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

Q: I'm an account manager, very senior, on the verge of being made an account director and generally a bit of a star in the agency firmament. I keep getting criticised for lack of attention to detail, which is all very well and good but I'm a big picture thinker, like to look at things from 50,000ft and really should be managing director before long. How should I go about making people realise that details are for the plodder and they need to push me above that level and release my real potential?

A: I'm puzzled. Who are these detail-obsessed plodders who so misguidedly continue to criticise you? You would surely dismiss such carping if it came from subordinates; yet, as you convincingly argue, it is inconceivable that anyone even more important than you could hold such petty views.

So don't wait meekly for your stellar talents to be recognised and your advancement to be authorised officially: assert yourself. Punch above your weight. Demonstrate the loftiness of your perspective. Take unto yourself the role and authority of an account director or (why not?) of managing director.

Follow my advice and you may be absolutely certain that important decisions about your future will very soon be taken.

Q: Strictly anon writes: As a renowned man of words yourself, could you please tell me what you thought of Robin Wight's recent article on the power of long copy in advertising as I haven't had time to read it yet.

A: Very amusing. And how sensible of you to opt for anonymity.

I was recently a member of Larry Barker's D&AD jury charged with judging the Writing for Advertising category (or "copywriting" as it was once quaintly called). I reveal no secrets when I say that two reasons for the dearth of long copy ads quickly became apparent to us. First, nobody can write them. And second, typographers. These two reasons are clearly interrelated but which precipitated the other remains an unresolved mystery.

One hypothesis is this. Modern typographers see themselves not as typographers but as art directors. Centuries of lorem ipsum dolor have taken their toll: they see words not as words but as design elements. Most typographers learn to read when young but kick the habit shortly after entering art school. So not only do they fail to read the copy presented to them; they then dispose it so that nobody else can read it either. Discouraged, the most persuasive and evocative of writers chucks in the towel and resorts, like the rest of the world, to the catchy headline.

(Typographers still occasionally allow catchy headlines to be read, but with obvious reluctance.)

The second hypothesis is this. Typographers, unlike writers for advertising, are sensitive, literate, considerate creatures. When presented with long copy, they read it intently and know it to be rubbish. Mindful of their responsibility towards the consumer, they thereupon render it mercifully illegible. This, I understand, is the explanation favoured by typographers.

No good advertisement contains a single unnecessary word. Some good advertisements contain no words and some two thousand. If there were more good words being written and read, the debate would be seen to be as specious as it is.

I'm afraid the length of this reply must have taxed you severely.

Q: It kind of looks like the full-service agency might be making a comeback - even though we'll probably call it something different. Can it be true?

A: Oh yes. Not that the full-service agency was ever full service, you understand, nor will it ever be. But future marketing historians will note that the de-coupling of media from creative was merely a short-term expedient, enabling agencies and clients once and for all to be liberated from the yoke of the commission system.

And I bet you're right about the names. I don't know what the new agencies will be called. Please God not MarComs.

- 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.

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