Stop me if you've heard this one ...


As a thrusting, upwardly-mobile creative professional, I'm sure you have many an anecdote primed and loaded for those moments when an Islington dinner party conversation sags a bit. After all, good creative work always tells a compelling story ('Truth Well Told' as McCann Erickson would have it) and bad advertising is often entertaining in its abject failure.

Yep, your credibility, popularity and future may well hinge on the quality of those tales, just as much as those award-winning concepts you carry in your burgeoning brain.

However, let's just say you don't have an endless compendium of industry based hilarity at your fingertips. Perhaps you weren't listening when the MD rolled out his killer tale at that awards do. Or were you in the lavatory when that astonishingly amusing incident with the PowerMac and the gerbil took place?

Well, fear not. I am here to assist with this cut-out-and-keep, pocket sized, handy crib sheet. Yes, it's three of the best advertising stories of all time. No, don't thank me, I'm just doing my job.

Sooty and the book
Once, in the heart of London's Soho, there was an agency for which every creative wanted to work. And, in a big office at the top of this famous agency, sat a Creative Director with the power to make or break the career of any ambitious art director or copywriter. Unsurprsingly, the queue of creatives awaiting their five minutes with this 'gentleman' was considerable - and a few were even granted an audience.

What greeted the lucky creative was the sight of this guru, this master of all things advertising, sitting in his leather executive chair, brandishing a fine fountain pen in one hand and a Sooty puppet in the other. He would then invite the candidate to display his or her portfolio on the equally leathery desk. Ponderously, he would turn the leaves of the book absorbing every detail of every ad. Then, just as slowly, he would raise Sooty to his ear and listen to the puppet's silent words. "Well, I loved it ..." he would say, "... but Sooty thinks you're sh*t. Goodbye."

Specs and the BT
One founding partner of an outrageously well known ad outfit, must shudder at the memory of a pitch for a big old piece of BT's business. After his team had presented out of their skins for a full 90 minutes, the client's people nodded and asked the creatives to step outside while they discussed the various merits of the pitch. But the agency's top man made the mistake of leaving his notes on the table. This wouldn't have been a problem but for the fact that they included a prominent message to one of his assistants,  reading: "The c**t in the glasses looks like trouble." As it happened, only one of the client team was wearing spectacles. For the record, the agency failed in their attempt to bag the lucrative business.

Making tracks
This story, by contrast, tells how one ad man succeeded in landing his agency the highly desirable British Rail account. BR's top team arrived on time at the agency's building, ready for a VIP welcome and a stunning pitch. However, they were greeted by an uninterested, surly receptionist, filing her nails, who proceeded to make them wait in the dingy foyer, which was filled with coffee-covered tables and overflowing ashtrays. Time ticked away, on and on and on, but nobody came to meet them. Furious at this shoddy treatment, the BR managers demanded to see the agency boss.

He duly appeared with his pitch team and before the potential client could utter a word of complaint he simply explained: "That's how the public sees BR, now let's see what we can do to put it right." Brilliant.

So there you are. Three splendid stories (well told, I hope). Try not use them up too quickly.


Magnus Shaw - copywriter and blogger



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