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Agency Agony Uncle

By The Drum, Administrator

April 3, 2008 | 7 min read

Changing Lanes

Dear Uncle Carl,

Do you think sex still sells in advertising like it used to?

Yep. It’s one of the ‘how the f**k do we sell this rubbish’ solutions you have in your armoury. If you haven’t the budget for a celeb/CGI animation/latest trendy ‘pop-track’, and can’t be arsed coming up with a cartoon character and the client’s staff are too ugly to use as a front for your advertising solution, then get wild-haired, hard-bodied boys in vests and low slung jeans with wide-eyed, skinny, tousled-haired girls looking into camera biting their over-red lips, add some husky voiceover, blue skies and metaphoric waves climaxing on the beach while white doves fly upward in to a velvet night skyline... sorry I drifted off then. Anyway, like it or not, it works on everything from perfume, chocolate, hair products, ice cream, cars and kitchen cleaners... okay maybe not kitchen cleaners.

Advertising would be dull without sex. We spend enough time thinking about it, talking about it, surfing for it, doing it or avoiding it (depends on your age) so you may as well tap into it as a motivator to sell and to create stand-out - just try to be original and make it appropriate to your brand. If nothing else, the shoots can be fun! But add religion and you have to be careful who you might upset.

Dear Uncle Carl,

After a brief northern start to my career, I bit the bullet and decided to cut my teeth in London. After eight years in the capital, I’m now older, wiser and...married with kids; all of which have prompted a move back to ‘the north’. What should I be prepared to find from the northern scene?

As I have no idea what glamorous career you indulged in while in’t big city, I do not know how attractive your skills will be to the agencies in the north. If you are a ‘creative god’ bringing your worldy-wise, award winning talents honed in London’s sharpest creative shops back to your homeland, then I am sure your appointment diary will be bursting with meetings. Every good agency needs to check out new and quality creative talent. Whether or not these poor agency owners can match your no doubt astronomical salary expectations is another matter. And if it’s top-dollar rewards you are after then you may be limited to who you can work with. The market is tough at the moment, but no one seems to want to admit it.

If you are a ‘suit’ then you’d better have an address book bursting with contacts and new business opportunities to ensure you are snapped up by the opportunity-starved agencies. Although the market is tough, the ‘scene’ is vibrant, both in Leeds and Manchester. We have some great clients and terrific agencies, great media support from the likes of The Drum, coupled with almost weekly self-congratulatory award ceremonies and great networking events through the CMI, IDMN, DMA, LMI and more. Plus there is plenty of gossip of exiting MDs and court cases and on the whole, while everyone takes the industry seriously, we don’t take ourselves too seriously and we are not as full of sh*t as some of your London playmates – So welcome back, we missed you and forgive you. By the way, my guess is, if your wife’s from London she will want to go back in six months – good luck.

Dear Uncle Carl,

Are work placements more hassle than they’re worth?

Miserable git. Remember you were once a tax and sink-dodging, chlamydia ridden, work-shy, fop - student. Didn’t you want someone to give you a break, a chance? ‘We’, as agency owners, sit around and moan about how unprepared the student population is when finally let loose into the world of business, so isn’t it imperative that we all spend more time bridging education and enterprise? It is something I am involved in with one of my interests and even this week had a work experience student share my office!

So no, you f**k wit, they are not more hassle than they are worth, and in fact I order you to take in as many as possible and become a champion of the cause! Talk to a chum of mine - Paul Kerfoot at Bulletpoint in Bradford who does a fantastic job of helping give ‘kids’ a taster of the industry and reaps the rewards.

Dear Uncle Carl,

I’m an account manager, but have been harbouring an ambition to move into creative for some time. Having not done the relevant training, however, I obviously have some doubts over whether I can cut it. I’m also wondering how best to approach making the switch. Any advice?

Oh for f**k’s sake. I will let you into a little secret - EVERY account manager I have met, worked with, employed or fired has had an ‘inkling’ to go into creative. Well it’s easy isn’t it - they dress badly, smoke and drink too much, ignore your brief, come up with a pale imitation of someone else’s idea and then get an award and a huge salary - easy-peasy.

Let’s forget the fact you haven’t had any training and are probably about 24 years old and have come to the realisation that you will not get promoted at your current place until your boss dies. Also, that you took some woolly degree which doesn’t even qualify you for the ‘job’ you do with cringing mediocrity at the moment. But, if you are serious my advice is this - first of all on an evening and weekend I want you to come up with creative solutions to the briefs you type when not on Facebook. And when you have answered three to four, or your felt tips have run out, then I want you to arrange to present the solutions to the creative directors of your agency, and include your head of client services too.

If they think you have talent then I am sure they will let you know and offer you a job and if not then you can return to the day job. If you still feel they are wrong and you are the next David Ogilvy (no he didn’t play the Saint) or Trevor Beattie (who the fcuk is he you may think) then do what the rest of us did and give up three to four years of your life studying advertising and design - it’s easy.

Dear Uncle Carl,

Why is every other film at the cinema about someone who works in an advertising agency and why is it nothing like the real thing? Are we doing it wrong?

Who the f**k do you think I am, Barry Norman (Jonathan Ross for the younger readers)? Stop going to dull movies, you could be a crap date. Don’t believe what you see in the movies young man (because you are bound to be a bloke). If you go into work, in your ‘advertising agency’ and get paid and make a profit then you are doing it all right and while they are making all these movies about you and your industry then you are glamorous too and may get laid! I went to the movies last year and saw a film with a talking Beaver and a Lion who thought he was Christ, but when I went home and stepped into my wardrobe I only found a shirt I don’t wear anymore - lying bastard movie makers. Grrrrrrr.

Are you troubled? Don’t be. send all your questions for the drum’s agony uncle to Or, If you wish to meet with Carl to talk about your business, then simply email him on

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