– James Mahoney, Razor’s Edge Communications

Not long ago, Steve Baird posted a commentary on a colonoscopy campaign that featured attention-getting, humorous (to some) butt jokes.

I liked ‘em. Thought they were clever and effective. Beyond making me think of my guts, though, they also brought to mind a conversation I had with a mentor a long time ago.

A competitor had just launched an unexpected, fresh, humanizing and very effective campaign that broke the technical product-sell conventions of the time. When I expressed admiration for the creatives who came up with that great idea, said mentor observed, “I admire the client who had the guts to approve it.”

Part of what he meant is that practically every client says they want terrific work and breakthrough creative.  Actually, they don’t. They want predictable success. They want distinction, but only within the bounds of the big part of the bell curve.

I don’t blame them, by the way, because much of our work has a “bet the company” feel to it, or more accurately, “bet your career” for the client.  And therein lies the story of the hairy underside of this business.

Sometimes a great idea comes to you right out of the chute; most times, it reveals itself slowly, piece by piece until the one key insight falls into place. The butt folks probably went through dozens of explorations and false-starts on the creative. They probably presented one or two “safer” ideas along with this one. They might have even had one edgier than the one the client chose (and that the creatives hoped against hope would get approved).

But it was down to the client to shoot the moon, as it were. So though I think the creative work is a gas, I also give a big tip o’ the hat to the client. Try as you might to cover all the “but”s about work like this, approval still carries some risk.

Just like a colonoscopy, it takes guts.