Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 24 July 2009 12:00AM

Q: I run a charity and our agency has come up with a very shocking ad that I just know will get banned by the Advertising Standards Authority. The agency has said that getting banned is, in fact, a good thing and can attract more attention than not getting banned. Shall I go along with its advice?

A: Since attracting attention is your charity's main goal, here are three other suggestions.

- Employ a dodgy finance person and issue him with a no-limits corporate credit card. Within a year, he'll have taken his mistress on a five-star holiday to Mauritius, bought a Maserati and been arrested.

- Invest your charity's reserve account in an Angolan-based company that is tantalisingly close to perfecting a revolutionary technique for turning seaweed into gold bricks.

- Submit a bylined piece to the Daily Mail strongly supporting the BNP claim that hordes of European Union immigrants are making such overwhelming demands on UK charities that millions of white nationals are being deprived of their birthright.

All three will guarantee you fantastic coverage; none will incur any charge on your publicity budget; and the third might even earn you a few bob.

Put these ideas to your agency. If it advises against them, ask in what way, on points of principle, they differ from the agency's own recommendation?

Q: I'm a creative and I have been handed a brief for a client that hasn't done TV advertising for ten years, and they've decided that now is the time to produce a big TV relaunch campaign. Where do you begin with a brand that has no heritage of TV ads? Do you think that's easier than creatively directing for a client with a heritage of great TV advertising?

A: Just because a brand has no TV heritage doesn't mean that it has no heritage. It's only the young, say people under 70, who believe brands and network television to be indivisible. Brands existed long before television and many, like this one, have survived for years without its help.

I'm glad your client's returning to television; it's probably sensible. But his brand didn't become invisible while it was away. Users will still think well of it; non-users will still prefer alternatives; and even the most inarticulate of consumers will find ways of revealing its personality.

Initially, as a challenge to yourself, deny yourself words completely. Sum up the brand entirely visually - and do the same for its competitors. It's extremely difficult and wonderfully liberating. After that, the new, mega-TV relaunch script should be a doddle.

Q: I work for an agency that handles advertising for one of the major political parties. I've been asked to work on the account, but I bat for the other team (politically speaking). My inclination is to refuse to work on the business, but that would piss off my bosses. Should I sacrifice my beliefs for the sake of my job progression?

A: I'm sorry you refer to "the other team" as if there were only two. But let that pass. Let's examine these beliefs of yours that you're concerned about sacrificing.

Presumably you believe that the job of your agency is to put the best possible competitive case for its clients' goods and services? And presumably you've been happy enough to help put the best possible competitive case for brands that you personally have seldom, if ever, bought? So to decline to work on a political brand, simply because it's not your brand of choice, is already a betrayal of one set of beliefs just as your willing agreement to do so would be the betrayal of another.

But I suspect it's not your principles you're worried about as much as your political mates. "Jesus, Gordy! How could you?" And I must say, that would be enough to deter me. I'd know perfectly well that whatever I did, it would be most unlikely, on its own, to swing the result of a General Election. But I'd still live with the constant, cowardly fear of being found out; which I certainly would be.

So if I were you, I'd forget about beliefs and standards and principles and concentrate on mate maintenance. Just tell your management that your girlfriend (brother, flatmate, godfather) is working for the other lot and that if the press got hold of it, it would be deeply embarrassing not only for the party in question but even more so for the agency.

Once you've decided to abandon two principles, you might as well abandon them all. And by doing so, gain a quite undeserved reputation as a man of principle.

- "Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4683. Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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