Close-up: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: Phil Pawsey and Tim Britnell of Dynamo Marketing write: Dear Jeremy, when will campaigns that feature the product looking like something else stop winning countless awards? A high percentage of the 2004 Campaign Press Advertising Awards use the technique. Pints of stout/rugby gum shield, paintbrush/afro, petrol pump/elephant, Maasai warriors/off-roader ... shall we go on? A: Dear Phil and Tim, thank you for this. Campaigns such as you describe will stop winning awards only when people stop doing them. And people will stop doing them only when they stop winning awards.

Awards juries are consistently critical of the creative fraternity for employing copycat techniques - while continuing to single out copycat techniques for recognition.

If the only respectable justification for awards is the encouragement of originality, it's not the practitioners who need to be braver, it's the juries. It takes courage as well as talent to be original in commercial life: both to invent and to accept. Originality implies risk. For practitioners, fame may be the spur - but the spectre of failure is always present. Juries are the only people who risk nothing by honouring the new. Their timidity baffles.

Q: Dear Jeremy, Have you ever bothered to read or act on a set of best practice guidelines? And have you ever come across an advertiser who has ever referred to one?

A: I'm sorry to say that I've no idea what you're talking about.

Q: I have learned that I have a nickname in the business. It is Osama. I want to stop anyone using it. Any advice?

A: Yep. Stop wanting to stop people using it. Make it clear by every means open to you that you revel in the allusion. Brand your e-mails Osama. Have your T-shirts emblazoned with Osama. Sign your Christmas cards Osama.

I assume that you're already known to be power-crazed, publicity-addicted and bloated with self-satisfaction. Once the world comes to understand that by calling you Osama they're feeding you the very diet on which your self-love flourishes, they'll soon put a stop to it.

Q: Dear Jeremy, I've heard that you are about to publish a compilation of your Campaign columns. Is this true?

A: Well, blow me down! An uncannily timely enquiry!

Had you not raised this question, I'd obviously not have brought it up myself - but since you have, it would be unprofessional of me not to reply to you as fully and as openly as I strive to reply to every question from my revered readership.

Yes, indeed: the rumour you've intercepted is well founded. Within a very few weeks now, Haymarket, the distinguished publisher not only of Campaign but also of a proud portfolio of many other widely admired periodicals, will be publishing a compilation of my columns, entitled Ask Jeremy. In an act of reckless altruism and commercial self-sacrifice, they are pricing this lavishly illustrated volume (containing well in excess of 100 pages) at a risible £10.

Haymarket, as you may know, is not a habitual publisher of books; but they tell me that the pressure to publish such a volume, remorselessly imposed upon them by both readers and non-readers alike, could no longer be resisted.

I am, naturally, delighted. But I'd also like to maintain the standards of truth and scepticism for which this column is noted. So I need to remind you that this forthcoming volume contains absolutely no new material. Given the fact that you've already paid once to see everything in it, even ten quid seems to me a pretty cheeky ask; don't you agree?

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

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