Trolls. They’ve come out from under their bridges. Mostly they are nasty individuals who use the relative anonymity of the interwebz to abuse people They can be easy to ignore – don’t feed them by responding – but occasionally they get properly personal; sometimes they really get frightening and start breaking all kinds of laws.
In the advertising world, trolls tend to fall into two distinct categories, as noted by the well-respected adland.tv site. Åsk (@dabitch), who runs the site, recently asked me to write a piece about these people and the way they post comments on advertising-related sites when faced with critiques. And I say critiques, not criticism – there should always be a reason to dislike something as much as a reason to like an ad. Having an opinion isn’t a bad thing if the insight helps make future work better. Anyway…
Like many of us in the ad world, she’s noticed an uptick in a certain type of commenter – those who say anyone “You’re bitter at not doing this work yourself” or those who call out the inevitable “What have you ever done?” thing.
She also mentioned those who comment without having read past the headline – something I’ve written about before.
With the latter, I think those people have done quite enough damage to themselves; if people are too lazy to read a few words to get context, they get to prove that their laziness (and may I say stupidity) to the world in black and white (or whatever colour the site gives its comment threads).
The others, though, I think we need to think about a little harder.
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.
I’ve actually been banned from one site for always calling out poor spelling. I think poor copy is the one thing that can really let down an ad (as a script, or in a print execution). Then again, I’m a copywriter. The opposite is when good art direction (or copy) can make a tasteless idea something amazing (I’m looking at you Iris and your internal staff comms).
If you’ve worked in the ad industry, you can certainly say why you like/dislike an ad. You may not be right (in some people’s eyes) but they have to get over themselves. To troll someone about that makes me pity you. Go out and make something amazing and then sit back and wait for the same person you disagree with to heap praise on you. It’s much better for the soul. You need a thick skin in advertising – some creative directors like to say no to everything you do because they know you can do better. I owe some of my best work to being told to do it again and again, even though at the time I could happily have killed my creative director.
And those who pull the “what have you done?” card. I’ve never seen any of them produce even a piece of mediocre work. To respond in this way is spineless and serves no one. And if you have produced some good/great/amazing work, then you NEVER need to use that one.
If someone is really critiquing an ad to try and make it better – or describe what they would do if it were their chance – then they won’t be hiding behind an anonymous login. They will be upfront, linking to their blog or site or portfolio. Or be part of the community.
Personally, I’m always up for debate. It’s healthy (and recent studies have shown that a little bit of friction makes for better creativity). The only time I’ve ever had to hide behind anonymity if when I’m working for the same client or (as a contractor) had to tread carefully. I’ve never liked doing it and with the advent of Twitter I’ve stopped. I don’t delete Tweets unless the grammar is so poor it makes context difficult. No one should hide if they really have something worth saying.
And for those on the receiving end of the critiques, I say this: grow some balls, ffs. It’s not about seeing who’s got the biggest (metaphorical) cock. Step away from the computer until the anger has died down, then ask the right questions, or ask for more details. You’ll find it’s worth it in the end.
And if you can’t take it, best find another profession where feedback isn’t part and parcel of what you do. Advertising is not for you.