bob garfield’s temper tantrum

I know that Bob Garfield, AdAge’s resident Eeyore, doesn’t really care what I have to say because I am anonymous. But I am going to say it anyway because he is acting like a clown and deserves to be called out for it.


Garfield is upset because Steve Hall at Adrants called Garfield’s commentary on the Super Bowl commercials “retarded”. I can see why Bob is upset. Before the industry blogs came around, Garfield could rip ads all he wanted and, no matter how inane or “retarded” his position was, he was unassailable because he had the column. He could say whatever he wanted, pontificate to within an inch of his life and he would remain safe from criticism because he had exclusive access to the proverbial megaphone.

Things have changed and now Bobby is upset. Boo hoo.

Let’s break down what Garfield says about this kerfuffle:

A critic makes judgments supported by analysis and argument, then signs his name and takes responsibility for his words.

A professional critic does. A blogger whose actual job is creating ads usually doesn’t because he or she would rather not deal with the blowback that might result from hurt feelings…like yours.

But in this case, you’re trying to use the anonymity card against Steve Hall. Who signs his name to his posts.

You are an idiot.

What you do, and encourage your readers to do, is take cheap, anonymous potshots devoid of evidence, argument and, most often, facts. A common tactic is to grossly misrepresent somebody’s point of view — mine, let’s just say — and use that as a point of departure for ad homimen [sic] attacks.

While it is true that the anonymity of the internet allows some people to speak out of turn, as it were, that wasn’t the case here. Steve listened to your fatuous chatter and called you on it. He even pulled quotes that you used to describe some of the spots in your own video and posted them. That sounds like evidence and, by linking to the video, he made it easy for people to check the facts – your own words. What else does he need to do, gather DNA evidence at the scene of the shoot to prove it was you and not someone else who says dumb things about advertising in front of the camera?

As for his arguments being ad hominem – of course they are! He is dealing with advertising which, by its very nature, demands an emotional response. You pan all the Super Bowl spots and Steve thinks your assessment is too harsh. There are emotions tied up in that, in the response to the spots and in the response to your comments. Indeed, emotional response is the very core of both your and Steve’s reaction. To deny him an appeal to emotion is to deny him an opportunity to comment.

Which, of course, you would like because then you would have your commentary monopoly back.

It pisses me off, but more than that it makes me sad — sad to see how the internet has brought out so much meanness, childishness and, above all, cowardice.

I’m so sorry you’re sad, Bob. It must be tough to know that there are a legion of advertising commenters out there who are better than you at commentary and yet it’s not what they do full-time.

Having had an ad or two on the receiving end of one of your articles, I know how mean and childish you can be. But all commenters are like that. They have to be in order to be honest. Let’s face it, sometimes ads just suck…and the ones of mine you panned probably did suck, though perhaps not as much as you said. But I get over your disagreement because I am a big boy and sometimes people don’t think your shit smells like roses. It’s a lesson you might want to internalize.

Then you hold yourself up as brave for putting your name to your articles…but commenting on ads is your job. So it’s not brave to write under a byline because everyone knows you are going to have to get negative from time to time. It’s really brave to write about the true state of the industry or to comment on it while you are in it. While your positions, commentary and even the pure fact that you are blogging could result in real repercussions. All you face is the threat of disagreement. Which is very scary, I know, but many of the ad bloggers face a whole lot more if they get outed.

Bob, it’s time to grow up.

This isn’t the first time that someone has disagreed with you, it’s just the first time that someone disagrees with you and has a platform big enough to make that disagreement widely known. And you better get used to it because the democratization of media means that this won’t be the last time.


14 responses to “bob garfield’s temper tantrum

  1. I couldn’t have said it better myself! Thanks for the support.

  2. Whoa, dailybiz. An elegant and convincing summation. If this advertising thing doesn’t work out, you’d make one hell of a defense lawyer.

  3. Steve – Garfield is just throwing a temper tantrum. I’m with you on this all the way!

    Ad Broad – Thanks for the kind words. For whatever reason, Garfield got under my skin with his comments, the usual traditional columnist reaction to bloggers who disagree (and happen to do it in a better written, more compelling way). There was so much to say, I have to break it down line by line.

