Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: Whenever I go for a lunch with a journalist, I always seem to bump into a client or an agency rival and I'm concerned that people will think I'm being indiscreet. Is there anywhere you can suggest I take lunch companions that I'd rather not be seen with?

A: The only places you can take journalists to lunch in the certainty of not meeting anyone you know are the very places that no journalist would choose to be taken to. Not that this should deter you. Journalists are principled people and will always put the pursuit of their profession before considerations of good food, good wine, fashionable surroundings and discreet celebrity-spotting. I've met several journalists in my time and they all agree on this point. Of course they appreciate Gordon Ramsay - but they tell me that you're just as likely to get a favourable mention after a gammon steak at Garfunkels. And you certainly won't bump into clients or competitors at Garfunkels - or if you do, they're never going to tell anyone they've seen you there for very obvious reasons.

Alternatively, go for the Nigel option. Nigel always takes journalists to the most ostentatiously fashionable places in the fervent hope that he will be seen. Tragically, so far, he never has been.

For you, it's more risky, of course, and a great deal more expensive. But Nigel enjoys a surprisingly good press.

Q: This is part question, part therapy. So please indulge me. I became the creative director at a half-decent agency - replacing an objectionable, tin-pot dictator know-it-all who was bringing everyone down. This individual had aspirations to greatness elsewhere but failed. But thanks to an old pals act at the highest level, this person is back in a made-up executive creative role and has been given a green light to do what they please, as they see fit, carte blanche, call it what you want ... basically rendering my job title, my job and all the rest of it a complete joke. In short, I need to get out. And ultimately I will. Question for you: what's it all about mate?

A: Have faith. There are not nearly as many absolute frauds in our business as it sometimes seems. And none can look forward with confidence to an extended active life.

We should take comfort in these facts but no credit for them. Absolute frauds ultimately self-destruct and absolute creative frauds self-destruct spectacularly.

It works like this. After about three years of fizz and fireworks, of tears, tantrums and toys on the floor, a small child at the edge of the crowd says: "Excuse me, Daddy. Why is that person called a creative director?

Is it because he creates things? What has that creative director created, Daddy?"

Creative directors can be very simply divided into two groups. Those who create good things. And those who don't. Once this distinction has been recognised, the game's up. So hang on in there, mate. There will soon be a spectacular implosion and you will be happy again.

Q: I'm the marketing director of a successful car company. I've got a few agencies working for me, and fundamentally I'm very happy with them. But one or two keep hinting that they'd like to raise their fees. Yes, they've done some great work for us, and, yes, I like them as people. But the fact is we could easily get someone cheaper. But maybe they wouldn't be as good. What should I do?

A: You should count your lucky stars. Research undertaken on behalf of the Marketing Society consistently reveals that, at any given time, only 8.7 percent of marketing directors are fundamentally very happy with their agencies. Fifty per cent admit to "almost daily exasperation" and more than 40 per cent are "actively looking around".

Furthermore, you are the marketing director of a successful car company.

In the whole of the UK at the moment there are no more than three marketing directors of successful car companies of whom only one is fundamentally very happy with his agencies. I think we know who you are, already.

Ask yourself this outrageous question: Do you think there might just conceivably be some causal relationship between the great work that these nice people in your agencies do for you and the fact that the car company of which you're marketing director is successful?

I have every sympathy with clients who feel they're paying too much for bad work. I have no sympathy whatsoever with clients who enjoy great work and a successful business - and who still lie awake at night wondering if they're being ripped off.

I bet you keep your coins in a purse.

- "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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