The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

The Passion Paradox …
August 13, 2010, 6:33 am
Filed under: Comment

Over the last few years, the word ‘passion’ has seemingly become one of the most important words in marketing.

Brands talk about how passionate they are.
Agencies talk about how how passionate they are.
People talk about how passionate they are.

Of course, enthusiasm is a good thing – especially when it manifests itself into positive actions – however I do think it’s important to remember that passion doesn’t automatically equate to quality or effectiveness and yet time after time, I see agencies being awarded big projects simply because they had the ability to convey excitement at a pivotal moment.

Guess this proves the ‘pitch’ is more a personality show than a solutions show … and that’s fine [hell, I’ve profited from this attitude many a time] except I keep hearing brands accuse agencies of not being focused on their business issues when there are many occasions where they are just as guilty.

Without doubt the emotional and personal dynamics between client and agency have a big effect on the end product … and I absolutely appreciate an agency that is genuinely passionate will, in all likelihood, go to greater lengths to achieve the clients ‘goal’ than someone who isn’t … however too often these dynamics are measured on how much an agency is willing to ‘fit in with the client process’ rather than what they can/will contribute to the actual goal, which means if the passion is more bluster than ability, everyone ends up losing – client, agency, public and shareholder.

Don’t get me wrong, keeping a client happy – emotionally and professionally is very, very important – however when it ends up being more about their ego than the task at hand, things go bad very quickly indeed.

I know this is going to make me look a complete corporate toady bastard, but the reason I bring this up is because I just re-watched an oldish interview with Mr W and Mr K that I absolutely love.

The thing is, there’s one point in the interview [at 6 mins 90 secs to the end of the clip] that when I first heard it, made me go, “WHAT THE HELL???” however once I heard the justification, it made perfect sense which is why if I had my way, I’d show it to every client we’re hoping to work with and if they shook their head in confusion, I’d stop the conversation there … not because we’re creative prima-donas, but because we actually want to do the right thing, not the diluted thing.

Anyway, have a look and tell me if I’ve been at the kool aid again.

[I think I know your answer! Bastards]

32 Comments so far
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Great point, great post. I remember you used to say “passion was a competitive advantage” and I still think that is the case except the amount of  clients/agencies who seem to genuinely embody that approach is few and far between, overshadowed by a wave of average who use that descriptor to make them or their partners feel better about themselves. 

I don’t think passion has to mean excellence and I don’t think you were saying that, but I do agree that extroverted enthusiasm often get rewarded in adland when the abilities or thinking doesn’t always back that up. 

Maybe this is more a reflection of a malaise in society than any hypocrisy of the advertising industry but the W+K clip was certainly a refreshing way of looking how good work and relationships can be nurtured and fostered. Explains why you work there with your tendency to upset rather than crawl. 🙂

Comment by Pete

Thanks. I think.

Comment by Rob

passion gives me the fucking shits. too many people use it too many times to justify why theyve done something they shouldnt.

“hey i just launched a product thats just like all our other products because im just passionate about ripping you off”


the most passionate thing most fuckers are passionate about is using the word passion when what they should be using is desperate.

and you are a fucking crawling cock campbell but the 2 santas make a bit of fucking sense. whod of thought people over 975 years old could be valid in adland? fucking amazing but their marbles at definitely starting to fucking roll because they forgot the #1 rule of having your own company:

1 bosses
2 work
3 clients
4 the hotties
5 finance
6 it geeky twats
7 the rest of them

better have a word in their ear rob, before they start making it a half fucking decent place to work.

Comment by andy@cynic

“hey i just launched a product thats just like all our other products because im just passionate about ripping you off”

You could write the sequel to “Crazy People” – but from a clients perspective – there might be even more material to choose from than Dudley Moores initial documentary … I mean, comedy.

Comment by Rob

Do not write a sequel to Crazy Ones, it’s impossible. TBWA have beeb trying for 13 years

Comment by northern

fuck me how far has england fallen. from celebrating an empire to cheering butt fucking ugly ski failures on the back. and fuck off about his plucky spirit, thats for hippie loving social workers. or paula fucking abdul. why dont we get back to having tough standards before darwin gets proved he was talking shite.

Comment by andy@cynic

Fox News have called Andy as have the republican party.

Comment by George

cock. besides i basically quoted your wife word for fucking word and we all know you agree with everything she says. and i know you agree because i had to sit next to you for seven fucking years hearing you mutter about deteriorating standards so fuck you you objectionable twat.

love to the wife and kids.

Comment by andy@cynic

But they’ve both decided he’s a little too passionate for them.

Comment by John

Only teasing Andrew, nice to see the hair trigger is still in pristine condition.
While I would not wish to stop anyones passion or potential from being realised, I do feel standards are being lowered in favour of not alienating/upsetting anyone which ultimately leads to false confidence and mediocrity of decision & action.

Comment by George

You sound like you’re bordering on Bill O’Cockface territory, but if you take the extremes of what you’re saying away, I agree with you.

I get alarmed at what some people think is ‘good enough’ … and I get downright fucking angry when it’s followed by ‘but that’s all the client wants’.

If all we aim to do is simply what’s passable, we all end up losing and whilst it is easy to slip into overkill under the guise of craftsmanship and/or perfectionism … simply adopting an attitude of “lowest common denominator” fulfillment ends up costing the industry – and many others besides – their value and credibility.

