A: No. You're suffering from that form of inferiority complex that is to be found only in truly inferior people.
Q: This is probably a very basic question. However, I do work in account management so bear with me. I have worked my way up to a senior level at a leading advertising agency, but am still confused about this issue of integration and am concerned that I might get found out. So if above the line refers to advertising, and below the line is DM and leaflets, what exactly is "the line"?
A: I'm pretty sure I've been here before, but if I can't remember what I've said then I can safely assume that nobody else will either.
Opinions differ about the origin and significance of "the line". It was probably all to do with the difference between commissionable media and non-commissionable media and tax allowances and stuff like that. Anyway, just because you work in account management, you shouldn't let this particular source of confusion feed your already disturbing sense of inadequacy.
Many of your distinguished predecessors spent 40 glorious years in the trade without having the slightest idea what below the line meant (or indeed what a TVR was, exactly).
As for integration (or IMC, if you want to show off): integration is what all agencies say they do; is what some people say clients should do; and is what consumers do instinctively, whether we like it or not.
Here is a snippet of conversation you will never overhear on the top deck of a 137 bus.
"You know, duckie, I'm beginning to think that my high opinion of Persil is based primarily on the input I have derived from television and only marginally from print advertising. I would allocate a 10 per cent share of influence to word of mouth, particularly to that injection of viral marketing I detected in the last quarter of fiscal 2002, and another 5 to 8 per cent to promotions - despite finding some elements quite brand-dissonant. I have been totally unaware of any influence from ambient media, though conventional in-store display undoubtedly made a greater contribution to my total gestalt brand construct than in previous trading cycles."
If transmitters don't integrate, receivers will. That's all you need to remember.
As a phrase, below the line has a value only in that it continues to delude above-the-line agencies into believing they are in some indefinable manner culturally superior.
Q: As the chief executive of a London agency that is part of a large holding company, I am under constant pressure from above to refer existing and potential clients to a media network in the same group. The trouble is this media network is suffering from an identity crisis and I feel that a heartfelt referral is nothing short of fraudulent. What do you advise?
A: All your clients, including potential clients, will instinctively distrust any referral or recommendation you make: particularly if it favours a company from your own group. In this eternal truth lies your salvation.
You may safely refer, in as heartfelt a manner as you can muster, with absolutely no risk of your defrauding your client.
By doing so, however, you may also erode your already rusting reputation for integrity. So a better plan is to invite your client to include your media network on his next shortlist while being blunt about their deficiencies. Your client will then enjoy telling you how pleasantly surprised he was by their presentation.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.