had been ruled a suicide.

  11. I found out about this early, and I can barely function. The thought of throwing myself off the top of a hotel makes me really sick. I know I should feel sympathy for him and his mental struggles – but I don’t.
    Because it’s deemed a suicide – his family can’t collect one dime from life insurance – or any other insurance – so his little girls have lost their dad, and now they are going to probably lose their home. Mom will probably have to go back to work – so at this crucial time they will also lose mom, with no dad at home. I hope she has a strong family to support her through this.
    What will this do to DDB Chicago? Clients are going to be freaked out! They’re going to need a EXTREMELY likable, empathetic replacement – good luck finding that guy among the ECD’s out there. Let’s face it, not to many ad guys are the touchy, feelly type. If they just promote from within, the new guy is going to look like some kind of opportunistic monster.
    The entire agency will need to mourn – and business as usual will seem weird for a while. How do you go into a pitch all smiles with funny boards when everyone knows your boss just dove in front of a bus?I think those that can quit will, those who can’t will start coming in really late and leaving really early.
    I don’t know him, but I think he was really selfish, and that might explain why so many people blogged about him.
    When you have a wife and small children, and you think you might lose your fat job, or you’re feeling suicidal, here’s what you should do:
    1) Tell your wife. Figure out an exit plan together. Open a small business together, find a less stressful job in a smaller market, support her dreams while you stay home and watch the kids, etc. He was only 40!!!!!
    2)DON’T take out your mental depression on your employees and family, seek help.
    3) Sell the fat house – even if you need to take a loss. Find a simple home in a good school district with mortgage payments you could afford if you had to chop your salary by 1/4. One that you and your wife could afford if you both had to go back to work making a lot less. Make plans to move to a new area that is attractive to both of you. Maybe where your family is, or maybe where it’s sunny.
    4) Always remember that many very successful people have gone through tragic losses, but have bounced back from it. A divorce, job loss, whatever – is no reason to jump. Donald Trump went broke a few times before he made it to where he is today.
    5) It’s just advertising, not brain surgery. No one is going to die at the hands of your poorly executed campaign -maybe cringe a little, or write about it in a blog.
    6) If you really feel you need to off yourself-( maybe you did something so horrible that you can no longer live with the guilt, or maybe you have a terminal illness), then make it look like an accident. That way your family, friends, co-workers don’t have to suffer. Call an AE to meet you for a work meeting at the Fairmont, then step out on the balcony for some air “because you’ve been getting dizzy lately”. Let the AE witness your accidental fall. Now your kids can say that their dad was the greatest dad ever who had a bad accident.
    Anyway, sorry for the long stream of thoughts – but I’m really still trying to process this horrible last act. GEEZE.

  12. This is tragic and sad news and my heart goes out to Paul’s family. I didn’t work with him nor did I know him, but I do know that we all have ups and downs in our careers and our lives. Sometimes we make the right choices and sometimes not. Sometimes we make friends, and other times our actions make enemies. It’s all part of life, learning and growing.
    But suicide, regardless of the reasons, is always tragic and painful for both the person who decides to take his/her life and for those who loved that person. As one who has experienced this kind of tragic loss first-hand, my heart aches for his family and friends who loved him.
    @Sanity, I couldn’t agree more with your comment. Especially this: Find something you love to do at a place where you love to work with people who you respect. If your job is killing you go find another one.
    @Ed Applebee, you’re right about being dead (suicide or other cause), it doesn’t give you a free pass to nobility, but sharing your ugly opinion on how he treated or felt about his wife and kids is incentive, mean-spirited and cruel. You may not have liked the guy, but trust me, there are people who loved him and are hurting; and to read what you wrote in that second sentence is painful and only adds ugliness to the world. Where’s your compassion? Next time, think twice before you post such painful comments, especially when it comes to death and loss. It hurts!
    @Name Here, Those are all really great alternatives for someone who is still rational and not on the edge. But when you’re in that state of insanity or feeling that it’s all caving in and you can no longer cope and are beyond despair, you are no longer rational and therefore can do such an act.

