“Dear Annoying Bastards,

It’s payback time. Here’s what I’m going to do.

Write you letters and give you advice

Every week you will receive five letters. Each letter will tell you what you are doing wrong. The author of the letter will then offer you a ‘solution’. You will be expected to give this ‘solution’ serious consideration, and immediately telephone your correspondent in order to arrange a meeting.

You will, of course, be keen to meet as you do not know them, have never heard of their company, and are slightly surprised that they seem to understand your business better than you do, despite the fact that they are a New Business Director for an advertising agency in Bristol, and you are the Marketing Director.

Send you stuff in the post

You MUST choose to receive AT LEAST THREE of the following items every week:

a) a letter allegedly written by your correspondents’ mum;
b) some advertising you do not like or want that shows absolutely no understanding of your brand but which is, happily, copyright-protected;
c) a calendar for your desk;
d) a CD-Rom of an unspeakably tedious ‘film’ about a company featuring a load of people in fashionable spectacles using words like “simplicity”, “big ideas”, “integration”, “disruption”, “nugget” and “big ideas” (again);
e) some DVDs of showreels that you can’t watch on your computer, because you don’t have the right software;
f) some plastic twiddly things with logos on;
g) some pens;
h) some postcards;
i) a branded cake;
j) an invitation to hear someone ‘famous’ talking about something somewhere;
k) a mobile telephone;
l) a document that tells you all about what a company you haven’t heard of is “up to”, complete with amusingly informal photographs of the senior management team and a cheeky snap of their cat, Roger.

Phone you up

You will receive ten phone calls every week. The person who phones you up will assume one of three tones:

1. Over-familiar
2. Supercilious
3. Nervous.

Every effort will be made to ensure that you are telephoned when your PA is at lunch. You will receive your calls when you are under extraordinary pressure, hungover, in the middle of something else, or staring out of the window making paper aeroplanes out of brand pyramids.

The caller will ignore you when you tell them that your business is not up for pitch, and ask you if they should call back in six months. You will, at all points in the conversation, surpress the urge to slam the phone down. Instead, you will gently replace the receiver, then sit at your desk for up to five minutes with your head in your hands.

At no point will the caller ask you the simplest and most sensible of questions: “I’m sure you’re busy, but could you spare me five minutes to talk?”.

Talk to you at Industry Events

You will be in the middle of a conversation you are enjoying when you will be interrupted by a stranger. The Interrupter will talk at you for up to thirty minutes, give you his or her card and leave. You will have no recollection of what the person said to you, but you will remember that he or she had a light dusting of cocaine on the end of their nose. You will use their card to pick your teeth during dinner.

Send you emails

These will be sent when you are obsessively checking Groupwise to see if the person you copped off with the other night has sent you an email.

And finally, just before I go, I’ll be making some assumptions about you:

– that you are ill-informed;
– that you are incapable of choosing the companies you want to work with;
– that you care what my cat looks like;
– that you need a Rubik’s cube with my logo on;
– that you have never
really understood what an idea is.

Have fun – hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

Yours sincerely

The Client You Will Never Have


Work in an agency and concerned that people you don’t like much aren’t being very nice to you? Take my advice, my friend: toss your briefs to the seven winds, and become a client instead.

I was an account handler for twelve years. I stopped working in advertising because I woke up one morning and realised that I should probably be doing something else instead. I didn’t want my own agency, and I didn’t want to be a managing director – not that wanting it would have made any difference; I was neither ambitious nor brilliant, so if I’d wanted to be an Advertising Legend, I’d have been fucked. So naturally, I became a client.

I had the kind of job title that you’d invent if you were being sarcastic about marketing. It was six words long, and sounded excellent. (I could never remember it, mind you, so I’d say “er, I sort of look after brand strategy and advertising and that”, then change the subject). I worked on a brand that would make most agencies a bit hot in the pant area, and the combination of the two meant that advertising people I hadn’t seen for years, didn’t like or didn’t know thought I might be important. That meant they sucked up a lot.

At the Campaign Press Awards one year, managing directors of agencies I hadn’t worked at since 1903 were jolly nice to me. My first ever boss, who had blanked me the last time I saw him, appeared like the shopkeeper in Mr Benn and offered champagne. People I’d worked with at my last agency who I’d hated, and vice-versa, shimmied unctuously up to me and offered to buy me lunch. People I didn’t actually know congratulated me on my new job and gave me their card. How I laughed.

I’d get letters and emails from people I’d met once on a training course ten years earlier reminding me of the larks we’d had on IPA4. I had to go to lots of industry things which I didn’t like much, because I had to behave properly and be nice to people who made me want to eat my own head. I’d see lots of (real) friends, but was unable to talk to them because wild-eyed new business directors would be shoving them out of the way, calling me ‘mate’ and pinning me against a wall so they could tell me that my brand was fucked unless I moved my business immediately.

It’s the arrogance I found weird. What did they think we were doing all day? Sitting in the office making paper aeroplanes out of brand pyramids and picking communication strategies out of a hat? And did they not think we’d chosen the agency we were (very happily) working with? Did they think all our creative work was shite and our strategy flawed? If so, they must have thought I was shit at my job.

I don’t do that ‘clients are shit’ thing. I also don’t do that ‘agency people are idiots’ thing. There are equal numbers of idiots spread throughout each discipline (which is just as well: how else could I have made the transition?) But there’s one thing I know for sure: if you’re a board account director and you’ve been refused a place in the car park and your own subscription to Campaign, have a PA who’s rubbish and insubordinate account directors, become a client. You’ll think you’re important in no time.