Industry bashes, like the (world's longest) dinner to celebrate ISBA's 100th birthday this week, or even our own Poster Awards, are social minefields for Campaign staffers. Chances are that we will end up sitting near a client who has suffered at the hands of one of the magazine's more fearless profiles. So this week, sandwiched between a 'cold, aloof, picky and unyielding' confectionery client and a financial services client 'with a huge chip on his shoulder, an ego the size of a planet and a profound ignorance of the subtleties of creative ads', I was delighted (well, all right, relieved) when the conversation finally turned from the injustices of the trade magazine profile to the shortcomings of agencies.
Lest this sound merely like Campaign reverting to sniping at the industry, let's just reiterate a point that Unilever's chairman, Niall Fitzgerald, made repeatedly in his speech to ISBA's great and good: well-known brand names are a company's strongest asset and advertising is the key contributor to their distinct personalities. So far, so good, and utterly uncontroversial.
(It was left to Sir Martin Sorrell, the evening's other speaker, to raise some more challenging points.)
But implicit in the criticisms directed at agencies by my dinner companions was the old notion that there is still a large minority of the UK ad agency community that clings to some notion of creativity as if it is a tangible thing unrelated to the grubby commercial business in hand. It is clearly this minority that continues to hamper the industry's attempts to restore client trust. People who pay lip-service to their clients' needs but really just want that Pencil or Arrow.
In the past, this magazine has, perhaps, been as guilty as anyone in nurturing that attitude as acceptable. It no longer does so. As this week's Poster Awards show, the goal for any agency should be creative achievement in the service of a client. With that in mind, hats off to all the winners, especially the top prize-winner, M&C Saatchi's 'nipples' for Vogue.com, and the other contender for the big prize, BMP DDB's 'Twiggy' for Oxfam.
You may find yourself recalling that the same 'nipples' poster won the dubious accolade of Turkey of the Week from this magazine a year ago.
Hands up and red faces all round, you're right. It was described as 'the kind of cheap and really nasty pun that the UK advertising industry holds dear'.
To that former Campaigner, and to the 83 people who complained about the poster to the ASA, it was, clearly, offensive. To our jury, however, 'nipples' knows its target consumer about as well as it's possible to do, is a superb example of the style of a product matched by advertising art direction, and will have alienated only those who would never sample Vogue.com anyway. Amazing how great ads have the power to polarise opinion, isn't it?