You’ve probably heard of him. Hell, if you haven’t heard of him, you’ve probably not been online recently.

Yep, it’s Gary Vaynerchuk. Or Gary Vee to his acolytes.

Gary Vee talks shite
Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO at VaynerMedia for Too Good To Fail at Internet Week HQ on Day 2 of Internet Week 2015 in New York May 19, 2015. Insider Images/Andrew Kelly (UNITED STATES)

If it’s still not ringing any bells, this is from his LinkedIn profile.

  • Chairman of VaynerX
  • CEO of VaynerMeda
  • 5 Time NYT Bestselling Author
  • One of the most sought after public speakers alive today*

*(Which is handy, because dead public speakers don’t get much of a look in these days)

I Promised I Wouldn’t Write About Gary Vee. But I Have.

You see, I promised myself I wouldn’t write this post.

A few years ago I made a decision to be more positive, to let things go, to not worry about stuff I can’t control. And, while the journey has had ups and downs, it’s been liberating.

I’ve seen many people sharing Gary Vee videos, mainly on LinkedIn, occasionally on Facebook, and I’ve watched them. My opinion of them is, almost always, the same: what a pile of horseshit.

There is, to be sure, the odd nugget of great information in his content. But you have to pan through so much shite to find the gold, I’m not sure how anyone manages.

His delivery is exceptional. He’s clearly passionate about whatever his chosen subject is that day, delivers well and speaks at a pace and tone that makes you think he’s about to create the future.

I’ll be honest, I picked up a few tips about how to hold an audience from watching his videos too. You know, if you say something with enough PASSION then people will believe it, right? But seriously, it’s interesting to watch how he commands the audience and keeps them hooked.

But, being positive, I thought I’d stay away from correcting the many fundamental errors in his content.

So Why is Gary Vee dangerous?

The other week, however, I spotted this on LinkedIn and couldn’t let it slide. Every time I watch the video I get a little bit more annoyed. Because it’s not just wrong, it’s dangerous.

Or, to deliver that in a Gary Vee style:

This SHIT you see, right here, is just, I mean, I can’t even, it’s wrong, on so many levels, it’s just, I mean, man, it’s fucked up.

Watch the video. Please. And read some of the comments if you’ve got time.

(Update: the LinkedIn embed might be a bit buggy on mobile. If that’s the case, you can watch it on YouTube.)

Reading the comments on the LinkedIn post made me realise there are two types of people in this world.

1) Those who realise what is fundamentally wrong with this video; and
2) Idiots.

If you’re in the former category, congratulations, you can stop reading now.

If you’re in the latter, read on. Please.

Let’s leave aside for a moment, if you can, the fact Gary Vee refers to himself as “the sun” or working with him as “stepping inside the vortex”.

Unless he’s referring to himself as a dying star (please, can that be true?!), phrases like that are a sure sign of someone who is about to disappear up their own arsehole.

But that’s not the issue. It’s his views on how to get ahead in life that are dangerous.

Go and clean P Diddy’s shoes

Get Mark Cuban’s coffee

Pay me $200,000 a year to work with me

Hold. The. Phone.

Let’s break that down for a minute.

There is, undoubtedly, merit in watching successful people up close. Listening to the conversations they have, networking with people who they meet and understanding how their business works.

But if you think that being the shoe shine boy for a millionaire rapper is the best way to push your career forward, you’re a fool.

Or getting coffee for the rags to riches American dream guy is the key to success, then you’re deeply misguided. Remember, Cuban is the guy who didn’t sack a guy who was a known danger to women (he even had it written in his contract that he couldn’t work with women alone) because he was worried he would just get a job elsewhere. Hopefully you wouldn’t pick up that sort of thinking while delivering his flat white.

Dickensian Dream

What Gary Vee is espousing, is the sort of system we had about 150 years ago. Where those who had money or privilege (usually both) would get on.

Why? Because they could pay to go to the best schools, they used their connections to get the best jobs, they didn’t have to worry about paying the bills or feeding the family because it was all taken care of.

Seriously, how many people can pay TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS to go and be the bag man of self-publicist? Clue: it’s a very small number. Let me put it another way, the average US household would need just under four years to make that sort of money.

And how many would actually want to humiliate themselves to “step inside the vortex”?

Personally, if I was going to spend that sort of cash to further my career, I’d chuck $160,000 of it to Harvard, MIT, Kellogg or somewhere like that for an MBA and go on a lovely holiday with the rest.

Can you imagine the “vortex” you’ve just stepped inside by doing that?

Spending a year working with some of the smartest people around, who want to push their careers forward. Yes, it’s costly, but it’s also proven.

Get a Harvard MBA on your CV and it’s a ticket to the big time. Get a year with Gary Vee on your CV and, despite what he claims about being able to go and work with Spielberg, I’m not sure where that would take you.

And if you’ve paid $200,000 to do it, I think the only place it should take you is an asylum.

