September 23, 2011 ↘︎

Action is the antidote to fear

I’m at the UMCD 2011 Conference at UWA this week. It’s a great time to be able to see what the other universities are doing, and also lovely to see how passionately they care about their brands….even if many of them are still struggling with the word “brand” within their organisations. Still we can’t conquer everything at once can we?

But the reason for my entry today is that we were extremely lucky to have Todd Sampson, CEO of Leo Burnett in Sydney as our guest speaker on the opening day. Like so many of the audience, I watch Todd on The Gruen Transfer each week and each week he always, for me, gets to the truth of the advertising message before the others.   So I was really excited to experience what he had to say in the flesh and to see if I could soak up some of his creativity. He didn’t disappoint me. I felt a lot of connection to the things he spoke about both from a business and a personal perspective. I left feeling inspired and determined about the things he spoke about so I wanted to share just a few of them with you.

Things that struck me about Todd’s talk:

Creativity and art are not the same thing

Todd spoke about when he was growing up and his parents always advised him to stay away from “the arts” because it would never amount to anything and the people who studied it at university were always the airy-fairy ones without a focus in life. 

He believes that creativity is one of the few things in business that allows you to differentiate yourself. The crux is about being able to see a problem as a creative challenge – how many different ways could you “solve” the problem?

His suggestion – invite people from all areas of your organisation or perhaps your target audience to help you get some fresh perspective because creativity isn’t the sole property of a marketing department or  agency anymore.

His summary – unremarkable people, collectively can produce remarkable results.

Agencies are allowing us to become less creative as clients

This really resonated with me because this is one of the primary reasons Tim and I created digital balance. We are firm believers in businesses owning more of their own creativity and involving agencies in the process of bringing the idea to life. So many of us seem to feel ok about passing over an average brief and hoping to god their agency can come up with something halfway decent and not ask them too many difficult questions along the way.

The interesting perspective from Todd on this was that he feels agencies are encouraging clients to handover more and more control of their brands and their marketing planning to agency-side by using the “we’re the experts” card. It almost makes the client feel inferior and embarrassed to say they think they have a role to play.

Client siders marketers, it’s time to think about your role as more than a project manager, after all, aren’t we meant to be the ones who should understand our audiences more than anyone else (and that definitely includes your internal stakeholders as well)?

You can teach yourself to be creative

Think about your problem. On one side of a page write down all the conventional ways you can solve the problem and on the left hand side write down a list of all the unconventional ways you could tackle it. Ignore the right and have fun with the left hand list.

The next two points are creative examples he gave to back this up;

Getting your child to use soap when taking a bath

How do you get small children to take a bath and actually use the soap as opposed to just chucking water and toys all round the bathroom?

Well for a start, if you were a soap company, you’d think outside of your industry box and invite Disney to help you solve the problem. 

The solution? So simple, sink a toy into the soap that will only come out once you have used enough of the soap to free it.

Genius creativity…..and a clean child.

Teenage girls are bullet proof apart from when it comes to thinking they are ugly

How do you stop teenage girls from smoking when they are bullet proof to most messages including the one that you are largely likely to die a disgusting death if you smoke?

If you were an anti-smoking organisation what industries could you draw upon as being effectively able to tap into this group? The beauty industry.

What does a teenage girl fear most? Sadly, it’s not fitting in because she thinks she is ugly or looks different to her peers. So as an anti-smoking campaign target this group and tell them that smoking thins the skin making you look older and uglier than girls who don’t smoke.

Fear is the strongest human emotion to tap into.

Fear should be tackled with action and strength of character

It’s not about being braver than the person working with you, it’s about being able to stick with your decision for just 5 minutes longer to push through the fear and get to the other side. For many reasons this section of Todd’s talk probably struck me the most.

We have all faced different levels of fear in our lives and we will continue to do so but what makes some of us keep being prepared to push on through that ceiling that paralyses so many others? What makes that person believe that they have the strength of character to make the right decision?


It’s the antidote to fear. If you make a decision to act and rebel against that instinctive feeling of fear then you can push through it. It doesn’t always have to be the right decision but at least you were prepared to not let fear beat you.

Schools need to start being smarter about how they teach our kids about creativity

I’m not intending to use my blog as a soapbox but this was such an obvious reflection on the current education system that I wanted to share it.

Despite both my parents being teachers and my sister choosing to become one from a very early age I always hated school. I hated being expected to learn things by heart that I didn’t have an understanding of why I would need to know it and not one of my teachers could ever explain that to me…even Dad gave up trying in the end.

At the moment the way we teach our children is designed to suck the creativity away from them by teaching them the “right way” to do things. I am in the privileged position of seeing my 17 month old daughter learning through creativity everyday at the moment and I wonder how long I can let her explore the world in this way before she becomes aware of the “right way” to do things?

Todd summed it up perfectly – if our education system doesn’t change to embrace teaching both sides of the brain shouldn’t we only be expected to pay half the school fees?


The content and advice contained in this post may be out of date. Last updated on September 23, 2011.
DB logo
DB logo
DB logo