When Passion Gets in the Way

Emotion Is Important, but We Must Always Put the Business Needs of Our Clients First

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Tommy Thompson
Tommy Thompson
Working in advertising is not a job, it's a passion. For most of us, it is that passion that every day (and sometimes night) drives us to work on something until we think it is perfect, only to have someone else tell us they don't like it and to do it all over again -- with the same enthusiasm and energy, and a lot less time.

Having spent my professional career in the Hispanic advertising industry, I have seen this "passion" taken to new levels from colleagues who are already pretty passionate by nature. If in doubt, visit any Cuban restaurant in Miami on any given day, and you'll see what I am talking about. Most of the time, this added passion has worked well for us and is another way we express how much we care for the work we put forth and the success of our clients' business.

It is always interesting for me to see the interaction in the room when clients have multi-agency meetings. That's not to say that non-Hispanic agencies do not have passion for what they do, but it is demonstrated very differently and usually in a much more subtle way. There are many benefits to being passionate -- after all, passion serves as an internal fuel that has helped us get an idea approved on more than one occasion. But passion is a double-edged sword, and too much passion can easily get in the way of the content being presented and actually devalue what the person is talking about. After all, passion is rooted in emotion and not fact or data, and when you forget about the facts, you start losing credibility.

I have seen past colleagues lose clients' interest by not controlling their passion and coming across as fanatics spewing empty words. Worse, they come across as if they are pushing for something solely because "it is the right thing to do by them and the Hispanic people," instead of because it is the smart thing to do to grow the client's business. We cannot forget that our role is to be objective in our recommendations and the voice of the consumer for our clients.

Over the last few weeks, there have been a lot of passionate discussions in our trades -- some points I have agreed with, others not so much. Sadly, in other cases, the uncontrolled passion of the writer just seemed to get in the way of what they wanted to say and caused me to lose interest altogether, and most importantly their credibility was diminished.

In our business, credibility is king, and once you lose it, it is hard to get it back. I was once told by the principal of a Hispanic agency that part of her success in our industry (even though she was as gringa as they come) was that her recommendations were always viewed by clients as being rooted in real business needs because "her people had nothing to gain from it." I have seen this play out many times before in meetings, conversations and even the trades.

Let me be clear -- I'm not suggesting that we're not viewed as objective or that we should forgo our passion. That is part of what makes us us and makes our industry fun. I can be as passionate as the next one, and on occasion have tip-toed on the line, but achieving that balance between passion and rational is where nirvana awaits. Let's remember that, for our industry to continue being successful, business-grounded discussions will always win.

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