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

If You Want To Learn Insight, Listen To A Criminal …

I work in an industry that spends billions of dollars per year looking for insight.

You’d think for all that cash you’d discover some absolute corkers – but we don’t.

There’s a whole host of reasons for that.

Part of it is because this industry still mistakes insight for what people do as opposed to why.

Part of it is because some clients believe some insights may stop sales opportunity rather than open it up. [Hence the rise of ‘global human truths’ despite their fatal flaw of ignoring the importance of local context]

Part of it is because some believe that unless an insight is positive, the work will be negative. [Which is obviously bollocks, unless you use insights literally rather than laterally and even then, that doesn’t mean the work has to come out like that]

Part of it is because some in the research industry act like the legal industry and realize there is more money in keeping the question going than actually answering the question.

There’s a whole bunch of reasons, and while I believe insights can come from anywhere – I still believe those that reveal people’s beliefs, motivations and behaviours are often the most powerful of them all.

As anyone who has ever worked with/for me will know, I call these ‘dirty little secrets’, because in my experience, they tend to reveal far more than just why people do things, but the circumstances that led to this belief.

It’s not easy … it’s not always perfect … it always requires other work to validate, explore or exclude it … but I will continually push my lovely colleagues to investigate and discover, because when you reveal a dirty little secret, you are already on the road to making work that will be different and powerful.

The reason I say this is because I recently read about Ponzi-scheme King, Bernie Madoff.

While he comes across as a cold, calculated, sociopath … his intellect can’t be disputed.

When asked how he pulled off the biggest financial fraud in history, he said this …

“I succeeded because when you offer people a deal that’s too good to be true, they never want to look too hard into the facts. They say it’s because of trust. I say it’s because of greed.”

There’s a lot of truth in those 2 sentences.

There’s a lot of creative opportunity in those 2 sentences.

I don’t mean to make work that exploits even more people, but to make work for [say, a bank] that can build the sort of conversation that gives them a real chance to prove they have their customers best interests at heart.

But it won’t happen because too many clients think ‘negative insights’ leads to negative work [which is utter bullshit] and most banks already know what Mr Maddoff said, because that’s how they continue to screw the taxpayer out of cash to line their own pockets.

Shame, because a financial institution that decided to be utterly transparent and then communicated, “the reason we tell you everything is we don’t want you to blame us for anything” might be quite a refreshing change.

31 Comments so far
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If anyone knows what goes through a criminals mind, it’s you.

Comment by Billy Whizz


Comment by DH

Thank you. Nicest thing you’ve ever said about me.

Comment by Rob

campbell is the madoff of adland.

Comment by andy@cynic

Didn’t you take part in a ponzi scheme and actually come out ahead?

Comment by DH

Kinda. It was more pyramid than ponzi as everyone knew what it was when they went into it.

Most exciting few weeks of my life but only because – so you said – I came out on top for once.

Would never do it again because I ronically, it was desperation that made me do it. I was just in the right (questionable) place at the right (questionable) time.

Comment by Rob

Good memory though.

Comment by Rob

Not a good memory, jealousy.

Comment by DH

you are the fucking luckiest piece of shit in the world.

Comment by andy@cynic

I thought you preferred dirty little secrets on your colleagues so you could mock them mercilessly about them for years.

Comment by DH

Be thankful, you didn’t have as many as Billy.

Comment by Pete

Exactly Pete.

Comment by Rob

Making people an offer that’s too good to be true is the basis of most advertising.

Comment by John

The easiest way to identify bad advertising.

Comment by George

As for negative insights, does the idea that there are a lot of clowns on the road or that driving is risky count as one? Or, indeed, two.

Comment by John

That’s not an insight.

Comment by Pete

Are you saying it has to be dressed up along the lines of “people value safety aspects in cars because they are wrried about all the clown drivers on the road” or are you saying it’s just too obvious to count as one?

Comment by John

When I say ‘negative insights’, I mean it about their current audience. The Audi ‘clowns’ is about the context they are operating in (so they look good) which is why I am sure that was eagerly agreed too.

Though I agree with Pete that’s more observation than true insight but what I wrote about yesterday was the possible Point Of View on the brief.

Comment by Rob

At a time where insights are seen as old hat, it is pleasing to know the biggest shifts (good or bad) come from them.

Comment by Pete

An excellent week of posts Robert. I enjoyed them all. Thank you.

Comment by Lee Hill

Glad you enjoyed them Lee, it’s unlikely it will happen again.

Comment by Rob

unlikely? more like fucking never.

Comment by andy@cynic

Why would banks (or any business) have their customers’ best interest at heart – as opposed to not quite their best interest without doing actual harm but making us more profit?

Comment by John

True. Doesn’t stop them claiming it does though does it. Still wish our Egg Bank positioning had gone through, ‘when you get rich we get rich’.

Comment by Rob

I like that.

Comment by John

Don’t forget the David Lee Roth spot with the line, “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.”

Comment by George

How could I. It was amazing …

It should have launched.

Comment by Rob

[…] While I appreciate the World moves so fast that many people just want to have something that they can rely on forever, any brand that promises lifelong relevance is either utterly delusional or a bigger conman than Bernie Madoff. […]

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