Saturday, April 21, 2007



Not a just a board game in pursuit of world domination. Risk is THE ONLY WAY civilization advances. And not a new concept (certainly not for the ten people that read this blog with alarming regularity).

I am amazed at the way my business treats risk. It is a blasphemous word that I probably shouldn't even mention here, except that I work for what I consider to be a pretty frigging progressive agency that believes status quo is not good enough.

Risk implies the possibility that something won't work. And that is serious no-no talk at a lot of agencies. Risk also implies we haven't done our homework.

"Will it work?" The answer is always "How could it NOT work?" Never "Maybe not." Never "It's risky". Never "Who knows, But it'll be COOL to find out."

I wish a CPB employee would let it leak: does Andrew Keller ever shrug his shoulders and say "We did the research. We were impeccable with the strategy. We LOVE the work - but is it risky? Fuck yeah it's risky." Risky how? "People might end up HATING your product. This campaign is going to be like licorice: some people are going to love it, others are going to hate it -- and by hate it, I mean HATE IT."

People don't want to hear that others hate them. Unless they are Howard Stern. Very very very very few business people understand the concept that, in order to be truly embraced by some, you may very well be truly reviled by others. And those others may be a LOUD and unruly bunch. Like the republican party. Or 26 states. or "The rest of the world."

But that's the fact: true progress requires risk. True innovation require failure. As I ranted away about the Adweek Report cards, grading an agency for its creative output isn't worth a damn if it fails to mention that "Agency A pioneered a new medium. Consistently flew in the face of conventional advertising every single opportunity it was given. Risked big, and with those risks, acheived incredible things in some cases, and almost nothing in others." In short, the reason agencies take risks is FOR THE RESULTS. The reason clients spend money on advertising is FOR RESULTS. The reason Adweek continues to publish a magazine is due, in no small part, to the fact that advertising has historically acheived results. Not taking the effectiveness of an agency's work into account in a nationwide grading exercise is ignoring the very basis of what the industry is responsible for.

I don't like Crispin's VW work. I have lamented a return to the emotional provocative work Arnold did for that brand eight years ago. But if Arnold's work wasn't selling cars, something was definitely wrong. If the product no longer matched the advertising, you can change the advertising, or change the product. I guess option 3 would be to change both. If VW switched agencies because they demanded results, who is to argue?

My hat is off to agencies that take risks and truly change the game. Those that see the uncomfortable conversation, yet trust a simple strategy, the magic of storytelling, the art of professional production and the passion of brand evangelism will carry them through and across the goal line.

1 comment:

Make the logo bigger said...

“My hat is off to agencies that take risks and truly change the game.”

Nice take. And my finger’s up to the ones who talk about it but never do.