Show me your shittiest work

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It's a question more clients should ask, and agencies should be prepared to answer. Because perhaps your lowliest work says more about you than your highlight reel

Apologies for the rather scatological start, but this must be the best client demand I have ever heard in an agency credentials meeting: Show me your shittiest work.

It happened recently, and despite the phraseology, I think it is a remarkably savvy request.

Any agency can show you some tricked-up effectiveness awards case-study videos, but what of their day-to-day work?

The stuff that forms their daily grind?

Rather like the fashion category (where it's all cheap as chips or super deluxe now), I suspect the middle ground of the commercial communications landscape is being hollowed out.

It's less about self-contained traditional advertising campaigns and more about 'tent-pole' brand communications pieces—combined with an ongoing 24/7 mass of everything else. The retail ads; the social postings; the activations; etc. etc.

In this context, as an agency you've got to be able to flex from one extreme to the other.

And half of this is about caring about the quality of the everyday — the potentially mundane that the agency needs to make the best of for the sake of the business and the brand.

And as per that client's credentials request, it's in the everyday that agencies are most likely to show their true colours. Just as with individuals, it's how they behave when they think no one is watching that really reveals character.

So while your agency's worst work will say a lot about your current client line up, it will also say a lot about you.

How much do you care about the business entrusted to you overall? How persistent are you? How much of a fight will you put up? What, ultimately, is your line in the sand? 

It's a very revealing request indeed.

Charles Wigley is chairman of BBH Asia Pacific

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