The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

What Planners Can Learn From Butchers …
June 20, 2011, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment

A long time ago, I was told “… you will never find a poor butcher”.

While I can’t remember who told me this, I can remember what they said when I asked why …

“Because they make sure everything can be sold”.

They charge a premium for the best cuts.

A good price for the more popular parts.

And then package what’s left over to maximise revenue … from sausages through to ‘stock’ for stew.

In short, one animal can be sold in such a way that the money that it provides more than exceeds the money that it cost to buy.

Now compare that to adland.

Many undercharge what they offer.

Most have to negotiate on what they end up getting.

The profit margin they get is laughable for the time and effort they put in.

And almost everything is created in a bespoke fashion so that once it’s been handed over, it can never be used or sold to someone else again.


What’s even funnier is that adland loves to go on and on about how they’re business geniuses but in reality, so much of what they do demonstrates they’re anything but.

When you start a business, cash flow is the killer.

To say you have to watch your income and outgoings is an understatement … and yet I think most agencies would benefit from pretending they were in exactly the same situation.


Because when you start a business you have 2 choices … go cheap or find ways to make the money you need to do all the things you want.

At cynic we chose the latter.

The problem was, we had so many things we wanted to do, we needed to find ways to make way more money than normal agencies would get from their clients.

And this became our first brief.


We weren’t talking about ‘quality of work’ or a ‘clearly defined positioning’ … they were conditions of us wanting to start a company, we were talking about practical things, things we could or should do, that appealed to clients wallets.

And you know what? We came up with shitloads.

Sure some weren’t too successful, I think our ‘loose lips’ campaign – where clients paid us to act as an ‘early negative news warning system’ [remember, this was way before things like Twitter] – got about 10 subscriptions in 8 or so years … however our royalty scheme remuneration policy basically not only kept us in business, but gave us access to the sorts of briefs adland would kill their parents for a shot at.

However the one I want to talk about is how we followed the philosophy of butchers to sell the same research countless times.

When we started, we got quite a lot of projects where companies wanted our view on stuff.

The future of travel.
The definition of service.
The truth behind music choice.

Rather than approach the challenge specifically around our clients request, we thought about who else might find this information valuable and then went off and talked to people [in that industry] to find out what they’d specifically like to know.

Depending on the level of interest [or our ability to pre-sell the report to multiple parties] we would offer our original client the option to pay less for the work if they agreed to letting us reuse/resell the findings … with the guarantee [1] we’d only do this with brands outside of their core category and industry and [2] all confidential data would be removed.

While some clients were skeptical, most were quite happy to do this as the difference in cost was considerable … which meant that once the work was done, we were able to re-edit our findings [because we had included breadth of views and exploration in the overall process] and resell them for a significant fee.

Suddenly our report on the definition of service for Virgin Atlantic was able to be repackaged and sold to McDonalds and W hotels – which meant we had suddenly just tripled our income for not very much extra work.

Of course it didn’t always work out – sometimes we lowered our fee for a client and then found no one else was interested in buying the work we’d done – however this didn’t stop us from trying because as a small business, looking for ways to maximise our income was a necessity, not a luxury.

Everyday clients ask planners for views and perspectives on stuff.

Stuff that goes beyond the category and into understanding everyday life.

And everyday, planners present this information to clients in the knowledge most will nod their head and then place it on their bookshelf, never to be seen again.

While I appreciate it’s hard to get paid for this sort of stuff – especially if it’s within the scope of work of the annual agreement – I believe planners should not regard this as ‘someone else’s problem’ because if you want to do work that excites and enthralls you, you should look for ways to make this happen, of which obtaining the revenue so your bosses can’t bitch to you about ‘wasted time’ is one of them.

51 Comments so far
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Great post Robert. It seems so obvious but few agencies do it. I also like how you’re not laying all the responsibility of this inaction at senior managements feet. It’s easy to blame them for lack of individual power and authority but in my experience, very few would even think this way and I admit I was one of them prior to being “shown the cynic light”.

Comment by Pete

and we fucking paid you. how the fuck did you get so lucky.

Comment by andy@cynic

So this is your excuse for having only written one presentation in your life. I know you think changing the background pictures every 6 months makes people think it’s new, but it doesn’t, even more so if you’re presenting it to people who have worked with you for some years.

You’re still like a butcher, you just sell one piece of meat that’s tough and past its sell by date but you get away with it because it’s frozen and you package it up nicely. That’s another valuable lesson for planners right there.

Comment by DH

prime fucking cut insulting there dave. take note billy.

Comment by andy@cynic

You mean you didn’t buy it? Bollocks, that means I will have to write a new one afterall.

Comment by Rob

at least youre evolving your fucking fonts. theyre still uglier than susan boyle at 6am but its progress.

Comment by andy@cynic

What have planners and sausages got in common?
Both full of disgusting shit.

Comment by Billy Whizz

PSFK breaking news: butchers are the new rockstars

Comment by niko

Nice Niko.

Comment by Billy Whizz


Comment by peggy

10 points.

Comment by Rob

What have planners and sausages got in common?
Both are filled with scraps from other animals efforts.

