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Believe in the Concept.

I have had a busy summer shouting at stupid people about concepts.

Having received a brief for a European corporate ‘Awareness Campaign’, I duly presented the accumulated wisdom of my many years of awareness campaigning to Sir and a considerable flock of subordinates, (including a slightly sallow, moist and inexplicably flaking representative from a media agency). The client expressed his “disappointment” that I hadn’t addressed their need for a “value proposition”. He worked his way around the room gathering opinion on the concepts from his team who all said, “Baaaa… oooh yes Sir, you’re so right…”

I felt like a gunslinger walking into the saloon where the conversation stops and the piano player dives behind the bar. The safety catch was off. I now had a choice. I could back out the door slowly and hope I made it to my horse before my mouth started firing random abuse, or I could slug it out. Sometimes I wish I could just, you know, ‘not’. But there we are…

The red mist welled up and all I can really remember is that I didn’t jab my finger in anyone’s face. I saw an interview with Bill Clinton once where he said that in heated debate, it was essential not to point fingers as the gesture was overly aggressive. Clinton used his thumb which, apparently, is politically correct. So there I was, purple faced, neck vein bulging, spraying spittle across a good metre and a half of conference table as I ranted uncontrollably and all I could think of was, “It’s ok Scot, it doesn’t matter what names you’re calling him, you’re not pointing, you’re using your thumb. All is well.”

All was in fact very far indeed from ‘well’.

It was unacceptable in my opinion that a two billion dollar company should ask a number of small agencies for their unpaid responses to their brief and then move the goalposts from ‘awareness’ to ‘value proposition’.

I was particularly incandescent because this was at least the second time this particular client (I use the term loosely) had shape-shifted mid stroke. 18 months earlier the brief had been for a (expressly and specifically) “radical and creative brand strategy.” That’s what I delivered. Turns out my proposal was “too radical…” and, “too creative…” The agency appointed was, “safe, with a process.” Safe it may well have been, but the client had seemingly spent 18 months producing a brand strategy with a worthless proposition and decided that the best time to be disappointed at my lack of telepathy skills was after I had presented the requested brand awareness campaign. Tisk.

At some undefined point, my spleen was fully vented and a stunned silence reigned. (There was still a wild howling in my ears of course, but for the most part, the room was quiet.) I packed up my things, and, with the surprising absence of ‘any further questions’, I left.

He called me the following day. I’m still not sure why. Apparently, “it’s important to follow these things up.” Well, no, it isn’t. Everything had been said. It turns out he still thought he was right and just wanted another fight. I nearly gave it to him too. But as the red mist rose, I caught myself, took a deep breath and simply said, “Look, you’re worth nothing to me. You’ve been worth nothing for years and you’ll never be worth anything. You’re a drain on my resources and my energy. I can apply both to considerably better commercial advantage elsewhere. The conversation’s over. Goodbye.” And I hung up.

It’s possible I was wrong. It’s possible that the work didn’t answer the brief. It’s even possible that it just wasn’t good enough. But that’s not the point. The point, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is that you have to believe. Not a little, not a lot. You have to BELIEVE with every single fibre in your body. Because no one else will. Least of all the client. Believe it, live it and hang up on any fucker who isn’t prepared to die for the cause.

Scot McKee