Img250“I’m an operations guy, but there was a time, just after business school, when I was a candidate for a career in advertising,” a friend told me yesterday. “Leo Burnett flew me to Chicago for interviews. I had a great afternoon and dinner with my potential peers at the agency. The next morning, I did great in a series of interviews. I did great — until lunch.”

“At lunch, I met with a managing director,” he explains. “And she asked me a question that I answered badly. Badly enough to end my conversation with the agency and with a career in advertising.”

What was the question?

Imagine that you are working for a client that makes cat food. And you find out that their premium cat food is actually exactly the same as their regular cat food. What would you think about that?

Before I tell you what his answer was, let me ask you: What would you think about that?

His answer, of course, was, “That would be a problem.” And thus ended his career in advertising.

To be sure, there are ethical problems with the simplest answer: “No problem.” Do you see the ethical problem? If so, then you’d better not apply for a job in most advertising agencies. (Come to Young Isaac. We don’t sell “premium cat food.”)

The way I see it: the woman’s question saved both my friend and Leo Burnett a lot of time! After all, Leo Burnett ‘s iconic Morris the Cat was selling 9 Lives, a premium cat food brand.