Blunt Instrument

An ad agency in Sweden has come up with a test for new Account Manager involving James Blunt –

In addition to the usual CV and cover letter, content agency Borg & Owilli is instructing applicants to “sell us James Blunt.”

“Can you convince us that half the planet is way off the mark and James Blunt’s new pop album is absolutely world class?” the job ad explains.

“We’re looking for people with a creative streak, but also someone who is such a good seller they can convince the entire office that James Blunt’s new album should be played through the speakers on repeat.”

They have form for this type of test for applicants – last year they wanted them to try and convince an American to vote for Trump – which turned out not to be that fucking difficult unfortunately!

I was a client before we started our agency and worked with JWT who handled most of our advertising. In fact one of our partners at KWS (Geoff Weedon – he’s the W, obviously) was a creative director at JWT before we opened up shop.

JWT had a copy test for anyone who wanted to join their creative department and I persuaded our account guy to let me have a copy (sic). I lost it long ago sadly but remember a couple of the questions –

  1. Explain toast to a Martian
  2. Here are two identical pound coins – sell me the one on the left

The best answers I saw were – 1. “Billi hubba boo bi bubba hoo boo hub bi hub billi boo.” (see below)
And 2. That one was given to me by Lady Diana (I think Geoff wrote that one)

I wish I still had the test.

The original idea for the copy test came from an ad run by JWT New York back in the 60’s



If you were applying for a copywriting job in the 60s, the chances were that you would be shown into a room the size of a broom cupboard, given a pencil and paper, presented with a brain-teasing question like one of those above and given an hour to answer it.

In the days before creatives arrived for jobs from adver­tising degree courses, the copy test was the way many agencies attempted to find copywriters with the right kind of quirky imagination.

Geoff, James (the K) and I, all worked with a Allen Thomas both at JWT and Davidson Pearce and I love this story about Allen –

What’s more, the test could backfire spectacularly. A story that’s now part of advertising folklore concerns the late Allen Thomas, J Walter Thompson’s one-time worldwide creative director.

He had been sifting through a pile of candidates’ responses to the question: how would you describe a piece of toast to an alien in 25 words or less?

One answer knocked him sideways. It read: “Billi hubba boo bi bubba hoo boo hub bi hub billi boo.”

Thomas was sufficiently impressed to hire the writer immediately. Some time later, he asked the creative department how he was getting on, only to hear that he had been fired.

“Oh dear. What happened?” Thomas asked. “We gave him a brief to do a poster for Mr Kipling’s new home-baked blackcurrant tarts,” he was told. “And all he could write was ‘billi hubba boo billi bubba hoo’.”

Allen was a nice guy who taught me a lot when I was a client – I was sorry to hear he had passed away.

The state of some of the ads that are now on air I think it might be a good idea to bring back the copy test!

I suspect that it’s not entirely the agencies at fault – Geoff always said that “clients get the advertising they deserve”. Very true in my experience and as clients, James and I always accepted that if our ads were bad that we accepted 50% of the blame for approving them. Although in my case it should probably have been 80%.



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