The World: Insider's view - South Africa

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 29 September 2006 12:00AM

Given how crucial trust is to cementing relationships in advertising, it should be offered far more freely than it is, Mike Abel says.

"He who holds the wallet is king." This is true of all business relationships. Yet money is often the least important ingredient in sustaining successful relationships. Trust, on the other hand, is the key.

When people feel secure, they trust. They believe, and a world of opportunity presents itself. Unfortunately, the converse is also true. Many believe trust is earned. In business, the possibilities would be far greater if trust were to be given upfront.

Those who don't trust usually judge others by their own standards. The negative traits they themselves possess, they expect to find in others. Those whose trust is hardest to earn are usually to be trusted the least.

A strategic planner I once worked with said: "Opinions are a little bit like assholes - everyone has one." Clients often do not trust agencies (or, more likely, themselves) enough to follow their recommendations without researching them. So they get a bunch of people, and put them into a room to decide whether the ad is good or bad.

This focus group, for qualitative research, herds complete strangers into a fluorescent-lit room with a one-way mirror, where they are fed stodgy sarnies and tepid wine and paid to offer their opinions on a rough advertising concept.

The client doesn't trust their own, or the agency's opinion, so they create an unrealistic, intimidating environment at the tired end of the day and ask the strangers to speak on a yet-to-be-magically-infused advertising concept. Bizarre. The strangers feels they have to "add value" and "put something back in". Just to say "I like it" would be like the boy in the The Emperor's New Clothes shouting "he's naked". So everyone waits for the person with the loudest voice to start criticising and then the feeding frenzy begins.

If clients and agencies trusted one another more, there would indeed be a few mistakes. There would also be much less wallpaper. Far better ideas would be percolating through, with a greater retention of talent, and far more goose-flesh.

All those serious about marketing should get rid of the naysayers - the managers that lead by fear. Journeys begin with the word "yes" and end with a "no". Today, most organisations wouldn't hire the very mavericks that founded them. They'd probably "fail" the psychometric testing, the Myers Briggs analysis, or not adhere enough to the research-led brand essence and the subsequent architecture.

The best relationships are casual, open and unguarded. If you don't agree with something, there may be no right or a wrong. Just different opinions. Let talent and opportunity dictate what should be done. Ideas should sing and dance and walk. Choose your partners, give them your hand, your trust.

- Mike Abel is the managing director at Ogilvy Cape Town.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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