On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: Dear Jeremy, I'm a marketing director and we're currently reviewing our media planning and buying business.

It has become a very price-led process and the incumbent is threatening to pull out and tell the market that we're only interested in a rock-bottom commoditised media service. Should I worry about this? And, if so, what should I do about it?

A: Why, I wonder, might you worry? Because it's not true? Or because it is?

You're perfectly entitled to be interested only in a rock-bottom commoditised media service. If that's all you want, why pay more? Nothing to be ashamed of. And you should be quite pleased that the incumbent is prepared to tell the world that that's all you're interested in: it should save you sitting through endless pretentious presentations from competing media companies, all offering a lot of fancy add-ons, none of which you think you need.

But, as I'm sure you realise, there's absolutely no need for you to sit through a single presentation, pretentious or otherwise.

Just e-mail a list of your basic requirements to a dozen or so media-buying companies and ask for an estimate by return. Don't even bother to meet anyone. Just appoint the lowest, sight unseen. Next!

But I notice you include planning. It's just possible to delude yourself that media buying is all about muscle and that price is the only determinant; the lower the price, the better the value. It gets tougher with planning.

Media planners, like account planners, can use all sorts of smoke-and-mirrors stuff to persuade you that something called quality is worth paying for. (Half the time, of course, they're right; but I bet you don't know which half.)

Really what you're after, I suspect, is our old friend cut-price quality. You don't want to deter the classy shops from pitching for your business, but you don't want to pay classy-shop rates. So you'll lure them on to the longlist - and hope that by the time they realise they'll never break even, it'll be too late to pull out. Well, it won't work.

People looking for cut-price quality, in whatever field, inevitably end up in precisely the same place: with counterfeit goods. The Louis Vuitton that isn't, the Rolex that doesn't. The only media planning and buying agencies that claim to be able to provide you with high-class planning at rock-bottom prices will be impostors; they'll have hired a few cut-price graduates, mugged up on a few impressive words - heuristic, hypothetico-deductive - and will wing it from there.

Buyers of counterfeit goods start by feeling triumphant because they think they've beaten the system and made everybody else look stupid. They end up with a handbag that falls apart in the rain. Who looks stupid now?

I notice with interest that your review has "become a very price-led process" - as if the review had somehow taken control of itself and was no longer anything to do with you.

If you really are a marketing director, don't you think you should be directing? Please make it clear: do you want a rock-bottom commoditised media service or the best that money can buy?

Either's perfectly respectable; but, if you're hoping to get quality goods at bargain-basement prices, you're going to look stupid.

Q: Dear Jeremy, Given that only 70,000-odd people are watching Mad Men at the moment, is the industry in danger of overdoing its cultural significance?

A: I've no evidence to support what I'm about to say, but that in no way distinguishes it from most of my other confident responses. I don't believe that Don Draper and his colleagues have affected the public's view of advertising any more than JR Ewing and his colleagues affected the public's view of the oil industry. Both backgrounds allow their programme-makers to explore greed, ambition, fear, power, money, rivalry, love and lust. But that's all they are: backgrounds - canvases on which skilful writers can paint new interpretations of all the ancient emotions.

Mad Men will have had zero cultural significance (whatever that means) for the advertising industry (which doesn't exist).

Q: Dear Jeremy, How can my agency maximise its advertising around the Queen's Diamond Jubilee?

A: I suppose I should have answered this question rather earlier: my apologies. But I very much hope that you did absolutely nothing.

Advertising that exploits national occasions makes all brands look identical. The aim of most advertising is to do the opposite.

"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.