Hey Buddy, Your Personality Is Showing

As the news business implodes and content marketing explodes, journalists are migrating to advertising. But which journalists? The hard-nosed gumshoes who seek truth at all costs, or the milquetoast pseudo reporters who do and write what they’re told?

Brett Arends, writing for Market Watch, reflects on what kind of personalities work(ed) best in news.

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.

Do you want to know what kind of people get promoted and succeed in the modern news organization? Social climbers. Networkers. People who are gregarious, who ‘buy in’ to the dominant consensus, who go along to get along and don’t ask too many really awkward questions.

Arends could just as easily be writing about the ad industry here. Contentiousness is par for the course in a business where ideas, and the people with them, compete every day for primacy. Yet, when you show this side of yourself, a.k.a. your fangs, you’re a bummer, a dick, a persona non grata.

Let me ask you a question. When did we become so damn soft? So afraid of our own voices?


We work in an industry where our job is to seek brand truths and make brilliant communications in support of these truths. To do this kind of work at a high level, you’re going to need to contend, to speak up, and sometimes say things no one wants to hear. The best people in advertising are skilled at this. For example, Crispin told Domino’s to make better pizza. Can you imagine what that meeting was like?

The fact is, if you want to make better advertising, you need to honor your own “simmering rage at the failings of the AD world.”

Watch TV tonight and ask yourself, what did AT&T spend on this crap? What did Dish spend to beam their crapvertising into our homes? Many millions of dollars are spent every week, and no one has the nut sack to say “This is shit.” Not to the client’s face, or the creative director’s face, as the case may be.



About David Burn

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.