The Mysterious Case of the £5,000 Refund – and What it Teaches.

This morning I was alarmed to hear a client wanted a £5,000 refund.

So when Mike the Shark – my financial maestro – said somebody wanted their money back my morning tranquility was destroyed

Not so much by the amount of money – but for another reason.

In the 4 years since we first offered our No Quibble Money-Back Guarantee on creative work nobody has ever taken us up.

(I can’t believe we’re 100% successful, but we seem to get pretty close).

After a quiet moment of mutual misery we agreed it had to be paid, but how this happened is instructive if you run a business.

It had nothing to do with whether our creative work was good or not.

Apparently 3 1/2 years ago a U.S. client paid us a deposit of £5000 for some creative work.

We sent that client the briefing documengt- but that brief was never completed and returned to us.

Yes: they took that long to discover they had paid some folks in England all this money  – yet had nothing in exchange.

What are the morals of this story?

To start with if I say I’m going to do something, I do it. Even if it’s as painful as giving people their money back.

But also there are two things I keep harping on about.

All good creative work is dependent on a good brief.

We go to a great deal of trouble with our briefing process which involves filling in a fairly detailed document.

Many a time i’ve been given vague instructions by someone late at night in a bar, or written on the back of an envelope.

We go to a great deal of trouble with our briefing process which involves filling in a fairly detailed document.

But if you don’t give a good brief you won’t get good work.

And if you don’t give any brief you won’t get any work at all.

A further moral was pointed out by General George S Patton:

“A good plan executed violently now is better than a perfect plan next week.”

God alone knows how much more money these guys could have made in the last three and half years if they’d filled in the brief and sent it back to us.

Pretty much everything we do works, and a lot of it works spectacularly well.

But whether you deal with us or not, for God’s sake get on with whatever you’re trying to do.

About the Author


In 2003, the Chartered Institute of Marketing named Drayton one of 50 living individuals who have shaped today’s marketing.

He has worked in 55 countries with many of the world’s greatest brands. These include American Express, Audi, Bentley, British Airways, Cisco, Columbia Business School, Deutsche Post, Ford, IBM, McKinsey, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nestle, Philips, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever, Visa and Volkswagen.

Drayton has helped sell everything from Airbus planes to Peppa Pig. His book, Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, out in 17 languages, has been the UK’s best seller on the subject every year since 1982. He has also run his own businesses in the U.K., Portugal and Malaysia.

He was a main board member of the Ogilvy Group, a founding member of the Superbrands Organisation, one of the first eight Honorary Fellows of the Institute of Direct Marketing and one of the first three people named to the Hall of Fame of the Direct Marketing Association of India. He has also been given Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Caples Organisation in New York and Early To Rise in Florida.


  1. Joel Altman

    I’d love to see what that briefing document looks like.

    1. Drayton

      Hi Joel,

      You can download the General Briefing Template from here.



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