Death in our ranks, a chill in my bones.

February 25, 2008

Sitting at Heathrow with Monica Wilkins (agency producer), awaiting our second all-night flight of this journey. We will be in Cape Town tomorrow morning.

Meantime, I’m scrolling through blogger comments about the random and awful suicide of DDB’s Chief Creative Officer, Paul Tilley. I didn’t know the man very well but since he had my job (only at a bigger agency), I am understandably morbidly curious.

And judging by the deluge of comments, I’m not the only one. There’s a debate whether on-line haters of Mr. Tilley (of which there were many), and certain cruel press somehow contributed to his fatal decision. Without a suicide note, it’s impossible to know. Though I’ve got to believe the professional and personal attacks hurt. I’ve been on the receiving end of nasty public criticism so I know all too well that sick feeling. The big difference with me was I wanted to kill the perpetrators not myself!

Thankfully, I did neither. Life goes on, after all, and our best strategy is to ride such turbulence like a bobber. You go up when it’s good. Down when it’s bad. But never go under. As Keith Reinhard, the legendary chief creative from DDB’s golden age once observed (and I paraphrase): ‘bad ink is better than no ink.’ Too bad this elemental advice was lost on Paul –assuming his death related to these matters at all. God knows what other issues Paul Tilley had.

I’ve written about the sinful side of our business. Honestly, that was to be this blog’s biggest theme. We play fast and loose with just about all seven deadly sins: lust, greed, envy… The gods of advertising can yield real power. We make people want what they don’t need. What happens, then, when we fall pray to our own rhetoric…getting high off our own fumes? Do we covet awards and money and respect and then what: another man’s position…client…wife? Where does the job begin and end –for us and for Paul Tilley?

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One Response to “Death in our ranks, a chill in my bones.”

  1. Well, I think we know where it ends for Tilley, though as you note, it’s all conjecture on the why. I just learned of it so I don’t know much, but is there evidence it was related to criticism from advertising blogs or is that assumption just a symptom of inflated significance the bloggers attribute to themselves? It’s a tragedy, obviously, regardless.

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