Don't let media's rigour allow you to pass up
There needs to be a balance between
following the rules, justifying actions on the basis of data, and
taking a leap into the unknown.
It's always a pleasure to watch Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy in full
flow. If you haven't heard him speak, here's a collection of his
Last time I saw him speak he was
holding the ad industry to account for a lack of
risk taking. He said: "Is the industry programmed to
think too small? Is too much effort directed at arse-covering under
the guise of rigour?"
The belief in the importance of rigour is a good thing. Media
practitioners are involved in spending money on behalf of clients
and to do so on a whim and without evidence is clearly both
inappropriate and inexcusable.
Without a good base of evidence you cannot expect to drive better
efficiency and effectiveness. If, however, you only ever spend
money on stuff that has been proven to work in the past how on
earth are you able to innovate?
In 2012 Chelsea played Barcelona in the semi-final of the
Champions League. It's probably fair to say that most people who
watched the game on the TV in the UK, excluding Chelsea fans, were
rooting for Barcelona, home of some of the most beautiful football
in the world at that point. It also probably goes without saying
that if you're not an active Chelsea fan in the UK you'd prefer to
see them lose.
I watched my partner watch the game. At the end of it he was
yelling "Just stick it in the mixer".
I had to ask him what that meant. He said that Barcelona were
renowned for their passing game and maintaining possession of the
ball. They knew what worked, and what didn't work, and played to a
system that made them extraordinarily successful, and conquered all
before them. A system that they refined all the time, but that they
didn't like to deviate from.
Unfortunately for Barcelona fans (or anyway non-supporters of
Chelsea) the only people who understood Barcelona's system better
than Barcelona were Chelsea.
Their fans were desperate for Barcelona to deviate from their
system of keeping the ball in possession and take some chances. To
stick it in the mixer (goal area) and not worry about the chance of
giving the ball away.
As one commentator wrote: "No-one would have been hailing a
defensive masterclass from Chelsea if Barcelona had taken just one
of their glaring opportunities.
"Then the talk would have been about how Barcelona had unscrewed
the wheels on Chelsea's parked bus and left a load of cardboard
boxes in their place, how they'd paid for being so defensive and so
anti-football. But they didn't, so Chelsea's plan can be judged to
have worked to perfection."
How many glaring opportunities are passing by because the rigour
of media means that they can't be proved to work in advance of
Managing innovative thinking is crucial. If everything is changing
so fast, and we're spending all our time looking at what just
happened how on earth can we have the ideas or the impetus, let
alone the time to plan the different?
There needs to be a balance between following the rules and
justifying actions on the basis of data, and taking a leap into the
unknown. Sometimes, most of the time, sticking to the tried system
is good and proper. Sometimes you need to stick it in the mixer for
any chance of a win.
By Sue Unerman, Chief Transformation