A: Traditional agencies hate being called traditional. Every agency's greatest fear is to be thought old-fashioned. Old-fashioned agencies are unfashionable, outdated, conservative, drab, analogue. So agencies with distinguished pasts flout the advice they'd rightly give their clients; instead of plundering their histories for timeless treasures, they disown them. By doing so, they both squander their capital and delight the upstart breakaways - who, having no timeless treasures to plunder, are deeply relieved by this surrender to one-dimensional modernity.
Advertising is an astonishingly interesting trade. Competitive enterprises spend $20 billion a year on advertising - yet there is still no universally agreed understanding of how it works. (As it happens, advertising should never be seen as an "it", anyway; advertising is not a homogenous whole with a common purpose; advertising is a vast bundle of contradictory and competitive stimuli that we call advertisements. But that's another story.)
The mysteries of advertising may never be fully revealed; but if every generation of advertising agents insists on believing that advertising knowledge began on the day that they first put up their shingle, understanding of our trade will remain forever earthbound.
The agency business, being fearful of seeming to be backward-looking, being highly fragmented and usually strapped for cash, is careless about its long and priceless history. Few client companies bother to archive their work, let alone draw useful lessons from it.
And yet, as every other trade or calling knows, without a keen and accurate understanding of what you used to do, you haven't a chance in hell of doing it better. For everyone's sake, even those who believe that history's bunk, somebody's got to look after yesterday's jewels.
You are a lottery millionaire.
You are also mortal; one day, though I hope not soon, you will be dead. If you've enjoyed the advertising business, you can present it with an indestructible gift for all eternity. Just imagine your sense of joy, looking down from Mount Olympus, centuries after your forgotten death: and knowing that without your foresight, your wisdom and your perspicacity, those ungrateful madmen down there would still be groping their way through the shadows of their own ignorance. Makes you shiver with pleasure, doesn't it?
Q: I'm fairly junior in a creative agency but I was thinking of starting to write a blog about advertising. Do you think prospective employers would be impressed by this and should I avoid picking out ads I dislike in case I end up wanting to work with the people involved in the future?
A: Even if you hadn't told me you were fairly junior, I would have known it. Yours is a fairly junior thought.
Including microblogs, there are more than 400 million blogs. Of those, 3.87 per cent are of value and 96.13 per cent are not. To which group would yours belong?
If you have views on advertising that are original and can be put to good purpose - and if you're fertile enough to come up with them at least once a week - then by all means proceed. You'll build a vast audience and fully deserve the acclamation and material success that will follow. Otherwise, keep quiet. You might just be saved from humiliation by the fact that potential employers would be deeply unlikely to stumble across your juvenile jottings; but never underestimate the lengths to which good friends will go to draw attention to another's inanities.
Q: I've just joined an agency that doesn't believe in hierarchy or traditional job titles. We're all one big team and have been given generic titles that no-one understands. How do I know if I've been promoted?
A: Doesn't your agency believe in paying, either? If they pay you more, hang around for a bit. If they don't, go and work for an agency with some sort of future.
Q: I don't like soccer, but my agency has invited me on a luxury trip to watch an England scrum down in South Africa. Would it be rude to decline the invitation?
A: If you accept, you'll ruin the trip for everyone else. That would be rude. Ask if you can put your invitation up as the prize in a company sweepstake, with the massive proceeds going to a deserving cause (the History of Advertising Trust, perhaps?).
I thought the only people who played soccer were American girls?
- "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 email@example.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.