There's nothing like a self-immolation to get the ad industry frothing at the mouth. And it got one last night after Anthony Gardiner, OMD's ex-social media strategist, Tweeted a series of controversial opinions about the industry he has spent the past six years working in.
Gardiner, who had resigned from his role a few months ago to focus on his start-up 25mostplayed.com, started off by saying:
I have pen, paper, headphones, & beer. This is how industries first start to get disrupted.— Anthony (@antsgardiner) May 26, 2013
Add in the ability to broadcast to many through social media and it's also how problems can arise when certain views are aired publicly.
This morning, Gardiner deleted the Tweets and apologised for "overstepping a clear boundary" and saying "hurtful things about people while I was having a meltdown" (we have decided not to publish these).
Well, this is awkward.— Anthony (@antsgardiner) May 26, 2013
His sense of humour is still in tact, however, and he says he has now been placed on "Gardining leave", which is ironic given he lives in an apartment and doesn't have a garden. He stands by his comments about the industry, but says the way he acted helps no one, "not even you consumers".
In a statement to StopPress he said:
The power brokers of the advertising industry have absolutely zero interest in helping the industry to move. Consumers hold all the power. Their eyeballs, their wallets, control everything from product consumption to media absorption. The sooner the majority wrest control away from the very, very small minority of middlemen, the better off the consumer will be. We will still hear about new and cool products because our friends will tell us. But we will only hear about products that actually add utility and fun to our lives. Your TV advertising model based on ratings, based on 1200 set top boxes, based on claimed behaviour, is flawed.
Your teenage kid, your 28 year old nanny, are watching illegally streamed content. They hate the fact that it is illegal. But it is easier for them. Give the consumer what they want, at a fair price, and you will win. It is not rocket surgery.
The ad industry is like watching six-year-olds play soccer. One giant mass of people trying to kick the ball through a goal. The consumer is sick of being kicked around. The ball has its own mind. Wayne Gretzky was asked why he was the best hockey player ever: 'Everyone else skates after the puck. I imagine where the puck will be and I skate there and wait for it.'
We know where the puck will be in two years. The entire ad industry, and the males driving Bentleys who run it, are trying to pull consumers back to how it was. The horse has bolted. The consumer defines your brand, the consumer decides if your content is popular. 'Make this go viral!' Slam your dick in a car door. THAT will go viral.
If you genuinely want the consumer at the heart of what you do, the most powerful tool you have is your friends and your ears. 'The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife' - David Ogilvy.
Some we've spoken to view his Twitter rant as a valiant, principled and contrary stance taken by someone from inside the industry who thinks things need to change and is pissed off that they haven't (Alex Bogusky certainly wasn't quite as gruff as Gardiner when he departed, but, in a similar fashion, he took a stand and left the agency he co-founded because his values were moving further away from the values of clients). Others see Gardiner's comments as "real career halters" and while one admitted there was some truth to them, they thought he was in a position to try and change those relationships in his last role, so his points were somewhat self-damning.
It's fair to assume everyone in this industry has questioned their role and wondered whether they were using their powers for good or evil. Linds Redding summed it up beautifully in his post 'A Short Lesson in Perspective'. And I'm sure there are more than a few people for whom Gardiner's words will hit home.
As he said this morning: "I had forgotten who I was, and one day I realised that I despised myself. Back to basics for me now."