Have you ever scrolled through any of the blogs devoted to the advertising business?
You should for your own self-interest: You never know when you will find yourself on the receiving end of venom, when your picture will pop up on someone's blog.
Last February, I checked out www.gawker.com, not strictly an advertising site, but one that features, in between interesting, well-written N.Y.-centric posts about random news and gossip, Copyranter's "Lies Well-Disguised," a send-up of the McCann Erickson motto about what advertising should be: "Truth Well Told."
This time Copyranter explicated a column I did for this publication about consumer-generated spots for Doritos during the Super Bowl.
"Tom Messner hides his uneasiness about consumer-generated content behind some weak snark," Copyranter wrote. "... Messner is careful to belittle You as 'You the Consumer' every chance he gets. But other than to relay that he once worked for $1/hour at the Abacrombe Flag Factory on 11th and 44th St., I can't find a fucking point in Messner's 850-word mess." Referring to my photo, Copyranter continued, "That's Tom at right. He got rich & bloated with his own agency back in the go-go '80s thanks to sweet, sweet 15 percent compensation commissions."
Forgetting the mangled facts and misreading of the ironies in the column, which completely sympathized with the 1,060 teams who competed to do the Super Bowl work, what struck me was the writing style. Copyranter's own intro is a fine example of blog-speak: "94 years ago, liar H.K. McCann launched his NYC ad agency with the slogan 'Truth Well Told.' That was a big fat lie. Advertising copywriter Copyranter brings you instances of advertising lies and the lying liars who sell them."
No, the blogging world is not a genteel one. Even Robert Bly, a successful direct response writer, bites at people in the ample space he gives himself via his blog on www.bly.com. He headlines one piece "Why I Don't Admire Jerry Della Femina." As if Jerry was seeking such admiration or the world at large had advanced him for canonization. But since Bly is an effective copywriter, this personally directed post had, as of 4 p.m. on Sept. 12, generated 57 comments, including one ostensibly from Della Femina and another from a person with the nom de clavier "Ogilvy, Reeves and Webb Young."
The option of anonymity on these blogs seems to loosen the tongue. The ubiquitous High Jive, who seems to pop up on every blog in creation, even displays his (her?) omnipresence by adopting three different styles, perhaps to fit the occasion or the question. He is sometimes scholarly, sometimes street tough, and sometimes he launches a one-liner just to wake up the conversation.
I, on the other hand, sign my name so I can be attacked for stupidity or naiveté, but not for pusillanimity.
My favorite site is www.adfreak.com.* The principal writers—Mark Dolliver, Tim Nudd, David Gianatasio, David Kiefaber and David Griner—and the simple graphics work best for me.
Some blogs are the work of one person, such as Toad Stool and AdScam. The latter belongs to George Parker, who describes the site as "a well-intentioned rant about the current state of Advertising, with particular emphasis on Big Dumb Agencies (BDA's) because, no matter how bad you think it is, it's actually a great deal worse! 'Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill pail.' George Orwell."
That's the defining thrust of most of the blogs. They remind me of the old Teheran Bar on West 44th, up the street from the Algonquin. It was the original blog. In 1971, copywriters, art directors, account people and media folks gathered there to order drinks and glom the free hors d'oeuvres. They spewed the same complaints about the same issues and many of the same agencies.
Not that all blogging is negative. Seth Godin's, for one, seems to specialize in self-congratulation. "An amazing article," factor1 writes, "I like how Seth isn't offering a direct solution, but ideas for solution." Or pixinet, who sums it up: "Excellent post." Or rsh28630: "Clear insight as always from Seth Godin."
No matter which blog you read, if you see a picture of yourself, be assured no one is about to shower you with compliments. If you don't see a picture of yourself, be thankful. And move on to the Drudge Report.
Or go to www.ordinaryadvertising.com, put together by a reasonable idealist, Mark Silveira. Just as I was preparing to file this column, Mark e-mailed me this note:
"If this site of mine is ever going to accomplish its stated purpose of enlightening, cajoling, goading and otherwise bedeviling advertisers into seeing the manifest benefits of choosing and running extraordinary advertising, it's going to need some help. I know lots of people, but not enough to prompt discussion, provoke debate and maybe make something happen. So I was hoping you might be willing to give me a hand."
Best I can do, Mark.
*Full disclosure: I hold no stock in Nielsen [Adweek's parent company]; am an unsalaried but greatly rewarded with praise columnist for Adweek, and I just happen to find Adweek's site the best for me. If it weren't, I would say it sucks and move on.