Let’s stop the anonymous vitriol

In this guest posting, Peter Bray, boss of The Brand Shop, takes issue with negative comments from anonymous posters on Mumbrella and elsewhere.

There are very few ads that I vehemently dislike. There are also very few ads that I really love. But most ads I see on Mumbrella and other blogs I can usually take something from, whether it is information about the brand, a bit of inspiration or a “watch out”. I’m open to learning as much as I can from others, and encourage those around me to do the same.

My basic assumption, however, is that because an ad has been produced by a professional agency, and had the approval from the client, then the end result must be doing something right. Therefore, without knowing the practical rationale behind the ad, for me to have a strong opinion about whether it is great advertising would be kind of arrogant. There is a reason that awards shows ask for information about why an ad was created: they are rarely judged on end product alone.

So as someone who enjoys watching the work that our industry creates, I am stunned at the level of vitriol stemming from some people’s comments in both this blog and others. I don’t know whether it is something that is peculiar to advertising, but certainly there is a far higher level of support for other people’s work in the purely digital agency world than there is in the “integrated” environment.

Peter Bray Brand ShopFor some reason, the ad industry seems to have a disproportionate number of people that seem to enjoy putting down other people’s work. However, I am hoping that it isn’t that there are more negative people, it may just be that there are more negative people that feel the need to be heard.

Many commenters are not simply critiquing work, but often attacking individuals, agencies and agency groups. Shallow, anonymous comments, like schoolboys in the yard trying to outdo each other. Critique serves a purpose, but most of what is served up is just plain tripe.

Whether it is instigated by envy or personal issues I don’t know, but so much work gets savaged like the fate of the earth depends on it. Advertising as a profession is an indulgence. There are far more important things in life. Sometimes we come across an idea that can change society, but this is the exception not the rule. That’s not to say we should be passionate. I would love to see far more passion, but misdirected passion ends only in disappointment and angst.

The net effect of vehemently negative comments isn’t that the agency in question looks bad, as we all know how much gravitas anonymous comments have. It just makes the industry in general look like a joke, and discourages many people from entering such an at times snarky profession.

Judging from the comments on various blog sites, there are a lot of people who verge on obsessive when it comes to following industry news. I just don’t get why people would feel the need to attack any work that is hitting the industry press, let alone the agency. To say that there are good and bad agency brands is to trivialize what makes up an agency. Every agency does some great and some average work to various degrees. But we all try to do work that we are proud of. That’s why we sometimes put work out there to be scrutinized. However, this doesn’t then give people a green light to savage it. But some people’s real characters tend to shine through.

To think that we are able to judge the end work on the basis of a press release or the creative seems plain crazy to me. As outsiders, what do commenters know about the process that was involved in creating the work? Did they see the brief? No. Did they see the business strategy? No. Did they know the personalities involved? No.

In this climate, actually producing work that is aired publicly in any channel and has been approved by clients should be applauded. Many people want to do award winning work, but at the end of the day all that matter is whether the work works, and whether the client happy.

Our opinions on production values, creativity etc are just that, and everyone knows the saying about opinions.

If I was a client and I knew that people in my agency were even capable of writing some of the comments we see, I would run a mile. And as someone heading up an agency, those same commenters would be welcome to leave by the nearest exit. At the end of the day, everyone is trying to do his or her best. And even if you may think someone’s best isn’t good enough, what does slamming them or their work really achieve?

I am a firm believer that at the end of the day, nice guys win. Critique work fervently, but do it in a way that challenges your own method of analysis, which in turn hopefully improves your work as well as theirs.

Build, don’t destroy.

  • Peter Bray is GM and Director of Digital at The Brand Shop and  National Vice President of AIMIA

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