Risk vs. Reward – A Lesson In Whales, Fear & Safe Work

I hear many clients and co-workers tell me that the idea is too cool, too edgy, what if they "don't get it?" Of course these are always primary concerns with any advetorial, design branding or social campaign. Of course we need the work to do its job. Well this brings us to our story which begins here: (this will take roughly four minutes and it's well worth your time)

Now that we've digested the story of Mr. Splashy Pants (and you're debating whether that was worth your time) it's incredibly important to understand the foundational platform of risk vs. reward. What you [think] your customer or client wants to see if not often what will work. At the risk of sounding arrogant, it's you JOB to sell work that will work and NOT sell work that you know your client wants to see. Work your client wants to see if called "safe" work, and here are some fundamental truths about safe work:

  • It's Murphy's Law that if you show safe work it will get selected
  • It's not worth talking about, nor worth submitting for recognition
  • When selected your staff will hate working on it; morale drops; people whine; you look out window and debate why you chose this career path
  • Chances are it will be a 50% grey tone message swimming with its other safe grey friends
  • It often will be made even MORE safe within countless client revisions
  • It doesn't go on your reel
  • The needle fails to move

Not fundamentally true:

  • AOR review
  • Close up shop
  • Become hobo
  • Rob liquor store
  • Go to prison – die in quarrel over who "owns" you

Too much? Ok. But you see my point.

What makes a splash (pun intended) is you pushing your client to take a risk. "But I'm a small shop with local clients." Ok fair, but what are they not doing now that you wish they were? Twitter? Facebook ads? Radio? Every client has a internal 'fear meter' and it's your job to dial up the work and explain it well enough for you keep their gauge under the red. Until you hire someone that can do this or learn to pitch the work appropriately, you'll be doomed to making more safe work.

"So how do I do this Justice?"

  • The internet is filled with metrics that can often support your creative – show them
  • Seek out case studies on YouTube, White Paper and Blogs showing like-minded campaigns (yes, sometimes you'll be showing your competition work to prove your point)
  • Sight the success of campaigns like "Mr. Splashy Pants"
  • Bring in a CA, HOW or Print design annual and let them try to find something lame
  • Pull from your own portfolio and show them work your proud of (albeit from a creative perspective or results perspective; ideally both)

You may be in love with the idea that you create your clients vision, but if your stuck doing safe work your not going to love what you do very long. 

Posted on February 25, 2010 and filed under Advertising, Business, Soapbox.