On the Campaign Couch ... with JB
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I'm an account man in my early thirties and while I have risen steadily through the ranks it has been brought to my attention that I have a reputation as not being taken seriously enough in the industry. How can I reverse this?

A: Are you sure you want to reverse your reputation? If so, follow these simple instructions. Last year, two members of the Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration published a paper called Effects Of Different Types Of Perceived Similarity And Subjective Knowledge In Evaluations Of Brand Extensions.

You need to write a 5,000-word critique of this paper (with particular reference to Volckner & Sattler 2006 and Ahluwalia 2008) and circulate it to all your clients, colleagues, friends, family and trade press journalists. Invite them to join you for a series of three-hour discussion groups designed to test the fundamental hypotheses that underpin your response.

Within three weeks, you will be taken so seriously as to become unemployable.

Alternatively, stay exactly as you are and wait until the end of the recession. It's only in serious times such as these that an otherwise much-admired lightness of touch is seen as unpatriotic.

Q: My last campaign was an award-winning spectacular and for the past six months I've had nothing but plaudits and respect. However, it's time for a new campaign and the pressure is immense. Are there any tried-and-tested methods of ensuring repeat success?

A: No. None. Never have been. Never will be.

There is, however, a tried-and-tested method of avoiding humiliating subsequent failure. With heroic magnanimity, and with the stated objective of fostering the future, you hand the assignment to that over-confident pair of 26-year-old Uruguayans who've been breathing down your neck for the past six months.

If they crack it, your own reputation will be further enhanced. You will be known not just as a brilliant creative instigator in your own right; you will also earn a more elevated reputation as guru, sage and mentor. And that should see you safely through to a well-padded retirement.

And if they don't crack it, of course, your earlier work will seem all the more remarkable.

Q: If I drink heavily for four days, but don't touch it for three days, am I kidding myself into thinking I don't have a problem? I don't feel I do.

A: You clearly haven't got an addiction problem, but I'm relieved we're not married.

Q: My client just told me that as soon as we come out of the recession, they want a totally new post-recession strategy. They're un-sexy but spend quite well. My problem is I made most of the team that works on that business redundant two months ago and don't have the staff to do the work or money to replace the redundancies. What do I do?

A: You've got no choice: you deliver. It's a truth only reluctantly acknowledged that the working methods of advertising agencies defy logic, analysis and all known remuneration systems. They are indefensible; and by that I simply mean that, in their theoretical form, no sane person would attempt to defend them. It just so happens that, in practice, they work.

One of the by-products of this indefensible model is that, by any normal time-and-motion standards, agencies' productivity levels are the lowest known to man. An agency staffed by 300 people may, in a good year, produce 70 minutes of usable television material. In other words, it takes an average of 8,500 man/woman hours to give birth to every 60 seconds of acceptable screentime.

Even Avatar did it for less.

I grant you that agencies do lots of other things as well. Thinking takes up a lot of time and so do meetings discussing thinking. But even so (and I wouldn't have it any other way), their ratio of time expended to tangible goods delivered strikes any outsider as a statistical aberration.

Now think of training seminars. We've all witnessed it. Put 30 intelligent people together; divide them into syndicates; give them a brief and a set of deadlines; and by Friday afternoon, they'll have produced half-a-dozen compelling solutions: all on brief and all engaging.

So stop pretending you haven't the capacity to give your loyal, trusting client the new post-recession strategy you know he needs.

Though it can't be a constant, agency working methods mean that there's always room to do everything somehow.

- "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.