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

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

Culturalism.



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

paramount.



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

showreel.



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

Us?



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

versa.



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

account management.



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

Couch.



Address your problems to him at Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Road, London

W6 7JP. Or e-mail campaign@haynet.com.



Topics