  4. Pingback: adweek and forrester start a conversation « the daily (ad) biz

  5. yo,
    i have people disagree with me all the time and seldom raise a fuss. in fact, i make a living by having people disagree with me. but steve hall and you really piss me off because you both, in your separate ways, utterly misrepresent me and break the unpardonable sin of fiddling with context. you also resort to the cheap trick of imputing thoughts and motives to me — and then riffing on them as if they were fact, versus figments of your imagination.

    the name calling is charming, too.

    kid, this has NOTHING to do with old versus new media. i’ve written in every medium, old and new. i have two blogs, plus a radio show with something like 50,000 weekly podcast downloads and a fairly robust website. you really flatter yourself to think you are somehow on the vanguard, or even representative, of something threatening to me. (on the contrary, i assume you have no audience to speak of.)

    what it has to do with is not being cowardly, not being intellectually dishonest, not being mean-spirited. you claim to want to learn about my writing, and you go to a grand total of one column and, under the pretext of line by line analysis, just dish out a bunch of sophomoric cheap shots. believe me, ad homimen attacks sully you far more than they sully me.

    it doesn’t matter whether you’re blogging or writing for the new york times, if you wish to be taken seriously as a critic, commentator, analyst, thinker or just as a person, just being a smartass won’t carry you very far. i’ve engaged in this series of exchanges less as an offended ad critic, defending my turf, than as an offended media critic, disgusted with what passes for commentary in much of the blogosphere. the fact that i happen to be the victim of the adolescent behavior merely makes the general problem more personal.

    i’ll give you basically the same advice i gave steve hall. think i’m foolish all you want, must don’t play the fool in so doing. for the moment, if i were you, i’d worry less about me and more about your dignity. and your soul.

  6. I dunno. Leaving aside the substance of the argument here (which I can’t discern from this post, as it goes largely unmentioned amid the namecalling and whatnot), I read Garfield and he sounds like an adult. I read this and it sounds like some angry ranting adolescent. Which I think was Garfield’s point to begin with. That’s why he’s making a living at it and the legions of anonymous, emotionally underdeveloped bloggers aren’t. I’m not sure why you think insults and adjective-laden rants are “better written” or “more compelling,” but I assume it comes from the same issue that makes you think you are changing the world.

  7. a lot of fine writing here. does anybody really give a shit?

  8. Bob – Thank you for your comment; you willingness to engage on the blogosphere is admirable and your position as the most famous critic in advertising is unassailable. From the perspective of my own pure selfishness, your comment also gives my blog validity as you consider it worth your time to read and comment on it. And I appreciate that.

    Also, I want to say that this isn’t personal (and that the idiot remark crossed the line).

    All that said, I still disagree with you on a range of points and issues.

    As to your contention that I misrepresent you…how do I misrepresent you or fiddle with context when I post your comments and articles almost verbatim and, to top it off, link back to the complete version? What else could I, or anyone, could do to represent you better? Have you write a counter-point post? Not comment at all?

    I am not sure that my “cheap trick” of imputing thoughts and motives to you is really that. You were upset with Steve Hall and I suggested in my entry reasons why you might be upset – not unlike how journalists and prosecutors and regular people look to find the reasons behind something. It clearly isn’t “fact” because I am not you, and I never said that it was a fact; it’s conjecture to think what might be going through your head when you flip out at Steve Hall and it’s fair conjecture at that because motives matter.

    This does have to do with old and new media, not because you don’t “get” new media – I know that you have a blog and a podcast and all that so you are at least familiar with the technology – but because you are unused to being challenged by someone who has the readership and clout to make the challenge and disagreement heard. As a columnist at AdAge in the old days people may have disagreed, but how did they get the word out? Then Adrants, a widely-read blog, came around and then all of a sudden the balance changed. You could be and were challenged in a way that matters.

    It clearly upset you, since you posted to that affect at both Adrants and here at the Daily (Ad) Biz.

