Why The Onion's Post On A Suicidal DDB Employee Was In Really Poor Taste

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Photo: Screengrab The Onion

The Onion posted a satirical article about a suicidal — albeit fictional — DDB employee yesterday that, given two recent tragedies in the agency world, one of which involved an actual suicide at DDB, didn’t quite strike the funny bone.We get it — The Onion is parody. It’s funny and intentionally too close for comfort. No one actually thinks that a Huffington Post employee was torn apart by an aggregation turbine or that Planned Parenthood is really opening an Abortionplex.

So why do we feel the need to be the joke police for the sardonic piece on “DDB Worldwide marketing executive Gene Strassman,” who hates his job? It reads:

Suppressing all memories of his childhood dreams … Strassman reportedly spoke aloud instructions to himself to confront the day and begin his normal work routine  …  After 30 minutes of stoically responding to interoffice e-mails, Strassman dutifully boarded the elevator to the 26th-floor conference room, momentarily hoping the doors would open on an empty shaft.

Two reasons.

First off, it’s impossible for anyone in the advertising world to forget last December’s elevator accident that took the life of Y&R employee Suzanne Hart. The nightmarish incident occurred two weeks before Christmas when an elevator spontaneously accelerated upward, doors still open, after Hart entered. Trapped between the first and second floor, Hart died on the scene. Two passengers were trapped in the elevator car for an hour before they could be rescued.

And then there’s the tragic story of Paul Tilley, an executive creative director at DDB Chicago, who jumped to his death from a hotel window in 2008. The story made headlines because Tilley, who had worked on campaigns including “Dude, you’re getting a Dell” and McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” spots, took his life shortly after he was the subject of commenters’ vitriol on AgencySpy and Adscam blog posts. Gawker wrote a scathing piece about the incident and the New York Post labelled them “Blogs of Death.”

(Oddly, in what the Chicago Sun-Times called “the creepiest thing in the 2009 Super Bowl of Advertising,” DDB created a Bud Light spot in which a man gets thrown from an office window.)

The Onion probably wasn’t aware of the loaded imagery packed inside this piece, but we suspect most ad folk weren’t laughing.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments.

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