It’s looking as if global media agency PHD Worldwide should have taken more notice of the old TV adage: “Never work with animals or children”.  

Earlier this month the firm released a video that literally made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Called “We Are The Future”, it starts with a statement, delivered by a teenager: “If you work in marketing then you’d better start upping your game, because you haven’t seen anything like us yet.”

It subsequently features lots of other teens who earnestly play a game of buzzword bingo by spouting phrases like “social graph” and “social APIs” at the beleaguered viewer, thereby making it immediately non-believable (even if, at its core, the video seems reasonably accurate about where things are heading). 

Here are a few choice snippets of things that teenagers say, apparently:

“Don’t worry, you’ll offset the cost by selling any leads to those data aggregator type companies.”

“AR apps will almost function like special skills, to help us navigate reality more effectively.”

“And you’d better get used to paying us. Our browsing, influencing and purchasing data will make some of us pretty rich.”

“Mass blocks kill brands overnight.”

“We won’t just watch your ads, we’ll expect smart tailored content based on our social graphs.”

“Social APIs and e-commerce functionality.”

Marketing Magazine thinks it’s great. I think it sucks (as do 210 people on YouTube, versus 57 who like it), but that’s not really the point. The point is, when you make a video about the future you probably don’t want to then resort to old school censorship, as PHD has been doing on YouTube following many dozens on negative comments.

The agency has received some flak on YouTube and Twitter for smiting comments left, right and centre, and in the last hour has put out a comment of its own saying that the UGC purge will now cease:

“Thank you for all your comments so far. We had deleted any highly profane or overly abusive comments (hope you understand). But we will leave everything up from now on. Please do continue to share your thoughts – negative and positive.”

Yet that comment has now been hidden due to it receiving “too many negative votes”. Who on earth is voting this one down? Perhaps by people who realise that comments are still being removed?

The thing is, while I found the video gut-wrenchingly uncomfortable to watch, PHD is stuck between a rock and a hard place with regards to some of the comments. We also delete ultra-offensive comments, and we keep a close eye on the trolls, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I’m no fan of censorship, but there’s a definite balance to be found with moderation

Sensibly-written but furiously negative comments are perfectly fine. I don’t mind one bit if you disagree with me. And, personally speaking, I’m not precious about the use of profanities, though as a B2B site some of our audience might be and for that reason we may have to lose comments that include language more suited to a Derek & Clive video. Personal attacks at a playground level are kinda lame too, as they miss the point entirely. On the flipside, deleting negative comments purely based on the fact that they’re negative is absolutely the wrong thing to do, whether now or in the future.

So anyway, pull up a cushion and prepare to make up your own mind… here’s the video in question:

What do you think? Did PHD misjudge this? Are the negative comments a reaction to the creative, to the execution, or to the censorship? Is PHD right to delete the more offensive comments?