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.
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.