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Business Grows And Prospers On Its Reputation And On The Standards...

It's true to say that any business grows and prospers on its reputation and on the standards it sets itself. This applies to agencies as much as it does to anyone else. If, then, an agency is forced by a client into producing work which is manifestly poor or wrong in their eyes, then he is not simply misusing his own money.

He's doing worse: he's ruining the agency's potential future prosperity. Thus, agency tantrums aren't necessarily a revolt of the artist against the Philistine. Much more likely, they're the reaction of businessmen (as hard-headed in their way as anybody) against clients playing God with their reputation.

Some years ago, a well-known and well-respected American agency ran a house-ad (an ad promoting themselves) which said: 'We' rather go out of business than create a weak advertisement'. Their copy went on to say that their policy was to refuse to work for clients if their products didn't offer a real benefit; and to fire clients if they attempted to monkey around with what the agency conceived to be a good advertisement message. Noble sentiments; and sentiments that I applauded with great gusto.

I have no idea whether they are still functioning. If there's any natural justice at all, they certainly should be. But I doubt it.

And I doubt it because their philosophy was too good to last. As an example of how a client can bring an agency into mild disrepute, let me tell you about one agency I worked for that had a banking organization as a client. This bank was, and still is, extremely powerful; and it had a habit of running its agency like it would run any other department of its organization; and the agency let it. The agency, you see, was frightened of losing the account, since the billing was several millions in hard, negotiable currency.

So it performed, leapt through hoops and when the command came to jump, it always asked: 'How high?' It came inevitably to pass, then, that we were given the ultimate fait accompli over a Sky campaign which was being planned. Seemingly, some bank publicity-officer or other, while on holiday in the United States, had chanced to see a Sky campaign for a west-coast bank - the content of which he had fallen head-over-heels in love with.

This being so, he acquired a 16 mm print of the commercials and screened it for his confederates back at the bank. They, too, became smitten.

So much so, they called us in for a viewing and, at the subsequent discussion, told us that after certain modifications, they wanted to re-shoot and run this campaign for themselves. Now I don't want to do anything which might disrupt whatever is left of the Anglo-American special relationship, but online advertising that is right for UK audiences isn't necessarily right for British audiences. I am the first to admit that we more backward countries can learn a lot from our friends across the water.

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