I’ve always been better with clients who are in trouble.

Clients who need to change a situation in a hurry.

Do something drastic.

What I’m not very good at is maintaining the status quo.

Clients who are comfortable and don’t want to rock the boat.

I like to work with clients who’ve been spending a lot of money with another agency doing advertising that hasn’t worked.

Clients who now need to change things, fast.

What this gives them is the clarity of desperation.

They suddenly find there aren’t a dozen different jobs for the advertising to do.

There’s really only one job that’s absolutely essential.

Because of course, advertising can only ever do one job properly.

Then they’ve got the clarity of desperation.

I was talking to Robin Wight and John Hegarty about this.

Robin’s agency had just lost BMW after several decades.

And yet Robin’s agency had done the advertising that built BMW.

John’s agency had done the advertising that built Audi.

I was saying that the problem was both agencies had been great at building the brands.

Great when the client needed great advertising to change things.

But now the advertising had worked and the brands had been built.

Now the client doesn’t think he needs great advertising anymore.

Now he just needs maintenance advertising.

And maintenance advertising is a different job to building brands.

The advertising doesn’t have to work so hard.

One pound doesn’t have to do the work of ten anymore.

You don’t need revolutionaries once the revolution is over.

That’s what Che Guevara found in Cuba.

After the revolution, he had nothing to do, no job.

So he let Fidel Castro take over the maintenance and went looking for another revolution in Latin America.

The same was true of Leon Trotsky.

Trotsky was the revolutionary and Lenin’s right hand man, the one who would obviously take over after the revolution.

But Trotsky wanted to keep the revolution going, not do maintenance.

So Stalin took over and Trotsky was ousted.

The same was true of General Patton: during the war he was the best, most aggressive tank general the Allies had.

But in peacetime there was no job for an aggressive tank general, so Patton was out and administrative men like Eisenhower ran things.

In 1940, Britain was about to fall to Germany and consequently had that clarity of desperation: Churchill’s single vision was victory.

As soon as victory was achieved, Churchill was replaced by Clement Attlee, who would do the mundane job of maintaining things.

Steve Jobs was essential to Apple: he built it.

But once it had been built he was seen as a loose cannon and ousted.

Until Apple collapsed, and regained the clarity of desperation.

And had to bring Steve Jobs back for another revolution.

Revolution is about the clarity of desperation, a single powerful vision.

Maintenance isn’t about that.

Maintenance is about doing lots of smaller things, keeping lots of people happy, politics, rather than simply getting a result.

Maintenance is process-driven, revolution is result-driven.

Maintenance dissipates energy and resources.

Desperation has a clarity that maintenance doesn’t have.


We all have to decide what we are: revolutionary or maintenance.