Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I have a piercing for an eyebrow barbell and as I'm applying for grad scheme places, I wonder if I should keep it as part of my look? If you were to interview me, would you prefer me with or without it?

A: If I knew what you looked like without an eyebrow barbell, it would help me determine whether or not it constituted an improvement.

However, in my plodding way, I would be more likely to judge you on your intelligence and sensitivity. And with only the evidence of your letter to go on, I'd suggest that, with or without an eyebrow barbell, you should probably widen your career choice somewhat.

Q: I graduated with a first in maths and am now an account executive trainee. One of my more demeaning tasks is paying for taxis. This is irritating on a number of fronts, not least of which is the enormously long time it takes to get paid back by the agency.

Anyway, on some occasions, the cab driver just tears off some receipts and hands them to me and the thought occurs to complete a couple of extra ones to compensate for how long I have to wait for my expenses. What do you think?

A: I fear for your future. Your first in maths may have helped you get this traineeship - but from that moment on, it became irrelevant. Your ease with numbers should help you do a useful job; that's excellent. But your degree in itself no more entitles you to respect than being a baronet would. Do you, I wonder, when paying off those taxis, casually remark "By the by, my good man, you might like to know that I got a first in mathematics"?

If you're a trainee, paying for taxis is not demeaning. Nor is booking meeting rooms or going out to get the coffee or learning to use the photocopier. Most of the people you'll work for once did them all: they're important parts of learning the nature of your trade. However, if you use your mathematical skills to complete a few fictitious taxi receipts, your position will be quickly clarified. You won't have one.

Q: My sponsorship agency has approached my comms planning agency, working closely in partnership with our media buying shop, with an offer from a Hollywood strategic product placement company to position one of our brands in a forthcoming movie.

I've talked to my NPD agency and they think this could be a great opportunity to showcase a new variant they're developing for us, but when I asked my brand identity people to send through the pack mock-up to Los Angeles, they got a rather dismissive response along the lines of "the purple and lime combo is so last year" and "what about using the new brights instead?"

Meanwhile, my main creative agency has put a spanner in the works by asking me to ask the sponsorship people how many other brands are to be featured in the movie and whether there'll be too much "clutter". This they've done and the reply came back that while we would have exclusivity in bathplace toiletries, they had green-lighted 31 other sectors and are amber on 11 others.

The media buyers are fine with it on the basis that Brangelina are co-starring, but is this really a reasonable number? Do movie-goers have a threshold above which the number of "placed" brands featured becomes counter-productive as some say about the Bond franchise, or is it simply a question of context and execution? For example, Gran Torino seems to be doing quite well at the box office.

A: You're suffering from what we doctors call Advisor Overload. I counted seven in your demented wail but I may have missed a few.

The more media/channels/platforms there are, the more specialists emerge to punt their own line and diss all the others. It remains one of the great ironies of our age that, just as clients started to insist on integration, their suppliers chose to disintegrate.

If I was you, I'd just hang on to the concept of something called favourable publicity. By that I mean, absolutely any activity, paid for or deviously negotiated, that draws your brand to the attention of its potential users. And appoint one individual to evaluate the relative merits of each.

Such an advisor might, I suppose, tell you that exclusivity in bathplace toiletries, fighting for attention with 31 other product placement categories in a yet-to-be-released film, was indeed worth a hefty chunk of your recession-challenged media budget. But it doesn't seem that likely, does 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@haymarket.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP

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