|Do We Suffer From Groupthink?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
Sometimes it is hard to find the real problem in a certain situation when everyone in your group is thinking the same way. If we are all approaching a problem and are coming up with the same solutions, we are not getting anywhere close to solving it any time soon. So is that the problem with the advertising industry? Have we cut ourselves off from outside influence that much that we cannot see ourselves running in circles?
It is hard to criticize the industry we know and love. But in order for the advertising industry in the U.S. to continue to flourish, we must take a hard look at ourselves to see what we're doing. As Albert Einstein put it, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
Groupthink is defined as a pattern of thinking characterized by conforming to a certain group. In the advertising industry, though there are several thousand professionals, agencies, and information outlets in the nation, the degree of separation between people is relatively low. And with our industry's tendency to throw awards banquets or advertising conferences, we tend to rub elbows with a lot of the same people. Social media and other online tools have helped to shrink the industry as well.
Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. It is fun to have so many professionals who love what they do and enjoy mingling and agreeing on the many same principle activities. No sane AdPerson would turn down an invite for a party with other AdPeople (besides, there aren't that many sane people in advertising, anyway).
But what happens when we stay within our own group? When we create a clique? Jargon is created, and then we start making up words and phrases that takes forever to explain to outsiders. We communicators lose the value of clear language. George Orwell once said:
The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.
Does "exhausted idioms" ring a bell? Aren't we all tired of the "content is king," "it's all about engagement," "unmarketing," "advertising 2.0," and all that garbage?
Let's get back to advertising. Let's get out of our world and pull in others.
Creativity cannot prosper in an environment where thinking different or having a dissenting opinion is looked down upon. In forming a good idea, there are bound to be a plethora of options that may not work...and that's okay. In one of our earlier posts about David Ogilvy, he acknowledged that he had more bad ideas than good ones, but it was the good ones that were remembered. We are dwelling in a time where the risk-taking, research-oriented advertising campaign is taking a backseat to techies who are attempting to guarantee eyeballs based on algorithms. Yes, your ad or brand will be seen, but there is no creativity behind it. It's bland, and it's based on online behavior rather than life (which research proves can be different).
We need to start taking intentional risks and implementing creativity to our work in different ways. The ad world as a whole isn't at fault, but definitely the majority.
Perhaps we need to do a better job of talking to brands and corporate marketers about why they want to work with us in the first place. We are the creative mediators between the organization and the consumer they are trying to reach. Sending the same message, the same way, just because it works, gets boring. Then trying to justify new methodologies by creating new words and phrases is a pointless attempt to sound intelligent.
How can we show the ad world and brands that they need to let the AdPeople off the chain? Must we do something...drastic?
Ah, well. At least it's something to think about, right? But form your own idea, don't just listen to the crowd.
"He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice."
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