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Can You Get Rid of the Blue Duck?

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Blogs Mike Jacka, CIA, CPA, CPSU, CLU. June 24, 2022

Should internal auditors try to manage client change requests and is that even ethical?

Have you ever heard of a little presentation trick called ”The Blue Duck”? It was used for years by one ad agency. They would put together carefully worked-out presentation concepts, then add a blue duck somewhere in the visuals. The clients would come back and say, ”We love it. But can you get rid of the duck?” The creatives would hem, haw, and finally give in. The result was the concept the ad agency wanted all along. No changes. (The preceding was adapted from a description found within the strangely interesting little book, ”Now Try Something Weirder” by Michael Johnson.)

So, there are a couple of things going on here, things worth noting. The first is that people love to change things. I worked for one individual that, no matter how good the report, always made a change. All we could figure was that the individual felt this was the only way to show their impact on the work being done. (It might have been the only proof they did any work at all, but that’s another problem.) I’m guessing most of us can cite similar instances where review notes, comments, or suggestions appear to be change for change’s sake — done to show the imprint of the reviewer.

Similarly, our clients want to feel they have had an impact. So, they might ask for a change simply for change’s sake — a tweak to a test; an extra interview; a different symbol for a flowchart; or a rewrite of a line in a report, the terms of reference, a memo, or a subscript to the footnote on the appendix related to extra point number 5.

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