‘There’s always someone whose job it is to be negative’

Former creative director Dave Trott examines negative coverage of a seemingly positive idea: Woolies' free fruit for kids.

Childhood obesity is a serious problem.

In the UK alone, it’s estimated 25% of boys and girls are overweight. One of the main causes is snacking: sweets, crisps, ice cream, chocolates.

Usually the kids aren’t even hungry, they just eat out of boredom.

Often they snack while they’re walking round the shops with Mum.

So it’s nice to hear a shop is finally doing something about it.

In Australia, Woolworths has introduced a “Free fruit for kids” policy.

Children can take a piece of fruit from a display as they walk around with their mums. Apples, pears, bananas, all of it healthy.

So they’ve got something to chew on instead of crisps or chocolate bars as they walk around.

It’s better for their teeth, better for their weight, better for their health generally.

You’d think everyone would be pleased. You’d think.

But of course we all know that isn’t the way it works with ideas.

There’s always someone whose job it is to be negative.

To find something wrong with an idea.

No matter how much everyone else thinks it’s a good idea it’s their job to find a reason, however trivial, not to do it.

One online news outlet gleefully carried the headline “Woolies ‘Free Fruit For Kids’ PR stunt backfires”.

They’ve managed to ‘find’ three people who have a problem with it.

Three people who wrote in with negative comments.

Someone, called Cathy, said: “Unmonitored foods is a bad idea”.

Someone called Svedka said: “That’s how you get worms, kids with dirty hands touching things”.

Someone called Andrew said: “My mother once slipped on a banana peel and broke her knee”.

Woolworths is the biggest food retailer in Australia. Millions of people shop in their stores every week and lots of them bring their children.

So you would have thought, if you wanted to combat child obesity, this was a good place to start.

But the news outlet doesn’t see it as their job to help. They see it as their job to find a problem no one else has spotted.

That’s why they managed to ‘find’ three people out of millions. To give them an excuse to run a headline that sounds like a major flaw in Woolworths’ idea.

In order to make themselves look like investigative journalists. They ignored the big picture and concentrated on the trivia.

We’ve all presented ideas in front of people like that. People whose job it is to be negative.

To spot the one tiny, possible flaw in an idea that no one else has seen. To totally ignore the big picture and concentrate on the trivia.

To make themselves look clever. They are usually the dullest person in the room. And, coincidentally, so is any idea they’re involved in.

Because they concentrate on the one tiny thing that might possibly go wrong.

At the cost of everything that would go right.

Yup, there’s always one.

Dave Trott is a consultant, author and former ad agency creative director. This article was first published on his blog.


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