Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Years ago when I was a creative director on AT&T at what was then known as FCB, I presented a spot to the client that featured a Jewish mother. The clients bought the spot and then their FEAR started. "You're not going to make that "ethnic" are you?" They kept asking me. (Ethnic in this case being code for Jewish.)
"Well, there's not a lot to the spot if it's straight," I maintained.
We cast a wonderful actress in the spot, Tovah Feldshuh, and somehow got her approved.
"She won't be doing it ethnic," they kept reminding me.
We shot the spot and I was walking off location with my producer. "They're really concerned about it being too ethnic. Oh, and by the way, what should we do about music?" he asked.
"Klezmer," was my answer.
What I realized subconsciously then and what I realize more overtly now is that our business is a war against the fear of clients. (Not to mention internal agency fear.)
We have as a society grown more timorous. There are warning messages on pretzel bags warning of sodium ingestion. Warnings on seltzer bottles that the contents could explode and put out your eye. There are warnings everywhere that have taken the place of what we used to call common sense. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Clients are afraid of fear. They seek to avoid it at all costs. They pick. They perseverate. They procrastinate. All because they are afraid of doing things differently from how they've always been done.
Someday some smart agency will create a position called Chief Fear Officer. That person's job will be nothing but calming people down. He will become rich and famous.
Posted by George Tannenbaum at 9:55 AM