On the Campaign couch (9 May 2013)
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch (9 May 2013)

The passing of Margaret Thatcher has left me feeling unexpectedly bereft. I am not a staunch Tory but, having begun my career in the 80s, for better or worse, the Iron Lady’s presence had punctuated my salad days. I suddenly feel very mortal. Can you suggest any advice on how to fight my ennui and rediscover my mojo?

If you’re to kick your Margaret Thatcher dependency, you need to take strong and regular doses of realism.

Judie Lannon remembers that, in about 1984, members of Wacl were invited to 10 Downing Street. Mrs Thatcher was asked how she coped with the many different perceptions that existed about her and her policies. "I do not deal in perceptions," she replied. "I deal only in facts."

It’s hard to think of another 11 words that could as decisively disqualify a person from being admired by anyone working in the world of communications. I suggest you print them out in bold type, tape them to your mirror and mouth them to yourself first thing in the morning and last thing at night. You’ll soon feel better.

When it comes to awards and press publicity, do you think agencies should let their creatives take credit for the ads they have come up with, or should all work just be "that of the agency"?

Here’s a research project for an enterprising graduate who has access to authoritative lists of all the major creative awards over the past 25 years.

My guess is this: that there’s a clearer correlation between certain agencies and awards success than there is between certain individuals and awards success.

I’d expect the findings to show that some creative teams, having been highly successful at Agency A, and consequently poached by Agency B, thereafter won little. And that some creative teams, almost invisible at Agency C, became award-winning superstars within months of moving to Agency D.

I’m not, of course, suggesting that corporate culture is the only thing that matters: just get the culture right, and any old stumblebum can walk away with the silverware. I’m just pointing out that the flowering of individual talent in advertising is, to a considerable degree, dependent on the particular soil in which it’s planted.

On the surface, then, it’s unfair and misleading for individual creative people to be given exclusive credit for award-winning work. The agency may have attracted that client because of its existing reputation; the account planner will almost certainly have sieved laboriously through a great deal of uninspiring data to reveal an uncut diamond or two; the creative director may have rejected the first three less inventive attempts to meet the brief – and even suggested one small but crucial human touch that made the final work a runaway winner; the account person knew the client’s business objectives well enough to know how to present it. And, finally, the client deserves a credit – and not just for signing the cheque.

So how can it be right for award-winning work to be so narrowly acknowledged?

Two reasons, I think. Most good creative people need a whiff of the podium. And 17 people all trying to get their hands on the same small trophy makes for poor theatre.

And, second, as you will already have been silently fuming to yourself, nothing I’ve said above is new. Like everyone else, you knew it already. Unless they’re terminally delusional (which can’t be entirely discounted), even creative teams will privately acknowledge that they don’t conceive and give birth to their beautiful babies in a hermetically sealed isolation cabinet. So no-one’s actually misled.

It’s true that there are still a few agency managers foolish enough to believe the credits and think that they can transform their company’s 30-year reputation for plodding output by the simple expedient of paying over the odds for two insecure individuals; but if they’re that foolish, who cares?

The average age of the Omnicom board member is 70. Since advertising is often described as a young person’s game, should we be cheered by this news?

I’m afraid I don’t follow you. Are you implying that 70 isn’t young?

"Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore’s Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10.Telephone (020) 8267 4919
Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP