On the Campaign couch
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch

I’m a chief marketing officer with an unabashed passion for advertising. Is it ever wise to consider jumping the fence?

By all means consider. Considering doesn’t cost you anything. But, before you jump from consideration to activation, please read a few political autobiographies.

According to Enoch Powell, all political careers end in failure. And at the end of a career, what strikes the careerist most forcibly is the instant, overnight loss of authority.

After 25 years as an MP, a junior minister, a secretary of state, politicians become accustomed to respect. If they ever did, they’ve long since given up trying to differentiate the respect they command as themselves from that derived from the office they hold: the office and its holder become one. Deference and veneration are constant daily experiences and are taken for granted – until, that is, as is destined to happen, the office and the individual are abruptly divorced.

The effect is brutal. No ministerial car, no call from the Today programme, no obsequious laughter, no personal policeman. Those very same opinions that only yesterday were revered are today ignored. As the more honest of the autobiographies make clear, the process of self-reassessment can be devastating.

As a chief marketing officer, you will have received a great many invitations: to parties, platforms and presentations. Your speeches will have been acclaimed and your advertising judgment universally acknowledged. Jump that fence and, overnight, you’ll find out: whether you were loved for yourself or your chequebook.

It can be done. A great many years ago, Hugh Miles, the director of Cadbury and the most sought-after client in the marketing world, chose to leave Cadbury on a point of principle: he believed it was starving its brands of advertising investment.

At the age of 50, he joined an agency – below board level. It worked because Hugh was a man of great intelligence and much experience; he was listened to, both internally and externally, because he had worthwhile things to say. In his Cadbury days, he’d never relied on his custodianship of the chequebook; he knew that many of his fans were not fans of the man but fans of the position. So, at the agency, he prospered and became a deputy chairman. He was later to say that his decision to jump the fence was the best thing he’d ever done.

So what are you going to do?

Is it possible for a man to make a public declaration of support for more women in our industry without sounding patronising and paternalistic?

What a good question. My much-loved, much-lamented friend and mentor, Bernard Gutteridge, was fond of telling stories, almost always with glass in hand and surrounded by ladies.

One favourite ran as follows: "I was talking to a group of students the other day about communications and the nature of audiences and I said: ‘The trouble with women is that they always take the most general of statements personally.’ And one highly indignant girl said: ‘I don’t!’"

Bernard was fond of this story not because he thought it told you anything truthful about women but because he found it funny and it taught you quite a lot about communication. He wouldn’t tell it today.

As a breed, we men are now so nervous about saying anything at all about women that, given the choice, we prefer not to. So, as a committed supporter, I won’t.

The animal-rights lobby has started to criticise ads that feature CGI animals for ‘normalising’ the perception that animals are for entertainment. Should we listen?

If the use of animals in advertising is claimed to be harmful to animals, we should examine that claim seriously. At the same time, we should examine the use of animals in stories, in sport, in films, in television programmes and in life. As witnesses for the defence, however, I’d call Tom and Jerry. Since 1940, they’ve been steamrollered, fired from cannons, electrocuted, blown through brick walls and propelled into space. Yet it’s still quite rare for such indignities to be inflicted on real-life cats and mice.

‘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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