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How to Get Ahead in Advertising is a 1989 British film written and directed by Bruce Robinson and starring Richard E. Grant and Rachel Ward. The title is a pun and can be literally taken as "How to Get a Head in Advertising".

How to Get Ahead in Advertising
How to Get Ahead in Advertising.jpg
Directed byBruce Robinson
Produced byDavid Wimbury
George Harrison
Denis O'Brien
Ray Cooper
Written byBruce Robinson
StarringRichard E. Grant
Rachel Ward
Richard Wilson
Music by
CinematographyPeter Hannan
Distributed byWarner Bros. (USA)
Virgin Films (UK)
Release date
  • 5 May 1989 (1989-05-05) (U.S.)
Running time
94 min
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$418,053



The movie is a farce about a mentally unstable advertising executive, Denis Dimbleby Bagley (played by Grant), who suffers a nervous breakdown while making an advert for pimple cream. Ward plays his long-suffering but sympathetic wife. Richard Wilson plays John Bristol, Bagley's boss.

Bagley has a crisis of conscience about the ethics of advertising, which leads to mania. He then develops a boil on his right shoulder that comes to life with a face and voice. The voice of the boil, although uncredited, is that of Bruce Robinson. The boil takes a cynical and unscrupulous view of the advertising profession in contrast to Bagley's new-found ethical concerns. Eventually, Bagley decides to have the boil removed in hospital but moments before he is taken into the operating room, the boil quickly grows into a replica of Bagley's head (only with a moustache) and covers Bagley's original head, asking doctors to lance it, which is done since nobody has noticed the switch from left to right nor the new moustache. Bagley, now with the boil head, moustache, and personality (the movie's third personification from Grant after the stressed executive and the raving lunatic) returns home to celebrate his wedding anniversary, with the original head merely resembling a boil on his left shoulder. The "boil" eventually withers but doesn't die, yet Bagley resumes his advertising career rejuvenated and ruthless, although without his wife, who decides to leave his new cruel persona.



As of November 2017, the film holds a rating of 57% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 14 reviews.[1]

In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel in 2019, Richard E. Grant said that Jim Carrey called him a genius for his work in the film.[2]


  1. ^ "How to Get Ahead in Advertising".
  2. ^ Richard E. Grant on Oscar Nomination, Steve Martin, Star Wars & French Kissing. Jimmy Kimmel Live!. 8 February 2019. Event occurs at 1:07. Retrieved 30 May 2019.

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