AdNews Annual: Trust isn’t what it used to be

This is a free article from The Annual 2017. As part of the Perspectives Series AdNews asked industry leaders from marketing, media, advertising and tech to reflect on trust. You can now read the series online. Every issue of the monthly magazine has exclusive features, profile interviews and content that isn't usually available online. If you don't subscribe, you're missing out. You can download a digital version of AdNews and subscribe to the premium print edition here.

Trust isn’t what it used to be

When I was a little kid my dad used to put me in his lap and let me drive his truck, gear changes and all. This was before playgrounds were rebranded death-traps and kids could play outside all day unsupervised.

My dad let me try things because he knew I was that kind of kid. But he also did it because he knew that I knew I was always safe with him. I trusted him with my life.

That’s the old school version of trust.

When you are so sure of someone (or something), trust is an absolute. It never occurs to you to question it.

I read somewhere that the Greek philosophers had a theory about trust. And it goes something like this. If you have to ask yourself whether you can trust someone or something, it usually means you can’t. A bit like when Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart was asked to define pornography and said, ‘I can’t define it but I know it when I see it’.

That’s how I feel about trust.

I can’t put in into a neat set of words but I know it when I feel it.

That’s because trust happens in the doing.

You need to see it demonstrated, in order for it to occur. It’s action. 

Trust is the ultimate extreme sport. It needs to flex its muscles and do its thing before you know it’s real. You have to take trust out for a ride before you can pin the trust label on a person a thing or even a company or brand.

And even when it’s defined by language, it’s always more than one word. It comes packaged with a whole bunch of other words to give it true gravitas – like reliability, certainty, dependability, character, honesty, integrity.

Trust comes slowly, one deed at a time.

But when it is granted, the real work begins.Because it takes only one misstep to lose that trust. 

Trust is hard. And it is right that it is hard.

It is a big word and comes with a great deal of responsibility.

Because when you decide to trust something or someone, it means that you have a great deal of faith in them.

And faith? Well, now that’s a word for another day.

Rose Herceg is a futurist and chief strategy officer of WPP.

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