Comment by Billy Whizz

You should have stopped after the first.

Comment by DH

Not my fault if my humor is too smart for you Dave.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Oh dear – just as it was going so well …

Comment by Rob

What Peter said.
And Niko.

Comment by George

Planners sticking together. How fucking original.

Comment by Billy Whizz

And I have met a poor butcher so that’s your statement blown out the water. Can’t remember where but he had shit wheels.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Life is so much easier on Planet Billy.
Not better, just easier.

Comment by George


Comment by Billy Whizz

What George said.

Comment by Pete

5 reasons i went along with this planning masturbation bollocks.

1 i wanted to see if there really was one born every fucking minute.
2 got the planning fuckers out under my feet.
3 made them do some semi real fucking work. for once.
4 kept the fuckers busy and quiet.
5 cash.

good attempt at a joke billy. you fucked it by goin too far but the first one is much fucking better than id ever expect from you.

if i see planners are butchers and butchers are rockstars anyfuckingwhere, i will hunt them down and show them the various fucking butchers cuts up close and very fucking personal.

Comment by andy@cynic

You think we didn’t know that already?

Comment by Rob

it must be your fucking amazing insight that told you.

Comment by andy@cynic

The Butcher Proprietary Tool would actually make more sense than most the ones agencies like to brag about during pitches.

You’re also right that it’s easy to bitch about upper management being set in their ways, while sat there doing nothing to change it.

Nice way to start the week.

Comment by Rafik

Wait, you sold our report to others?

Comment by Lee Hill

I didn’t, George did.

Comment by Rob

my biggest frustration with advertising agencies is those that charge more for artworks / percentage of media spends than they charge for an idea.

if you look into the implications of that statement, the lesson learned from that approach to be soul-crushing to anyone with half a brain that works in the industry.

thankfully i’ve managed to, wherever i’ve worked so far, tip the balance the other way, but that I have to do it in the first place rankles, and I suspect always will — in this industry or most others.

Comment by Aditya

^ a few sytnax errors, my bad.

Comment by Aditya

Trust me, compared to most of the buggers on here, you’re errors are nothing. Good point about ‘brain crushing’ … I find it astounding how agencies talk about creativity and yet so many create environments [both physical and attitudinal] that are designed to seemingly sap any sense of imagination and collaboration whatsoever.

Comment by Rob

the last time i checked brain wasnt sold at a premium price. sirloin though, which happens to sit next to the spine. coincidence? 😉

Comment by peggy

Great post. You should get a beef injection more often.

Comment by Simon Kendrick

If only we could price ‘ideas and creative’ in the way brands place a value on ‘brand’.*

“Have a break, have a KitKat” = £10m
“It does exactly what it says on the tin” = £5m
“DFS Sale Bollocks” = 50p

I’m sure even Andy can get behind that idea, especially if a share goes back to the creatives!

*Though sadly we all know if this happened clients would just throw ideas away rather than pay.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Film companies, trikes and pimps = priceless.

Comment by john

This is a very good post but you forgot to mention the importance of triple checking the name inside the document has been altered to reflect the name of the company who are buying the edited version of the paper.
Not that you would forget such a thing.

Comment by Bazza

not katerinas finest fucking hour was it. but i blame campbell and auntie. everyfuckingthing that ever went tits up lead back to one of those meddling bastards and i include iraq, 9/11 and Thr state of lindsey fucking lohans career.

Comment by andy@cynic

And here I’ve been, wondering why no one made the point about agencies butchering ideas…..?

Comment by Alex

because youre dealing with fucking amateurs alex.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Marcus


Comment by andy@cynic

… which explains the meat wars incidents from several years ago.

actually, the first post of yours i ever read, rob, was about sausages and the substandard bacon. and i’m pretty sure i prefaced my comment on here with ‘i’m sure this blog isn’t like this all the time’. you corrected me. now i know it to be true. it’s always about meat.

despite this, today’s post is excellent. as are the comments – you guys are on fire.

Comment by lauren

you mean my masterful fucking comments have raised every other fuckers game. thats what you meant to type isnt it lauren. dont answer, we all know im right. as per fucking usual.

Comment by andy@cynic

just been reminded campbell isn’t always a twat who writes a blog full of planning wank, hes occasionally a twat that makes the whole fucking planning pile of bollocks seem semi useful.

even northern groper compliments him and he fucking detests any bastard who listens to queen so it must be good. or it could be good compared to campbells usual standard. thats the fucking likely one.

to all you planning groupie twats who read this shit and think campbell is a nice guy who is always willing to help, check out his comments and see that under the florence fucking nightingale persona, hes a nasty little fuck who can smell bullshit from 1000 paces. not so much of a surprise when you see the size of his conk but hes as sharp as its pointy.

Comment by andy@cynic

i seem to have complimented the bastard. this was not fucking intentional so i must be coming down with man bastard flu. only explanation.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by john

now wouldnt it be great if there would be an example of a grade a presentation provided? i think thats what the judges should do. i dont have time for it, sorry 😛

Comment by peggy

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