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

Q: Dear Jeremy, I have been an account planner for about two years

and I am thinking of leaving the profession. This is because I am

increasingly being told that my job is to "defend the idea", even when I

think it's crap. Am I being too hasty?



A: As recently as 42 years ago, agency account executives were respected

figures, with opinions of their own, and trusted by their clients to

give dispassionate professional advice. Then, tyrannised by insecure

creative directors, they were persuaded that their job was no longer to

give dispassionate advice but to defend the idea, even when they thought

it was crap. This they reluctantly but dutifully did; and after a month

or two, even the thickest of clients began to notice. The individual who

was supposed to be representing their interest within the agency never

had anything to say about a piece of work other than it was fucking

off-the-wall wonderful. (The words might have varied very slightly, but

the sentiment was constant.) And so, within a very short space of time,

the account executive became no longer trusted as an advertising person

of independent judgment - and even agency managements recognised this as

a development with potentially serious commercial consequences.



So it was that they welcomed the otherwise extravagant suggestion that

they should institute a new agency function, that of Account

Planning.



Account planners were to be rigorous and objective people, representing

not the agency, not the client and not even - as often claimed - the

consumer. Rather, account planners, clinical and incorruptible, were

there to represent The Absolute Truth: and clients were invited to trust

them absolutely. And so they did.



Until, that is, tyrannised by insecure creative directors, account

planners were persuaded that their job was no longer to give

dispassionate professional advice but to defend the idea, even when they

think it is crap.



Quite soon now, even the thickest of clients will have noticed. Their

valued account planner, that individual of independent spirit, that

representative of the absolute truth, has become yet another cypher.

Even agency managements will recognise this as a development with

potentially serious commercial consequences.



So, at last, to answer your question: you have a choice. Get out now

while a shred of self-respect remains. Or wait for the next guardian of

the faith to be invented and offer to be one. (It would help your cause

a great deal if you could think of an impressively dispassionate title.

Readers' suggestions welcome.)



Q: Ron Moss writes: Some weeks ago you very properly advised me to hire

this exceedingly beautiful graduate with the outstanding qualifications.

I took her on as my own PA, only to discover later that her Honours

Degree was bogus. When confronted, she confessed, but added she wouldn't

have got the job without lying. Then she added she'd read that some big

names in the agency world had got their breaks by lying about their

previous work (actually I could name a couple).



In anticipation of your next question, yes she's staying - she's an

undoubted asset to the agency. But it does raise an important point

about job applicants who successfully get away with false CVs. What are

your views on this?



A: Dear Ron, thank you for your kind enquiry. Your problems are the envy

of the advertising world. I once sat with a copywriter applicant while

we viewed his reel and was impressed by its quality - particularly when

we came to a commercial I'd written myself. I told him that his creative

judgment was excellent but the thoroughness of his research left much to

be desired.



The difference between your exceedingly beautiful PA and my disingenuous

copywriter is that she falsified her qualifications to get her first

chance and he falsified his creative achievements to get more money.

It's a big difference. Tell her that if you ever catch her lying again,

she's fired.



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

of Guardian Media Group and WPP. He also writes a monthly column for

Management Today. A compilation of his business advice, Another Bad Day

at the Office?, is published by Penguin, priced £5.99. Address

your problems to him at campaign@ haynet.com, or Campaign, 174

Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.



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