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

Q: My clients keep spending all their money on expensive research

material and when it comes to making the ads there is hardly any left.

How can I change their priorities?



A: You will be familiar with the ancient insight that bad clients use

research as a drunk uses a lamp-post: more for support than

illumination. In this undoubted truth lies your only hope.



I'm prepared to bet that your clients are both multinational and

multi-layered. That the client you see on a daily basis reports to a

senior person in the Midlands who, in turn, reports to an even more

important person in Dusseldorf, who has to sign off the advertising

before it goes to the international marketing communications committee

in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for final approval. After which, it has only

to be seen by the worldwide chairman and CEO who came up on the

marketing side and prides himself on his creative judgment.



The challenge for corporate structures of this kind is not, of course,

to get outstanding advertising; it is to get any advertising at all. If

you've ever thought it odd to see on your screen a badly dubbed cartoon

that first appeared in New Zealand in 1974, you now know why. It was the

only commercial available with a full complement of approval ticks to

its credit.



Without the comfort of many million dollars' worth of research behind

it, no script can survive.



So what you must do is find a substitute for research which provides the

equivalent comfort at a fraction of the price. I suggest the appointment

of a guru. (You should allow the worldwide chairman and CEO to think of

this idea.)



An ideal guru will be the recently retired head of an internationally

renowned research company who is known both for his malleability and his

enthusiasm for ocean-racing. Between them, his head and his files

comprise such a formidable database that, for a retainer of no more than

a million dollars a year, his support for the proposed advertising can

be obtained at a tenth of the cost and in a hundredth of the time. You

congratulate the worldwide chairman and CEO on the brilliance of this

initiative. And then get close to the guru. Very, very close.



Q: My American parent company is a media Neanderthal and is starting to

insist that we adopt its conservative approach to media, allowing our

sister creative agency to take more control of shared client

relationships. Our UK independence was hard fought. What should we

do?



A: Take your three biggest UK clients into your confidence. Draft a

letter for each of them to send to you. Take care to use different

styles and vocabularies and spread them over a month or so, but the

burden of all three should be the same. Each of these UK clients is

putting you on notice because of your increasingly unimaginative media

strategy.



Each should imply that their direct competitors are being much better

served by agencies who clearly understand the subtleties, nuances and

idiosyncrasies of the UK media market, while you seem to believe that

Britain is no more than the 51st state. (You run no risk: all Brits need

to believe that they're more sophisticated than Americans since they

lose on almost every other measure. Your parent company will be miffed,

of course. But in the year 2001, pride will take second place to

revenue.)



Six months later, three ecstatic letters from your conspiring clients

lift their threats of dismissal and offer to recommend you to other

classy companies. Copy these to your parent company's CEO with a

covering letter praising his imagination and cultural flexibility.



Q: I didn't get into this year's Faces to Watch and my mum will be

terribly upset. What should I do?



A: Keep your mother informed on a weekly basis of all past Faces who

have subsequently been made redundant.



- 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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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).