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When Fear Meets Fear, Everyone Wins

Since our inception, FEAR Incorporated has worked with just about every major sector in the business community. This means, we often find our clients working together and FEAR finds itself in the envious position of having a seat on both sides of the table. At first we feared this was going to create a conflict of interest, but since all parties involved had hired us to use fear to fail, we realized our vast experience could help everyone.

In the summer of 2017, we found ourselves in this exact situation when we were brought in by the global automotive company, XXXXXXX located in Detroit Michigan. The automotive company was eager for FEAR to help ignite a robust culture of fear that would undermine the launch of their long-awaited electric vehicle called the XXXXXXXX. Over our first 6 months together, FEAR spent a substantial amount of time working with the leadership team to make sure a deep fear of change was spreading to every corner of the car company. Fear was taking root nicely and surveys showed that a majority of employees now feared that producing a fully electric car would not only change the culture of the company but also put their jobs at risk. While FEAR had given the automotive company everything they needed to steer away from building an electric car, we pointed out to leadership that they would soon be faced with another fear. The fear of not innovating. The mere idea of actually building something they had never built before terrified the team at XXXXXXX automotives. But then FEAR came up with a mantra that calmed everyone. You don’t need to actually innovate if you have a great story of innovation. The brilliance of having a great story was that it created the perception that everyone at the car company was working hard without having to actually to do any work. And the best way to create this story was to hire an advertising agency.   

Luckily for us, the XXXXXXX automotive company had recently hired New York advertising agency XXXX XXX & XXXXXXX after a grueling 28-month pitch. FEAR had a been on retainer with the agency for the past 3 years, working to embed a sustained culture of fear. Both the automotive company and the advertising agency eagerly signed off on FEAR working both sides of the project for a number of reasons. The automotive company had chosen XXXX XXX & XXXXXXX advertising when the agency had cut their fee to less than nothing and they feared having to pay more for another agency. And even though the agency was losing money on the account, they feared the bad press they would receive if they lost the contract from the automotive company.

The brief to the advertising agency was to create a campaign that didn’t just position XXXXXXX as just an innovative car company, the world had to see them as the innovative car company. The XXXXXXX Automotive company had to be seen by the public as the solution to all the fears in the budding EV category. XXXX XXX & XXXXXXX advertising was given 8 days to solve the brief and check-ins were scheduled for every 6 hours. Of course, the agency graciously agreed to the schedule, thanking the automotive company for their generosity.

Since FEAR had spent a good amount of time working with the advertising agency, we knew they were the perfect solution for this mission. FEAR had gotten them to the place where they were so frightened of losing any business, they quickly agreed with whatever the client would ask. Watching the agency never push back on any request or comment was a testament to the hard work the team at FEAR had done. To test it, we had XXXXXXX automotive always send feedback late Friday afternoon, requesting the revisions Monday morning. The agency always smiled and said, “We’re happy to make the changes”. To keep the agency fearing for their jobs, we worked with the automotive company to show little to no emotion to any of the ideas presented at the check-ins. We suggested to the automotive team to always be on their phones and only show indifference to anything that the agency shared.

After seven days of constant check-ins, we had the automotive company change their emotion from indifference to anger and threaten to fire the agency because they never brought new innovative ideas. The agency profusely apologized and asked for another chance which the automotive company reluctantly granted. But then something happened that reminded even us that fear is full of surprises. On the eighth day, the advertising agency came back with a campaign that was brilliant. The concept was emotional, adventurous and full of bold promises. The score of the commercial was “Imagine” by John Lennon, performed Lizzo, and the script was to be read by Greta Thunberg. The XXXX XXX & XXXXXXX agency had done it, but FEAR made sure the automotive company didn’t show any excitement for the campaign. We advised them to tell to the agency that they were reluctantly approving the concept because they were out of time.

The campaign went viral and the XXXXXXX automotive company were the talk of the industry. Requests for interviews with the CEO, CMO and design team flowed in. Everyone wanted to see the car and were clamoring for a release date. Pre-orders were through the roof and now XXXXXXX automotive had to build the car. But the board of directors at XXXXXXX automotive feared being able to deliver on the bold promises. They were terrified by the attention the powerful story of innovation was generating and decided to pull the plug. Now they needed a scapegoat. We worked with the CEO to place the blame on the CMO and advised that they fire the advertising agency. After losing the account, we worked with the agency to layoff 99.5% of their staff. Four months before they finally closed their doors, the campaign for XXXXXXX automotive helped XXXX XXX & XXXXXXX agency become agency of the year at the Cannes Festival for advertising. They also represent the 87th advertising agency we have helped successfully fail.

For a mere 19.5 million US dollars in agency fee and media spend, the XXXXXXX automotive company were seen by the marketplace as the innovative leaders in the EV race for eighteen months. The CFO calculated he had saved the company 9 billion dollars in actual research and development. The positive press around the money saved gave the stock price a nice bounce allowing leadership to sell their restricted stock options at an all-time high. Many of the leadership team were poached to other fearful car companies looking to bolster their EV offering. FEAR Incorporated is honored to be working with many of these leaders at their new posts and look forward to sharing the stories of their successful failures in the future.

If you would like to discover for yourself the magic of mixing fear with fear, please reach out to our Chief Fear Officer at

(Names of companies and employees have been redacted due to legal article 420-28a and article 129-11b)

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