Thanks very much, mystery blogging copywriter, I really honestly couldn’t have put it better myself.
For years, I’ve been trying to make the case that financial clients should appoint us rather than generalist agencies with bigger names and bigger creative reputations, for the simple reason that our best people will do the very best they can for them while the generalist agencies’ best people will hide under the desks when a financial brief comes in.
No matter how i put this argument, it tends to sound a bit unpleasant – carping, negative, whiff of sour grapes. Fortunately, though, someone else has just put it for me – an anonymous copywriter and creative director at a very highly-regarded creative agency not unadjacent to BBH.
You may have seen the excerpt from his blog in Campaign last week. He wrote:
What should you do when youâ€™re given a shit brief you donâ€™t want to work on? If you are the dutiful type you will produce the best solution you can, given the limitations of the brief.
This will help your agency, and help the client’s business. But it won’t help you. All that will happen is that you will soon be given another shit brief. Do a good job on a shit brief for a second or third time, and your career is over. Your book won’t move forward. And when the next round of redundancies comes, the fact you’ve been doing a valuable job is forgotten. All anyone will notice is that you haven’t done a good ad in a long time.
So it’s vital to develop an ability to avoid shit briefs. And the best way to avoid them is what I call Playing To Lose.
Years ago, when I worked at Saatchis, some friends of mine (who were a very good team) got briefed on Oil of Olay. They came back with a script about a woman who is dead. However, because her friends regularly apply Oil of Olay to her face, no-one realises. (The idea was based on “Weekend at Bernie’s”.) A fun and lateral way to demonstrate what the product does for your skin, but not something Procter & Gamble could buy.
K***** and C***** were never given a P&G brief again. And yet, no-one could say they hadn’t tried, or hadn’t done a good job. And that, my friends, is Playing To Lose.”
Honestly, I really couldn’t put it half as well as that. The arrogance, the self-absorption, the contempt, the sheer silliness and folly that come pouring through from these few words are absolutely overwhelming. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone trying to be funny succeed only in being so utterly ridiculous and hateful, except maybe Jim Davidson. If you ever wondered why BBH’s Barclays ads are so utterly ghastly, you know now. And if their wonderful showreel ever leads you to think about appointing them, just be very, very sure that our preposterous friend doesn’t put you in his “shit briefs” box.