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November 12, 2013
The Fear of Risk
 
Everyone wants to be a winner. In many cases, being a winner means taking risks. Sometimes the risk pays off, and yet the payoff is not immediate. In other cases, the risk fails to yield the results that were expected. In an instant-gratification society, taking a risk that takes too long for results to come means losing your job, the account, or other privileges. Yet the common charge is to "rise above the clutter" and "to be unconventional."

To get this ball rolling, we want to say that AdLand is not too big to fail, or too important to fail, but there is a culture that has been created that has made it too afraid to fail.

This fear of failing, or fear of taking risks, has made our dear creative landscape too full of clutter, and too conventional.

And even the bigwigs realize it.

Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, the head honcho of the second-largest holding group once Publicis-Omnicom finalizes, had an interview with AdWeek where he said that advertising professionals need to get riskier as the landscape continues to morph into what appears to be a more consolidated, digital, resource-driven industry.

Yet, when brands do try something "off-centered," they get blasted. Perfect example — Kellogg's RT campaign.

Apparently, Kellogg's was going to donate a free meal to an underprivileged child with every retweet the brand received. And on cue, the Twitterverse went crazy. Instead of accepting it at face-value, those "holier-than-thou" refused to believe that Kellogg's wouldn't give as much as they could to help starving children.

Stop it.

What's next? Well, Kellogg's public relations team had to jump in and apologize. 

Was it the best creative idea? Probably not. But did the brand need to get its head chomped off for trying some kind of social engagement and corporate responsibility? Probably not.

There is a disconnect between agencies, corporate marketers, and the public. This disconnect of wanting "riskier" activities will continue to be amplified as it gets easier to send a message out for the world to see.

How can this disconnect be fixed? Can it be fixed? We're not too sure.

Don't get us twisted. We are not saying that campaigns like the Kellogg's one should be accepted at a whim, it is just an example. The viral John Lewis is unconventional, but who's to say that the ad will resonate with the public? And those silly crowdsourced commercials that the public enjoys? How much do they really reflect what the company wants? Adopting standards and traits that your consumer wants and having the consumer pick your brand because of your standards are quite different.

Forgive the ramble, we are just tired of seeing the constant contradictions to this "need for risk." We agree that advertising needs to improve. And it is clear that the consumer has no idea what they want to see, nor the impact that advertising has on their everyday lives.

So AdLand, we gotta fix our own problem. 

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Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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