One of the fun things about going on holiday is you meet people you would never normally meet.

Last week, on holiday, I met a guy who runs one of the country's Top 100 companies. His kids and my kids were hanging out, so he and I were kind of thrown together.

Naturally, I asked him what he thinks of his company's advertising (they are a heavy advertiser).

He said he thought it was quite good, but could be better. He then went on to talk about how, when he'd taken the job, he'd invited the entire marketing department for a barbecue at his house. And then grilled them.

"I asked each of them in turn," he told me, "what was the No.1 rational reason why a consumer should choose our company. Most of them couldn't answer. And some of them told me it wasn't important!"

He threw up his hands in exasperation.

"We have three fantastic competitive advantages," he went on, "and we're not building our advertising around them!"

He then outlined for me these competitive advantages. As I have worked in this sector quite a bit myself, I know that consumers don't care much about those particular advantages. Maybe they should, but they don't. As always, they don't base their purchase decision on the rational factors.

I also know a little about the challenges his particular brand faces - for various reasons, it just isn't very popular, and is also seen as a bit old-fashioned. And I'm guessing that everyone in the marketing department are aware of this, because they are producing advertising that is modern and likeable.

But the big boss didn't get it. When I tried to explain, he shut me down.

It was all very depressing.

He was obsessed with communicating the rational stuff... and scoffed when I brought up the question of likeability, implying that I was some kind of hopelessly uncommercial hippy. I should explain that he himself, like probably most CEO's, was extremely left-brained - he was a former lawyer.

But my main take-away from this conversation, apart from a mild depression, was a new-found respect for this guy's marketing director, whoever that is. In the teeth of this demanding (and deluded) character, the marketing director is running the right advertising.

We all occasionally find clients challenging. We wish they'd take more risks, approve work that's more creative.

I guess we should remember who

they

have to get our work approved by.

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