It’s typical for brands to compare themselves to competitors in many industries, but not necessarily common practice in journalism. A series of ads from Ozymandias, aka OZY, spotted on Facebook feature members of the publisher’s staff calling their employer better than Vice, Vox, CNN, The Economist, The New York Times and BuzzFeed.
OZY‘s ads don’t just name names, but reasons as to why they feel superior. The publisher claims that it’s “cooler than Vice” because the latter was founded when Frank Sinatra was still releasing music.
While OZY claims to bring its readers news that “actually matters,” it implies that BuzzFeed writes “bull sh*t.”
The ads gained some momentum on Twitter when BuzzFeed tech writer Ryan Mac shared them on Friday. After all, when you insult a publication, you are insulting its writers.
Reactions from the journalists under attack ranged from self-depreciating humor to backhanded compliments toward OZY.
Folks, everywhere you go, people are talking about Ozy. It's a news outlet that's doing an amazing job that's being recognized more and more.
— ishmael n. daro (@iD4RO) September 14, 2018
“Joke’s on OZY,” tweeted Harry Cheadle, west coast editor of Vice. “Vice hasn’t been cool in years.”
Mother will be angry pic.twitter.com/a3ATjUEf4w
— Ryan Mac (@RMac18) September 14, 2018
Some journalists reminded OZY that Buzzfeed was a Pulitzer Prize finalist last year and a publication’s work should speak for itself.
Others were quick to remind Ozymandias of its namesake—a sonnet by Percy Bysshe Shelley that mused about the inevitable decline of rulers, consumed by hubris. The publication has apparently heard that one before because there’s an entire statement about it on the website.
“Most folks read that poem as a caution against big egos and the impermanence of power,” says OZY. “We read it differently. To us, the poem says ‘think big, but be humble, lest you end up ‘two vast and trunkless legs . . . in the desert.’”
The fledgling publication may be trying to “think big” by saying that it can and has been holding its own against legacy giants. One ad points out that in May, OZY profiled Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and CNN didn’t know who she was until three months later. This revelation, OZY claims, makes it “sharper than CNN.”
While the obvious demographic for this ad campaign is readers, the public “diss” may also appeal to advertisers. OZY claims a monthly readership of 40 million, thanks in part to its “terrific partners” that include NPR, The New York Times, USA Today, TED and iHEART. (Making the insult to NY Times even more curious.)
OZY received some bad press from BuzzFeed back in December for purchasing traffic views on a sponsored post by JP Morgan. Other sites were impacted by the invalid traffic, including Funny or Die and PC Mag.
Through a little controversy, the young website could be hoping to generate enough buzz to make advertisers forget about the BuzzFeed story. For BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, however, a public insult was a great excuse to share the article again. To which, OZY shared a story about BuzzFeed layoffs.
What doesn't kill us makes us stronger https://t.co/aK6mgG7PMK
— OZY | News for the Insatiable (@ozy) September 14, 2018
OZY did not respond to inquiries by press time.