On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: Jeremy, I know advertising involves long hours. But I always seem to be the last out of the office, switching off the lights. Is this the result of my workload or do I have time management issues?

A: From schooldays onwards, all work may be divided into what, for convenience, we might call application and creation. Until I know into which category your present work falls, I can't helpfully advise.

Application is what most learning demands: whether you're setting out to learn all there is to know about the Tudors or all there is to know about the twist-wrapped confectionery market. It requires diligence. Some people are naturally diligent and application comes easily to them: they seldom if ever put off their work and go to the pub. At school, they were called swots - which is jolly unfair because diligent people who get the work done when it needs to be done are extremely valuable and we all need them. The trouble is, we seldom admire them.

Creation is what you have to do when you're then asked to write an essay about the Tudors or a planning document about the twist-wrapped confectionery market. You're expected to take knowledge that's available to the entire world; then distil it, interpret it, challenge it and make sense of it: and from it construct a shape, a story, a working hypothesis that no-one in the entire world has ever constructed before.

People who aren't full of apprehension when asked to write an essay about the Tudors don't write very good essays. People who aren't full of apprehension when asked to write a planning document about the twist-wrapped confectionery market don't write very good planning documents.

The difference between application and creation can be seen at its sharpest in the quite different reasons that prevent people from getting on with them. The main thing that stops people getting on with application is laziness. The main thing that stops people getting on with creation is fear.

So to return to your personal predicament. If most of your work demands nothing much beyond application - acquiring knowledge, drafting contact reports, fixing meetings, keeping people in the loop - then you really shouldn't be the last out of the office all the time. You should learn to manage your time more efficiently and, importantly, to delegate. You're not being idle when you delegate: you're giving others a chance to learn on the job and giving yourself a chance to think. Carry on as you are and you'll be the perennial swot; seldom admired and rarely honoured.

But if much of your work demands creation, then you'd better resign yourself to being last out of the office for the rest of your working life. The only emotion that overcomes the fear of having to think of something new is the fear of the moment when it becomes clear to everyone else that you've failed to think of something new. Those who are hot on diligence and appli-cation find it incomprehensible that, when the new-business team has had the brief for six weeks, they're not even ready for a rehearsal until two o'clock in the morning of the final pitch. Every bloody time.

Well, it's not incomprehensible; it's inevitable. Only the imminent, looming, immutable, final, final deadline forces you either to think of something amazing or to accept the truth that what you've got is the best you're going to get. If that's why you're last out of the office, good on you. I wonder to which category you believe yourself to belong? (I have my own opinion, but it would be quite wrong to reveal it.)

Q: Are blogs pointless?

A: All blogs have a point, if only for one person. And for a dispiriting number of blogs, that's where it stops. Such bloggers would be better advised to write to themselves, since that's what they're doing anyway. But we ought to celebrate the fact that, for the first time ever, almost all human beings can make their voices heard without the intervention of a publisher. How many survive and prosper will, of course, depend on their native ability and a rigorous form of Darwinism. It won't be many.

Q: I've just started using Facebook, but I just don't see the point of it. Do you think it's necessary to be using these social networking sites if you work in advertising?

A: Not any longer.

Q: What is the ideal length of a presentation to a potential new client in a creative pitch?

A: One hour, 16-and-a-half minutes. Not including Q&A, obviously.

"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, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.