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

Q: Procter & Gamble has been at Cannes in force for two years now. Do you see any evidence of their stated interest in better creative work?

A: Three weeks ago, an inquisitive Martian stepped out of his spacecraft in Soho Square. He carried with him his Electronic Guide to Planet Earth.

The first person he met was an adman.

"Advertising? How interesting. On Mars, we have no advertising. I take it to be a form of popular art?"

"No, no, no," the adman said. "Advertising is not art. Advertising is an investment. Advertising promotes sales, adds value, maintains prices. Good advertising returns more than it costs to the advertiser."

The Martian consulted his Electronic Guide. "I observe that a company called Procter & Gamble is one of the most consistently successful companies on this planet and has been a major user of advertising since 1882. I take it, therefore, that P&G advertising is good advertising?"

"No, no, no," the adman said. "P&G advertising is bad advertising. It is not creative."

The Martian frowns. "And what is creative advertising?"

"Creative advertising is advertising that wins prizes."

"So these prizes are for return on investment, I take it?"

"No, no, no. These prizes are for creativity. That's why P&G advertising doesn't win them."

The Martian returned to his spacecraft. "Let's go home, Scottie," he said to his driver. "These people are less developed than we had been led to believe. There's no point in our coming back until they've learnt to think straight."

I assume that it was you the Martian met?

Q: What are your thoughts on lead-generation companies? I work in the new-business department of a large agency and have been approached by one of these companies touting to take on some work from us. Do you think they're a waste of time?

A: Here is a checklist for you to complete. Does this company:

Know more key people in marketing companies than you do? (Yes) (No)

Know more about advertising than you do? (Yes) (No)

Know more about your agency than you do? (Yes) (No)

If you have ticked the (No) box two or more times, this company has nothing whatever to offer you. If you have ticked the (Yes) box two or more times, you may take them on with confidence.

What new career do you have in mind?

Q: Our biggest client has a major launch planned, and has lined up a list of agencies to pitch for its advertising. Our work for the client performs well, and I believe we have a strong relationship. However, not only have we not been invited to pitch, but we found out about it in Campaign. What sort of conversation should I be having with the client?

A: You may safely assume the worst. You think you have a strong relationship with this client. However, the length of a relationship is no guide to the strength of a relationship. Sometimes the two go hand in hand, more often not. There can be only one reason why this client failed to put you on his shortlist: he doesn't think your agency good enough. And there can be only one reason why he didn't tell you that you weren't on his shortlist: he chickened out of telling you that he doesn't think your agency good enough. This is your biggest client with whom you think you have a strong relationship.

Arrange to meet. Take the initiative. Do not squawk, whine or speak of past glories and special relationships. Put a date in his diary, for nine months' time: you are confident that by then he and his colleagues will have seen a different agency. Do not linger or fish for reassurances. This buys you time. You better use it.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a director of WPP. He welcomes questions via campaign@haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP. "Ask Jeremy", a collection of his Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone: (020) 8267 4683.

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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).