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

Q: I've noticed political party leaders drag their other halves

around with them. There's obviously something in this so I was

wondering, as agency chairman, would there be any value in taking my

wife along to my next client meeting or pitch. She could sit at the back

of the room grinning inanely and occasionally clap at our best ideas.

What do you think?



A: I think you're in the wrong job.



You liken your role as chairman of an advertising agency to that of a

political party leader. But about the only common qualification the two

jobs demand is the ability, on a daily basis, to claim conviction on

matters about which you are uncertain and knowledge of matters of which

you are ignorant.



From the beginning of their dismal careers, politicians recognise the

importance of an acceptable partner. Constituency associations insist on

interviewing them. Marriages are entered into for no other reason.



Since voters come in a variety of genders, the well-equipped politician

likes to cover off at least two of them. Bill Clinton, speaking of

Hillary, boasted that the American nation was getting two for the price

of one. None of the above is true for advertising.



In advertising, tactical use of chairmen's wives should be restricted to

social occasions with top clients, preferably those newly arrived from

abroad. Advertising wives can become indispensable friends to top

clients' wives, thus achieving account security without having to go

through that always nerve-racking business of getting the advertising

right.



There was, as it happens, a very recent vacancy for a political party

leader. Perhaps you and your wife should have applied?



Q: My client is adamant that in every ad we make for him, he should see

his target market enjoying his product in loving close-up ... to the

exclusion of all else. When challenged on this, he simply sticks his

fingers in his ears and goes "La, la, la, la, la". There must be some

way I can get through to him. But how?



A: As I'm sure you know, part of the art of ju-jitsu lies in the

utilisation of an opponent's energy for your own gain. So, when he hurls

himself upon you, you do not attempt to repel him; instead, you

contribute to his momentum so that he flies harmlessly over your

shoulder to land in the corner as a crippled heap. I can tell from your

use of the word "challenge" that you have not been employing this simple

technique on your recalcitrant client. No wonder he sticks his fingers

in his ears.



From now on, agree with your client about everything. Indeed, encourage

him to go further and further down his preferred path. Deny him the

pleasure he undoubtedly derives from defying you by conceding

everything. Get your creative group to recut some old ads devoting a

higher proportion of screen time to loving close-up and target group

approval. Then get them to do it again.



There is nothing more disconcerting in life than a previous opponent

suddenly renouncing all opposition and welcoming every suggestion you

make without reservation.



Sooner or later, counter-resistance becomes inevitable: and when that

moment arrives, you will be well on your way to making better

advertising.



Resist, however, your understandable temptation to crow. Credit should

go where credit is due: to your client, naturally.



Q: I've just arrived from Pluto (a funky new agency in New York) and am

convinced that everyone I meet in the advertising industry either has an

over-inflated ego or a large poker up their arse. Do you?



A: Had you been in this country for longer, you would have known that I

have for some 40 years now been impressing my modesty on all prepared to

listen. I shall ignore the question of pokers. Perhaps it would be best

for everyone were you to return to Pluto.



- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson, a director

of Guardian Media Group and of WPP. 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.



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