BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith deleted at least one post from his site after Unilever, one of the larger global advertisers, complained about a post that was critical of its advertising for Axe body spray, according to a former employee.
The claim was made by Mark Duffy, BuzzFeed’s former advertising blogger, who went by the name Copyranter. Duffy wrote on Gawker:
I was “officially” fired at my apartment on Halloween, via a letter delivered by UPS. Inside the envelope were two copies of the legal document, one to sign and return and another for my records. Both copies had CUTE stickers affixed to the first page.
… Not as CUTE: Making your advertising critic disappear posts that criticise the advertisements of big advertisers, which Ben Smith did to me on at least one occasion. BuzzFeed has a “no haters” hiring policy and an overweening desire to draw big-name advertisers into its “community” of users, in exchange for money. Which makes ranting about ads professionally for the site a complicated endeavour. At which I FAILed.
Duffy described the deleted post this way:
Ben Smith made me delete a post I did on Axe Body Spray’s ads, titled, “The Objectification Of Women By Axe Continues Unabated in 2013” (it was initially called something to the effect of “Axe Body Spray Continues its Contribution to Rape Culture,” but I quickly softened it). Get this: he made me delete it one month after it was posted, due to apparent pressure from Axe’s owner Unilever.
Smith tweeted this response:
Guy writes a post accusing people of advocating “worldwide mass rape,” posts without edit, assumes it’s a conspiracy when I’m not thrilled.
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) November 25, 2013
In a response on Gawker, Smith also quoted an email he had sent to Duffy at the time, in which he appears to favour taking down the post:
I absorb a great deal of heat from targets of stories that we write, from Beyonce’s publicist to politicians to businesses, and I’ve just realised the stuff I am least able to defend is, occasionally, yours. I’m not sure how to change it, but there are certain posts — http://www.buzzfeed.com/copyranter/the… [link non-functional] for example — where I reflexively stood up to a complaint (in this case from and advertiser) but realise in retrospect that I’m not really comfortable defending it, and that it doesn’t fit with our ethos on the site; the issue for me is the way in which it basically projects motive on to the people making the ad, and insults them in really vitriolic terms. I don’t totally know what to do about this: I love a lot of what you do, and love having you here. I also know that some of this is pretty central to what you do. But I’d like to take that post down; and I think we need to figure out a way to avoid making more like it. And I’m sorry if I’m making your head explode, but I figured I might as well make it explode in email so that we could have a conversation tomorrow.”
The only good news here? Duffy has restarted his Copyranter blog.
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