BACKBITE

I used to think that once you got into advertising, you had the moral arguments worked out: if it can be sold, it can be advertised. Then a contact told me how he resigned as creative director after refusing to do some corporate work for a major company (‘because they were bent’) and I started to think about where people draw the line on what they will and won’t work on.

I used to think that once you got into advertising, you had the moral

arguments worked out: if it can be sold, it can be advertised. Then a

contact told me how he resigned as creative director after refusing to

do some corporate work for a major company (‘because they were bent’)

and I started to think about where people draw the line on what they

will and won’t work on.



The commonest no-no has to be tobacco, closely followed by political

parties and toys. Usually, as in the case of both Abbott Mead Vickers

BBDO and Leagas Delaney versus tobacco, the veto is applied on a

corporate rather than an individual level. This strikes me as a pretty

good piece of positioning. There are plenty of agencies only too willing

to be all things to all people - how refreshing for clients to find one

that is not.



I’d always thought too that agencies take on accounts on a like-it-or-

lump-it basis, pious considerations being unlikely to wash in the face

of potential income. As Bill Bernbach said of his anti-tobacco stance:

‘A principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money.’



I remember hearing about one such furore at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, when

the agency resigned the International Fund for Animal Welfare and took

on the Countryside Movement. John Hegarty called a meeting. ‘If you

don’t want to work on the Countryside Movement,’ he said, ‘don’t - we’ll

just work out the profit and deduct your share from your salary each

month.’



BBH also offers an example of enlightenment in this sensitive area. When

the agency was approached by Peter Gummer after the 1992 general

election, the founders put the decision to a vote. The Tories, who would

have offered BBH access to many big clients, lost the vote and were

shown the door. If all agency management applied that spirit, the effect

on morale and work would be tangible. In few other industries is the

quality of output so dependent on esprit de corps.



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