Tuesday, February 5, 2008

identity politics

The question of anonymity is generating some heat in my little corner of the blogosphere today.

It started with a post over at Marketing Conversations which observed that when social media types blog they give you all of their contact info: their emails, their places on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter... and that, by contrast, most ad industry bloggers post anonymously.

Agency Spy threw out a call to ad bloggers this morning: Why are you anonymous? and Daily Biz admitted in an eloquent post that his main reason for anonymity was so he could write about a co-worker he had a crush on without letting her know. (He's since blown his cover--to no avail.)

Agency Tart guessed that anonymity=her job because You can’t really cut and paste internal emails on the internet and have your boss be okay with that. (She's right to worry. Check this out, one of her many hilarious cut & paste email posts.)

Tangerine Toad, sagely observed in a comment that 'out' bloggers (e.g. Ian Schafer, George Parker, Joseph Jaffe) work for themselves while those of us who remain anonymous work for somebody else.

Jane Sample concurred (in inimitable Jane style): Being anonymous gives you more freedom in your writing... Man, if I think of the watered down shit I would be writing under my own name …. ugh.

Where's My Jetpack protested I’m not THAT anonymous. A few links on my blog reveal who I am. (Really?)

On a FAQ page for Multicultclassics, HighJive attributes his anonymity to avoiding the political retaliation that often accompanies speaking the truth.

Why is Ad Broad anonymous? For much the same reason. I don't want to have to tote a company line which I'd feel beholden to do if I were "out" and fearful of blogging the hands that feed me. (How does Scamp do it?) Plus, I don't want coworkers, bosses, friends clamming up in my presence, suspicious that I am looking to libel them.

And let's not forget that, like all copywriters, I'm accustomed to writing under an assumed name. Ads don't have bylines.

If I were a journalist or social media type, I'd eagerly post my real name in the hopes that some eagle-eyed editor (do editors read these things?) might contact me for an assignment or a book proposal, even. If I were a journalist, I'd have something to gain. But what do I gain by giving Ad Broad my name? Who ever heard of an ad agency CD hiring a freelance writer on the strength of her blog? From an agency's POV, blogging isn't added value, it's a giant red flag of a liability: no agency fancies running the risk of letting its underwear flap in the blogosphere.

Tonight, in a comment on DailyBiz, the writer of the original post, Jonathan Tannen (presumably not an ad guy, writing under his own name) said: I love the fact that I have no idea who most of you are. But there’s a certain sadness to it... For a supposed push-the-envelope industry, sticking one’s neck out individually seems to invite derision.

True, the ad business may be a push-the-envelope industry, but those of us in it know it's not exactly populous with push-the-envelope types-- genuine renegades aren't generally good at coping with commutes and time sheets and deadlines and dress codes. To survive in this business, you've got to make yourself fairly agreeable-- able to endure inane client comments, endless copy revisions, impossible deadlines, counterintuitive research results that kill a spot in production.

So I don't think it's sad that ad bloggers are anonymous. I think it's fortunate, a matter of survival. We've got a place to vent our true thoughts and feelings without the risk of being fired or shot. Take Joker who must have had a meeting today with clients from hell. Without his blog, he might be in custody for manslaughter.


Anonymous said...

You make a great point when you say: From an agency's POV, blogging isn't added value, it's a giant red flag of a liability: no agency fancies running the risk of letting its underwear flap in the blogosphere.

Well said. As usual.

I wonder how the tech and soc net guys get away with it. Do they work for themselves like Jaffe and Parker?

Anonymous said...

I have actually had that little played through the scenario of "discovery".
Firstly, I imagine that it would come out via an "enemy" because if you are my friend now way are you blowing my cover. Which means it would probably be spun in a negative light and it would be someone who had an axe to grind.
As such at this point I would be in damage control mode, and I'd have to tell my boss, because it is best that it came from me ... rather then have them find out from someone else, and I would get the dreaded "invite to the boardroom".
I would not stop blogging, but who knows how it would change or how my agency would want to be involved or not? I think they might be excited about the association ... but I would probably have to "edit" some posts.

Brian Belefant, DGA said...

I don't care who you are. I mean, I'm curious because we've both been in the business so long that I'd bet we've crossed paths. But so you write under a pseudonym. So what?

I read somewhere about a scholarly debate in which one side was adamant that William Shakespeare didn't actually exist. They (he? she? I can't remember) claimed--like this was really important--that Shakespeare's works were actually written by someone calling himself William Shakespeare.

So congratulations. You're in good company.

Alan Wolk said...

Funny DB, but a lot of newer agencies, especially those in the digital space, encourage their employees to blog.

Matt Dickman (techno//marketer) and David Berkowitz (inside the marketer's studio) both work for agencies that regard their blogging as added value.

But then again,they don't blog about who they have a crush on or what asinine thing their client said today.

Which, I guess, is the difference.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

DB, I wonder about those guys, too.

Jane, what if they (stupidly) weren't excited about your association? If they said "us" or "DJS". Which would you choose, I wonder.

Belefant, thanks for the image of WS as midieval blogger. The rumor I heard was that he began as a copywriter of sorts. His dad was a glove-smith and when a customer sent a pair as a gift to a lady, Young Will ghost-penned accompanying love notes.

Toad--but that is a VERY big difference, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

good question ad broad. I wouldn't give up blogging, no way! I love it! There's no compromise on that one. Which means I would get a nice severance package and we'd all go our own ways.

Although if they would be accepting of the blogging, I would not use my blog to complain about co-workers/clients except in a very very very broad way. You afterall do not want to piss off the people you have to work with.

Anonymous said...

@ Toad: I have often wondered about whether or not talking about the day-to-day of my life in advertising adds value or is best left out. And I think that it adds something, showing my personality and making the posts more real.

But that is based only on my own guess.

Maybe I could leave it out and still be compelling. I wonder...

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

My own two cents, DB, is that you keep in day to day. Personal storylines make the difference between bloggers and pundits. And who's more fun to read? So.. how are things between you and PAE, anyway?

Anonymous said...

I think my question would be, why do all copywriters who blog choose the same Blogger template. What. It’s a fair question.


The anonymous comments are okay as long as they at least add something to the discussion. “You suck” really doesn’t do much. Generally though, you can tell the creatives because they at least bring something valid to the discussion. In that case, I don’t care if you’re anon or not.

Still, as the blogger, you pretty much know if your tone is too harsh for the agency you work for, so going anon is probably a better bet.

There’s another thing that tends to happen though when someone relatively famous blogs or comments: the dynamic of the point they originally made changes, because now everyone is more interested in their popularity, not necessarily their comment.

Not that it’s related to advertising, but look at a Baldwin on Huffington or Cuban on his blog. They could post any topic, boring or not, and by morning they’ll have 1,000 responses just because people want to feel like they’re talking with someone famous.

(But even that doesn’t mean you engage people. Cuban tends to, but someone like Seth Godin has said he never will.)

RFB said...

Yes - really. Al that stuff in the top of the right sidebar are links to other projects.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

@Logo--right about that template thing. More proof, I guess, that writers need art directors. Interesting point about posting on celeb sites as a virtual version of star-humping.