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

Q: Is the industry really investing in and nurturing tomorrow's chief executives? I'm finding it harder and harder to name the rising stars.

A: I'm not sure there's much of a sequitur between the two parts of your question. The problem of identifying rising stars is a perennial one: stars can be identified only in retrospect and anyway have little or no causal connection with formal career development.

Real stars are self-made. They develop their own careers, nourishing themselves with curiosity and investing themselves with an individual authority that obliges us all to listen. They are characterised by vanity as much as ambition and are not in the least dependent on inflated titles or degrees in business.

There will never be more than a very few stars, which is just as well.

A company consisting of nothing but stars would be a runaway train: totally out of control and destined for imminent self-destruction.

Never underestimate, therefore, the value of non-stars. These are the people, clearly not stars themselves, who enable us to identify the few that are. They are also the people who do most of the work and who undoubtedly benefit from systematic professional development.

Any real scarcity of stars is much more to do with recruitment policy than training. Agencies should still be recruiting in part from the ranks of disillusioned lawyers, unpublished writers, published cartoonists, stand-up comedians and 33-year-olds flirting with the idea of getting their first job. If you fill every single job vacancy with the product of previous years' graduate trainee programmes, you may well end up with a reassuringly uniform skyscape - but wherein nothing dazzles.

Q: I've been told to cut my marketing budget by a third this year. I can't face telling my agencies and can't fathom where to start making the cuts. Can you offer any advice?

A: Oh, this is sad. You clearly believe that any respect, affection or loyalty you command from your agencies is wholly dependent on the size of your budget. You're as sad as the bankrupt sugar daddy who knows he now can't keep the girl.

A lot of agencies are downright soft about relationships and hopelessly impractical about boring things like profit margins. Tell them all. Ask them to work with you on the best possible case for maintaining your marketing budget: it's almost certainly in your company's interest to do so. Trust them to trust you.

Q: I'm in charge of graduate recruitment this year. In general, how can we make the industry more attractive to emerging talent and stop it going into albeit more highly paid but less stimulating professions?

A: For years now, the agency business has been obsessed with the need to make advertising more attractive to graduates than investment banking.

This is first-degree insanity on several counts. The only way to lure a would-be investment banker into advertising is to ratchet up your starting salary and grossly misrepresent the nature of the job. When the truth becomes clear, the expensively recruited recruit will slope off into investment banking leaving behind an unnecessarily inflated salary structure and a whole stratum of pissed-off contemporaries.

Would-be investment bankers have their use. The moment they reveal that they're dithering between investment banking and advertising, do not come over all competitive and move into wooing mode. Instead, close the interview at once. No person seriously contemplating a career in investment banking should even be considered for a career in advertising.

The attractions of advertising remain unchanged. It's a wonderfully chaotic, nerve-wracking and imprecise form of alchemy. It's the knack of turning information into ideas and ideas into profit - all on behalf of someone else.

The trouble at the moment is that not enough people in agencies are licensed to think. If junior account managers were expected to do more than book meeting rooms, copy tapes and order taxis, they'd be a great deal happier: and so would their clients.

- 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

Become a member of Campaign from just £45 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Why creative people have lost their way

What better way to kick off Campaign's relaunch than with another think piece on the current failings of our industry, written by an embittered, pretentious creative who misses "the way things used to be"...

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).