Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Experience teaches.

I did not know Norman Berry who was Creative head at Ogilvy for many years and who just recently died. But since I belong to a few online Ogilvy groups, I've read, lately, more than a few tributes to the man.

This morning I came upon the briefest and best I have read. Because it speaks both of the man he must have been and of the type of leader.

This is what Berry reportedly said to a young Australian art director way back in 1985. "I give you the right to be wrong."

The right to be wrong (maybe it's better as "the wright to be rong") is teetering on the brink of extinction today. It's as likely to survive as the snail darter or integrity.

Today the right to be wrong is endangered by know-it-alls, testing and the shibboleth of "best practices." Those characteristics eliminate "wrong" and replace it with acceptably bland.

Years ago, when I was working for Ogilvy, I was shooting some spots. It was our second round of spots for the client, the first round being a disaster. I think it was the second day of the shoot when the client came up to me and my boss and said, "I think we have a hit on our hands. Too bad the first round was terrible." And my boss replied, "Well, maybe the earlier work made this work possible."

Or as the Romans used to say "experiencia docente." Experience teaches.

It does.
But only if you have the right to be wrong.


Anonymous said...

Norman Berry hired me at Ogilvy way back when. A great guy. But what was with those damn shirts? He dressed like barber. He had great ideas about advertising, but I would never take wardrobe advice from him.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Englishmen, Dave Trott always says Would you rather be right and dull, or wrong and exciting?

george tannenbaum said...

That's why, from afar, I love Dave Trott.

Anonymous said...

norman berry said many great things. if you can, find the wall street journal profile ad that featured him many years ago. the headline was "norman conquest." i worked at ogilvy during his tenure and heard him speak a few times. a heroic guy in the business.

rebrivved said...

I'm currently working on a project that my team fumbled the first time around. The client signed off on our bad idea, too. But, there's no denying that as an agency, we effed up. Thank God the client is giving us another shot and my CD is also giving us the right to be wrong. Wish I could say this happens more often. Damn glad it happened this time.