Q: Two years ago we had a massive battle to do our own advertising
in the UK, which by any measure has been a tremendous success. The same
marketing director is still in Europe and intent on getting the UK back
into the fold of a European ad campaign. Nothing could be more
inappropriate for our brand in the UK. What should I do?
A: It's clear that you're a purist: I'm delighted to meet you and much
admire your principled attitude towards marketing. I am also astonished
by your naivety. Before I propose a stratagem, therefore, I'm afraid I
must read you a short lecture on Multinational Corporate
You seem to believe that the company you work for should be interested
only in sales results and should judge and reward its executives on the
single dimension of marketing success. This is to misunderstand the
nature of multinationals.
To succeed in a multinational, it may be the case that an association
with marketing success is an advantage - but it is by no means
Of far greater value to the furtherance of a career is a detailed
understanding of, and compliance with, the Corporate Culture.
It will not be written down. Its origins will be obscure, although it
was probably first epitomised by the founder's mother, a distinguished
senior citizen of Grand Rapids, Michigan, towards the end of the 19th
century. But evidence of its existence is everywhere: from the exhibits
in glass cases in all 76 corporate reception areas worldwide through the
well-publicised list of good causes supported to, above all, the global
There is nothing more offensive to an international president than a
maverick, national ad campaign (and please do not insult me further by
quoting market penetration figures) that blatantly disregards The Way We
Do Things Round Here. Multinational Corporate Culturalism demands
absolute and unquestioning obedience. Are you, or are you not, One of
So if you insist on pursuing your noble aim, you must do so with a
conscious application of low cunning; you must produce two campaigns.
Campaign A is for the public and will maintain the success you have so
far enjoyed. Campaign B is for your European marketing director to
splice into his showreel.
Under no circumstances permit audience A to glimpse commercial B or vice
Q: Within a few weeks of joining the agency, our graduate trainees are
telling the creatives how to make the ads "better". The creatives are
now telling the graduate trainees how to make their broken noses
"better". How can we avoid this conflict?
A: Well, you asked for it, didn't you? First you stopped hiring
creatives from universities on the grounds that you were a lot more
interested in those with something called "street cred" than those with
honours degrees in the humanities. And then you embarked on the milk
round, touring the older universities and promising all those heading
for a 2:1 or better an intellectually challenging and creative career in
No wonder you've got a conflict. You've deliberately chosen to employ
inarticulate "copywriters" from art schools and over-confident
supergrads with no experience and less tact. Neither group will even
listen to the other, let alone accord them respect.
Your best bet, as part of your graduate training scheme, is to initiate
a role-reversal programme.
Set your graduate trainees a creative brief. Have them present their
work not only to real clients (most are only too happy to participate)
but to the creatives. Make your creatives be account planners:
dissecting the research and writing their own brief. Finally, form
competitive teams, each with some creatives and some graduate trainees,
and set them to work against each other on a common brief: with a
worthwhile prize at the end of it. It may be bloody to start with - but
some permanent bonding will eventually result.
Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson, a director
of Guardian Media Group and of WPP, and the president of NABS. He writes
a monthly column for Management Today. A more serious look at problems
in the workplace, it both inspired and complements On the Campaign
Address your problems to him at Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Road, London
W6 7JP. Or e-mail email@example.com.