There is a difference between bribery and corporate hospitality

Last week my lead agency kindly took one of my team and me out for dinner and a show. It was very pleasant, and much good wine was quaffed, splendid food consumed… and Nurofen swallowed the following day.

Secret Marketer

But it wasn’t all booze and posh nosh. Over the course of the evening, I had quite an intense discussion with the managing director of the agency about our business relationship. As is often the way in many agency/client engagements, our respective teams are in continual dialogue but the respective heads of those businesses rarely get time together – certainly not to discuss wider strategic issues. And relaxing over a glass of something does let you be more open than perhaps you might be in the constraints of an office environment.

In our business, we have a hospitality register, so first thing the following morning I had to enter the details of my evening – where we had gone, how much I perceived it to have cost, and my business rationale for accepting such generosity. I had no problems filling it in but I suspected that someone somewhere in my organisation would look at the entry with disdain, not least because it isn’t the first piece of hospitality I’ve enjoyed in the past 12 months.

If someone were to deride this behaviour, they’d be wrong to because business relationships require an emotional and sometimes intangible input to make them work. To rely solely on functional engagement, where business is the only conversation and the agenda is carefully managed, can only lead to shallow relationships. There are few industries where your entire business can be conducted through a pre-determined contract – situations often crop up where you need someone to go a little bit further, to think a little bit differently or generally respond to an emotional trigger in a situation.

Bribery and corruption legislation is there for good reason but people need to understand the difference between that and corporate hospitality. The latter has a critical role to play in industry, and is something that I strongly support – or at least as long as I’m invited.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here