My biggest gaffe: why I (shouldn't have) ripped into my client's jeans ad

Martin Ballantine, managing director of Piracy Corporation, recalls the time a threat from an adman led to him talking himself out of an account.

I was an account executive working on a failing jeans brand. We had to work closely with its ad agency – one of those multi-ego types, Simons, Pratt, Clown, Dick & Johnny, or something – very arrogant, brash and 'thrusting', but the client’s golden boys. 

I'd always felt uncomfortable on the account – working on a fashion brand just isn't me. Especially when I had to attend a two-day sales and marketing meeting – on my own.

So, off I trot to some ghastly Alan Partridge-esque hotel in the middle of nowhere. First up is a two-hour catwalk show, followed by a Q&A session with middle-aged salesmen wearing jeans designed for teenagers. Then, it's me – I'm to talk about amplification of the brand's new TV ad. As I'm about to stand up, the ad agency account director leans over and says: "If you call our new film 'cool', I'll smack you in the mouth."

"Blimey, better not!," I thought. Then: "Did he really call an ad a 'film'?"

I still get a warm glow when I recall his puce face after hearing "cool ad" no less than three times.

Alas, my triumph of arsey adjective application soon turned into misery.

First came the massive bollocking from my MD. Then, orders to report daily on what I had accomplished on the account. And, finally, a week later, dragged in front of both my MD and client for a humiliating dissection of my work, attitude and character.

All this was topped off with being unceremoniously removed from the account.

Every cloud…

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