Many people, especially youngsters, get outraged when I suggest that we may have anything to learn from bad advertising.

They seem to think I’m saying that everyone should do bad advertising.

This is not what I said.

And it’s dumb.

You always learn from your opponent.

Study them and find what they’re doing better than you.

Then take that and use it to beat them.

This is what you do in war.

You capture the enemy’s equipment.

Take it apart and see how it works.

If it has something about it that’s better than yours, you quickly copy it.

It doesn’t mean you want to be your enemy.

Quite the opposite.

It means you want to beat them.

It’s standard business practice, too.

Gates against Jobs.

Murdoch against Branson.

You watch your competition to see what innovation they’ve just brought out. Your competition is watching you in exactly the same way.

Whoever moves first knows they’ll be copied pretty quickly by the other side.

When we suggested The Independent go from broadsheet to tabloid size, we knew it was a great idea.

We knew we’d put on sales immediately.

We also knew we had less than a year before The Times copied us.

And they had a lot more money, if we stood still and waited they’d roll right over us.

Which is what happened.

After going tabloid, the Independent stopped innovating.

And, once The Times copied it, they lost all those readers back to The Times again.

See, for the underdog, the only way to stay ahead is to stay ahead.

Constant innovation.

You can’t stop.

You have to be checking up on the competition all the while.

Disecting them, learning from them.

Otherwise you let them beat you.

So we have to learn from bad advertising.

Because bad advertising does work.

Which is why many clients keep doing it.

It sells.

But it does it boringly, wastefully, inefficiently.

And that’s not the part we want to copy.

Because we want to do it better.

So let’s study the part that works, keep that, and throw the rest away.

Then we’ll have good advertising that works better than bad advertising.

And we’ll all be happy.

Agency, consumers, and client.