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My career in advertising was mainly spent erecting credible facades on behalf of my clients.

That sounds like a disparaging comment from a jaded ad-hack. But there is no disparaging intent behind the statement. It is what the industry mostly does.

We search for compelling truths about brands and bring them to life through commercial creativity.

Compelling truths lend credibility to brands and to our work. They provide a solid foundation for the creative facades we then construct.

I use the word facade advisedly.

Although the best advertising tells the truth, it does not tell the whole truth. Like make-up it is used to emphasise the most attractive aspects of a brand and to draw attention away from the blemishes. Most often it is a facade, albeit a credible one.

Most often but not always.

I can count on the fingers of one hand the occasions when the campaigns I have worked on have told the whole truth, or something very close to it. I’m talking about those rare occasions where a public-facing brand is a genuine reflection of the corporate culture that lies behind it; where the tone of voice of the advertising is a very close approximation to the tone in which business is conducted with the people who pay for it.

For example, none of the Honda advertising I worked on, all under the banner of The Power Of Dreams, was a facade. Honda is a company of dreamers.

When you work with brands like that you realise, first hand, the truth behind the statement that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

Honda et al are the wonderful exceptions.

Credible facades are the rule. And, as a rule, there is nothing wrong with that. It is a noble, professional matter of fact.

If only people in the business weren’t so concerned and obsessed with erecting facades of credibility.

There is nothing noble about a facade of credibility.

There is nothing noble about pretending to be more talented, more knowledgeable or better connected than you actually are.

But my perception is that this kind of behaviour, by which the perpetrators only end up cheating themselves (I sound like my mum), is on the rise.

There are linguistic facades. People who should know better hiding behind pseudo-professional claptrap like “solutionising”, “ideation”, “engagement” and “ecosystem”.

And there are technology-driven social facades like paying to boost follower numbers or gaming (and thereby devaluing) the recommend/endorse features on LinkedIn.

It’s all so brazen and unsubtle, but somehow all-pervasive nonetheless.

I hope that the flipside of this trend to shallowness is that emotional intelligence and depth of character will start to command a premium.

Candour and vulnerability will eat facades of credibility for breakfast.

Here, by way of shining example, is Kobe Bryant talking about his moment of epiphany when he realised the importance of compassion and empathy to great leadership.

kobe_bryant

I was talking to Heather LeFevre the other day about the traits required for a fruitful mentor/mentee relationship. She cited the courage to be vulnerable, in a world where we increasingly live behind facades of credibility, strength, happiness, success, as the most important of these.

Amen.

 

 

 

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