That’s why I love the clip, because at it’s heart it’s about proving your value to your clients which is ultimately a better way [both financially and emotionally] to run your business than relying on low prices/ego massaging/abuse taking, as many other companies feel is the best way to drive profits.

I wonder if the people who have shares in these sorts of companies are happy in their jobs … because if they’re not, they should be fighting for better conditions … because whilst initially that might mean a hit on profits, in the long term, they will probably end up with substantially more. Shame that so many in society seemingly don’t want to make positive change, they just don’t want to suffer alone.

Comment by Rob

It’s a pretty obvious observation, but if you hire some help, you’re saying you can’t do the job yourself, so the smart thing to do is to stand back and let the help help.

If, however, you hire help so that you can massage your ego by telling them what to do, then you need a different kind of help.

Comment by John

I agree with John, the point of hiring any external agency is to seek their expertise, not to make them your slaves. Debate is healthy, dictatorship is not.

Comment by Lee Hill

Which leads me to another point, why do so many agencies act as if they are the client? The way they talk, the clothes they wear. If we wished to interact with people who thought and acted like us, we’d talk to ourselves. We seek expertise not a reflection of what we already have, which explains why we have always been happy to put up with Robert’s tone and manner because he addresses our issues not our ego.

Comment by Lee Hill

and what the fuck were the rest of us lee? chopped liver. campbell and auntie might be the mouthpieces but we were pulling the strings. the rest of what you said was painfully fucking right as painfully fucking usual.

Comment by andy@cynic

Because that’s what lots of clients want?

Comment by John

After you have removed the bad language, I endorse Andrew’s comment. But only this single comment.

Comment by George

Great comment Lee, very refreshing to hear at least SOME clients think like that! I can see why you guys continue to do great work.

Comment by Age

I’ll remind you of this in ooooooh, 3 weeks Lee.

Comment by Rob

I think some companies like agencies who mirror them because it gives them the confidence their decisions and actions won’t be questioned and open up implications they may not favor.

I enjoyed this post Robert but I enjoyed the clip more.

Comment by Bazza

The oldies talk some sense. They’re young guys still have a lot to learn.

Hey Rob, who’d of thought you’d be called young.

Comment by DH


Comment by Marcus

Despite the brown nosing, you and they have a point.
However, it takes a place that can pull of really good work – which means that 90% of agencies have to rely one other means.
By the way, I’m wrangling with Mindshare over something who want to write the theme tune and sing the theme tune. They’re ‘passionate about comms strategy that embraces people rather than space’
Would you believe, some American twat decided to give ‘constructive feedback’ on some very early thoughts. Which is of course fine.
The thoughts were around championing men who always know what to do, in world that’s increasingly impulsive and instant (actually the most authentic thing this brand could say and ladders up and down from the product truth)
The idiot actually said, “The problem with trying to own preparation is that anyone can do it, a face cream could. Stick to owning football’
I can’t tell you the brand, but it’s as far away from football as I am from London. What a gift! What a numpty.
In a VERY considered manner (of course) it took greay pleasure in cutting him I(and his comms planning for the lasy 12 monnths to ribbons).
Thanks for that, always good to collaborate on thiking, but I’m not sure you’ve understood our thinking. We’re not suggesting preparation, we’re suggesting making consideration and dependability desirable rather than dull, maybe even parodying impulsiveness. Preparation is part of that, but only a part.
However, preparation still wouldn’t be horrible idea because it would be authentic, it’s built into the product and the brand’s heritage.
I’m note sure football is, in fact I know it’s not. Borrowwed interest is fine of course, but it has to be done with 100% authenticity, go all in. A bit of sponsorship and hiring famous players doesn’t really do that, which possibly explains the Millward Brown data being a little disappointing.
I’m actually confused at your argument, as football is probably the most exploited area of interest in the world by brands in every category you can think of.

Not sure why I’m sharing this, partly because I’m feeling superhuman this week and partly because I’m a little frustrated with mediocrity masquerading as passionate genuis.
I’m also sick of twats that sell a ‘process’ where that’s what really matters rather than the ideas. The wonderful thing about process is that lets you avoid thinking.

Don’t mess with me today, I’m feeling lethal.

Comment by northern

Nicely put.

The best processes seem to usually be those that have the minimum of process in them.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Fuck me, that is absolutely frighteningly awesome.

It’s times like these where I really love this blog, even though I am acknowledging it’s what others add to it rather than me, ha!

Comment by Rob

Still a toad though.

Comment by Marcus

Passion isn’t enough. It’s not specific enough or individual enough to be a selling point anymore. Passion is a given.

It’s like an FMCG product asking you to talk about quality.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

That’s the thing Mr M … I think real passion is a selling point and I don’t think it’s a given … the issue is so few companies embody it [preferring to just say it] that it has completely and utterly undermined its value from a marketing sense.

Comment by Rob

Belief is I think what youre talking about.

Comment by John

Yeah to a degree, but belief doesn’t convey the hunger to achieve that I think some companies embody.

Comment by Rob

Yeah, it’s the word and semantic changes that have devalued it. Essentially it’s gone the way of Celebrity.

A list passion.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Thanks for the information and the video, I certainly learned alot. 🙂

Comment by Taylor Marek

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