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The ad hominem attacks on the ad critics: how many awards have you won lately?

In my search for why there are so many jerk-comments these days, I found that the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, or the Online disinhibition effect is partly to blame for this behavior. Simon White a.k.a Purplesime weighs in on it in this blog post "Don't feed the trolls".

Even Beyond Madison Avenue have "seen some pretty nasty and uninformed comments posted anonymously, on pieces we have written, as well as our colleagues on this blog and Digital Pivot, Beneath the Brand, and Flack Me." The comment-attack disease is spreading. I like the "uninformed" jab BMA made, as more often than not, these types of comments are. Though uninformed guesses can make a thread funny, like when someone insisted the Levi's poem was "a real poem", which spawned some poetic retorts. The thing is, it's not that I can't even say that I think a VO is heavy-handed without being dubbed a cunt that's bugging me here. It's that it seems to me we have lost or ability to engage in a discussion anymore. One that involves first reading (all) of what the other person says, then mulling those points over, and putting forth ones own thoughts. Whatever happened to civil discourse that was over 140 chars long?

As Simon says (heh), it's an opinion shared, and others may disagree. There's no need to call names or competitively measure award cabinets as a response.

Some of us have done amazing work and won a tonne of awards. Most of us have done good work that, for whatever reason, has not won every award under the sun; this type of work, I’d say, makes up a large proportion of the advertising world. Some agencies don’t even put work into awards. And just because no awards have been won that doesn’t make the work worse than, say, an ad that’s scooped several Cannes Lion, One Show awards, or D&AD pencils. (For the record, I’ve won a few awards and been a finalist for some big ones, but I’ve got a trophy cabinet that even lowly football clubs could better.)

But I’m proud of what I’ve achieved as a creative. I’ve won a lot of business in my time and that, I think, is just as worthy. You may disagree, and that’s okay.

I believe anyone has the right to critique. ANYONE. Opinion is what makes for a more informed industry. I may not like the offered opinion, but if I can have one, then so can anyone else. So those who say I’m bitter if I call out an ad I don’t like (anything with Star Wars in, recently, for example – Vodafone and VW) or say how I would have done something different with the insight, you are very, very wrong. I’m not jealous, or bitter, or a hater. I’m giving my opinion and you don’t agree with it.

We used to be better at this, not only here on adland, but everywhere. Is it the spawn of social media that made people suffer tweetpilepsy and now can't read past the headline? Is it the constant captcha's that anger people so, they forget how to speak to other humans? Is it because mean jabs are so much easier to share than a well thought out point? Look around, everywhere people are sharing quick jokes, making funny ha ha's and pressing easy likes. All this chatter, yet nobody is talking.

As for the trolls: Dave Trott thinks you're a little child who can't stick to the topic and should be ignored, Johnny reckons trolls are uncreative, he's got a point, and Luke Sullivan calls it like it is: "anyone with personal integrity and a bit of calcium in their spine will publicly stand by and own an opinion they post, even if it is an unpopular one." I think a new generation, weened on the internet but have never seen Usenet, have lost the ability to discuss things. You can call me as many names as you want, my give-a-fuck-o-meter won't budge, all I care to talk about is the craft of advertising. You can join the discussion like an adult, or prove yourself unworthy.

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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Dabitch's picture

What the HELL man, the virtual ink has barely dried on this and then an anon yanks out the tired old "why don't you shush and go work on some better concepts" attack in the comments for a Casino post. Not everyone is going to like your work kids, and not everyones opinion will coincide with yours. You have to learn how to deal with that without ad hominem attacks.

Mark Smout Hurricane's picture

I can't believe he said that because you pointed out the VO was a little heavy handed! Comments online have definitely become more personal of late, I guess people go into attack mode when they feel their work, or just that of their client is being attacked. There are rare occasions when anonymous comments on people's work are probably acceptable, if you work on the account, or are too close to the project etc, but your voice would still add to the discussion. On the whole though if you can't put your name to a comment, and invariably your agencies, then the chances are you probably shouldn't be saying it in the first place.

