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As an industry, we love to claim ‘one mistake’ means your carefully crafted reputation is over.
But is it true?
I don’t know …
What I do know is that it’s an argument that has encouraged an incredible amount of companies to adopt a ‘zero tolerance to risk’, even if in many cases, the risk they are being asked to consider is unbelievably negligible.
The real issue is defining ‘what is a mistake’.
For many, it’s anything that can cause a negative view of their company to occur … even if in reality, very few companies even register in people’s consciousness, let alone are front of mind.
While it’s true a major incident can have long lasting, negative effect … even then it doesn’t mean your reputation will be destroyed forever.
The reality is people make mistakes.
And companies are made up of people so it’s perfectly natural for it to happen – the issue is  why it happened and  what you do after it’s happened.
The reason I say this is because Dave Luhr – one of W+K’s ubermen – once said something to me that I think adland needs to remember:
“Every piece of new business lets you redefine who you are”.
As an industry, we like to categorise agencies into buckets of creativity that seemingly never change and yet the opportunity to ‘fuck the system’ is there each and every day.
FCB can – in theory – become the new W+K.
BBH can – in theory – become the new GREY.
It’s all for the taking … or the losing … and that’s why I think, as I wrote ages ago, why BBH & W+K are consistently good, because they know their reputation is built on sand and if they’re to maintain it, they have to keep pushing for greatness.
Sure, the longer you maintain a good – or bad – run, the stronger the opinion people will have of you, but the key thing here is that contrary to popular belief, it’s rarely a state of permanency [unless you've done something really, utterly shit/brill - but mainly shit] and so regardless of how good – or bad – you may think you, your agency, your client might be, you have the power to change it or maintain. The rest is down to you.
PS: Despite what you may think, this post was not brought to you by the Oprah self-help book club. Though it bloody well should be.
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