A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch

Jeremy, I’m a creative (have been for seven years now) and I’m at a crossroads. My present agency has said they want me to dedicate all my time to a single (very, very large and very, very (important) retail account. I’ve also been offered a job at another agency where my work will be more varied, but it’s not set up to handle huge accounts. Is one better than the other for my development?

Some people think they’re at a crossroads when they’re having to decide between a mocha and a macchiato. Yours is a real crossroads and you’re wise to give it serious thought.

The reason it’s a real crossroads is because of advertising’s habit of pigeonholing people – particularly, perhaps, creative people; and particularly, perhaps, creative people who are known to be good at retail advertising.

In fact, being good at retail advertising should qualify you to be good at advertising just about anything. You learn, the hard way, that one of advertising’s most fundamental roles is still to shift stuff; to get people to buy specific things before the shops shut tomorrow. You also learn that a retailer needs to speak as a brand as distinctively and as consistently as any manufacturer’s brand does.

If, as a creative, you can do both – if you can do the effective short term in a tone of voice that maintains and contributes to the long term – then you can count yourself as one of a very rare breed indeed. Les Binet and Peter Field’s masterful The Long And The Short Of It will be your bible, and you might even have read Bernice Fitz-Gibbon’s 1967 Macy’s, Gimbels, And Me – still as good an account of the art and craft (and fun) of retail advertising as you’ll find.

Such an ability, which combines cost-consciousness at a level to delight procurement with an equivalent flair for nuance and image, makes you better-equipped to tackle just about any brief than the most garlanded of pot-hunters.

So, in theory, your decision is an easy one. The crossroads presents you with no difficult dilemma. Your present agency is offering you a highly paid degree course in advertising that will develop your skills and experience and virtually guarantee you gainful employment for as long as you choose to accept it.
In theory.

In practice, you’re likely to be popped into that pigeonhole and imprisoned there for life. So if it’s advertising rather than retailing that turns you on, I’d opt for the agency that offers you variety.

Alternatively, accept the retail assignment – but with one non-nego­tiable clause: you will continue to be creatively responsible for at least one other non-retail account.

Dear Jeremy, I’ve got a close-knit creative team, one of whom is great and one of whom is not so great. People hesitate to work with them because of the weaker one. How can I tactfully split them up?

Be very careful. Teams are curious organisms. It’s entirely possible that the one who’s great is great only because of working with the one who isn’t. It can happen. So try this: pair this team with another team. A and B work together as before and so do C and D. But A also works with D and B also works with C. (I hope you’re following.) They’ll resist furiously, of course, but you’ll learn a lot; and it may not be what you expect.

Why weren’t men used in the Protein World ‘beach body ready’ ads?

Because they wouldn’t have spawned millions of pounds of free publicity. (You’re new to advertising, I take it?)

I have a suspicion that our industry’s heavy internet use is destroying our ability to connect with each other. Do you agree?

Yes. "There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by e-mail and iChat. That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘wow’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas." – Steve Jobs

Dear Jeremy, I think I saw you in the Wild Honey restaurant in Mayfair last Thursday. Did you have a good lunch?

Excellent, thank you.

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington, TW11 9BE