Years ago, when I worked at Boase Massimi Pollitt, I had a conversation with Martin Boase about what made BMP different to other agencies.

Martin said it was the work.

Some agencies could do work that was strategically sound, but creatively dull.


On the other end of the scale, some agencies did work that was strategically unsound, but creatively exciting.

(visible – irrelevant)

What made BMP different, was that we delivered work that was both strategically sound and creatively exciting.


My initial reaction to this was, “Yeah, and I bet every agency all over the world claims to do the same thing.”

Obviously that’s what anyone with half-a-brain would want.

So the real question is: if that’s what everyone wants, how come 90% of advertising is strategically unsound and creatively dull?


Here’s what I think.

We have deadlines, we have budgets, we have disagreements.

As the airdate/ pitch date/ presentation date looms, it becomes apparent that we can’t have the perfect solution.


If we keep waiting for it to turn up, we aren’t going to have anything.

So we have to choose.

We have to choose between being relevant or being visible.

Now in that situation different interests get polarised.

Account-handling, Planning, Clients, will always drag it towards relevant.

Whatever conventional thinking makes sense in their market, based on the data and market research, they have available.

(So, whether they admit or not, they will drag it towards RELEVANTINVISIBLE.)

The creative department will always drag it towards whatever they think is most likely to win an award, or at least not embarrass them, regardless of whether it sells or not.

(So, whether they admit it or not, they will always drag it towards VISIBLEIRRELEVANT)

We all have to choose between these two alternatives.

And of course we don’t want to, and so we pretend we don’t have to. But, if we don’t choose, the choice gets made for us.

So, if you accept that you have to choose.

Which should you choose?

Personally, as in most things, I defer to Bill Bernbach.

He said, “If no one notices your advertising, everything else is academic.”

So, given that, I would choose VISIBLE IRRELEVANT.

At least if people notice your advertising there’s a chance of something happening.

If no one notices your advertising, there’s absolutely no chance of anything happening at all.