Anon Bloggers: A Hop To Or From Credibility?

09/24/2007

What’s a business blog mean to you? Okay, I’ll go first. One big factor for me is an opportunity to build a relationship with a person who may be otherwise clocked by the Wizard of Oz curtain that goes up with traditional marketing communication. 

However, in some villages of the blogosphere people blog anon – anonymously. This type of genre is not like a character blog, where the tonality of the blogger may be a different style than if the blogger was writing in her own voice; however,the identify of a character blogger is frequently disclosed. That is the case of the GourmetStation Delicious Destination blog. Although the ‘voice’ is T Alexander the thoughts are from Donna Lyons-Miller, the president and founder. The back-story is proudly told on the blog.  (Bloggy disclaimer GourmetStation is a client.)

The healthcare blog world is an example where sometimes docs who are not comfortable letting  patients, or perhaps affiliates e.g., medical centers, insurance companies, etc., in on their identities will blog behind a pseudonym. The McChronicles blog is another example of an anon blog where McChronicles remains anonymous in order to ensure reviews – much like a restaurant critic – of McDonald’s around the world are not compromised by the celeb of McC!

RecentlyToad___orange I came across an anon marketing blogger, Tangerine Toad who is writing on a blog appropriately called – The Toad Stool. It's interesting to me that the mysterious Toad has established credibility and a loyal readership/community. It would seem to be that in the spirit of social media: to be honest, transparent and authentic anonymous bloggers would have a difficult time establishing trust. When I was in New York last week I met the Tangerine Toad, who by the way does not look like a toad nor is he orange. In fact, he was very much upfront about his real name and identity.

This anon thing is curious to me. Tangerine Toad agreed to shed not his skin (do frogs shed their skins?) but to tell us his story .. why an anon blog?

Toby/Diva Marketing: Before we go anywhere with this interview I must know .. how did the name Tangerine Toad come about?

Tangerine Toad:  Before I was blogging, I was commenting on other ad blogs, and just about everyone on those blogs comments under a pseudonym. The name was really just a whim-- a lot of new ad agencies have names that sound more like rock bands than ad agencies and Tangerine Toad was a goof on that.  (Which is ironic in that I’m now just as guilty of using the moniker to set myself apart from more traditionally named bloggers.)

When I started my own blog, which I named “The Toad Stool,” it was really just an experiment: I was curious about the medium and wanted to get hands on experience with it. I initially intended it as a two month project at most and I didn’t really tell anyone about it. So I was surprised when I started getting comments from people beyond the 4 or 5 friends who knew I was writing it. That’s when I decided to recommit to it. And at that point, I was kind of stuck with Toad. Though at some level, I rather like it. It’s got a superhero-ish sound to it.

Toby/Diva Marketing: So Toad, any relation to Kermit? He’s green and you’re tangerine but perhaps you’re distant cousins? Sorry ..do you get that one a lot?

Tangerine Toad: Surprisingly… no. But I have discovered, through the magic of Google, that there’s a fairly popular Beatles cover band called Tangerine Toad. Who knew?

Toby/Diva Marketing: Let’s cut to the chase .. why did you choose to blog anonymously?

Tangerine Toad: It’s funny: advertising is such a business of star worship. And I find people are more open to hear what the mysterious “Tangerine Toad” has to say than if I blogged under my real name. They focus on the “what” not the “who.” I mean it’s not like I’m a complete unknown in the business, but there are probably only a half dozen creatives people would really and truly be excited to hear from. I often feel as if I’m the alter ego of some superhero called The Tangerine Toad. You know. mild-mannered creative director by day, outspoken blogger by night.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Hmm .. sort of like a Superman/Clark Kent deal. I'm thinking a cute tangerine cape might be in order. But I digress sorry. Would your ‘voice and style’ be different if you were blogging under your own name?

Tangerine Toad: Not at all. I have a fairly unique niche because I’m one of the few creatives who’ve been successful in both the general (TV, print and radio) and interactive advertising worlds and so I can approach the new world with the experience gleaned from the old one. And I try to do that in an intelligent-yet-highly-readable manner. My posts  are never mean or vindictive—which is unfortunately common with some anons.  Joe Jaffe is probably the only person I ever razz on The Toad Stool, but he knows my real identity (I’ve known him for years), and we’re still friends, so it’s all good.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Why should people take you seriously and put their trust in your work on The Toad Stool if they don’t know your identity?

Tangerine Toad: Not knowing my identity is actually a plus. It allows people to focus on my writing and what I have to say, not what agencies I worked at and how many awards I’ve racked up. People know that I’ve had a long career in advertising as a creative director at both big agencies and boutique agencies and that definitely gives me a base of credibility. And being The Tangerine Toad sets me apart from the rest of the bloggers, especially on marketing blogs like The Daily Fix, which I’m also going to be writing for.

Toby/Diva Marketing: That said, how difficult is it to build trust and assure readers that you are authentic? Do you do anything differently writing as an anon blogger to ensure that than you would do if your identity were open?

Tangerine Toad: Again, I think my writing speaks for itself. I have no agenda. I’m not pushing anything other than common sense. What I write about is my own viewpoint on the what’s happening in our industry, how everyone is reacting to the radical changes. And yes, it’s a strong viewpoint. Ann Handley called it “frank but fair.” I don’t pull punches, but I try and remain open to dissenting opinions. It boils down to an apocryphal story about the late Bill Bernbach. Legend has it he used to carry around a little card in his shirt pocket that said “They Might Be Right.” I always try and remember that story when someone disagrees with me.

