IN terms of quantity, Hongkong is in the first division when it comes to food and beverage advertising. Our newspapers, magazines, TV screens and mail boxes are constantly filled with requests to ''sample exquisite, mouth-watering cuisine set to a breathtaking view of Victoria Harbour''. It is a sad truth that virtually all F & B advertising in Hongkong is the same: bland, boring and - perhaps most damming of all - completely unappetising. Little wonder then that many F & B advertisers have begun to doubt the efficacy (not to mention the cost efficiency) of advertising. A growing number of restaurant managers for example believe that word of mouth is the best form of advertising, particularly in a place the size of Hongkong; and of course it is free. But advertising can be a marvellous ally to any F & B outlet - if used properly. Unfortunately, F & B clients seem to be a rather conservative bunch, preferring to spend their advertising dollars on insipid, ineffectual advertising. And when it does not work, they moan that their advertising agency was to blame. ''Kicking agency butt'' is a favourite client pastime and the easy route out for a client whose advertising has not worked. And because, in the current economic climate, most agencies cannot afford to lose even the smallest account they will probably take a silent beating. If you are not happy with your F & B advertising, if you think that it is not as effective as it could be, don't naturally assume that it is your ad agency's fault. It could be, but the chances are that you are the one responsible. Having been across the spectrum of F & B advertising in Hongkong during the past seven years, I can safely say that most F & B managers have a very firm, fixed impression of what their advertising should be like and what it should say. More than in any other field. They want their personality stamped on the advertising, not the restaurant's. They straitjacket their ad agency into producing some highly dubious work, and often add insult to injury by getting their finger into the art direction and copy pies too. Then there is the kind of client who doesn't give a damn. One of my former clients, now the manager of a leading hotel eatery, put his finger on it: ''I am given an advertising budget every year. I have to spend it or head office will simply take it awayfrom me. To be perfectly honest, I really don't care how it is spent - just so long as it is.'' However, this is not an open brief for the ad agency to strut their creative stuff. Client's who don't ''give a damn'' often turn out to be the worst kind - they have no respect for advertising, no belief in it and treat their ad agency accordingly. Of course, you might belong to that endangered species, the client who can stand aside from his own ego to demand quality advertising. In which case your agency might be to blame if your advertising is not working. In some of the larger ad agencies they all too often assume that the client will not buy a ''decent'' ad or campaign and give him what he wants - formula advertising, createdby junior art directors and writers. With the smaller agencies it is a simple case of ''Your wish, oh mighty client, is my command''. If you really feel that your agency is not giving you 100 per cent, then fire them. Otherwise, give them the chance to prove to you that advertising works. And keep in mind that you don't have to have a food shot in every ad, you don't have to use up all the adjectives in the dictionary to describe the quality of food and the wonderful ambience of your establishment. Give your advertising some life and a little humour (yes, humour - it works wonders for F & B). After all, the whole point of advertising is to be noticed, to be seen. Not to hide among the trash. The bottom line is: if you are not prepared to go out on a limb, take a chance and be different then the chances are that your advertising will fail and you will have been proved correct in your suspicions - that advertising is just a waste of money. David Barlow is creative director of Hongkong-based advertising agency, Ad Attack.