I just can’t work out how having “I cleaned P Diddy’s shoes” on your CV is going to impress anyone.

This is a Marketing Problem

If you’re still not with me in thinking this is ridiculous, step back from marketing for a moment and reframe this statement in another way.

Your mother needs lifesaving brain surgery. Do you want the smartest person with the best grades to carry it out? Or the one who could pay £200k to “step inside the vortex”?

Your child is learning to drive. Do you want someone with the qualifications and a licence to show them how to handle a car, or just let someone who has spent a few years cleaning the shoes of someone who can drive?

You need someone to look after your tax affairs. Do you get a chartered accountant with a good track record and references or pick the guy who spent years carrying coffee for rags to riches success story?

I could go on. But if you haven’t worked it out by now, then you’re probably beyond redemption.

If you haven’t worked it out by now, I can predict what you’re saying. “Yes, but Andi, this is marketing, not accountancy or surgery. Digital has changed the world. Why do an MBA when they can’t teach you digital? Hands on is the best practice for digital marketing now.”

If that’s the case, our industry is fucked.

I know there is a big difference between academia and practice. There isn’t a university in the world that can teach you how to do AdWords well. Or SEO. But they’re not supposed to.

Unis teach fundamentals, structure, theory and background. That helps you understand where all the tactical stuff – the stuff they’re hopeless at – sits within the bigger picture.

But this is a bigger issue for marketers. By not taking our own industry seriously, we’re making it easy for the people who don’t take us seriously to continually undermine us all.

Marketers have a horrific time trying to protect (never mind grow) budget. Marketers struggle to get promoted to CEO.

Have you heard the marketing department/person referred to as the Ministry of Pretty Pictures or the Colouring In Department or similar, less pleasant insults? Or chatted to a sales or operations person who “doesn’t know what the marketing team does”? Or heard the finance director ask “what do you do with all this money we keep spending”?

All these are problems that are of our own making.

When you speak to marketers – and I do, a lot – you can spot those who have been trained in marketing. From a mile away. They understand the principles, how to apply them and where to look when things go wrong.

Gary Vee’s acolytes are right, an MBA won’t teach you how to build a huge Instagram following. But any basic marketing course will teach you how to understand where that sits in the big picture, what role it plays in the campaign and – and this bit is really important – if there is any fucking point in building 100,000 Instagram followers.

Think of the Children!

Before I get off my high horse, one more thing.

What sort of message does this drivel send out to young people. Forget about education, just have money?

I have a daughter. She’s eight and a half – the half is very important to her. In Gary Vee’s world, I’m going to have to pull out all of the stops so I can send her to work for free for a millionaire to get on in life.

If that’s the case, stop the world I want to get off.

I’m not naïve. In the UK, 7% of the population goes to a fee paying high school. But 71% of the military top brass come from these schools, alongside three quarters of judges and half of all print journalists. And BAFTA winners… 42% from fee paying schools. Stats from The Sutton Trust.

Everyone uses what they have to do the best for their kids. I get that. But Gary Vee’s views on education and how to get ahead are ripping up any remaining hope of a meritocracy. And it’s wrong.

Smart people come from all backgrounds. Regardless of income, colour, gender, sexuality etc etc etc.

And one of the factors (and there are many) that locks poorer people out of flying high is the culture of unpaid internships that flow around some industries – like journalism and marketing.

I was recently approached by someone who offered to work for me for free. As a new business this is very attractive. The lady in questions is bright, brilliant and would, undoubtedly, offer loads to the company. But I said no.

She’s trying to pivot from one industry into digital marketing and the experience would help. But I can’t, in good faith, charge clients for work, keep all the cash myself and let someone do the work for nothing in their evenings and weekends. It’s just wrong.

This isn’t to say work placements are wrong. My own view is that anything up to two weeks free is fine. People need experience. But after that, it’s just exploitation.

Wrong to ask someone to work an evening job to pay the bills so you can make more money.

Wrong to exploit someone for your benefit.

Wrong to think that you’re doing them a favour to let them step inside the vortex.

Luckily, I’m not the only one thinks like that either. Niall McGarry, Owner of Maximum Media (the people behind, SportsJoe, etc) thinks the same way.

Happy Pills Please

I know there are many, many Gary Vee fans out there.

I would urge you all (not just Gary Vee fans, everyone) to apply critical thinking to what you consume. No one, not even me, is right 100% of the time. But if you read the comments on Gary Vee’s work, you’d assume that he’s a deity.

If you see bullshit, call it out. Have the debate. That’s how things move forward.

If you think this post is rubbish, call it out. Please do. Use the comments below, tweet me, post on LinkedIn… whatever. I genuinely believe that open, honest and eloquent debate is a good thing and will help us all improve.

So let me know what you think.

Right, that’s it. I’m done. I’ll be back to happy, smiley and fun tomorrow.