PERSPECTIVE: Shops must fight to keep the principles that they hold dear

Bill Bernbach is famous for saying many things, but one of his most celebrated quips has passed into business folklore. ’A principle isn’t a principle,’ said the wise Bernbach, ’until it costs you money.’

Bill Bernbach is famous for saying many things, but one of his most

celebrated quips has passed into business folklore. ’A principle isn’t a

principle,’ said the wise Bernbach, ’until it costs you money.’



Was Bernbach the originator of this little gem of a phrase, or did he

merely appropriate it on behalf of the advertising industry? Either way,

its relevance to this particular business is somewhat tenuous. When has

advertising ever been feted for its strong principles, still less for

waving goodbye to a wad of dosh in adherence to them?



Sure, there are agencies that refuse to even smell the filthy lucre of

the tobacco giants or toy manufacturers - principles to which I

personally wouldn’t subscribe but which (like all good hypocrites) it

warms my cockles to know someone, somewhere holds dear.



But let’s be honest, advertising and principles are not well-known

bed-fellows. Of course, this is a business peopled by fine, upstanding

professionals, working tirelessly to sell more cat food/crisps/toilet

roll. And it’s also an industry that’s more professional, more

results-focused and a nicer place to work than ever.



But examples of corporate ethics that go as far as turning down the odd

five million quid or so of billings are rare and tend to be the domain

of the established players who, arguably, have the luxury of being able

to afford such professional morality.



When a smaller, newer, local outfit working hard to carve out a decent

business and make some money turns down a big client on a principle,

then that’s some principle.



So what’s the principle behind Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy’s

decision to part company with its Bosch client just six months after

scooping the account? On the surface it appears that a few bruised

creative egos are to blame. Miles Calcraft’s work ended up simply being

fodder for a German agency to adapt. Oh, the shame of it.



Yet it does a disservice not only to Miles Calcraft but to all agencies

with a passion for what they do to dismiss this as a case of luvvies

throwing their pencils out of the pram. When you’ve gone through the

pain of a pitch, the triumph of a win and the birth of your first work,

to then accept a role as a secondary agency, simply supplying creative

ideas for another shop to mould into a fully fledged campaign, would be

intensely demoralising and potentially detrimental to your creative

reputation.



This is a principle which may have cost Miles Calcraft a pounds 5

million account but one from which the agency emerges with its integrity

and fledgling creative credentials intact. For any new(ish) agency

struggling to make its mark and carve out a niche, nothing can be more

precious. I wonder whether the German agency required to adapt the Miles

Calcraft work takes a similarly proud line on its creative product?





Caroline Marshall is on maternity leave claire.beale@haynet.com.



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