We’d just opened an ad agency and we were pitching for our first piece of business.

It was a beer account.

I’d been working on it for about a week and I had a good campaign.

I’d written about 6 commercials to show it had legs.

I showed it to Mike Greenlees, the account-handling partner.

I ran through the ads, and he liked them.

He said, “It’s a good example of beer advertising. I’ll have no problem selling that because it’s pretty much what the client’s expecting.

The only problem is, it doesn’t scare me.”

I said, “Pardon?”

He said, “As an account man, you know when you’ve got something really great because your first thought is: I love it but how the hell am I going to sell it?”

He said, “Can’t you write something that scares me?”

I nearly kissed him.

How many account men have ever asked you that?

Normally they say, “This is too scary, I’ll never sell this. Can’t you write something safer?”

Normally they see it as their job to hold you back.

I’d never worked with (or even heard of) an account man who saw it as their job to make the creatives braver.

The account man and planner’s default setting is they’re frightened that creatives are all wild and irresponsible.

So their job is to spot the mistakes, and rein them in.

But most creatives aren’t like that.

Most creatives are trying very hard to be professional, to do what’s wanted, and not look irresponsible by going too far.

Most creatives are frightened of getting it wrong.

So the frightened account men and frightened planners are trying to make the frightened creatives safe work even safer.


And then everyone’s surprised there’s so much dull work around.