Last year I wrote a post about working on Milky Bars (
The intro stayed with me;

“Is there another industry with a bigger disconnect between supply and demand?
One side continually supplying what the other side won’t buy.
“We serve them smoked salmon, they ask for fish paste” was how copywriter Malcolm Gluck described the situation.
Marketing Directors may describe it as ‘We ask for smoked salmon, they serve us fish paste’.

Regardless of who’s right or wrong, why the disconnect?
Why are their criteria for judging creative work so different?
Put clients and agencies in the same room to agree on what makes good advertising and they’ll be agreeing and high fiving in no time.
Lob a piece of creative work and you’ll see the two sides separate like oil and water.
It’s not just the subjective nature of the business, if it was it would be harder to predict which side of the table will be pushing for what.
It’s like one side are shopping for apples, the other oranges.
I’ve spent the first half of my career arguing the case for apples and the second half trying to understand this addiction to oranges whilst explaining the benefits of apples.”
It got me thinking – maybe the crossed wires are caused by not fully understanding what the other side of the table actually do.
Sure, they know the job titles and the tasks, but not what it’s like to do them.
So this summer I’m going to run a few Role Reversal Workshops.
The idea is that the people commissioning the ads spend a couple of days creating them.
From brief to finished ad.
To better understand what creatives actually do once they’ve been handed a brief.
Some panic, some get excited, but few ignore the brief.
Generally, the process goes like this:
Try your damnedest to make sense of that brief.
Try to think of your own experiences of product or category.
Try to find relevant references.
Try to edit down your  ideas. (Some call this ‘Killing your babies’.)
Try to simplify them.
Try to polish.
Reading that list is one thing, doing it is another.

If you’d like to find out more, email me on



  1. Graham Pugh says:

    Great idea. I went client side for a while and it was fascinating to see agencies presenting. The disconnect seems to be between what we (the clients) thought would work and what they (the agency) thought would be famous. I also encountered some spectacular arrogance from agencies who had read up about our firm on the train (or so it seemed) and loudly pretended to know all about it, the sector and what worked and what didn’t. We didn’t hire them. The other aspect on our side was that even though our Marketing Director was in the room, the Chairman wasn’t. So he was trying to double guess what he could sell to his boss. But most of all, what came across was that us clients desperately wanted the agencies to succeed and show us work we loved, so that we could be excited about new ideas and directions. There was a lot of goodwill but it could be lost very quickly by people showing familiar ideas or ill thought out strategies. Clients aren’t stoopid – but in my experience they can be too trapped in a sector mindset, focusing too much on their rivals, copying them or responding to them, whereas agencies see the bigger picture (e.g. what else is in the commercial break? Online? On social media? In the press and in culture more generally).

    • dave dye says:

      Hey Graham, thanks for your thoughtful reply.
      You’re dead right, there are a number of issues that push the sides further apart.
      Some of them are above my pay grade.
      But in my experience clients do want the relationships to work and to do work that most people would call ‘good’.
      But wires get crossed.
      Hopefully I can help in a small way.
      (I’m tackling the Palestine issue towards the end of the year, so stay tuned.)

    • Skimming the subject is a very real danger on the creative side. There is sometimes the misguided feeling that you shouldn’t learn too much as you might get drowned in irrelevant details and your job is to think out of the box anyway, right? And wouldn’t we end up getting into the same rut that the client is experiencing?

      I have spent a career freelancing. But when I joined the comms department of a manufacturer for over a year, I got to see the multiple hurdles and possibilities of the day-to-day business. Yes, taking all the issues on board was difficult. But it also opened up an endless flow of ideas for stepping out of the box while knowing what you’re doing!

      On a sidenote, the role of the account director is absolutely vital. They have to translate all this into a usable form for the creatives and then sell it to the client. No easy task!

  2. Katherine says:

    Market orientation for the win! (And yes, first week of Mark Ritson’s Mini MBA in Marketing…) This is a glorious plan.

  3. Newy Brothwell says:

    Dave, might be worth having a chat with Janice who ran the Creative Circle Role Reversal Seminar for many years.

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