David Blecken
Sep 9, 2015

Marketers: Retain a sense of fear and learn to manage risk

SPIKES ASIA - We are often inclined to think that the best creative people should be bold or even fearless, but that is probably misguided, panelists in a session hosted by Campaign Asia-Pacific said.

L-R: Robertson, Adams, Silk
L-R: Robertson, Adams, Silk

Moderating, Campaign’s brand director Atifa Silk asked BBDO’s Andrew Robertson and Karen Adams of Mondelez what keeps them inspired, how to ensure advertising and marketing retain their appeal for the most talented young people, and how their business is likely to change in the coming years.

Following are their key observations.

  • Anyone in advertising and marketing should aim to produce work so remarkable that it impresses people who have nothing to do with the industry into talking about it. Overhearing people discuss a piece of work gives Robertson the most satisfaction of anything in his job, he said.
  • Instead of trying to prevent the best people from leaving your company, you should try to increase their market value. The concept of lifetime employment does not exist anymore, Adams said—so be realistic. If you invest in people’s development, they are likely to stay longer.
  • Look for people who have the humility to be most effective when working with others. “Collaboration is the skillset we look for,” Adams said.
  • Aim to provide your people with the best experience in marketing, not just the best marketing experience in your sector. Mondelez is as much in competition with the likes of Facebook and Google as with other FMCG companies for talent, Adams said, and must be aware of that at all times when giving people opportunities for development.
  • As someone being hired, choose a good boss—you have more ability to do it than you might think, Robertson said. “A great boss will push you beyond your comfort zone and then cover your back,” he said.
  • Run toward fires if you want to build your career. “Go where no one else wants to go and that’s how you’ll make the biggest difference to the company and increase your responsibility,” Robertson noted.
  • Being fearless might sound impressive, but fearless leaders are ultimately undesirable. “The absence of fear is not a good thing,” said Robertson. “What I want are courageous leader with a healthy sense of fear. I’m scared of people who appear to be fearless.”
  • Forget about being bold. A senior client from NAB, for which BBDO created the award-winning ‘Break-up’ campaign, once made it clear to Robertson that his job was to manage risk, nothing more. “Ask what the maximum downside is,” Robertson advised. “Can you live with it? If not, can you mitigate it? If yes, then go ahead with it.”


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