In my last job, I was asked by a colleague to take down a Facebook post because it apparently offended someone in the office. I had offered a less than politically correct view on the hot button issue regarding race relations (or lack of) in America.

Reluctantly, I removed the post. Not because I rethought my position and came to the conclusion I was wrong. Nor was I upset that my post offended someone. For what it’s worth, many people were supportive of my opinion. It’s not about that. Rather, I took it down because I concluded my role as an officer of the company took precedent over my personal opinions. Said another way, I put my professional reputation and currency ahead of my social reputation and currency. It would not be the first time. Rightly or wrongly, I usually put work ahead of personal matters.

Yet, the event has continued to bother me. Partly because of the post’s emotional weight (which I won’t go into here) but also because I feel like a coward for removing it. After all, it was on my personal Facebook page. While hardy benign, the post was not racist or classist or sexist or, in my view, “ist” in any way. It was merely a provocative take on current events, which I feel is totally valid on social media. I did not (and would not) post the piece on LinkedIn or on any professional forum.

Still, I realize work and personal life have converged like never before. People as well as companies have become like one thing. If a CEO Tweets something inappropriate her company takes it on the chin. People will judge the firm as they judge the person.

Back in the day, the artist and his art existed separately. For example, T.S. Eliot was an “on again, off again” anti-Semite but people (even Jews) appreciated and studied his poetry. There are countless such examples, historical and modern. Recall director, Lars Von Trier’s recent controversial comments at Cannes and the subsequent toll it took to his career. He did not stand down and he paid dearly for it.


TS Eliot: Poet. Hater.

I know my controversial Facebook post was not hateful. However, I do not doubt someone who disagreed with it might interpret it (and me) as hateful. Therefore, I took it down. I did not want to bring negative attention to my company.

We are all learning (and struggling) with this. Some play it safer than others. And while I think playing it safe is often the equivalent of being dull as a bag of dirt I did not want to risk my company’s reputation and my place in it. Would you?

I have always worn many hats: husband, father, brother, son, citizen, officer, employee, Christian, Jew, drinker, non-drinker, author and so on. In the age of social media, knowing which hat to wear and when is increasingly difficult.

Forgive me for I have hated…

Since I began Gods of Advertising almost a decade ago (!), I’ve carefully avoided demonstrating hatred of any kind to persons, places or things. When I was critical, say of an ad campaign, I tried to look at it from all angles, positing why, perhaps, an advertiser or agency would put something so questionable into the cosmos. Most of the time I have succeeded in being personally true to my feelings while maintaining respect for other points-of-view. (My last post bemoaning Selfies is a good example.)

When I’ve (perhaps) crossed a line you let me know. And I’ve published virtually every comment to that effect, unless they were patently offensive or obscene. Take a look at a piece I wrote about an ad campaign for Walgreens, featuring the cloying (in my opinion) voice-over talents of John Corbett. 62 people came to John’s defense, condemning me for being rude, cynical and worse. Precious few take my side. Either way, a new comment to this post shows up in my inbox every month or so. I publish all of them.

I’m just not that into you…

While I seldom defend myself I don’t freak out either. We have a conversation. I’ve written far more interesting pieces. Yet precious few engender as much feedback as the Corbett story. Proving, yet again, everyone loves or hates a critic.

As an experiment, I tried come up with three things I hate unequivocally. My one criterion (or do you say “criteria?”) was to limit selections to only matters germane to advertising and popular culture. God forbid, I drift into politics or anything particularly important.

As cynical as I am it was harder than I thought. I came up with three.

1. Laugh tracks. Oh my God, how I loathe laugh tracks. A remnant of the Golden Age of Television, the laugh track is, for me, an utter and complete turnoff. Now mainly a staple of kid’s TV, they elicit the exact opposite effect in me: one of utter and complete revulsion. I find all programs that use them guilty by association. A pass is given to the many inane sitcoms of ancient times, like Green Acres or Gilligan’s Island. That shit’s funny.

2. Auto Tune is to popular music what the laugh track is to TV. Why this dopey audio implant isn’t as reviled as lip-synching I’ll never know. A million years ago Peter Frampton Comes Alive came out to boffo reviews and went mega-platinum, largely because of his “Wa-Wa” infused number, Do You Feel Like I Do. I hated it then and make-out nostalgia aside I still do now.

Is Auto Tune his fault?

3. My most controversial and final selection is the current spate of faux premium lagers, like Bud Light Platinum or Miller Fortune. Who’s kidding whom? These variations on a theme are nothing more than marketing ploys to upsell customers, who are dumb enough to fall for them. Like the so-called Ice beers of yore, they come in gaudy bottles that supposedly evoke class and distinction. They are anything but. I consider these brand extensions the Ed Hardy of beers. A badge for douche bags.


4. Honorable mention goes to Reality TV. This much-reviled yet inexplicably popular genre is far too low hanging fruit to make my list. None of these shows are real. They’re just shitty.

So, that’s my hater blog for 2014. I hope you liked it, or hated it, as the case may be. If you have something to add, this is the time and this is the place.

“Two Miller Fortunes…and a f–king lime.”


Does your office have a tyrant? You know the guy. He has to have his way. Is driven by a desire to be right. Can’t stand the notion he might be wrong. Right or wrong, he always acts the same: defensive, emotional and cruel. He likes to call meetings if only to get mad in them. During his frequent protests, he is compelled to stand because that is the posture of righteousness. Weak men sit. Maybe they can suffer a wrong turn but not the tyrant. His time is too important for a point of view different from his own. It’s wrong, dammit, and needs to be corrected. He knows the client better than anyone and he already knows your idea won’t wash. Why go on? He can and does make every meeting you’re in with him a living hell.

The tyrant may be an ass but he’s no fool. He wouldn’t have gotten this far if he wasn’t capable. He did not get his title being defensive, emotional and cruel. Right?

Not necessarily. Early on he was more discreet, choosing his fights carefully, picking only the battles he knew he could win. He worked hard, staying late and traveling often. His superiors found him driven, passionate, a real go-getter. And he was.

Maybe a few complaints had been levied against him but clients loved the guy. His upside was worth more to the agency than his darker, thankfully sporadic downside. He brought in new business. He made his numbers. If he stepped on a few sensitive creative people, or made an assistant cry, so what? Advertising is a tough game. Some people can’t take the heat in the kitchen.

Eventually the tyrant’s bad behavior became more predictable. Every meeting was now a confrontation. Surrounded by fearful underlings the tyrant became imperious. He had clients now, uncaring (ignorant?) of his treachery. If they knew he was a hard ass they didn’t mind. After all, he was fighting for them. When he cracked the whip it was for them. Clients like knowing they had a pit bull in their corner.

And so the company puts up with him, its management rolling their eyes at each new horror story. What can you do? He works harder than anyone. Clients love him. Maybe management redirects him or tries surrounding him with people who can take it. Executive training is always an option.

Is your tyrant a Creative Director? This guy picks his favorites and everyone else can go to hell. He loves to take credit for your work. He is an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. Maybe your tyrant is the agency’s chief marketing officer or its president. These fellows are power mad. It’s their way or the highway. Everyone else in the agency needs to catch up. Sometimes he is a she. I’ve encountered all of the above and then some.

Tyrants exist on the client side, too. Boy, do they ever. But that’s another story…

This tyrant is on Twitter!

The Happy Soul Industry on Amazon