Chapter 11

Only the Good Die Young

The enemies of advertising

IN A PERFECT WORLD, IT WORKS LIKE THIS. You come up with a great ad. You take it over to the client, who agrees it solves the problem and approves it for production.

In all my years in the business, this has happened a total of three times. What usually happens is your ad dies. I don’t know why it is this way, but it is. Get ready for it. It doesn’t matter how good your ad is; it can die. I once watched a client kill a campaign between sips of coffee. Two months in the making, and he killed it all—every TV spot, every magazine ad, and every newspaper ad—with one chirpy line.

“Good first effort.”

The thing to remember is, clients are perfectly within their rights to do this. We are in a service business. And our service isn’t over when we present something we like. It’s over when we present something they like. The trick is to do both, the first time.

There are good clients out there. Bless them. When you have one, serve them well. Work nights for them. Work weekends. You will produce the best work of your career on their behalf.

And then there’s the other kind: the really tough clients. I’m not talking about the ones who hold your feet to the fire and push for greatness. This is about the ones who misbehave. Fortunately, good clients outnumber them. But the bad ones are out there, and you need to be able to spot them. Here are some of the kinds I’ve run into in my career. Let me rephrase. Here are some of the kinds ...

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