On the Campaign couch
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch

I’m a creative but I’d like to run my own agency one day. Should I switch and become an account man for a few years to be taken seriously?

Thank you. What a fascinating question. It contains so many questionable assumptions, many of them internally contradictory, that I’ve no idea where to start. I suppose the beginning is as good a place as any.

You say: "I’m a creative but I’d like to run my own agency one day." That "but" suggests that there is something about being creative that militates against being able to run things. Do you actually believe this to be the case? Or do you believe that, so poor is the reputation of creative people for being able to run things, that, even if they could, everyone else would assume they couldn’t – which in effect would mean they weren’t?

Or do you mean that running things demands time rather than talent; and since talent is a rarer commodity than time (which even untalented people have at their disposal), it’s a waste of talent asking creative people to run things (although they’re perfectly capable of doing so) when they could more usefully be getting on with creating things?

Then you suggest, as if on a whim, that you might switch to being an account person for a few years. If a senior suit told you he might switch to being a creative for a few years, you would probably suggest that he should first demonstrate some evidence of creativity.

In contemplating your own switch to becoming an account person, however, you’re clearly assuming that account persons require no training, no special skills or attributes (such as GCSE-level numeracy, for example) and no apprenticeship. Yet the reason you want to do this job, for which no talent and no training are apparently required, is so that you can start to be taken seriously.

Here, then, are your assumptions to date. The leader of a business whose only purpose in life is to make advertisements will be severely disadvantaged if he knows a great deal about the making of advertisements. Whereas a person who has never made an advertisement in his life will be listened to with profound respect. So it follows that, if you are to run your own advertising agency, you must first rid yourself of any reputation you might have for knowing about advertising.

Before your putative backers come up with the few millions you’ll need to get started, they’ll first want to see your business plan. I’m afraid yours will strike them as being the typical product of a creative person who knows nothing about business.

Why does everyone keep talking about native advertising as if it is new?

Conferences. A very long time ago, delegates needed conferences. They were few enough, and far enough apart, to serve a useful purpose: they allowed people working in the same trade to catch up on new stuff and talk to each other about it. Now, there are so many conferences that old subjects have to be constantly recycled under new names. That charmless word "content" – which never needed to be employed for this purpose in the first place – has been tweaked and tortured until it’s painfully given birth to an entire litter of ill-shapen labels all meaning roughly the same thing: "The following words may have some intrinsic value and contain some intrinsic truth, but their primary purpose is to leave you feeling better about the objects they describe. No external editorial judgment has been exercised. Costs have been borne by the objects’ owners."

My agency has just lost a high-profile account it has had for years. I’m worried we’re at the top of a downward spiral – should I leave now while I still can?

No quicker way of proving that your worry was entirely justified: good thinking. (Your colleagues may feel differently.)

I love going on a TV shoot – the decent hotels, free booze and food, and a chance to have a crack at some talent. One of the perks of being a senior suit. But at what point does it become undignified to go? I’m nearly 50.

It became undignified 25 years ago.

‘Ask Jeremy’, a collection of Jeremy Bullmore’s Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10.Telephone (020) 8267 4919
Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington, TW11 9BE

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