"Excuse me," the friendly face on the British Airways flight coming back from Moscow said. "I saw you in the lounge and ... well, most of us over here are involved in banking (he revealed himself to be a Quebecois foreign exchange dealer) ... I wondered, excuse me for asking, if you are a journalist?"
It was my purple velvet bordered Issey Miyake jacket, matched by velvet purple trousers, along with a purple shirt by Richard James that made me a misfit among the fledgling financiers keen to make their fortune in the Klondike that is now Moscow.
"No," I responded. "I work in advertising."
"Ah," he replied, now revealing a surprise explained by the absence so far of adland in this goldrush.
As I returned to my delightful Club Class seat, I reflected upon my response.
I hadn't said: "I'm in communications." Or: "I help to run an integrated marketing group."
And yet, in my everyday business life, I forever (and rightly) preach that the 30-second TV commercial is at best one arrow in the new quiver of opportunity that the multimedia world has opened up for us.
But somehow the word "advertising" - maybe because I was a copywriter - still has a boastable myth about it, one that those new cost-effective-solution-neutral warriors from the internet have yet to create.
As we went into a stack over Heathrow, I was reminded of some research that our group, Engine, had commissioned, talking to marketing leaders about our idea of creating an under-one-roof business, where we offered best-in-class creative businesses one slice at a time.
On one happy occasion, Nokia Siemens chose this offering, in preference to the likes of Publicis and JWT, by picking two or three slices of our communication cake, all cooked to the same recipe.
But that is not entirely typical of the response we got in the research from several clients.
Understandably, the responses veer from the common sense, "Why would I want to limit my choice of options by having all my agencies from one group?", to the charge that "integration has not yet proved it adds value".
Perhaps the risk is that in our communication mongrel-ness, we miss out on genuine creative pedigree. Happily, over the past 18 months, half of the ten businesses in our group have been voted "best in class" by their trade media. It's also true that when one of our companies is pitching for an assignment from an existing client of another Engine company, we achieve a 90 per cent success rate, far higher than the 30 per cent pitch average that is the norm for our industry.
But this is to appeal to the rational mind when all I have learned from neuroscience and psychology over the past five years is that it is our emotional brain that makes most of the decisions that guide us.
So how can the new world Engine represents create its own myth?
Can we persuade a film-maker to set his next masterpiece in our integrated communications industry?
It is not just the myth (or lack of it), it is the need for a new vocabulary to describe what we do.
Every working day, I discover its business advantages to those bold enough to try them. I know the excitement of bumping into someone from one of our businesses in our wine bar or even in the lift, and finding something of value that I can harvest from the conversation for a communication issue that I know another of our companies is working on.
When I entered this world around 40 years ago, I found above the line and below the line as the division that separated the "officers" from the "other ranks" that I was familiar with from my Army background. Forty years on, suddenly "online" takes central position - this is the new word for the "advertising" in which my craft skills were grown, not yet demoted to a secondary role, but very much the old kid on the block.
This positioning created by the web-o-holics is brilliant and not entirely wrong. The Long Tail has taught us that the old dog is now wagged by a new power.
So, at a time when most of my contemporaries are hanging up their clogs, I find myself at the most exciting moment in the history of human communication.
Web, mobile, broadband ... as well as a deep need for the brand to be a consumer lighthouse in this sea of confusion, all add a sizzle to my trip to work every day. (And gives a certain piquancy to my proud flashing of a bus pass on my planet-saving commute.)
However, the fact that the domain we are trying to operate in - the Brave New World of Integration - has not yet got a real vocabulary, a real name or even its own myth is only to identify that what we are attempting is something that is genuinely new.
You may remember that Dorothy L Sayers wrote Murder Must Advertise as a best-seller in the 30s. Maybe today what we need to develop is its equivalent as "Murder Must Send a Viral".
And maybe that is something we ourselves should be sponsoring.
- Robin Wight is the chairman of The Engine Group.
WHAT'S IN A WORD? TWO INDUSTRY CHIEFS ON INTEGRATION
CILLA SNOWBALL, CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE, AMV GROUP
There's lots of discussion and activity around the "I" word. We all believe in integration. We've structured ourselves and our offer to deliver it.
We're eliminating the ego, silo and prejudice that used to come with it. We've proved the value of it to our clients' businesses and to our own. Job titles have been created to accelerate it and a whole new generation of talent is coming into the business without caring or knowing what "the line" is.
The process is exciting and liberating and yet the word to describe it remains resolutely dull and horribly inadequate.
We've explored promising "A" word alternatives - "amplification" and "activation" being two of the better attempts. We've even branded our own offerings with eggs, onions, orchestras, matching luggage and all manner of other far-fetched "I" word alternatives.
The result? In a triumph of highly PC media neutrality, we've ended up using terminology that doesn't do justice to the exciting opportunities we are trying to activate and celebrate. We've got stuck in the dull vocabulary of structure and process. Robin is right. Shame on us.
The answer, as always, lies in the polite version of the "C" word. Creativity. The language of creativity and compelling content is engaging and inclusive. The language of integration is not. If we spoke more about the power of creativity and less about the process of integration, we'd make tons more progress. Creativity is our first language and we must never forget that.
GARY LEIH, CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE, OGILVY GROUP UK
Here I am, sitting in my safari suit (well, I am South African and I can't be doing with velveteened slouching) in the cultural wasteland that is Canary Wharf, when I get a call from a prospective client.
He has a problem with one of his biggest brands. "How can we help?" I ask. He tells me to get our best guys from all disciplines together and come up with a fully integrated campaign; he loves our approach and gives us the job. The campaign rolls out and is a success. Everyone's happy. I'm not dreaming: it has happened 11 times in 12 months.
What anyone calls what we've done doesn't matter - as long as we change consumer perception and behaviour in a way that favours our client's brand.
So, I'm starting to think, why all the fuss about integration? I don't see Ogilvy as an "integrated agency". It's an agency dedicated to building and protecting brands. Simple. Were he around today, David Ogilvy wouldn't have fretted about integration, he would have simply made sure that the brands entrusted to him were built using whatever methods were appropriate.
I tell people I'm an advertising man. I probably always will. I don't say I work in brand communications. I don't think it matters much. "Advertising" is just a shorthand for that brand building/protection/communications stuff we all do nowadays.
As long as what we do works - and it does - it doesn't matter what we call it.