I was talking to a planner the other day from one of the big agencies. We were talking about start-ups because I give two bits of advice to everybody I meet in this business.
One is, start a new agency. You'll have more fun and get more sense of purpose than at any other time in your career.
Two, don't sell it. If you want to have a proper relationship with clients, you've got to be able to part company with them. And the holding companies don't like that.
A passion for doing the right work has to be more important than agreeing to do stuff, just to pay the bills.
Having said that, HHCL didn't fire a lot of clients. In fact, I'm not sure we ever fired any clients at all.
But we knew we could, and that made a big difference.
However, some of the toughest times in my career have been working with clients where we couldn't fire them and they couldn't fire us. These accounts were held at some higher level which precluded either of us saying "this isn't working, let's call it a day".
I know for a fact that this was as frustrating for them as it was for us.
In this context, I remember Jay Chiat once telling me something which I still find astonishing. Apparently, when Chiat Day was the hottest shop in America, he used to formally resign ALL his clients every 31 December.
It was up to them if they wanted to rehire the agency.
HOW TO CLEAN UP AT THE AD AWARDS
I don't know if you've seen a film called The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, but if you haven't, you should.
It portrays the life of a British officer who has trouble squaring his sense of honour and fair play with the merciless nature of Britain's opponents in WW2. The upshot of it is that if you choose to play fair your opponents will fuck you, stick you in concentration camps, fuck you again and kill you (perhaps then choosing to fuck your corpse).
Bear with me here, but I think that the same situation is occurring in international advertising awards.
Although scam ads are certainly a part of the current UK ad scene we are actually complete fucking amateurs when compared to the rest of the world. Some agencies in other countries do the following: let you work on normal clients from 9 to 5 but make you work from 5 to 10 on scammery; mark out an entire floor plus photographic studio for creating scam; employ some teams to create nothing but scam; do ads for clients they don't even have; do ads for Guinness that are actually ads for Irish bars and ads for Wonderbra that are actually ads for lingerie shops; take August off from their real clients to do their year's scam ads all in one go; do adapts of international business but otherwise do nowt but scam; eat dogs and horses.
So the UK doesn't win the really big international prizes (or at least hasn't for a few years).
Why not create a bunch of complete and utter bullshit like this: so we can either maintain our sense of honour and accept that we bugger our chances of more Lions, or we can get with the international cheating programme and pocket some more prizes.
I vote we set up a special clearing house agency for cheat ads. It can be called Fuck You Johnny Foreigner and it can be staffed by a bunch of brilliant account dudes, who will sell your generic ads for nose hair trimmers, superglue, hot sauce, dog food, animal charities and shoe polish. All agencies will chuck in some cash to pay for the staff and all the DPSs in Cement Mixer Monthly and the UK will top the Gunn Report every year.
PAGE TAKEOVER TO WIN OVER CYNICS
Years ago, when I was working in London, we did some of the very first internet page takeover ads. We thought what we were doing was pretty amazing. So did a lot of other people. Not any more. These days page takeovers are a total pain in the arse. And they annoy me every time one of them interupts my web experience. I am however prepared to make an exception for the YouTube takeover by the film Despicable Me.
It's a lotta fun. And quite ingenius.