paul tilley dead of apparent suicide

Paul Tilley, ECD of DDB in Chicago, is reported dead at age 40 of an apparent suicide. Tilley apparently jumped from the roof of Chicago’s Fairmont Hotel at around 6:25pm on Friday night and, though Chicago authorities have not yet identified the cause of death as suicide, the word on the street is that it was.


The thoughts of the Daily (Ad) Biz go out to Mr Tilley’s family, with special thoughts and prayers to his wife and two daughters. Any premature death is a tragedy, especially an apparent suicide and particularly in this case as it robs a family of its husband and father.

The Daily (Ad) Biz did not know and has not posted about Mr Tilley, but a death like this of a man so high up in the industry will surely open the door to condemnation of any number of assumed reasons behind his death, even though suicide, by its very nature, is an unreasonable act. We cannot know what drove him to jump on Friday, but we can do our best to direct the inevitable inquisition into the right direction.

Agency Spy, who has posted about Mr Tilley recently, is dealing with commenters who would pin some, if not all, of the blame on those blog postings. This is asinine and dangerously misguided.

This isn’t about blogs. This is about the personal demons and struggles of one man.

Blogs bring transparency to the industry and, while that is not always pleasant to those who would prefer to operate without it, it is, on the whole, a good thing. Those intra-agency e-mails that make it out onto the blogosphere are nothing more than the leaks from government agencies that you might read about in the papers that give citizens an idea of what is really going on in their country. Having a mechanism for uncovering the politics and bad work environments and other issues of the industry only helps those who are in it. Information is a good thing.

Of course, blogs can be deliciously nasty and it is understandable that those who are on the receiving end of a negative post may not like either the post or the fact that it often comes from an anonymous blogger. But most of the people featured by name, for good or for bad reasons, in blog posts are at the top of the industry heap. The Maurice Levy’s, the David Droga’s, the Bob Garfield’s and, yes, the Paul Tilley’s have made it in the industry to the point that they are public figures. Criticism dogs public figures when they do criticizable things.

And if the criticism from those anonymous bloggers is unfair, the comments section is there to let said bloggers know about it.

One needs only to look at the posts about Kansas City agency VML to see how the comments section allows those who disagree with a post to give their opinion and to level the playing field. Blogs are a conversation, a two-way street and when engaged correctly they are a great tool for the industry (even with the acid tongue of some bloggers).

The death of Paul Tilley is a tragedy. But it is not a tragedy that involves blogs like AdScam or Agency Spy or any other that comments on the public figures in the ad industry. Mr Tilley did criticizable things and was criticizes for them. Sort of like politicians are. And sports stars. And business leaders. And other public figures.

Criticism happens. To blame Mr Tilley’s death on mere criticism is to demean the man and his character and to give too much power to blogs that, while not un-influential in their way, certainly do not have the power to drive a man to his death.

The focus of the questions surrounding this terrible situation should be firmly about Paul and his family; namely, what can we as an industry do to help them through this and what can we do as an industry to give support to people like Paul who are in high-pressure environments and struggling under the strain.


17 responses to “paul tilley dead of apparent suicide

  1. Thank you for being so professional and human. No matter what people thought before this tragedy, it is still, in the end, a devastating thing for everyone involved. You said all the right things. Now it’s about Paul’s family, his friends, his co-workers and everyone else who works at DDB. This is a tight ad community and it will affect us all. A very sad day indeed.

  2. Critisism comes to us all at one time or another. But much of what I have read about Mr. Tilley in newspaper columns and on blogs has been personal, mean spirited and perhaps even cruel. The authors of that material believe they’re smart, witty, important observers of the ad scene but nothing they write will ever lead to a constructive dialog about the “work”. Read what’s in those clever and oh so well written blogs. It’s personal and it’s nasty. Very nasty. Even sadder, I think most often it’s not even about the people they critizize. It’s about the author’s self-aggrandizement. It’s an attempt to give themselves a sense of power and meaning and legitamacy. How wrong. And how small.

