On the Campaign Couch...with JB

On the Campaign Couch...with JB

Q: Awards season is upon us, and as a managing director for a successful agency, I am invited to quite a few.

The truth is, this year I don't think we've been our best, and though the majority of staff seem convinced we will win, as we historically do, I am doubtful. How do I make sure they don't get their hopes up too much, without sounding like I don't believe in them?

A: As the MD of a successful agency, you should know that it's your responsibility to determine, promulgate and assess the standards against which your agency's work is judged. By the sound of it, you're happy to subcontract that judgment to faraway festival jury members who've never even seen the client brief.

Of course it's good when you get gongs; but if you allow gongs to be the sole measurement of achievement; if you allow it to be accepted throughout your agency that all the work that gets gongs is good and that all the work that doesn't isn't: then you're committing an act of irresponsible abdication. Only you - unlike those faraway festival jurors - can know the true difficulty of each task undertaken. Only you can know how grateful a client has been for some against-the-odds return to profitability. Only you can know that a much-garlanded one-off YouTube spectacular has done bugger-all for the client's bottom line. Only you can assess the relative difficulties and creative opportunities presented by different brands in different sectors. Only you can see that justice is done; that credit is publicly given to those who've earned it, whether or not they've been externally recognised.

That's as important a role for an MD as making sure that an agency earns more than it spends. Without that balance, your agency will become functionally distorted. People will clamour to work on those accounts that seem to present creative opportunities (because someone else has already done something good) and shrink from anything that looks more challenging. No agency that's divided between gongland and ghetto deserves to prosper.

You may be right to believe that your work this year hasn't been your best. But that should be your judgment, not that of distant jurors. And it's also your responsibility to do something about it.

Q: In the past three months, I've seen two ads with spelling mistakes in their copy. I just can't see how it can happen. Are there chimps now working in the industry? Surely there's no excuse?

A: Thank you, thank you. People still believe that the acronym Asbof stands for the Advertising Standards Board of Finance. It doesn't. It stands for the Ancient Society of Boring Old Farts - and I'm a founder member. Please join: you're just the kind of person we welcome.

We're told that text messaging has made spelling discretionary. For texting, it may have. That's just fine: indeed, it's certainly efficient and often witty and even founder members of Asbof find little to harrumph about. But in the making of advertisements, detail is everything. A word misspelled in an ad is as unforgivable as a dirty fingernail - and for the same reason. It's evidence of carelessness, ignorance and an absolute disregard for quality control.

If an advertising agency, however digital, can't spell the words in a client's copy, then it is contaminating the brand. And if no-one in the client company spots the error, despite an agonisingly long approval process, then you have to worry about that company's standards. Whenever it happens, client CEOs should be merciless.

Harrumph harrumph harrumph. (If that's how you spell it.)

Thank you again for your question: I feel much better now.

Q: When will we ever see the end of that sodding meerkat? And how long is the shelf-life for even the most popular brand mascots?

A: Research across four continents, based on data derived from 49 brand mascot campaigns and spanning 91 years, confirms my own view that the optimum length of useful life for a brand mascot is six years and seven months. I hope you find that helpful. However, in honour of the statistician who drowned in a lake with an average depth of 18 inches, I should perhaps add that the above figure includes the Jolly Green Giant, born 1928, and Tony the Tiger, born as recently as 1952. This suggests that most of the other 47 brand mascots had tragically short lives.

Please don't look for rules. Brand properties, unlike brand managers, can be cherished into immortality. But most brand managers don't know how to do it.

"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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