Jeremy Lee: No benefits for Iris after another storm in a Twitter teacup

By Jeremy Lee, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 13 September 2012 08:00AM

Leo Burnett and Iris have found themselves in the eye of social media-fuelled shitstorms over the past couple of weeks.

Jeremy Lee: No benefits for Iris after another storm in a Twitter teacup

As the Close-Up on page 21 describes, Asylum Films used Twitter to rapidly disseminate a perceived grievance about an ad it was commissioned to shoot for Burnett.

Burnett has admitted some minor culpability, but it's difficult not to think Asylum over-reacted. And while it will have certainly raised the profile of the small production company, it is too early to say whether the flare-up will have done it any favours from agencies looking perhaps to try it out.

For Iris, however, it all seemed rather more serious. After sending Campaign what it assumed would be a mildly amusing and diverting Diary story about the creative work in its new staff benefits booklet, someone took umbrage.

The images, which played on the word "benefits" and featured staff in Shameless-style situations, might not have been to everyone's taste and the word play was maybe a little lightweight, but they certainly weren't meant to be offensive. It was clearly just a joke.

However, one blogger was quick to take to her Wordpress in anger, describing the photos as "bloody appalling". The ads were, according to the blogger, "sneering, superior and ignorant", and were "poking fun at disadvantaged sections of society that they'd never encountered".

While obviously entitled to her opinion, what was most disappointing about this post is that it was from someone who works as a copywriter at a rival ad agency. The blog certainly sparked a debate as people worked themselves into a lather. The outrage escalated as commentators seemed to want to outdo each other. It also got personal, with profanities and boasts of the posting being forwarded to Iris clients. On Twitter, we were kept informed of who had retweeted it (predictably, it appealed to the likes of the political agitators Owen Jones and Sunny Hundal), followed by an exciting update when it reached 15,000 hits and 80-plus comments. The author was enjoying it a little too much.

I think it's a shame that this happened. Aside from the fact that creativity should be provocative, it seems opportunistic and self-defeating for one advertising practitioner to take such glee from escalating a damaging attack on an agency. After all, the industry is busy enough defending itself from enemies without, let alone needing them within.

Most agencies now have blogs. Bound by company restrictions, they are, on the whole, dreary reads - pretty pointless puff pieces for which few people, other than the author, actually cares or reads. Devoid of colour, they tend to bang on about research initiatives or case studies (or pictures of happy staff eating cake at their desks on a Friday). But maybe it's best it stayed that way.

jeremy.lee@haymarket.com

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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