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Advertising opinion

The hamster wheel of death

Recently my 7-year old son came back from a play date and proceeded to tell me all about his friend's pet hamster.
He said that while he thought it was a cute little thing, it did seem a bit odd to him that it spent most of its time running inside a wheel. And that if you think about it, it never actually moved from the spot at all. After interrogating this point for a while, we both agreed that hamsters obviously weren't the brightest creatures on the planet and just left it at that.

Going nowhere slowly

I then went back to mulling over a brief that had been in the system for quite some time. Actually truth be told, it had been in the system for well over a year. It was one of those briefs where the strategy had changed numerous times throughout the process resulting in countless creative presentations. Each presentation consisting of two or three 'big ideas'. And each 'big idea' consisting of a number of through-the-line creative expressions, demonstrating the various ways in which that particular idea could be brought to life.

Finally, after much to-ing and fro-ing, involving too many reverts to mention, it was revealed that a clever piece of analysis had just taken place and the strategy was now all kinds of wrong.

Sadly, this meant we'd have to carefully reword the single-minded proposition again and go back to square one. This was okay though because through the process of exploring various ideas, we had helped steer things in the direction we needed to go. So at least it hadn't all been in vain.

Unfortunately, round two pretty much ended the same way. More presentations. More reverts. And yet another epiphany. Sending us back to the start again.

And so it went, week after week, month after month. Once even getting all the way to actually producing a big budget TV commercial. Only to have it never see the light of day due to yet another 'rethink'.

Of course, while all this wheel spinning was taking place, the product in question was all alone in the wilderness with nothing and no one giving it any support whatsoever. As a result, it was slowly dying a horrible death.

No-one knew what it stood for anymore and quite frankly, no-one cared.

Over-thinking and under-doing

Ironically, clients who subscribed to this way of working, actually feel as if they are accomplishing something. Even though they have absolutely nothing to show for their efforts. They feel that through analysing a problem, tackling it and interrogating it from every conceivable angle known to man, they are really making huge progress.

Sadly though, it's all an illusion.

The process of over-thinking and under-doing has only meant that the chances of them taking any form of action at all, has become less and less a reality.

All they've really managed to achieve is develop an acute case of analysis paralysis. And no matter how much they'd love to get closure on the situation, they simply cannot make a decision.

Of course, the real reason behind this perpetual state of inertia is their own ego and its total fear of the unknown. It has them frozen to the spot just long enough for the opportunity to pass them by.

Fortunately, there are some folks out there who know that more often than not, the best answer to most problems is often the simplest one. They have the ability to trust their gut. They realise that the only way of knowing if something will work is to try it. Because sometimes doing nothing will only result in doing damage.

Isn't it time to get off the hamster wheel?

Stop thinking and act.

About Mike Barnwell

Executive Creative Director at FCB Cape Town
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