  13. Dear Name Here,
    As someone who once knew Paul (Back in The Day, at JWT) and as someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, I’d like to give you a little perspective.
    You have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.
    Your suggestions for a way to deal with failing mental health have absolutely no understanding for how this issue plays out in real life. A plan? Seriously? When you’re that far down you can’t see out. Rational behavior has taken a holiday.
    I can not, and will not, speculate as to what drove Paul to this. I can only hope that his family will somehow find the strength to find their way through this. I promise you that is not an easy task.
    And, finally, thanks for having the balls to post your name. Way to snipe from the cheap seats. Anonymity is terribly convenient, isn’t it? And, if you have no sympathy for someone dealing with severe emotional anguish, well, all I can say is I hope you never find yourself, or someone you love, in that position.

  14. Brian Stallings says:

    As the uncle of the young man you are all referring to (Yes,his mother is my sister)I have never felt more saddened by the world we live in, that the internet allows people under the cloak of a blog, people like Ed Applebee who can post such horrible comments without any thought to the feelings of a family who is still trying to absorb this tragedy makes me ill. I wish Mr. Applebee you and others like you had lived back in the day when men lived by a code of honor where “some things” were better left unsaid. S.O, sanity, Mr. Burn, Mr. Mantz and Mr. Romaneghi, a sincere thank you from a man who feels many years too old to understand what drives people to be less than compassion for their fellow human being.

  15. susie shaw says:

    For all you with a Lexapro and a latte, off to your secret 12:45 doctor appointments with a copy of The Secret in your Frietag: cut it out. What deep agony Paul was in.

  16. What a tragedy. I know everybody deals with loss in their own way. “Name here,” I’m guessing you’re being acerbic and don’t mean to sound as insensitive as some commenters might think you’re being…
    But in my personal and professional experience, by the time a person is so unwell that a suicidal act is a potential reality, their thoughts and feelings are such a jumble of hopelessness that it would be difficult to act upon all of those very constructive long-term, life-saving ideas that you listed out. I didn’t know Mr. Tilley, bu think we can all relate to having a time when things pile up faster than we can process them.
    What a shame that even some people who have the resources to do so aren’t always able to get the help they need before such a terrible thing happens.
    My thoughts to everybody who knew him.

  17. Kristin Smith says:

    Dear Mr. Stalling,
    I felt compelled to post this brief message to you after I stumbled upon this blog. I received an e-mail this morning from mutual friends/ classmates of his from Northwestern Univ. and was searching for more information… Please know Paul was, indeed, well-respected and admired by many. He was an absolutely terrific friend at school who consistently brought levity, wit, humor and inspiration to our lives. He had the rare gift of bright comedic charm and was successful in uplifting the hearts of lots of classmates. His early passing is an indescribable loss – words simply fail… I am sorry for his and your pain. I send my love and deepest sympathies to you and your family. God be with you, Kristin Smith

  18. Name Here commented stated:
    Because it’s deemed a suicide – his family can’t collect one dime from life insurance – or any other insurance – so his little girls have lost their dad, and now they are going to probably lose their home. Mom will probably have to go back to work – so at this crucial time they will also lose mom, with no dad at home. I hope she has a strong family to support her through this.
    Most life insurance policies have a suicide clause but many have a two to three year waiting period. If he had his life insurance policy for more then three years (depending on the terms) his family will be able to collect.

  19. Porter McNeil says:

    I didn’t know the victim, and stumbled across this blog tonight, and am saddened by the mean-spirited pettiness of some comments at a time of crisis and loss. In my area, the Quad Cities, blogs all-too-often are a vehicle for the faceless and nameless and character-less folks to hide behind anonymity as they take shots at public officials. Blogs inspire the negative, by their very nature, and the mean-spirited, because they allow folks to hide. They reflect the lack of compassion that many — too many — Americans feel for their fellow human beings. They attract the bottom feeders who, in their normal life, can not function and communicate and deal. So it’s easy to hide behind anonymous comments and make attacks. There is no character in that. There is no virtue, either — it’s a cheap-shot world on the blogs. What a shame.

  20. Having read the Agency Spy postings, I am saddened at how mean-spirited and uncompassionate so many people apparently are.
    And how quick the rush to judgment is. I used to write about advertising for a trade mag, and I have never met Paul Tilley. For “co-workers” and nameless others to quickly condemn him for killing himself, and criticize him for his job performance … remember a couple of things. We are all flawed human beings. No one leads a perfect life, professionally or personally. The only difference is, we don’t have people anonymously posting our perceived failings on blogs.
    Also, remember that Paul was somebody’s child. Somebody’s husband. Somebody’s father. He mattered a great deal to these people. Think twice before you post hurtful comments in these blogs; some of his loved ones will likely read them.
    My condolences to his family and friends.