Andy Wiedlin loves movies – especially ’80s movies. And his passion seeps into his management modus operandi.
Chief Revenue Officer of social sharing site Buzzfeed, Wiedlin manages a team of twenty sales professionals, most of whom are under-35 and have only a vague familiarity with 1980’s cinema. Lately some of them have begun to grumble that Wiedlin’s quoting of ’80s movies has become a distraction.
“The other day in the middle of the office, he held up his fist and screamed ‘Wolverines!'” said Susan Kowalski, a 32 year-old Buzzfeed Account Executive. “It scared the crap out of me.”
“I was just trying to get them motivated!” said Wiedlin of this war-cry from the Reagan-era thriller, Red Dawn (1984).
“We’re up for a big buy against AOL and I was saying that AOL’s the Russians and we’re the Wolverines. They might be bigger, but we can use our native ad units with the savvy of Brat-Pack guerrilla warriors.” he explained. “Okay, maybe it was a bit of a stretch.”
Team members report that sometimes they don’t understand Wieldlin’s references, and at other times they see his comments as borderline inappropriate.
Said Stephen Lee, a 27 year-old Asian-American Account Manager, “I like Andy a lot, but he recently started calling me ‘The Donger.’ It really creeped me out at first because I thought he was suggesting that I was well-endowed or something. I figured it was some kind of sales-machismo thing.”
Lee continued, “But then I come to find out it’s a reference to a drunk Japanese guy in a movie called Sixteen Candles. I guess I’m happy he wasn’t making references to my junk, but still – that’s pretty racist, man.”
Wiedlin says it’s a term of affection. “Come on – he’s The Donger! And besides, I couldn’t be racist toward him – my wife is Japanese. That gives me all kinds of license.”
Says Lee, “It was funny the first couple of times, but now every time I go to lunch he says ‘no more yanky-my-wanky: Donger need food!‘”
“It’s not so cool.” he concluded.
Marcus Davis, a 28 year-old African-American Account Exec reports that Wiedlin has asked him multiple times if Davis has ever seen the (1986) movie Soul Man.
“I asked him if it was about Eldridge Cleaver. Andy looked at me like I was stupid and said, ‘No, it’s about C. Thomas Howell!’ I’ve never even heard of that guy.” said Davis.
Davis continued, “Funny how he only asks me about Soul Man. I’m a golfer, but he never asks me about Caddyshack.”
Wiedlin defends his love of the genre, saying, “Hey, 80’s movies were the memes of my generation. Without those movies and the VCR, there would be no Buzzfeed.”
BAC asked Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti about Wiedlin’s explanation. Peretti replied, “He said that? Oh geez…I’ve gotta talk to him.”
Wiedlin, who puts his age at “mid-40’s,” says his love of movies started when his family got a Betamax player when he was nine years-old. He watched hundreds films over the next decade, peaking in college where movies were the cornerstone to his social life.
“Our cinematic tastes were a bit wacky, so there weren’t many girls around.” he said, rationalizing his collegiate celibacy with movie-geek superciliousness.
Wiedlin continued, “My quoting movies is no different than one of my team re-posting a link to some cat video or one of Buzzfeed’s awesome listicles. I didn’t realize others found it offensive or off-putting. ”
“It’s not offensive exactly,” reports sales rep Lisa Mahoney. “It’s just that his attempt to relate to us through pop culture only demonstrates how far apart we actually are. It’s like when my dad would drive us to school and sing along to Brittany Spears on the radio.”
Mahoney continued, “It’s mostly just sad, but he did something once that was a little inappropriate – he told me that I had the same first name as Lea Thompson’s character in All The Right Moves. Then he made that weird cat-purring sound.”
“And that was in my job interview.” she added.
Susan Kowalski mirrored Mahoney’s sentiment about Wiedlin, “Totally great guy, and only occasionally creepy. Like, he’ll turn up the volume on this old Cars’ song called Moving in Stereo. It’s a pretty cool song, but then he gets this weird look on his face and tells everyone that he ‘became a man’ to that song. I’m like, ‘eww.'”
Wiedlin actually incorporates old movies into his meetings and offsites.
Says sales rep Kowalski, “I’ve been to three offsites now, and they’re all the same – he starts out playing that movie clip with Jack Donaghy talks about brass balls – what’s that movie called…Glengarry- something?”
“Then he launches into a pep talk about having ‘The Attitude,’ which is a five point framework from a sales guru named Mike Damone.” says Kowalski. “It includes listening to Led Zeppelin, which is an old band that my dad really likes, but I can’t find any of their music on Spotify.”
Davis says with a sigh, “Yeah, it’s an all-the-time thing. When we talk about quarterly goals he’s all ‘Be the ball‘ and ‘Show me the money!‘ If you miss your goal, you’re ‘a tremendous slouch,’ and when he asks for volunteers, he’ll go ‘Bueller? Bueller?‘….which is apparently a reference to that Sex and the City lady’s husband.”
Stephen Lee agreed, “One time I was late to Andy’s weekly sales meeting, and he says in front of the whole team, ‘Does Barry Manilow know you raided his wardrobe?‘ I didn’t even know what he was talking about. I had to Google ‘Barry Manilow.’ Turns out he’s like an old Clay Aiken.”
Wiedlin defends his passion, “At least I’m not using a ton of management or social media jargon, like ‘virality,’ ‘thinking outside the box’ or ‘disintermediation.’ Clients like me because I’m funny and not always so serious. I’m a poor-man’s Greg Coleman.”
“Thats’ true,” Kowalski reports. “Like when we closed a deal with Spike TV. The buyer inquired about invoicing, and Andy asked him ‘should we put it on the Underhill’s bill?’ The guy laughed really hard. What a couple of dorks.”
Still, Wieldin’s team does attempt to learn more about some of these older movies.
“I thought it would be a good idea to watch some of the movies that Andy talks about – you know, get in good with the boss. So I rented Glengarry Glen Ross.” said Stephen Lee. “Dude, that movie is depressing. I wanted to shoot myself.”
Kowalski says “I looked up Caddyshack on IMDB – it came out in 1980, i.e. the year I was born! Him quoting me lines from that movie would be like his boss quoting him lines from Cleopatra.”
She continued “By the way, why aren’t any of these old ’80’s movies available to stream on Netflix? It’s not like they’re new releases.”