Toby/Diva Marketing: I was also surprised to see you at CK’s blogger meet up in New York telling people that you were The Tangerine Toad. Were you not concerned that someone would spill the proverbial beans?

Tangerine Toad: Not really. Again, I don’t really ever say anything in the blog that I wouldn’t say in real life. The Toad Stool is a pretty honest look at what’s happening in our industry from a big picture perspective—there’s not any sort of gratuitous nastiness going on. Not to mention the fact that it was fun finally meeting all you guys.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Where do you want to take the Tangerine Toad? Will you ever reveal your identity?

Tangerine Toad: Well there is definitely a plan in place. First step is I’m going to start blogging on The Daily Fix. That should expand my audience to include a broader base of marketers and PR people in addition to the current base of advertising creatives.

Once that’s in place, I plan to write a book based on my blog, specifically the whole “Your Brand Is Not My Friend™” series. That seemed to really resonate with people and yes, I’d do it under my real name.

From there, I’d like to start up a consulting business that combines my business acumen with my creative background. So many people working the “new media” space lack strong “old media”  creds, and I think I can provide clients with both. I’m also planning to continue with the Toad Stool blog. I really love writing it—I have a journalism background and I always thought the best job in the world would be to be a columnist. The blog lets me fulfill that dream on a daily basis. The fact that so many people actually want to read what I have to say has been a pleasant—and constant surprise.

Resource: Electronic Frontier Foundation - Anonymous Bloggers

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Comments

I'll never stop calling him Toad ;-).

I've never had an issue with the whole anon thing...take mindblob who was an anon for a long time (http://mindblob.typepad.com). As odd as it sounds it didn't matter because I received so much value from his writings (like Toad, he too works for a big agency) that we became fast friends. So much so that he flew over from Belgium to NYC to attend a really special dedication for my mother back in May. He told me his name shortly before that--and then the rest of us--but he was so generous with his smarts and kindness that I never really needed to know. And I still call Luc my "alien friend".

Sometimes being an anon lets people blog freely. I don't have a boss to worry about nor do I ever blog about clients so I can put myself out there. I guess the rule for me is, so long as you're contributing to the convo you can come as an alien, an amphibian...or even a Diva.

Posted by: CK on Sep 24, 2007 7:00:50 PM

There are good and bad anons. (And that goes with comments from anon posters.) I don’t mind the anon thing as long as the blog writing (or comment) isrelevant. Insight without incite as it were. When it has a negative vibe or hidden agenda to it though? No cred at all.

Posted by: bg on Sep 24, 2007 7:30:57 PM

The Ad blogging community needs Toad. Period.

I don't know what he looks like, but I bet he's about 350lbs. Bald with a comeover. And about 4'6".

Am I right? ;)

Posted by: Jonathan Trenn on Sep 24, 2007 10:59:49 PM

ck and bg - seems as though you both are saying that value matters more than 'identity.' interesting.

jonathan - the only comment i'll make about toad's appearance is he's not green or orange.(smile)

Posted by: Toby on Sep 25, 2007 12:20:27 AM

Great interview, Toby and Toad. I have begun fantacizing about quiting my blog and writing under some crazy scribe name, but I digress.

I guess it gets back to content. Since Toad knows his biz, people are into it. They recognize the great talent and wisdom.

GL

Posted by: Geoff Livingston on Sep 25, 2007 7:17:04 AM

Over the summer, The McChronicles was "outed", or perhaps it should be called "uncovered".

In a nutshell, a senior McDonald's executive sent an email to my private email address, not to "The McChronicles", and began a brief, friendly dialogue. I had been investigated and tracked down.

Quickly following came an incident where "The McChronicles" walked into his home McDonald's and was personally greeted by the store manager. The manager kindly introduced himself, explained that he knew about The McChronicles blog, and mentioned that, if there are any "issues", he would like to be updated. It was all very positive and friendly. Nothing weird, but my cover was blown.

In that store I now receive special treatment when I am recognized. Just yesterday, in that same McDonald's, after my group ordered and was seated, that manager strolled by the table and inquired as to how we all were doing and asked if everything was alright.

Sadly, I will never receive "regular" anonymous service at that store since my anonymity has evaporated.

Obviously this does not affect my anonymous status at the thousands of other McDonald's around the world (it really is not a big deal I am finding) but I can no longer operate per my mission (to experience the McDonald's brand as a typical consumer) in my home restaurant.

Posted by: The McChronicles on Sep 25, 2007 8:51:20 AM

Thank you all for the compliments.

(And Jonathan, I am a full 4'7" not 4'6")

To take this in a slightly different direction: Toby and I were emailing about how funny it was that so many of the most popular blogs (Wonkette, Gawker, Defamer) started out as anon blogs, but were (initially, anyway) just industry-specific gossip columns where the blogger and his/her commenters were able to reveal a whole lot of inside scoop.

It's more a comment on Americans love of gossip (witness the rising number of gossip pubs at the supermarket checkout counter) than anything else. I've tried to avoid that sort of thing on The Toad Stool, but admit that I am not above indulging in it on other ad industry blogs like Agency Spy and Adscam.)

Posted by: Tangerine Toad on Sep 25, 2007 1:04:03 PM

Toby and Toad, I'm thrilled to pieces about this interview - especially since I was there asking myself very similar questions and wondering what the proper protocol is for meeting [and photographing] anon bloggers. Great story, Toad, and I look forward to another meetup soon so I can learn more. In the meantime, I'm glad I discovered the Toad Stool.

Posted by: C.B. Whittemore on Sep 27, 2007 10:52:34 PM

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