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

Q: My predecessor as marketing director of a household brand has just gone into print roundly condemning my new ad campaign, basically implying it is undoing all his good work. Trouble is, I'm worried he might be right ... and there are another 13 executions in the series ready to go. But if I act now to change the direction of the campaign, everyone will think it's just because of his attack. Any advice?

A: You're not just worried he might be right. You know he's right. And by ducking it, you're confirming every CEO's worst fears about marketing directors. Marketing directors are commonly suspected to be vain and self-obsessed, more dedicated to the massaging of their own fragile reputations than to their brands' health: and that's exactly what you now contemplate doing.

Be a big boy for once. Who do you mean by "everyone"? Do you honestly believe that your 19 million customers are all going to smirk: "I see Nigel's lost his nerve over that new campaign"?

Dig out that bit of research you did a year ago. You remember: the bit that suggested that the very strength of your new idea was such that it might need to be phased out after just a few months. I'm sure you can find it somewhere; or at least paraphrase it.

Now, resolutely, act on it. Write a piece for some pliant trade journal explaining the High Impact/High Wear-Out relationship. I suggest you call it The Price of Success.

Whatever you do, don't change your agency. Just make sure they come up with something decent this time.

Q: My agency is always exaggerating its business achievements in the press. A recent pitch win, with a media spend of less than £1 million, was "spun" as a £5 million win and a rival publication to yours printed it, clearly without any corroboration. I understand why people want to talk things up, but doesn't this sort of behaviour damage all of us in the end?

A: I have been hoping for many years now that some irreverent trade journal would undertake an entertaining and instructive exercise.

The investment would be minimal: it would simply entail appointing some luckless junior, for a full year, to read every press release issued by every agency and log every claimed media spend figure - won or lost.

At the end of the year, an independent auditor would be commissioned to break the data down by client, by agency, by gain and by loss. In the interests of accuracy, only those account moves with both a claimed gain and a claimed loss figure would be included; and new advertisers would be excluded altogether.

League tables would then be published. (Trade journals love league tables: and the reason they love league tables is because readers love league tables. However, not all readers would love these league tables.)

The first year's figures would demonstrate that:

The Anglo-Galvanised account move added £17.8 million to the successful agency's total while deducting £2.3 million from the loser. (Previous year's recorded expenditure: £4 million.)

The leading agency's net gains represented three times as much as their previous year's total quoted billings.

The total amount of media spend gained exceeded the total amount lost by 216 per cent.

The total amount of media spend gained exceeded the gross domestic product of Belgium.

I think it safe to say that the second year's figures would be markedly different.

Dodgy dossiers discredit not only Downing Street. Only a mischievous press can supply the corrective.

Q: I'm an agency chief executive and am frustrated with my creative director. He seems to spend most of his time attending awards judging and pontificating about high creative standards yet our own department hasn't won an award for years nor do our creative standards seem that much higher than those of other agencies. Is he full of crap?

A: Yes.

- 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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