Selling Big Ideas Is Really Just A Head Massage

Want to win a Gold Lion? Make your clients comfortable.

In advertising, many great ideas never see the light of day. It’s a massive waste of time and energy, but it may also be an unnecessary loss according to a new study by researchers from Cornell, Penn and the University of North Carolina. David Burkus, professor of management at Oral Roberts University, explains the significance of the academic findings:

We now know that regardless of how open-minded people are, or claim to be, they experience a subtle bias against creative ideas when faced with uncertain situations. This isn’t merely a preference for the familiar or a desire to maintain the status quo. Most of us sincerely claim that we want the positive changes creativity provides. What the bias affects is our ability to recognize the creative ideas that we claim we desire. Thus, when you’re pitching your creative idea, it may not be the idea itself that is being rejected. The more likely culprit could be the uncertainty your audience is feeling, which in turn is overriding their ability to recognize the idea as truly novel and useful.

So, how do you provide a greater level of comfort before, during and after an important client presentation? Don’t say you just feed the client’s words and desires back to him or her. You may actually do that, but I don’t see it as a difference maker. What else puts a client at ease when you stand before her or him asking for trust and money?



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.