Thursday, January 8, 2009

Your friend the gorilla

We're often briefed on what NOT to do.
A defensive posture is built in to many communication objectives.
"We're afraid when we do X, people will think Y."
Sometimes, the wisest path is to navigate away from the danger zones. Especially if political capital is low.
But occasionally, the opposite is true. The smartest approach is a headlong dive into the controversy.
After all, that controversy is instant conversation. What we're most afraid of can be an extremely valuable PR headstart. It's up to us to frame the discussion.
When I was a junior writer at Chiat/Day, I got the brief to write an ad to run in Campaign magazine announcing the opening of our London office.

London had been a notoriously unwelcoming environment for American agencies. We could hear the sharpening of knives all the way back in Venice CA.
We came up with lots of cute 'ads', all in their own way trying to distract attention away from the potential trade press bloodbath.
We faxed them off to Jay, who was flying around Europe, stringing it all together.
In between contract negotiations and heaven knows what else, he fired back his response.
"C'mon you guys. That's such shit. Please set the following line in the middle of a full page of white space. Thanks."
And the line was:

To find out why Chiat/Day would even dare open a London office, call (phone number)

That was Jay. Always the first to walk up to the gorilla in the room and make sure it was on his side.

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