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

On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: My children don't reply to my e-mails any more, saying they've got bored of all the spam and want me to start communicating with them using Facebook (Joshua), Bebo (Natalie) and LinkedIn (Jordan), which are "phat", apparently.

It's also virtually impossible to get them to write "thank-you" letters to their older relatives who send them birthday presents. This strikes me as a bit rich since they seem ready enough to open the letters and parcels in which these gifts arrive. Meanwhile, I've got dozens of office e-mails to deal with both at work and via my remote link to the company network from home, and then some personal ones on my own e-mail address, to say nothing of the texts I'm receiving from my niece.

An added complication is that my Uncle Hector, who doesn't have a computer and is worried about the cost of telephone calls, prefers to correspond with me by post and is of the generation that gets most offended if one doesn't reciprocate, preferably using Parker, Quink and Basildon Bond. What makes it worse is that the Royal Mail has lost several letters both to and from him, which has made Hector completely paranoid to the point that he now routinely writes me postcards asking if I've received his letters, especially if there's a cheque in them, which happily there sometimes is.

Sorry to bore you with all this, but as you must receive many communications by all sorts of means, I wonder if you have any suggestions as to how to streamline my lines of communication?

A: I expect you have forgotten it by now, but you sent me this question in September 2008. I know it's not recommended in the self-management textbooks (The Only Ten Decisions You'll Ever Have To Make; FLIP: How To Start Each Day With A Full Heart And An Empty In-Box) but I'm a huge believer in the value of procrastination.

By now, your children will be four years older. Some of them may even have come to realise that there are better ways to spend their time than exchanging inanities on social media. By now, Natalie will have abandoned Bebo altogether. By now, your Uncle Hector will either have got himself a laptop or expired. By now, your older relatives, pissed off at receiving no thank-you letters, will have stopped sending your children presents. That's more than half your problems dealt with already. So that's all good, as Ian Fletcher would say.

Hang on for another four years and the other half will probably self-destruct as well. Above all else, stop feeling sorry for yourself and develop a reputation for being slow to respond to all forms of communication. It's a sub-skill of procrastination and has an extremely healthy effect on the level of communication in-flows.

Q: Dear Jeremy, Do you agree with the notion that we are living in a "post-advertising" age?

A: No. Aren't you as weary as I am of the "End of ..." hucksters? It's high time that someone more assiduous than I compiled a certified list of products, services and fashions that have been confidently predicted to be at death's door, if not already beyond, and which still thrive. At the very least, it might deter publishers from granting generous advances to yet more catchpenny titles.

I'm a lot more interested in products, services and fashions that, astonishingly, continue to survive and prosper. Don't you find it surprising, for example, that the windscreen wiper remains much as it's been for well over 100 years? Clumsy, mechanically complicated and extremely vulnerable, surely it should have been superseded decades ago? And long live Brillo pads.

Candidates for my Surprising Survivors Register are warmly welcomed.

Q: Launching and creating my own "payday loan" company has proved to be an eye-opener. There's massive consumer demand out there and I feel we're offering a very useful service, but regulators and even local government seem intent on placing very tight restrictions on the content and terms and conditions in my advertising. Is there a better, less compromised and less time-consuming way of targeting my millions of potential customers than through brand advertising?

A: I think what you mean is: how can I tell millions of people that I can give them instant money without having to tell them, in detail, that they'll not only have to pay it back but the amount they'll have to pay back will be a lot more than the amount they borrowed?

I'm not sure you should try. If people are desperate enough, or vulnerable enough, the most innocuous of advertising can seriously mislead.

"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.