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

One Of The Best Things I Ever Learnt …
May 9, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Some say opinions are like arseholes.

Everyone has them, except some are prettier than others.

That definition could also be directed at advertising.

Everyone has an opinion.

An opinion on what’s wrong with it … what’s right with it … how it could be made better … how it could have been made … you name it, advertising attracts it and debates it.

What’s worse is that as much as the opinions flow like rivers once the things been made, that’s nothing compared to the opinions that are thrown into the mix when you’re trying to actually develop something.

The easy way would be to go with consensus.

Go with what the majority want and make your life easier.

But the problem with the majority is that their decisions are often tainted by all sorts of personal agenda or fear which means success can be impacted before it has even had a chance to prosper.

With this in mind, the ability to distinguish fact from fiction – and do it in a way that clients will understand and accept – is incredibly important and the funny thing is, it’s incredibly easy … at least in theory.

There’s an old adage that perception is reality but it isn’t reality is reality … which is why one of the greatest bits of advice I have ever been given to keep good things happening – rather than let consensus conquer all – is appreciate the difference between subjective and objective.

Now I’m sure you guys already know this, but for me, it’s still unbelievably important – especially when we’re discussing strategies/ideas/creative concepts with clients.

The sad reality these days is that clients are empowered to say ‘no’ rather than yes.

With that in mind, there seems to be this subliminal belief that a brand managers goal is to minimise risk rather than maximise potential.

Don’t get me wrong, no one wants to do something stupidly risky – well, unless strategically it makes sense – but when your starting point is ‘not rock the boat’ rather than ‘drive cultural change’, you can often end up in a situation where you’re bombarded with reasons why NOT to do something rather than things that can push the potential to even greater heights.

So what do you do?

Enter subjective and objective.

Too many times comments are thrown back at you that aren’t exactly true.

I’m not saying people are purposefully lying, but quite often the things they regard as ‘fact’ actually end up being far more subjective than objective.

It could be because they are using old research to form their view or basing it on feedback that comes from an unrelated topic or confusing the context of the situation or ignoring the broader issues that affected their example or simply talking about an ad that worked/failed at a very different time – which is why the key is to never go into a meeting thinking you can handle everything with your smarts, you have to go in prepared … where you know far more about their business than just their marketing and have the information to back it up.

Of course the key to challenging clients opinion is knowing how to do it – something that I admit, I need to improve on – but if you can do it and do it in a way they understand is to drive better work not just satisfy your ego, you might just find you end up making work that pushes culture not just adds to the overall category noise.

28 Comments so far
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Comment by John

Are you saying you liked this Doddsy? Sell out.

We need Andy back and we need him now.

Comment by Billy Whizz

This is scary, John Dodds seems to like something I’ve said. I’m assuming that is because he either [1] didn’t read it or [2] meant to type -1, but did a typo.

Comment by Rob

It’s my new positive persona.

Comment by John

Won’t last

Comment by northern

I hope not, that’s as alarming as being a kid and finding out Jimmy Saville is your babysit.

Comment by Rob

It seems nothing is constant in life these days.
Except the crapness of Media Arts that is

Comment by northern

A friend of mine joined your beloved MediaArts and left within 2 months. I think you guys would get on.

Comment by Rob

I like him already

Comment by northern

Well the quality of post obviously won’t last but, despite the indifferent reaction to my positive contributions re tip technology, I shall persevere.

Comment by John

This brings back memories. Shit memories. But I get my own back by using it on others even if I don’t know what the fuck it means. Basically, I’m a planner. But much better looking.

Comment by Billy Whizz

You forgot to add “… in the dark” to the end of your sentence.

Comment by Rob

This is great advice for whatever industry you work in. So simple yet so effective. Good work.

Comment by George

“There’s an old adage that perception is reality but it isn’t reality is reality”. Great point and a great post.

Comment by Pete

I’m guessing a lawyer taught you this Robert. It’s very good advice because it is very effective at separating misinformed consensus from reality. Of course this should not be news, but I sit in presentations most week that show it is.

Comment by Lee Hill

Yes, my Dad … which I learnt by his responses to my request for a pocket money rise. In the end, I’d always go to my Mum, she was a much easier touch. Ha.

Comment by Rob

I remember hearing the story of an ad guy, I think possibly Frank Lowe. Who walked into a full creative presentation meeting with lots of client staff, and said “Everyone who can only say no, get out. Anyone who can say yes, you can stay.”

Comment by Rob Mortimer

He’d be left with an empty room if he did that today.

Comment by Pete

Indeed. Maybe we need a modern alternative… “You can only say no to one idea each.”

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Once, after a good idea got strangled in a bad client meeting, that same smart art director I mentioned before said: “The trouble is they can’t say ‘yes’, but they can’t really say ‘no’, either. We’re dealing with people who have the power to say maybe …”

It’s the ‘maybes’ that are killing the business. Especially when they’re saying it as ‘maybe if we just …’

Comment by Ian Gee

He’s smart that art director colleague of yours isn’t he … except nowadays I don’t think it’s “maybe”, they are much more confident in being negative. Sure, they might not do it in round 1 … to keep the illusion of collaboration alive … but by round 2, they’re more than happy saying “no” for reasons that are nothing more than personal opinion or fear of upsetting the boss.

Hence the power of pointing out the difference between objectivity and subjectivity.

Comment by Rob

Excellent advice.
Hard work pays off in the end.
For shy people like me, knowing more is the only way, I’m never going to win arguments with charm or guile.
There’s a fine line between getting respect for knowing stuff and intimidating people though- I have no respect for people are prepared to use their intelligence and knowledge to make others look small.
On the other hand, if someone tries to do that and they don’t know a much as they think, nothing gives me greater pleasure that cutting them to ribbons. Petty? Vindictive? Unfortunately yes.

Comment by northern

It’s why we like you so much. It’s certainly not for your musical taste.

Comment by Rob

I refuse to discuss music with a man who’s musical heartland lies somwhere between Bill and Ted and Wayne’s World.
However, your tastes might be rubbing off on me, I have Birkenstocks in my Amazon basket and I’m trying really really hard not to proceed to checkout

Comment by northern


Press it. Press it. Press it NOW.

[PS: What colour are they???]

Comment by Rob

So were all those idiots who commented on Rob’s einstein post then disappeared in to the night objective, subjective or just a bunch of losers who came to their senses?

Comment by Billy Whizz

They’re dead with shame.

Comment by DH

The version I know is a bit stronger Rob – opinions are like assholes…everyone has one and most of them stink!

Comment by Dave

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