I worked at BMP in the early days.
As creative director, John Webster got the only copy of Campaign.
On Thursdays, I’d wait until he’d finished reading it, then go and borrow it.
I always knew if another very famous creative director was in Campaign that week.
Because, if he was, it was in John’s waste-paper bin.
We never spoke about it, but I think John used to get angry that they’d written about this other guy instead of him.
The other guy was good.
But John was at least as good, if not better.
At BMP, we all knew that.
But not everyone outside BMP knew it.
Because John never made any effort to put himself about.
He didn’t think he should have to.
He thought his work should do all the talking for him.
But the problem is, not everyone, knows what good work is.
The people who write on Campaign are journalists, not ad people.
And even ad people don’t all agree on what good advertising is.
Certainly all clients don’t agree on it.
Nor do all creatives, account men or planners.
So how are journalists supposed to know?
They do what everyone else does, they look in Campaign.
If you’re in there you must be good, if you’re not, you’re not.
John thought he should be in there.
But he didn’t want to do what it took.
Calling up journalists, writing articles, lecturing.
John thought that should happen just as a result of him being better.
But it didn’t.
The other guy made the effort, so it did happen for him.
He began writing articles and meeting journalists.
He was a funny, witty guy, really good company at lunch or drinks.
And the more they wrote about him the more his reputation grew.
And the more his reputation grew the more they wrote about him.
The difference between this guy and John was that this guy was a brilliant salesman.
John was a brilliant, brilliant writer.
But he never sold himself.
Why should he have to?
In the early 1900′s, Henry Royce was building great cars in his garage.
He was selling about one a fortnight.
They were very good cars and he couldn’t work out why he wasn’t selling more.
Then he met Charles Rolls, who was a salesman.
After they teamed up, they changed the name to Rolls Royce.
Royce was still building the same cars.
But now they began selling at one a week.
Then one a day.
Then ten a day.
Pretty soon Rolls Royce had built a reputation as the best cars in the world.
And everyone, everywhere wanted one.
The difference wasn’t the cars.
The difference was Charles Rolls.
He was a salesman.
Of course, in time John Webster grew famous and successful.
If you’re great, that’ll happen eventually.
But it could, and should, have happened a lot sooner.
And anyway, what about the rest of us who aren’t as good as John?
I see youngsters who meekly come into an interview.
They put their book down and sit there quietly.
And they let the book do all the work.
Great if your book is stunningly different to everyone else’s.
But what if it isn’t?
Imagine you’re seeing two portfolios of roughly the same standard.
One from someone dull, and one from someone fun and interesting.
Who do you think you’ll hire?
Obviously your portfolio has to be as good as you can make it.
But why stop there?
Is there any other way you can give yourself an unfair advantage?
Is there any other way you can convince people that you’re really exciting, interesting, and creative?
The portfolio sells itself or it doesn’t.
But that’s like saying a product sells itself or it doesn’t.
If that was true we wouldn’t need advertising.
You see your portfolio is the product you’re selling.
But you are the brand you’re selling.
In a situation of parity products, brand is often the deciding factor.
That’s what we do isn’t it?