CLOSE-UP: ON THE CAMPAIGN COUCH ... WITH JB

Q: Ian Moss, BA (Hons) Graphic Design, Year 3, Cumbria Institute of the Arts, writes: Having experienced much difficulty in establishing e-mail communication with advertising agencies for dissertation research, I am trying to determine if my methods need revising or, being a student, I am worthless?

A: Dear Ian, thank you for your kind enquiry. You do not tell me what your methods are so I cannot say if you should revise them. I do know, however, that advertising agencies receive a great many e-mailed requests from students, not all of them persuasively phrased. Here are two recent examples:

"For the attention of the Chairman. Dear Sir or Madam, I am a third year student who have chosen as the subject of my dissertation The Relationship of Monetary Inflation on Global Advertising Expenditure, please send me your analysis of this. I wd appreciate a quick response as my deadline is Friday week. Thanking you in advance."

"Hi! I'm researching the subject of my dissertation viz The Significance of Anthropomorphism in Multicultural Advertising, please send me examples of same in all media comparing results by category and country. PS. My boyfriend has just gone to San Francisco. Any chance work experience in your office there this summer?"

All such supplicants reveal themselves as illiterate, insensitive and above all bone-idle. The requests they make are usually incomprehensible.

Even if understood, they would be hugely time-consuming to satisfy. In the hearts of their recipients they induce fury, impotence and guilt. If you recognise any part of your own approach in these two submissions, you should revise your methods instantly.

Here is an e-mail template for you to adapt.

"Dear GBH: My father, who is (Chairman) of (ICI), tells me that you put out much the best publications about (advertising and marketing). At his suggestion, I'm doing my dissertation on (Corporate Advertising). If you have anything at all on this subject, I'd be hugely grateful for a copy. PS. Please send it to me at my parents' address: SAE is on its way to you. Thanks a million."

I'll be surprised if you don't observe an immediate improvement in your response rate.

Q: I work for a media owner that is almost sure to get snapped up once the Communications Bill goes live. Is it too early to start brown-nosing the company expected to buy us? I'm a middle-ranking manager who might otherwise be just a name to be crossed off a list?

A: What an unpleasant expression brown-nosing is. I've yet to find any of its adherents in any way admirable and you are no exception.

Far from attempting to grease your way into future security, you should be building a reputation for yourself as a person of independent mind.

Publish something somewhere. Get yourself on to a platform or two. Express some controversial views. People with even a modest external reputation are always more secure than those without.

It may be, of course, that you've absolutely nothing of value to contribute. Should this be the case, practise invisibility and keep scanning the job ads.

Q: I've just been awarded a very important job commanding a vast advertising budget. I used to be a bit of a hell raiser (who wasn't in the 80s?) and I'm worried that my colourful past might come back to haunt me. Any advice on how to handle this tricky situation?

A: Who wasn't a bit of a hell raiser, you ask. Well, I wasn't, for one - so you've probably come to the wrong person.

On the other hand, I might be the right person. Most of us envy people with colourful pasts; they continue to intrigue long after they've finished raising hell. Former hell raisers are treated with a kind of guarded respect. People hesitate to disagree with them in public. Their jokes are laughed at.

So don't fight it; milk it. (But don't top it up, either.)

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson and a director of WPP. He also writes a monthly column for Management Today. Address your problems to him at campaign@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.

Topics