In 1781, the French fleet beat the British fleet at Chesapeake Bay.

This meant the British army couldn’t be resupplied but the American army could.

It meant Washington won at Yorktown and Britain lost the War of Independence.

So in 1781, the French Navy was certainly a match for the Royal Navy.

But two decades later, Nelson eviscerated the French fleet twice, in 1798 at the Nile and in 1805 at Trafalgar.

So, was Nelson the sole difference between the two navies?

Well obviously not, to be fair he didn’t do it on his own, he had a lot of help.

Mainly from the French themselves.

The French Revolution began in 1789 and the aristocracy was overthrown, aristocrats were sent to the guillotine merely for being aristocrats.

The people in charge of the French navy were considered aristocrats, they came from rich families and were educated, therefore they were the enemies of the Revolution.

In 1792, sailors mutinied at Toulon and officers were hanged in the street.

Most of the trained naval officers were replaced with loyal revolutionaries and political appointments.

The criteria for attaining rank in the French navy became revolutionary credentials, not seamanship or ability to command a warship.

In 1794 two of their admirals had been ordinary sailors just 3 years before, and 26 naval captains were actually merchant seamen.

Vice Admiral Marard de Galles ordered his crew to take down the sails in a storm, the crew refused to come on deck and the sails were lost.

He was then ordered to attack a convoy, but his crew refused to fight.

So he was arrested and imprisoned, and his officers were found guilty of being aristocrats andwere guillotined.

Deputy St. Andre dismissed all officers who were commissioned before 1789, thereby getting rid of all aristocrats.

These people were called dinosaurs and had no place in the new France.

The French fleet was no longer commanded by men who knew how to sail warships, but by men who showed revolutionary zeal.

From Toulon, the fleet put to sea in foul weather, so badly commanded that three of theirbiggest ships simply capsized in the storm drowning everyone aboard.

So when Nelson beat the French, he wasn’t facing a navy of the same quality as the British faced at Chesapeake Bay.

All those people had been removed or guillotined, they were replaced by people who had the right revolutionary credentials even if they couldn’t do the job.

And that’s what happens when we judge people on the wrong criteria.

Martin Luther King said, “I dream of a day when a man will be judged NOT by the colour of his skin but by the content of his character.”

In other words, the ability to do the job should be all that counts.

But in advertising we don’t act like MLK, we act like the French Revolution.

We don’t judge ad agencies by how well they do advertising, but how well they use the latest jargon and mention fashionable practices?

We judge them on their attitude to ChatGPT; on influencer marketing; on new and emerging digital technologies; on platforms, channels, and formats; on collaboration; on diversity metrics; on actionable consumer insights; on everything BUT their ability to do great advertising.

Just like the French revolution, we replace the ‘dinosaurs’ with people who have revolutionary credentials, they know the jargon but not the job.

So we shouldn’t be surprised with the results we get.