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

Q: I am an art director working in a very good creative department.

I am in my fifties and have managed to survive several bloody coups. But

I find myself getting more and more knackered, competing against younger

and younger creatives who manage to work 24 hours a day and then go to

office parties. As a long-term survivor yourself, do you have any

tips?



Thirty years ago, you went round telling the world that advertising was

a young man's business. You were confident about holding this view for

four reasons: you knew it was true; everybody else knew it was true; you

knew you'd be out of the business before you were 30; and you knew you'd

never be 50.



You were, of course, wrong on all counts. There is just as valuable a

place in advertising for 50-year-olds as there is for 25-year-olds. It

is not, however, the same place.



The young person's place is characterised by high energy, untroubled

confidence, bottomless ignorance, manic enthusiasm, disdain for history,

fecundity, untutored talent and the occasional lightning-strike of

outrageous good luck.



Any person over the age of 32 staking claim to three or more of these

characteristics will make himself an object of universal derision and

greatly accelerate the pace of the revolving door.



The older person's place in advertising is defined principally by a

capacity for enigmatic contemplation.



The highly regarded young person will generate seven perfectly adequate

ideas before leaving for the pub at 11.25. Do not be tempted to compete.

Ration yourself, and your employers, to one idea every six months.



Make them wait for it. Make them sweat for it.



Time its arrival for maximum impact and relief: the last-ditch, repitch

presentation to your agency's most valued client.



Twenty years ago I would have advised you to start smoking a pipe.

Today, you should consider donning a dark suit with collar and tie,

short back-and-sides, horn-rimmed spectacles and black lace-up

shoes.



When asked your opinion of a piece of work, you should pause for a very

long time before replying. Avoid verbs. "El Al, 1958" works particularly

well, I find.



Q: An anonymous male Campaign reporter writes: Dear Jeremy, as we all

know, Campaign is a highly female-dominated working environment and it

is difficult at the best of times to strike the occasional blow for

testosterone in the office. However, recently things have become

intolerable since most of the senior staff have either dropped a sprog

or have one in the oven. As this is quite the contrary to the

advertising world, can you offer any advice on how to deal with this

uncomfortable situation?



I've tried quite hard to summon up some tribal sympathy for you but

without success. Unlike your counterparts in advertising, you seem quite

incapable of exploiting the built-in biological handicap that being

female entails.



Take this question of sprogs. As I pointed out in a recent column, women

are unlike men in that they have babies. It is clear from your question

that Campaign women are unusually enthusiastic procreators. Rather than

whining about this unprofessional preoccupation, you should be gleefully

turning it to your own advantage.



Even the most ambitious of women are obliged, on medical advice, to take

time off from the office when giving birth. Even when the sprog has been

safely delivered and home help hired, intense inner stirrings make the

daily decision between bathtime and deadline an agonising one.



So here you are, free to concentrate on your own advancement with few

distractions: yet still coming a poor second to this disadvantaged

gender.



Surely, in today's ultra-competitive world, we need full-time

leaders?



It is one of advertising's most scabrous innuendoes. Are you really not

man enough to imply the same?



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