    (Call that ad hominem if you want, but I think that you’re watching too much election coverage and might want to brush up on what an ad hominem attack really is because the above is not that)

    I don’t kid myself that I am in any way threatening to you. Why would I even want to be? I have a day job writing ads. I love my day job. This blogging thing is something that I do for fun because I love to write and I love advertising. I don’t see myself as or pretend to be a movement, a vanguard, a threat or anything more than a guy who writes a blog in his free time.

    I am doing a good job living up to my self-perception.

    The fact remains that bloggers who disagree with you are a challenge because people actually read these things. You, even, read as pitiable a blog as mine. Blogger attention means that you can’t do things like write an article about Wendy’s when you haven’t bothered to look up their same-store sales. You can’t commit sins like the unpardonable journalistic sin of not doing your research – at least you can’t do it without getting called out.

    You say that you are acting as an offended media critic, dismayed at much of what passes as commentary in the blogosphere…but here is the thing: I may be a smartass and may not align with the New York Times guidelines for appropriate writing, but my critique of you in both cases has serious meat behind it.

    (For example, you get your facts wrong, whether by calling out Adrants for being anonymous when it’s clearly written by Steve Hall or by saying the same-store sales at Wendy’s were down when Wendy’s own financial report says the opposite.)

    I am not trying to become a “serious” commentator of the sort that might write for an august print publication. I am not trying to get famous, or make a fortune or parlay this into some lucrative job. I am doing this for fun. I am doing this for me. My commentary may be chock full of “sophomoric cheap shots” but it’s far more fun to write the way that I do than the way that you suggest that I should, not to mention that it’s an alternative to the staid and warmed-over commentary that one can find outside of the blogosphere.

    Oh, and people seem to like both my poor attempts at sophomoric humor and Trey Parker’s, John Stewart’s and Michael Schur’s. It’s sort of a growth industry.

    More people read your articles than read my posts, but you have been doing this since I was in diapers for the top trade pub in the country and I have been doing this since October on WordPress. And anyway, so what? You’ve read my stuff, right?

    Your act of commenting gives me credibility (though I will likely never run an ad that says “Daily (Ad) Biz is sophomoric and cheap” – Bob Garfield).

    Thank you for the concern about my dignity and my soul – I appreciate your concern for me beyond my writing.

    I don’t feel like I have lost my dignity by giving you a hard time for not checking your facts, throwing a hissy fit and presenting a terrible ad idea (if I presented your suggestion for how to save the red wig campaign, I might get fired). Also, I know that I am not perfect and recognize that I am a sinner, but I am pretty sure that Jesus agrees with me that my blogging will in no way endanger my soul.

    Again though, thanks for looking out for me.

    And, in all seriousness, thank you for commenting.

  9. @ johnny: Mr Garfield is upset with Steve Hall and gives a few points on why Steve is, to keep this simple, bad. I go through Garfield’s position point-by-point to show why it is actually Garfield who is, to keep it simple, bad because Garfield’s complaints amount to nothing more than a well-written temper tantrum.

    Also, I am making a living.

    I am a copywriter at an ad agency. I don’t make a living as a commenter or a blogger because I DON’T WANT TO. I do this blogging thing as a fun side project. I make my money writing ads…and because of that, since all I will reveal about me is that I write ads and write a blog, I can assure you (and myself) that I am in no way changing the world. I don’t really want to. I like the world, especially my little part of it.

    And you are right, I am clearly emotionally underdeveloped. Just read the posts about The Pretty AE! Or read Garfield’s adult commentary. Your choice.

  10. I love this — a long, juvenile diatribe. Then, when the subject shows up to defend himself, a long, shameless asslicking. But the asslicking still contains this “old media, new media” claptrap — though the asslicking happened only because the subject of the diatribe-cum-asslicking is well-known, and highly successful (in “old media”), and showed up here. And self-comparisons to Jon Stewart! JON STEWART! Also,the usual “new media will crush the old” followed by “this blog isn’t really serious or anything: it’s just a blog so I don’t really have to adhere to any standards.”

    And now we know the real reason for the anonymity: totally understandable and totally justified fear of humiliation.

