A few weeks ago, I received a curious e-mail from someone representing “a digital marketing agency currently working with a leading architecture and design firm.” They wrote to inquire if I, as the proprietor of this architecture blog, would be interested in “featuring sponsored content” on behalf of their client. Here’s how it would work: a “tailored article” would be written by someone who would first familiarize themselves with my site “to get a feel for [the] tone, style, and the type of content” I usually post. I would be sent a draft of the article and could “review, edit and reject” it if unsuitable (their emphasis). The name of the client would not be divulged to me until the draft is sent for review. In the event of publication, I would be recompensed by a modest fee “for their privilege.” The most telling line was this one, though: “we would request that the post not be marked as ‘sponsored’.” (my emphasis).
As you can imagine, at first I was thrilled. I guess I must be doing something right after all these years. But then I was flabbergasted. As my regular readers know, criticalista is a very personal site in which contemporary architectural work is reviewed as a way of reflecting on the kinds of buildings and cities –and hence the kind of society– we’re building. The content here can range from a snarky rant to lengthy, serious analysis. I don’t try to write in a particular style, nor am I academically focussed on a single research topic, so I really wonder how another writer –no matter how equally lacking in talent– could possibly even come close to impersonating me. I am as curious to see how someone might imitate one of my articles as I am to knowing the name of that leading architecture firm, so the offer is indeed somewhat tempting.
But in the end, if there’s something that I think I can be proud of having achieved at criticalista.com, it is precisely that this blog is not about marketing. In fact, I have gone some lengths toward criticizing the employment of architecture as a tool for branding. Any building I write about must contain a lesson (or a warning) that deserves to be shared among my small but highly erudite community of readers. Sure, any architectural writing ultimately “promotes” to some extent, but that’s just par for the course. In the first place, there must be insightful work.
I have never written about work that I haven’t seen in person, so the last thing I’m going to do is to let a hired ghostwriter write about some that I may not even be familiar with. I know this means that my site is not as active as certain others out there, but at least the words published on this site, for whatever they’re worth, are genuine and sincere. They have never been written under the guise of “sponsored content,” nor have they ever been copy-pasted from a press release. Why would I want to risk damaging the reputation of my own brand?
So please rest assured, my faithful reader, that no matter how dire things get in this neoliberal fake-news shit-world we live in, criticalista.com will never sell out!