On the Campaign Couch with JB
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign Couch with JB

Q: I am the founder-owner of a growing dotcom brand. I'm not a control freak, but I would say I am the personification of the brand. Now my agency wants me to star in our next campaign. I've done a bit of "am-dram" in my time, so I reckon I wouldn't embarrass myself. Although I'm flattered to be asked, I'm also terrified about being teased by my family and mates. Should I just say no?...

A: I'm sure you remember that ancient advice to advertising agencies:

When your client sobs and sighs

Print his logo twice the size.

If he still should prove refractory

Print a picture of his factory.

But only in the direst case

Should you show the client's face.

Before you decide whether or not to star in your next campaign, try to be sure of your agency's motives in suggesting you should. Have you, for example, rejected their last five recommendations? If so, they may see this as their direst case and that only a blatant appeal to your vanity can hope to save the business. If this suspicion lurks, terminate your relationship immediately. But if you believe their motives to be pure, examine their proposal with some optimism.

Many successful companies have interesting back stories. Sony did, Apple does, Facebook does, lots more do. Founders provide instant back stories; think Bernard Matthews, Richard Branson, James Dyson, Mr Kipling. Before you proceed, however, take three precautionary measures.

Get some sort of objective reassurance that you do, indeed, personify the brand. You may not enjoy subjecting yourself to merciless research and then sitting through the debrief; but that's what you need to do. Not everyone will think you're wonderful - so brace yourself for hearing them say so. By agreeing to star in your own advertising, you forfeit your privacy and become a property - to be managed as dispassionately as if you were the logo.

Second, make sure that the campaign contains some brand-specific property other than your good self. Sooner or later, you'll have to stop appearing in your own advertising - so plan ahead for continuity.

Finally (and probably also firstly), examine your personal record with fastidious care - because if you don't, your competitors certainly will. Sudden internet and Sunday newspaper interest in your affection for cocktail waitresses or Nubians could wreck your marriage, your career and your company within a matter of weeks.

If you're comfortable with all that, a bit of teasing should be easy enough to live with. If you aren't, tell your agency no. You needn't tell them why.

Q: I've heard a lot of talk internally about how our agency should use earned and owned media channels better in order to become self-publicising, thereby cutting out those reptiles in the trade press. Do you think this will happen and is it desirable?

A: I'm reminded of another oldie, this time a cartoon. A couple is depicted gazing at an unidentified object on a shop shelf. One is saying to the other: "They speak very well of it in the ads." You'll not achieve the equivalent response if you rely entirely on self-generated publicity. "I see this agency speaks very well of itself. It must be first rate."

The most potent praise is a combination of content and source. For confirmation, study those filleted film reviews. "A moving masterpiece, destined for greatness" is a powerful endorsement. Just how powerful will be largely conditioned by who said it. Was it The Observer? Was it The Barton Stacey Film Society? Or was it Tarantula Films' publicity department?

In any case, even if you stopped sending those weaselly press releases to the trade press, that wouldn't stop the reptiles from writing about you. They'd simply feel an even greater journalistic responsibility to provide some sort of balance.

Just how the reptiles would seek to balance unremitting self-congratulation, I leave you to work out for yourself.

Q: I (a junior creative) am off to Cannes for the first time this year (along with our ECD) and I am particularly excited. I hear it is a debauched affair and people traditionally return in - to put it mildly - a delicate state. How best to prepare for this, do you think?

A: Sorry to be a bit late with this one. I'm afraid you may have been disappointed. According to the most recent delegate research I've seen, the top reason given for attending Cannes was:

I needed to learn more about the cultural dimension of assertiveness in cross-cultural advertising.

Is this very much as you found it?

"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.

Topics