According to BMF copywriter Stephanie Allen, good advertising should scare clients. Fearlessness, she says, ultimately looks like brilliant work that makes a difference.
During this year’s B&T Women in Media Awards, presented by Are Media, we’ll be recognising exceptional people who have achieved success in their professional arenas, celebrating their invaluable contribution to their industry through leadership, innovation and courage.
Stephanie Allen is an award-winning creative, plying her trade as a copywriter with BMF Australia, who believes brands must be brave in their advertising and create work that is unexpected and disruptive.
The alternative, she says, is to not have your message seen at all—and the risk of “not taking a risk” should far outweigh the first option.
What does ‘fearlessness’ mean to you, Stephanie?
I think fear itself is a part of life. It’s a part of being human. To me being fearless means living with fears and being able to beat them. To push past them. To keep going.
I believe you can be more fearless with practice, like anything. The more you can challenge yourself the easier it becomes. And that doesn’t just mean jumping out of a plane but also everyday things like trying something new and doing something that makes you uncomfortable.
Fear is paralysing. So, if you are moving forward, then you’re winning.
What does fearlessness in advertising, marketing or the media look like?
It comes in many different shapes and forms and involves all parties. With audiences being bombarded with thousands of messages every day it’s imperative to be fearless in being creative.
Brands must be brave in their advertising and create work that is unexpected and disruptive. The alternative is to not have your message seen at all. And the risk of not taking a risk should far outweigh the first option.
Creating fearless work starts with praising marketers who don’t shy away from taking risks.
Secondly, it’s about agencies fostering a fearless environment. Making sure employees know it’s OK to try, fail, learn and grow. Good advertising should scare the client. Fearlessness in these industries ultimately looks like brilliant work that makes a difference.
However, it’s not just work that pushes the boundaries but also work that’s fearless enough to communicate honestly. As great campaigns speak to universal truths.
Who do you know who has shown these qualities since the COVID-19 pandemic struck?
I feel like a lot of agencies have been forced to be fearless with their work over the last seven months. A film that has really stood out to me in its creativity, using people’s current situation to make their message is ‘Creature Discomforts: Life in Lockdown’ by London creative agency ENGINE for Born Free Foundation.
They have been able to be fearless in not shying away from COVID-19 and actually using it for a good cause, by taking people’s negative experiences during lockdown and utilising them to create empathy for animals who live their lives in captivity, and by taking real life interviews and matching them with animated creatures to create brilliant work that makes a difference.
What is an issue in the industry that keeps you up at night?
I wouldn’t say anything in particular keeps me up at night, but with that said, I don’t sleep like a baby. There are definitely areas the industry can improve on like gender equality, pay gaps, and diversity, among other things. But these are not unique to our industry and I feel like we are now much more aware and beginning to see changes.
In regards to mental health in advertising, I believe we all work in a high pressure, results-driven business. Which is hard when you do not control the outcome. The expression “we’re not saving lives, it’s just advertising” is thrown around a lot. But it’s not “just advertising” when you want to do the best for your agency, your client, your colleagues, and yourself. It’s an emotional investment. People refer to their ideas as their babies.
We work for months toward a single thought that is nurtured, built upon and then sometimes it all works out, but other times it doesn’t. It’s a roller coaster. So, it’s not surprising that studies have revealed that our industry has notably higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress than the general population.
The same research also discovered that most people would not disclose their mental health issues with their place of work. So, I do believe it comes with a stigma that needs to be removed. And it is. I have personally worked with colleagues who have shared their mental health battles openly at work and the company has only responded positively, doing everything it can to help—without judgment.
Do you believe the advertising, marketing and media industries have been ‘fearless’ in 2020?
It’s an even harder time to be fearless in times of fear. But with that said, yes, I think there have been a lot of cases in which the people, companies, and clients have been fearless during COVID-19. There has been a lot of notable work produced over this time with smaller budgets, tighter deadlines, quicker timings, skeleton crews, and less real-life collaboration.
An example of such work is ALDI’s campaign for Precedented Prices by my colleagues at BMF, a project that was turned around in only a couple of weeks and was brave enough to bring back humour in very serious times.
How can professionals in advertising, marketing, and the media be fearless in times of change, Stephanie?
In these times of change some have been paralysed by fear, stopping their advertising. But it’s now more important than ever to keep moving forward and putting work out.
The industry as a whole must take more risks and evolve with change. This can be achieved internally with employers encouraging their employees to be brave and put forward ideas that frighten them, and externally with presenting these ideas that should, in turn, scare clients.
It’s then up to clients to be more daring, backing their agencies to produce this courageous work— work that stands out.
What are ad-land’s three biggest strengths?
Changing and influencing stereotypes in pop culture; providing a platform to communicate to the masses in a positive way; and forging an emotional connection with their audience.
What are ad-land’s three biggest challenges?
Creating long-term change for brands, not short-term perceptions; integrating advertising into people lives—shifting from interrupting to entertaining; and maintaining a collaborative culture over these unique times.
How would you solve these challenges?
There is no overnight solution or simple way to solve these challenges. However, I feel agencies can work towards resolutions by producing long lasting brand platforms instead of one-off campaigns.
Creating work that can change people’s minds and build memories that will bias consumer behaviour much further into the future, like Nike’s ‘Just Do It’, Snickers’ ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ and Specsavers’ ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’.
In regards to not forcing advertising onto people, part of the solution is to better understand our target market, identifying niches and being more specific in media placements and buys. It’s also about making sure the work offers something—whether it be entertainment value, a laugh, a cry, valuable information, or even just a point of view.
It’s never been more important for agencies to keep connected. This can be achieved by maintaining agency culture with social Zoom calls and larger online agency gatherings. Collaboration can still be successful even if we are not all standing in the same room.
The Women in Media Awards will be held on Wednesday 28 October 2020, at Doltone House (Jones Bay Wharf).
If you’d like more information about the event, head to this website.
You can also check out who made this year’s shortlist, here.
Thank you to all of our incredible sponsors for making the event possible!
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