PERSPECTIVE: Don’t fret, bad ads help to make good ads seem brilliant
By STEFANO HATFIELD, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 19 December 1997 12:00AM
God! I’ve only just repaired some of the broken relationships caused by last Christmas’s ’turkeys’ and New Year agency honours. Top turkeys then were (in reverse): BhS ’station platform’ (Saatchis), Mercury’s ’Oliver and Claire’ (HHCL) and Visa Delta ’kerrching!’ (Saatchis again). None exist today. Will this year’s survive?
God! I’ve only just repaired some of the broken relationships
caused by last Christmas’s ’turkeys’ and New Year agency honours. Top
turkeys then were (in reverse): BhS ’station platform’ (Saatchis),
Mercury’s ’Oliver and Claire’ (HHCL) and Visa Delta ’kerrching!’
(Saatchis again). None exist today. Will this year’s survive?
We don’t expect to make many friends, but how can lauding the BBC’s
’Perfect Day’ (Leagas Delaney) and BMP’s Volkswagen work, or last year’s
Blackcurrant Tango (HHCL) be meaningful if no ad is bad?
In the end, we’re all just fooling ourselves, like those creative
directors who won’t write Private View, claiming ’I only want to be say
nice things’ or some such mealy-mouthness. The argument that other
practitioners do not review their peers’ work is simply not true. Read
the right organ, and you’ll find medical research statisticians are very
hard on each other’s work - and even lawyers comment publicly on
I know I’ve said this before, but once ads are out there, you can’t take
them back. They don’t come with handy sub-titles explaining what you
really meant to say; or the joke the poor consumer may have missed. As
with journalism, you have to let go.
It’s slightly different inside the business. An agency’s name is
Then, it is equally futile to claim ’it’s our Milan office’s ad’ or ’the
client wrote it’ or ’we only had pounds 250,000’. It’s self-deluding.
Business is a choice. Choose to handle client X, and you should be proud
to handle client X - or it’s the wrong choice. On the one hand, some
agencies still resign business on points of principle (Euro RSCG Wnek
Gosper and Bartle Bogle Hegarty) and, on the other, there will always be
someone else able to work better with a nightmare client (Rainey Kelly
and News International).
Campaign’s in-tray is fascinating at this time of year. First, there’s
the agency that lost its pounds 3 million account within a year of
winning it, but admits to lying back then ’so don’t take off pounds 3
million now’ (I wish we made it up). Then there’s the agency that kindly
summarised its year but forgot a)losing a pounds 10 million-plus piece
of business after 15 years, and b)being beaten to its largest client’s
biggest launch in years. It calls to mind BST’s repeated insistence all
year that it was not merging with GGT.
I guess, come the ’Agency of the Year’ issue, you’ll all have your own
views, but there was unanimity of opinion on who the few contenders were
in every category, if not the winners. On one level, the blind hope of
the dozen others who thought it was them is worrying, but it’s also
It’s a thin line between self-delusion and eternal optimism, and I guess
an attraction to the latter is one of the reasons we all love
advertising. Merry Christmas.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk