On the Campaign couch: How do I set aside my agency bias?
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch: How do I set aside my agency bias?

Dear Jeremy, I really want to work with a certain agency but I'm aware that it needs to be a fair process. How do I put my biases aside?

I think what you’re really asking is what most true believers in the democratic process ask: how can I ensure that the democratic process delivers the outcome that would best suit me? 

The answer, as you must already know, depends almost entirely on your level of seniority. 

Even to be the chief marketing officer may not be enough. Only the chief executive can announce: "I am minded to appoint GumDropZ as our agency of record but am naturally anxious that this appointment should meet with the approval of you all. So please be kind enough to let me know by end of play tomorrow if you have reason to believe that another agency would serve our purposes better and, if so, which." 

The consultation period may be brief but none can complain that their opinion went unsought. And you may be reasonably confident that a clear majority will support your recommendation. 

If you’re not the chief executive, please don’t attempt to put your biases aside; rather, do everything you can to see that they’re buffed up and shared by the largest possible number of your colleagues. Successful agency selection is dependent on the existence of bias. An agency chosen because 12 members of the marketing team each gave it 6.3 on a scale of ten is doomed from the start. 

What’s the last film you saw and what did you think of it?
Having read the reviews, I’d decided not to see Dad’s Army. We went along to see Trumbo but the online listings had got its listings in a twist and Trumbo wasn’t showing. So I bought tickets for the next film to start, which was Dad’s Army.

Much respectful care had been devoted to the casting. If I’d been asked to invest a few thousand quid in a film featuring Bill Nighy, Tom Courtenay, Toby Jones, Sir Michael Gambon, Bill Paterson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alison Steadman, Annette Crosbie, Sarah Lancashire and Mark Gatiss, I’d probably have cashed in my premium bonds; forgetting that even the most talented of actors need crafters of words and crafters of characters and, above all perhaps, crafters of relationships. If I ran a production company or an advertising agency, I’d cancel the awayday in Surrey we’d just pencilled in where we’d planned to discuss What Content Will Resonate Most Contextually with the Post-Millennium, Digital-Averse Prosumer. 

Instead, I’d book us into a small viewing theatre. And there we’d watch four episodes of the original Dad’s Army television series; followed by Dad’s Army, the new film; followed by four other episodes of the original television series. That would take up five hours and 40 minutes, during which the taking of notes would be encouraged but verbal comment of any kind strictly forbidden. 

We’d then have a drink and a sandwich and open things up for discussion. There would be no discussion leader. No one person would be responsible for drawing general conclusions from the work we’d jointly watched. Order of speaking would be drawn from a mess tin. Each of us, in turn, would describe what we’d seen and what we’d learned. 

I am utterly certain that the value of that five hours and 40 minutes would be infinitely greater than a year’s worth of lectures at a film school. It is as though the makers of Dad’s Army the film had deliberately determined to copy all things obvious from the television series while with equal diligence eliminating the subtle. No nuance survives. No raised eyebrow tells you what Sergeant Wilson really thinks about Captain Mainwaring. And Mrs Mainwaring, for 80 episodes all the more fearsome for being unseen, is inexplicably made flesh and loses everything.

I found Dad’s Army the film too painful an experience to endure and we left before the end. I’d never done that before and don’t expect to do so again. But it’s inadvertently performed an invaluable service. We’d always known that Jimmy Perry and David Croft were talented writers. By systematically stripping their work of all their most magical touches, the makers of the movie have exposed, as if in an autopsy, just how delicate and trusting as craftsmen Perry and Croft so consistently were. 

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, Bridge House, 69 London Road, Twickenham, TW1 3SP