Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I love what I do and I am passionate about my agency but to be honest, I much prefer getting on with the job to schmoozing with the in-crowd. How important is it that I make an effort to win the respect of my peers?

A: Of what other trade, I wonder, would it be assumed that the respect of one's peers is more easily won by schmoozing with the in-crowd than by getting on with the job? None that I can think of; and it's not even true for yours.

I sense you're a bit of a loner: you quite like getting on with the job in silent solitude. When you were younger, I bet you used to curl your left arm round your exercise book so nobody could see what you were writing.

But who cares? If what you come up with is quality stuff, you'll earn the respect of your peers all right.

You may not earn their affection, though; and you're certainly denying yourself the priceless comfort that only co-conspirators can give you.

The more you love what you do - the more passionate you are about it - the more destined you are to suffer occasional disappointment. The only people in our trade who never suffer disappointment are those who don't care. To mix is not to schmooze. It's being a member of a club that knows all about bruising and how to bounce back from it.

Q: "You are the ruiner of all things good," the late comic Bill Hicks said of people in advertising and marketing. "You are Satan's spawn filling the world with bile and garbage. You are fucked and you are fucking us. Kill yourself. It's the only way to save your fucking soul, kill yourself." Should I take his advice?

A: If you believe him to be right, then I suppose you should. But just before you do, please take the time to answer this simple questionnaire.

Do you think people in general are better served:

a) When demand exceeds production?

b) When production exceeds demand?

Who do you think should determine people's consumption habits:

a) Producers?

b) Consumers?

Do you think it healthier:

a) For consumers to compete for producers' output?

b) For producers to compete for consumers' custom?

If you have answered a) to each of the questions above, you should kill yourself without delay. Advertising and marketing are unnecessary. This may not make you Satan's spawn but it probably leaves you feeling a bit demotivated.

If you have answered b) to each of the questions above, you've reinvented the need for advertising and marketing. This may not make it nature's noblest calling but if you didn't do it, someone else would have to. If you yearn to be loved as well as necessary, become a paediatrician. Or a comedian.

Q: I create ads for a fast-food retailer, which in essence convince fat people to get fatter by eating their products. My wife says the corporation is evil and I should take a moral stand. On deliberation, I don't seem to have morals or a conscience. Am I evil?

A: There's clearly something about winter that brings on serious conscience-examination. Well, good; I'm all for it. Consciences should have an annual health-check, too - and the more probing the better.

Bupa should offer corporate rates for conscienceoscopies.

On balance, I think that you're right and you wife's wrong. Please direct her attention to the simple questionnaire above. My guess is that she will plump for three straight b)s but still think badly of the fast- food corporation whose ads you write. But evil? If their secret mission statement read "To persuade as many people as possible to get as fat as possible until they finally expire from obesity", they would certainly be evil.

They would also be commercially misguided. With the possible exception of funeral directors, it's in the interest of most commercial companies to keep their loyal users alive as long as possible.

We live, I'm happy to say, in a world mainly governed by the effects of competitive persuasion. Fast food proves amazingly popular and promotes itself with hectic enthusiasm. Some time later, the dangers of excessive consumption receive widespread editorial publicity. Shortly thereafter, most fast-food retailers respond with wider choices and healthier menus. But unless those responses can be made widely known, they won't help much. That's where you come in again, isn't it?

- "Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4683. Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.

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