On the Campaign Couch ... with JB
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I'm a senior client and we've just held a pitch for our advertising business.

We saw three agencies and, while I'm finding it easy to discount one of them because its ideas were simply not up to scratch, I'm finding it very difficult to choose between the final two. One agency had a better strategic insight into our business, while the other's creative ideas were far better. Which should I choose?

A: I wonder if it crossed your mind, before you embarked on this time-consuming exercise, that such an outcome was entirely possible? And if so, why you decided to ignore it? I suppose the excitement of being taken into a different sweetshop every day for three days was simply irresistible. What a pity you can't pick'n'mix: "I'll take the strategic insights from GumDropZ, please, and those three creative executions from GBH. Don't bother to wrap them."

I hope you've taken the trouble to get to know these agencies a bit.

If you've just met their hit squads, you'll have no idea what they're really like. Hit squads are never representative of their agencies - that's why they're hit squads. I know of one client who was so appalled by the relentless insincerity of a particular hit squad that he broke off the courtship altogether. Only the intervention of their bumbling, but extremely thoughtful, planning director retrieved the situation. It turned out that the entire agency was not only deeply thoughtful, but also deeply conscious of their inherent distaste for self-promotion. So they'd hired this crew of superficial hucksters who'd already succeeded in scaring off at least half-a-dozen potential clients who were longing to unearth a deeply thoughtful agency with an inherent distaste for self-promotion.

If you've bothered to get to know all these people, your choice should be easy. If you haven't, imagine that ISBA, in a convulsion of guilt over the naked exploitation of advertising agencies, has decreed that all future agency appointments must be for an absolute minimum of five years.

Which of these two agencies can you contemplate being happy to walk into twice a week for what will seem like an eternity?

And if that one fails, ask yourself this. How was it possible for the second agency's creative ideas to be so much better when their strategy was no good? I do hope you're not looking for personal glory rather than a modest uplift in case-sales.

Q: David Felden writes again from Hemel Hempstead: My dentist has just charged me substantially more than last time and his receptionist says it's because they've had a re-brand and are now a premium service. The only change I can see is his name in fancy lettering on the window and the liquid you rinse out with is now pink. Rebrand! What's that all about?

A: Thank you, David. You've beautifully illustrated the self-destructive capacity of much of the branding industry.

It all starts, unsurprisingly, with the word brand. When the account handler looks at the first assembly of a new commercial, he will predictably say: "Fantastic! Just wonder if the branding couldn't be a little stronger ...?"

By this he means: "Could you be persuaded to include the name of the product?"

The word brand can mean as little as that. Increasing the branding simply means making the name bigger or saying it three times and/or more loudly.

The word branding can also refer to a deep and scholarly understanding of a company's most complex and critical assets. Several long books about brands are published every week and there are many more to come.

It follows that to rebrand something is either:

a) To change a product's name from Tip-toes to TipToes, while adding a touch of red to the cap. Or:

b) To undertake a three-year analysis of a multinational company's value and purpose, taking into account all competitive, technological, sociological and environmental changes, with as perceptive an understanding of the non-functional aspects of the offering as of the functional, including biographies of its new desired audiences and all summarised in a 550-page manual that reveals the company's new vision statement and lays down strict design guidelines for the new corporate livery and logo that will be the public manifestation of the repositioned corporation at a global level.

It would seem that your dentist has adopted version a) while hoping to get away with the more generous trading margins that can sometimes quite properly accrue from the pursuit of version b).

- "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.

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