I just came out of a meeting and have been told that the project we were working on for almost three years has been canned a few months before its launch.
The client – a mid-level marketer for an international company – has decided to pull the plug "for budget reasons", or so he claims. He now sits in front of me, grasping for the right metaphor to package this bad news.
"We would build a boat," he explains to me as if I am somewhat mentally challenged. "But then we would have no-one to sail it. I am sure you understand." "I understand," I say. "You have no balls."
Beware the client who has no balls
This cannot come as a surprise to you. I am sure you have met many marketers who have no balls – I am absolutely certain I am not the only one who is affected by their absence. Here is my definition of the ball-less type, men or women alike:
A person who does not (pro-)create any value for their employer. They do not take any risks yet live in the constant fear that their actions will get them fired. As they advance in the hierarchy of their organisation, they create smoke and mirrors and rigorously waste everyone’s time in the process.
Six ways to spot no balls
1) Whenever you hear a client talking about "innovation", you know for certain that it is code for no balls. When it’s innovation they claim to want, what they really mean is the opposite. Real innovation would render their job useless.
2) When, during the course of a briefing, Apple’s "think different" ad (the one with Gandhi in it) pops up, you know this is exactly what is not going to happen. To write such a piece, you would need to have a strong opinion in the first place.
3) You start to get a pretty good idea that you are surrounded by no balls if you find yourself in casual meetings or brainstorms that have no actual outcome.
4) There are no balls present either if the decision-making process involves a committee and the dimmest member is somehow allowed to raise a "concern" and influence the decision. Unfortunately, no balls can be contagious.
5) No balls are best hidden in lengthy PowerPoint presentations that bear no actual insight other than a consultant’s hefty fee.
6) Playing for time and stalling instead of making decisions is the no balls’ favourite ball game.
Can agencies have no balls too?
If I have led you to believe that having no balls is a disease that can only be found with clients, I must make myself clearer. To make communications for clients with no balls, you need an agency support system that has no balls too. If you pat yourself on the back for communications that are irrelevant and achieve absolutely nothing – there you have it: your agency has no balls.
How to deal with no balls
I have always wondered why decision-makers would surround themselves with people with no balls. If you are in charge and you can get rid of them, I beg you, please do. You will save many people a lot of trouble – and, ultimately, your organisation a lot of money – by not wasting anyone’s time. As an alternative, I suggest you incentivise innovative efforts by your employees, even if they fail in the process.
If you cannot practice this, you can still do your part. Voice early on in a project when it smells like it is not going anywhere. If you feel you are being benched, try to outmanoeuvre hierarchy; there surely must be somebody in the organisation who has balls. If there are no balls to be found anywhere, or nobody seems to give a damn, you must look at yourself in the mirror and make a call. But, be aware, once you have sucked the devil’s cock, he will castrate you indefinitely.
Is there a cure for no balls?
The only cure for no balls is to grow a pair. Care for what you do and call out mediocrity whenever you can. Be respectful to the people that surround you, no matter on which side of the table you sit. If you truly respect them, you understand that wasting their time is like breaking their balls. Or, to say it in the words of Al Pacino in Scarface: "All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don’t break them for no-one. Do you understand?"
Georg Warga is a film-maker and the founder and creative director of Goodstein