A: I've just been reading a book called Understanding Advertising. Here's an extract from the preface: "Advertising is made up of so many elements that it is probably among the most complex studies of this modern age. There are specialists in each division of it. No one person in a short span of time can hope to learn all there is to know about advertising ... yet, in a reasonable space of time, an intelligent study can give a comprehensive grasp of the fundamentals, and prevent one from being led astray by passing fads and ephemeral 'isms'."
As you've probably guessed from the prose style, Understanding Advertising was written in 1931. Seventy-nine years later, there's still a need to protect ourselves from being led astray by passing fads and ephemeral "isms".
If I were starting out again, I'd want to work in an advertising agency. But only if that agency understood the word advertising to mean what the ignorant public believes the word advertising to mean: and that is, just about anything to do with the promotion of goods, services and ideas in any medium. If that's what advertising means to them, who are not only the ignorant public but also our audience, then that's what advertising should mean to us.
Get a few focus groups together and try this experiment. Ask them to name their most admired brands. Then ask them from which of the following sources they have gained most of their feelings about those brands: digital, media, advertising, experiential or branding.
Do not expect Dorothy to reply: "Personally, I find experiential the most potent brand stimulus from a functional standpoint. Digital primarily affects me for immediacy and access while I still derive most of my cues about brand personality from a combination of outdoor, ambient and, to a lesser extent, PR."
Dorothy won't say anything of the kind. Dorothy will look at you blankly and conclude that you are a great deal more ignorant than she is. And Dorothy will be right.
Not all new advertising opportunities are passing fads or ephemeral "isms" but existing establishments seldom pioneer the new. To break into establishment status, all new ideas need dedicated devotees, whose bible-bashing enthusiasm borders on fanaticism. Time and trial sort out the survivors - which then become part of any rounded agency's repertoire.
That's the kind of agency I'd like to be part of.
What about you?
Q: I'm a big UK client who has been holding discreet talks with agencies about moving the business out of my current agency. Somehow these talks leaked out to the trade press, even though my press office denied that the talks took place and that no review will happen. This puts me in a rather ticklish position, given that it was my intention to call a full review and hold a pitch. What should I do to preserve my integrity and that of my brand?
A: So far already, you've instructed your press office to lie to the trade press and given your current agency entirely bogus reassurances. So there's nothing you can do to preserve your integrity: it's blown already.
Since it was always your intention to call a review and hold a pitch, why didn't you do the obvious, open and honourable thing and tell your current agency about it first?
You say that these events have put you in a rather ticklish position. No they haven't. Through a combination of cowardice and stupidity, you have propelled yourself into this ticklish position without external aid. You are now known not only by your current agency but also by all the agencies on your potential shortlist to be duplicitous. They will still, entirely properly, lust after your business but they won't trust you. What a great start as you embark on a new and fruitful relationship.
Luckily, your brand won't suffer at all. Everybody knows that noble brands occasionally fall into the hands of ignoble humans. And we all know which of the two lives on.
Q: Dear Jeremy, there's an ad running in the national press at the moment that is printed upside down. It looks pretty boring and I can't be bothered to turn it the right way up to see who it's for. Am I just being bloody-minded?
A: I'd like to think that the rest of the world will follow your excellent example.
- "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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.