The yadda yadda yadda captcha is awesome btw

AnonymousCoward's picture

I once posted to AgencySpy using my real name to give what I thought was a thoughtful critique of someone’s work.

And I was brutalized for it.

Other commenters dug up decades-old work I can’t claim to be proud of and mocked me for it. They posted my resume and laughed because I had never worked for a “major” agency. They took the opportunity to spam my blog with personal attacks and used my email address to try and sign me up for various porn sites. For a while, the top Google search result for my name was that comment page – which was devastating to my job searches and freelance possibilities.

I will NEVER post a comment on a blog under my real name again. But according to Luke Sullivan, I’m the coward and bully if I ever want to say anything negative online. How does that work exactly?

Dabitch's picture

Obviously, it's the tossers at Agencyspy that gave you hell that are the cowards. They didn't put their real names to that, did they? I'm sorry to hear that happened to you, and know full well what obnoxious shites hang around the comment boxes there.

This is actually why adland has nyms, not names. Accounts here like James Trickery don't have to be connected to a persons real name, but is establishing a trackrecord under a nym. I thought this was a better approach when I opened up for users account twelve years ago, because I knew it would be difficult for people in advertising to speak freely, as they might be working on the very same account. I still prefer the idea of nyms to names.

I also allow for anonymous commenting these days, from people who don't have adland accounts, and recently the constant personal attacks have me wondering if the younger generation have simply lost their ability to have a civilized discussion.

kidsleepy's picture

Either the younger generation has, or people in general have. It's like there's no room for dissenting opinion on the internet.

AnonymousCoward's picture

I think that some of it is definitely that the younger generation thinks it's cool to crap on other people's work. But I also think a lot of it is pent up frustration with the rise to power of people that don't have much respect.

Example: I have a former client for a major, major brand who I personally think is a tool. He's a blowhard. He's not a visionary by any stretch of the imagination. He treated the agency like crap when we worked for him. And I've heard firsthand from people who worked under him that he regularly mistreated them and stole his ideas from other brand strategies.

Last year, AdAge voted him on of the most innovative social marketers in the world.

So... do I speak up under a real name, say he's a fraud, and risk hurting myself and my agency? Do I not speak up and let others continue to be fooled by this charlatan? Or do I tell people what I know anonymously and at least warn them to the danger that comes from working with/for him? I have to admit, I chose the latter.

kidsleepy's picture

It's all case specific, obviously. Business is business. And we all get there's a certain amount of pragmatism that must be employed when it comes to personal opinions and comments, especially working relationships.

There's no joy in calling people out for their issues in a public forum. And usually no gain, either. Your experience with a former client may be completely different from mine.

In this case though, its a moot point. We're not talking about people. We're specifically talking about the end result: the ads. If we like them we like them. if we don't like them, we don't mince words.

This is site is designed for group to voice their opinions about work. Period. We're not rock journalists who have never been in a band. We're working professionals. But as we've sad time and time again, everyone's entitled to an opinion. Everyone is entitled to disagree.

When it gets personal however, we don't tolerate it.

Dabitch's picture

Yes. The work the work the work. That's all I ever cared about.
Other ad sites may have a more gossipy approach, with blind items and inter-office gossip, and cultivate a gossipy and often nasty comments section to go along with that. This is about comments attacking the poster for having an opinion. Comments in the style of "you're bitter", you're just jealous, and "why you so ugly" which is so wtf it can only be ignored. Scott Monty asks when did we get so nasty in this eloquent post on his blog. It's not only in comments here, it's everywhere. It's on twitter, on facebook, on mailinglists. We're in the midst of an epidemic of uncreative meanness. People can now kvetch while waiting for the bus, and they'll use this time to pretend their life is perfect on facebook, while backstabbing their co-workers with an anonymous disqus login at Agencyspy.