VC Wins Merit Badge For Honesty

Johnnie Moore and Adrian Trenholm point to Bessemer Venture Partners anti-portfolio. In other words, their miscalculations, which in this case cost them hundreds of millions (or more).
It’s hard to imagine someone in advertising being this real. Can you imagine an ad agency showcasing their anti-portfolio? “Hey, look at all the truly stupid ads we’ve made!”

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. From an agency perspective, it would probably be too big a risk for it to say here’s *all* our dirty laundry, but there may be ways to do it. For example, if I was briefed to write an ad agency anti-portfolio, I would consider using:
    1. “Pitches we didn’t win.” Showcase the ideas which clients didn’t like, so potential clients can compare the “failed” ad agency with the one that was appointed.
    2. “Back to the drawing board.” Take a successful campaign, then show the truly awful ideas which were rejected in favour of the winner. Educates potential clients about the creative process.
    3. “Ads which won awards but which didn’t shift any products.” Do them as case studies – educate the potential client that awards don’t always mean sales. Highlight what the agency and client learned from the failed campaign and how both do things differently – and better – now.
    4. “2nd time lucky.” Cases studies of failed campaigns which the agency then tweaked or did over. Shows flexibility and responsivness.
    It’s like Johnnie said in his post, there’s pressure to promise perfection, but perfection can’t really be promised. Some ads work, some don’t, and it’s not always the agency’s fault. The agencies which step up and talk about their failures honestly are the ones to watch.