Nobody likes a critic, especially (when it’s) me.

March 18, 2008


Judging by the lack of comments both on and off this blog, no one appears to give two shits about my critique of the new Altoids campaign. Either that, or I was so spot on that my words, in effect, became the last word on the subject.

Truth be told even I think most criticism is folly. Especially when it is pointed at advertising. At least movie reviews give us a sense on whether we should spend our hard earned dollars on them. Yet advertising is in our face whether we like it or not. And most of us mostly don’t give a shit –hence the non-event that was my review of Altoids.

True story: In college I wanted to be a music journalist for none other than Rolling Stone. Back then it was still a relevant magazine. In pursuit of this goal, I reviewed albums and concerts for both my college newspapers at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Highlights include a resounding thumbs up I gave to the Replacements and Violent Femmes. If not for me who knows where these two bands would have wound up? Anyway, I also reviewed plenty of local talent, including a hair band called Whiz Kid. Whiz Kid played Lover Boy and Head East covers for drunken sorority girls (and the men who love them) at various venues around town. For 2 bucks a head one got 3 sets of music.

Like almost every novice critic I rejoiced in ripping no-talent outfits to shreds. Whiz Kid was no exception. I might not be up on that stage but I had my pen, which was mightier than any Flying V. So I made fun of their lame choice of music, their gay outfits and their ridiculously big hair. I used every bit of my marginal writing ability to tear them a new one. And then I promptly forgot about it.

Not Whiz Kid. A couple weeks later I ran into the lead singer at an after-bar party. He asked me why I laid into his band. I said, no disrespect, but you sucked. I mean Lover Boy… Give me a break!

The vocalist did not punch me. Instead he hit me with something far more lasting. He told me the reason Whiz Kid played shit music was to get gigs, which he needed in order to pay rent and put food on the table for his wife and kids. He told me none of the bars in town hired original talent unless they were famous. Whiz kid was not. He had to sing “Working for the Weekend” because that’s what 19-year old girls (and the men who love them) paid money to see.

From that night on, I never had the ambition to publish criticism ever again. I had been stifled by the truth. Whiz Kid was literally working for the weekend, every weekend, in order to survive. I felt I had no right to criticize them for doing so. I was not aiding the culture in any way. I was merely hurting the band.

As for my review of the new Altoids campaign, I assumed there’d be interest because of my previous involvement with the brand. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t! Call it Whiz Kid’s revenge.

6 Responses to “Nobody likes a critic, especially (when it’s) me.”

  1. Tomas said

    everything looks nice here, but…personally I prefer critic to applause : the critic is better than the polite phrases or the silence. If somebody criticize me, it means my works touched him somehow – it means I am not an empty place.
    The most artists think otherwise. I can understand them, but personally I avoid politeness because of the compassion. That hurts the most. While the critic challenges-marks the points that may be improved-fuels the personal growth… The applause can’t do nothing alike.
    Of course, I don’t dream about getting the critic. But in case I could chose, I would like to hear what you think indeed.
    I am writing with the dictionary in hand, English language is the great obstacle to me, plus I live on disability pension That too points to the hugest hardships I embrace BUT that doesn’t mean anything. Yes I need the help and the support, but in case we talk about my works (the exhibitions that were arranged by me) I want they were judged for what was done- without the consideration of how they came into being. The support helps in case it comes through the love, but the politeness because of the understanding of the hardships we are facing hurts us the most.

    Sorry for my long reasoning, but I hope you have caught my thought – THANK YOU -that was comment, meanwhile all the above was just some personal emotions. The critic don’t hurt me if it based on not on my person but the works I am sharing with the world.

  2. ALH said

    Well, I didn’t say anything because I was thinking, “Wow! He worked on that ad campaign? That’s awesome!” And, also: that the new one, well, not so good. But, also: Altoids can afford to have a not-so-good campaign now because the previous one was so good.

    And I like your Whiz Kid story… it’s not so much an anti-criticism tale as a pro-humility one, no? 🙂

  3. David Burn said

    Most of the people who making crap communications, also need their jobs. That fact doesn’t negate the need for honest evaluation by a worthy critic.

    As for comments on blogs, they’re made infrequently. As few as one percent of readers bother to comment.

  4. DB-
    It’s the “honest evaluation by a worthy critic” that I wonder about.
    Is criticism free from personal agendas like jealousy, resentment, etc?
    I doubt it.

  5. peanut gallery said

    You only need to look as far as to see some of the most vile “critiques” of work around.

    All to often, the negative feedback is directed more upon the writer/ad and less upon the actual work.

  6. peanut gallery said

    Oh, and in case you thought nobody was reading, they are.

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