  11. Tell me how, exactly, this is an asslicking? Because I state that you are famous? Because I don’t call you an idiot this time around (and apologize for saying it the last time around)? Because I say that you give my blog credibility by posting on it?

    If that is an asslicking my friend, you have never had your ass licked.

    Somehow I am licking your ass when I tell you that you are lazy and your columns and comments shoddily written because you don’t bother to research actual facts, not when I say that your old media self isn’t comfortable being called out by those who are comfortable in the new media, now when I continue to make fun of you for the ridiculous things that you say (ex. Trump in a red wig is funny, my comments endanger my soul, your first comment was posted even though you forgot which entry you posted it under).

    Your reading of my comment is as sloppy and error-strewn as your writing.

    Not just because you think I am kissing your ass when I am really saying that it’s not personal and sticking to my guns (I can recognize your achievements without kissing your ass; you are unable to realize that fact because of your own inflated sense of self-worth).

    If you read my comment again (but hey, why not just take part of what I said out of context, right? that is in no way hypocritical at all ever), you will see that I didn’t compare myself to John Stewart except to say that the New York Times rules don’t hold for all commentary and that I strike a tone like his insofar as it is outside those lines…Stewart is both unserious and serious in his comments while talking about things that actually matter.

    I am talking about advertising and take a similarly irreverant tone (though, as I said, I don’t think that we compare in terms of quality), and that tone is valid. Even though it hurts your feelings. It’s not about standards in terms of quality, it’s about tonal guidelines that no, as a blog, I don’t have to adhere to. I don’t want to you. You write silly columns and make too many errors of fact. I am merely saying that going away from those guidelines is a defensible form of discourse and commentary.

    As for the anonymity, I have a whole post about why I am anonymous. Read it. You’ll see that my anonymity has more to do about my job than anything. I know that you’re probably upset that you don’t know my name as I sit here bitching about your poor journalism. And for that I am sorry, I guess. But it’s not going to change.

    Your comments, name calling and disapprobation don’t bother, let alone humiliate, me…sure, you can call me juvenile while throwing around big words like ad hominem that you don’t understand (and can’t spell), but that doesn’t bother me. Because you say that I am not worth your time, but you spend a good portion of it reading my blog, leaving comments, checking the comments and writing back. You are transparent. And you are humiliating yourself by decrying the very same things that you are doing. You sound like a child who is upset that someone told him what he is doing wrong.

    For the record, I’ll be here with you for every column you write. I’ll do the fact checking that you seem too lazy to do. I’ll be a professional opinion on your crazy ideas for improving advertising. I will talk about how you think your ad reviews show your marketing insight, even though you review campaigns like Wendy’s only AFTER the campaign has been killed. You are just so brave and wonderful, I know. But you really need to be taken down a peg.

    Again, thanks for the comments. Your presence on this blog only serves to underline its credibility – after all, if ad critic Garfield thinks its worth his time, it must be good (with the corollary that if it were truly the dreck you say it is, you wouldn’t bother with it).

    You are bolstering my argument and position.

    Thank you.

  12. Wow – what if that second “bob” wasn’t the real Garfield? And you just went off on him again anyway??? šŸ˜‰

    This thing makes me think of what is going on at the NY Press right now. The chief movie critic has become almost unreadable as he rants about society and his favorite cinema history, and rarely touches on the movie at hand. There is at least one letter to the editor (I’m talking hardcopy newsprint here – old media – sorry) every week saying “fire the guy.” I doubt they will – it seems to “sell” papers.

    There is only one chief critic at the top of each major paper, site, and network. Then there are the thousands and thousands of the rest of us, blogging onward. One has to think that over time there will be some “standards of journalism” (or whatever the new-media equivalent) that fall into shape, and winnow the herd. Who’s got the time to read all this shite anyway?

    Whoever coined the phrase “everyone’s a critic” was certainly right. But that doesn’t translate to a democratic state of play.

    I say “truce.” Heed Bob Garfield. And heed Daily (Ad) Biz.

  13. Uh, that’s right. I am not Bob Garfield. More evidence of our Mystery Man’s genius.

  14. @ Kevin: You make great points, thank you for the comment.

    @ bob: Oops.

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