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The 'Trolls' of AdLand
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Our industry is full of people who have opinions. Nothing is wrong with that. In advertising, if you do not know how to state an opinion, or give a piece of your mind, then you are probably not going to last long. 

However, the issue being raised here is the rise of the troll in advertising. The cop-out of staying anonymous while trashing someone's work, or attacking someone personally, has gotten out of control. The way we craft messages is both analytical and creative, and that way has been attacked by many John Doe know-it-alls who refuse to back up their comments with their identity.

True courage.

One of the writers we follow is the founder of Adland.tv. Her analysis and creative finds are always fun and interesting to read, whether you agree with her or not. Recently she wrote a piece on the rise of ad hominem attacks on her and her opinions, and if it was just her, or if it was a trend for writers in advertising overall. This writer has not only received hate mail, spam, and DOS bombings, but even death threats about campaigns and pieces that she has written about.

Now, she may be on one side of the spectrum, but we lean to believe that many advertising writers and critics have experienced similar (albeit not as extreme) cases of attacks.

Even here at Beyond Madison Avenue, we have seen some pretty nasty and uninformed comments posted anonymously, on pieces we have written, as well as our colleagues on this blog and Digital Pivot, Beneath the Brand, and Flack Me.

The Adland.tv writer reached out to AdLand native and acclaimed practitioner Luke Sullivan (author of Hey Whipple) about this problem. In the article, which we encourage you to read for yourselves, Sullivan notes that the troll problem harkens back to the roots of Internet. The reason trolls exist is a negative byproduct of the good the Internet provides. Yes, being online speeds up the spreading of information and ideas without the necessity of being identified, but because of that, people readily spread vitriolic and hateful words and opinions, without having their faces and names on them.

So what is the point? How can this be fixed? No one has recommended compulsory identification, though it may solve some issues. But the Adland.tv writer recommends that as writers and critics of advertising, we must make sure that we are putting our best foot forward, and making sure that our credibility and coverage of the material is top-notch. Then, as an admonishment to the commenters, those who comment and criticize the opinions should do the same: establish your own credibility before adding your own "words of wisdom."

As we said before, at BMA this has not been a major issue, but in the community it does warrant some attention. After all, "What is prevented needs no cure," right?

And, big props to the lady at Adland.tv, sticking to her guns after death threats and super mean emails.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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