When I was starting in advertising, someone told me we’re like lawyers.

We are paid to argue a case the best we can.

It’s our job to put up the best possible argument in our client’s favour.

(Assuming, of course, that they’re not making or doing something we could never morally work on.)

Also, we can’t choose to work on things that we know about or enjoy.

Since we don’t personally represent the entire advertising audience, we have to be able to work on things that don’t interest us.

Men have to be able to work on tampons, women have to be able to work on The Discovery Channel.

Whether you’re interested in cars, beer, perfume, clothes, whatever, you have to be able to work on them.

You have to be objective, not subjective.

You have to get out of your comfort zone.

For this reason I’ve always given students things that I know they don’t want to work on.

Things that will make them feel uncomfortable.

This will force them to think rationally about how to persuade people.

If you left it to students they’d just do campaigns for anti-racism and legalise-marijuana.

But, because these are things they already agree with, they won’t learn anything from them.

So I try to give them more difficult things that force them to think.

Several years ago I gave them Mac as a brief.

At that time Microsoft ruled the world and Mac was in terrible trouble.

But one student had a great solution.

He just had a headline saying, “MICROSOFT DO ALL THEIR ADS ON A MAC”

It was a great idea because every ad agency used Macs for artwork.

So whichever agency did Microsoft’s ads was bound to use Macs.

Unexpected, upstream, predatory thinking.

But giving students tough briefs didn’t always work out well.

One evening I gave them The National Front as a brief.

I knew they’d hate it and struggle with it, and I was right.

They were so anti the brief they couldn’t even think clearly.

All they could do was a lot of ads with racist name-calling.

They couldn’t be objective and engage with the problem.

I was disappointed and I forgot to take the roughs down.

Next morning the staff couldn’t get into the agency.

The cleaners had arrived early to clean up after the class, seen the ads on the walls, and gone on strike and locked the agency.

Because they’d seen the ads on the walls and they thought we had taken on The National Front as a client.