When I started writing my novel series, I knew I was going to intertwine crime, the ad business, and golf.
To be authentic about the ad business, I think you have to strike a balance between stereotypes and reality. Yes, there are martini-swilling, ego-centric reprobates. But they are more than offset by creative, curious, problem-solving professionals.
For the creative professionals, it’s a never-ending battle to convince clients to take risks. If I had a buck for every time a client said “We want a campaign just like X,” I would’ve retired twenty years ago.
The paradox is that clients are paying for originality, but asking for sameness. It’s understandable: humans are hard-wired for comfort.
One of my favorite instances of getting a client to take a risk was in a campaign for the Canadian Museum of Civilization. They had the world’s first IMAX/OMNIMAX theatre and wanted to promote the Rolling Stones’ concert film, “At the Max”, filmed during the Stones’ Steel Wheels tour.
For me, the Rolling Stones coupled with the giant IMAX screen made the ad headline obvious:
Keith Richards has never been this high.
At the museum, it set client nerves jangling.
“It’s promoting drug use.”
No, it’s not.
“The Rolling Stones will sue us.”
For what? Accuracy?
In an admirable leap of faith, the museum’s director decided to run the ad. She braced herself for a barrage of phone calls.
She got one. It was from the Director of the National Gallery of Canada. “God, I wish we had the guts to run something like that.”
In this age of social media mobs and spontaneous boycotts, clients have to be even more courageous. Which is why memorable ads are as rare as conch pearls.