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The importance of being an amateur

Professionalism is a key perception we like to project in our world of selling. And, for that matter, in any other profession, be it medical, legal, accounting. One of my favourite lines in the fantastical reality of American Beauty is Annette Bening's OCD Carolyn, the estate agent's emphatic assurance that "To be successful, one must project the image of success at all times." Indeed. Success sells.
Chris Primos
But does it think? Hollywood has taught us all the tricks we need to know about making friends and influencing people, along with Dale Carnegie, of course. What a professional veneer certainly helps with is to play the audience. Tell the mark what they like to hear, what they love to see and are enthralled to experience. Once you've put in your 10,000 hours you really should be proficient at getting the job done.

To be professional in everything you do is an admirable pursuit, as long as it is not professional larceny, fraud or delusion. Professional conduct is automatically associated with authenticity and accountability. But the day you begin to believe your professional capacity is unassailable, is the day that your very professionalism threatens to unhinge you. 'Professional' is a dangerous moniker. Not least in the world of advertising.

For all the lawmakers and economists now toiling against a riptide of financial deficit, there would have been countless lawyers and accountants, back in the professional trenches in 2007, who didn't see it coming, let alone really understand the burgeoning ramifications. As we know, marketing and advertising are the first to feel the pinch, from both ends. "Get out there and grow the market!" the anxious client will bark, now with impossibly cyborgesque KPIs. "And, by the way, your budget is halved." The most professional thing, under these circumstances, is not to inadvertently scratch your exasperated brow with your middle finger. The most professional thing, under the circumstances, is not to rush back to your drawing board and do what you know. No, the most responsible thing you can do, under the circumstances, is to throw most everything you've ever done out of the window. Stand upside down, roleplay, embrace your discomfort zone. Thrust yourself willingly into the explorative den of the amateur.

Our professional calling, as advertisers, is to take the road less travelled, to bend the rules, to disrupt, to be the consummate risk taker, the irrepressible leopard of every discernible spot. We must duck, we must dive, take a step to the right, double back-flip, and... plié, with graceful aplomb. In fact, the last thing we should probably do is another ad. Now that would be the mark of a damned fine amateur.

About Blast Brand Catalysts

Established in 2001, Blast Brand Catalysts is a hybrid studio/agency that crosses the specialist disciplines of brand identity development and advertising. Design and advertising have dedicated skillsets and objectives. But working to a singular, longer-term strategic projection at the outset will factor market and media competitiveness as well as category differentiation. There is also an immediate, fluid transition from brand inception to activation.

Blast Brand Catalysts researches, strategises, designs, applies, implements, evolves and invigorates with proven, follow-through calibre. The tightly talented team gets it done, gets it done well, and gets the very next thing done even better.

Contact Blast Brand Catalysts on 011 341 0994 or visit

For media queries, please contact Marisa Ravenscroft on


About the author

Chris Primos is Managing Partner at Blast Brand Catalysts.

Blast Brand Catalysts' press office

Blast Brand Catalysts
Established in 2001, Blast Brand Catalysts is a hybrid studio/agency that crosses the specialist disciplines of brand identity development and advertising.
Nico du Plessis
"We were young, but we had good advice and good ideas and lots of enthusiasm."
- Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft Corporation
Posted on 15 Aug 2014 14:23