The Week: Best of the blogs - The pragmatic approach

A good young team had just started at the agency: Mary Wear and Damon Collins.

We were working on Marlboro and needed a new campaign. Damon and Mary came to see me. They didn't want to work on cigarettes.

I said: "You've put me in an awkward position. Is it fair to make everyone else work on cigarettes while you don't? Marlboro makes up around 10 per cent of the agency's income. Should we fire the client and ask everyone to take a 10 per cent salary cut? Do you feel strongly, enough about it that you're prepared to take a 10 per cent salary cut? If you feel strongly, why aren't you working on anti-smoking ads in your free time?"

Damon and Mary said they didn't feel strongly enough to do any of those things. They wanted to work at our agency, they just felt bad about working on cigarettes.

I said: "There's a simple solution. How does a husband avoid doing the washing up?"

Damon said: "Break a plate, so his wife never asks him again." I said: "Right, so what would that look like in this situation?" Damon said: "Do such a bad job that you don't pick any of our ads?"

And that's what happened. See, I think pragmatism gets a bad rap. People take pragmatism to mean "the course of least resistance". I think it means finding a way around the problem rather than confronting it head-on.

So for me pragmatism is creative. I won't make a moral judgment on what you should or shouldn't want.

That's your business. But I will make a judgment about how you go about getting it. That's my business.

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