  3. Well said, Biz. Heartfelt sympathy to the Tilly family, especially his daughters.

  4. Condolences to the Tilley family.

    And to the advertising business. It sickens me that we work with the sort of people who feel compelled to leave such scathingly negative and petty comments about Tilley on the AgencySpy blog.
    Such a complete lack of decency.

  5. ^^(Leaving these comments now, after his death, that is.)

  6. I am sorry to read of his passing.

  7. Until I saw your blog I knew nothing of Mr. Tilley. Having read through some of the background I hope that people will realize the very real power of the internet and how it can touch and shape people lives at all levels. Bloggers need to blog responsibly and commentators need to consider the effect of their contributions.

    My thoughts are with the family.

  8. Well said.

    It’s sad, sad news, whether you know him or now, liked him or not.

    Emotions can lead people to point fingers, and blogs that said not-so-nice things about the guy are easy targets. But being critical of someone does not preclude sadness at their passing. This game of advertising can consume us at times, but it’s just a game. When something like this happens, we’re all human. At least for a little while.

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  10. Very sad news. Any time someone feels a need to end his life in such a devastating manner, it’s pretty tough to deal with. I only knew him on a “Hello” basis, but it still hurts (that he was a “real” person, and that he must’ve been hurting exponentially). And that hurt I have, his daughters and his wife (and many friends) feel that times infinity. I would not even pretend to know the pain his family is feeling at the moment.

    One thing I think we all can get out of this is that we need to take care of ourselves. I realize that, in the game of life, we have to work and ascend to the highest levels [that we are capable of reaching]; however, we must not reach and stress to the point of “over” ascending. We must reach out when we need some assistance to either fall back or to continue to ascend.

    As I sit here writing, I realize that less than a block away–and less than 72 hours ago–Paul ended his life…and it’s scary…and eye-opening…and extremely, extremely sad. Wow….

  11. Thanks for this thoughtful and insightful post.

    I worked with Paul for a while at DDB. When I heard the news and Googled around a bit, I was horrified at the hateful tripe some pathetic and bitter individuals left in the comments. Some came before his passing, and it was cruel. The stuff that came after news of his death was, well, just f***ed up. Sad to think I work in the same industry with losers like them (to borrow a phrase from Nina).

    My heart goes out to his wife, kids and friends.

  12. Perhaps people shouldn’t put in anonymous comments what they would not be prepared to say yo someone’s face.

  13. It is indeed a tragedy when a person whom apparently had much to live for meets an untimely demise. However, I take issue with the idea that negative and nasty comments on internet blogs contributed to his decision to commit suicide. As much as we would prefer to think we know who people are and what they are capable of, we really don’t know. I would surmise that it is never just one thing that leads to such decisions, yet maybe one thing that served as the tipping point. In the wake of Mr. Tilly’s passing, everyone should take a few moments to evaluate their life in regards to work-life balance and what really makes us happy. Let us stop assuming that just because someone is successful at a relatively young age, they cannot have demons that overpower their very existence.

  14. Sic Trasit Gloria

    The point is not that Agency Spy caused Paul’s death. It may have been one factor, but it was not decisive.

    The fact is, however, that Agency Spy provides a forum for the most despicable human impulses and sees nothing wrong with it. Then, she/he hides behind anonymity like the rest of those hate filled cowards.

    Note that Freerepublic shut down the thread on Paul and pulled it from the internet. “Shut down by admin. Reason: A disgrace.” Now that is someone with a moral compass.

    There is a special place in Dante’s version of hell for the sorts who spill their soulless vitriol on Agency Spy and Adscam — they are condemned to tear at each other’s flesh for all eternity.
    Hmm, maybe Dante should be required reading for anyone wishing to get into the business.

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  16. I guess, it being advertisers, I shouldn’t be shocked by how many obviously either didn’t read the post or failed to comprehend it.

  17. We’re working to rebrand depression. He was a brilliant mind and worked on one of the best campaigns to date. Hope those that loved him will join forces with us to change the perception – suicide is triggered by an imbalance of brain chemistry, usually stemming from depression.

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