In the film Casino Royale, we are told the secret of really advanced poker players is reading their opponent’s ‘tell’.

James Bond explains they give away their hand by an involuntary reaction, it might be a twitch, or a scratch, or a cough.

This gives you an unfair advantage, you get a guide as to what they think of their cards.

I heard a professional poker player being interviewed.

Over the course of her career she’d won many millions of dollars.

She was asked if the secret of her success was learning to spot the other person’s ‘tell’?

She said no, that was for amateurs, all a ‘tell’ could reveal was what the other player thought about their hand, not the truth.

She said, early in her career she’d been playing against an opponent for $250,000.

She learned to read his ‘tell’ and could see that he thought he had a great hand.

She didn’t have a great hand so she folded.

When the cards were revealed, he didn’t actually have a great hand at all, her cards could easily have beaten his.

But he thought he had a great hand and that made the difference, she had folded to his opinion not the facts.

She hadn’t realised that she was a better poker player and that he read the cards wrongly and over-rated his chances.

That was the last time she ever placed any faith in the ‘tell’ because it was just someone else’s opinion.

From then on, she ignored the ‘tell’ and always relied on the facts, she knew what cards had been played, and what cards were left, so she knew exactly what the odds were.

She played the odds, the facts, not the other person.

She said that was why most players lost, they treated it as a macho battle between human opponents, bluff and counter-bluff.

But she learned that other people’s opinions are just that, opinions not facts.

For us, this is vital to remember when we’re reading a brief.

It isn’t carved in stone, it’s just someone else’s opinion.

Just because they’ve written the brief doesn’t mean they have any better judgement on what will make great advertising.

They’ve analysed some facts and come to a conclusion.

But sometimes the brief is wrong, often it can be improved upon.

You need to look at the brief dispassionately and decide whether you think it’s right.

Because if you do your best work to the wrong brief the advertising will fail, and your work will be wasted.

So you shouldn’t accept a brief unless you are convinced it’s right.

Other people: planners, account-men, clients, will be judging your work before they accept it.

So you should judge their work before you accept it.

If you accept a bad brief you are as responsible as the person who wrote it.

They may think it’s a great brief, just the way that poker-player thought he had a great hand.

But that’s only their opinion.

As Steve Jobs said, “Everything you see around you was made by people who are no smarter than you.  So you can change it.”