Risky business: how to persuade clients to be bold

Worried clients can be the death knell for bold ideas, and persuading them to be brave is the only way to avoid tepid creative work. So how should creative agencies help brands get over their fear of taking risks?

We’ve all read the gloomy statistics about how much advertising goes ignored, and how hard it is to stand out in today’s noisy media landscape. With everyone shouting for attention, it seems obvious that only those with truly provocative ideas will make an impression. But the reality is quite different. Facing falling marketing budgets, nervous CEOs and a divisive political climate, marketers are over-thinking and using research to try to prove that a campaign will be a success, often leading to safe or familiar work.

“When people feel nervous, or that their job is on the line, it’s much easier to over-rationalise messaging and test it within an inch of its life to prove it works,” says Karmarama Head of Account Management Charlotte Farrington, who was part of the team behind the controversial Your Army Needs You poster campaign. “And actually brilliant creative thinking often doesn’t pass these sorts of heavily rationalised tests.”

Clients aren’t taking the risks they once did, and as a result we’re sinking into a mire of identikit design and advertising – leaving many brands either indistinguishable, or simply unremarkable. As Farrington says, companies need to work harder to engage people who are sceptical about advertising and sick of banal creative work.