On the campaign couch ... with JB
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the campaign couch ... with JB

Q: Dear Jeremy, I run a big advertising agency and one of my interns is stalking me.

Everywhere I go, she's there offering to help or asking questions. I can't get away from her. I wouldn't trust her with any actual work to distract her so I need to get rid of her. The trouble is, she's the daughter of a friend and I don't want to offend them. How do I get myself out of this?

A: It would be pointless of me to state the obvious: that you should never have invited the daughter of a friend to become an intern in the first place. It's bad enough doing favours for daughters of clients - but at least by oiling up to clients, you've a chance of reaping some reward or postponing the termination of a prized relationship. The best you can expect from a grateful friend is a bottle of Rioja. But all this you now know so I won't add to your discomfiture by reminding you of it. That would be not only pointless but also heartless of me. (I bet you never do it again, though.)

I've often quoted the admirable axiom I once found in a Parker Pen salesman's handbook: "Remember that the only difference between a stumbling block and a stepping stone is the way you look upon it." Here's your chance to turn your problem into an opportunity.

If you run a big advertising agency, there's bound to be one reasonably senior person who's recently, and repeatedly, incurred your displeasure. He'll be male and over-confident. He has ideas above his station. He's very good (so you can't get rid of him) but he's not as good as he thinks he is. He couldn't be. Behind his back, his colleagues call him KP.

KP is a sucker for any form of flattery. Tell him about this intern. Tell him that it's absolutely essential that she learns, at the closest of quarters, not just from members of the established leadership, such as yourself, but also from those who represent the future. He won't disagree.

Tell your intern the same thing. Tell her that the tectonic plates are shifting (don't spare the cliches). Tell her that, for an advertising agency, change is the only constant. Tell her that next-generation success will depend on the holistic integration of eternal truth and cutting-edge anarchy.

Tell her about KP - and that, despite his punishing workload, he's selflessly agreed to be her mentor from now on. Tell her that some of KP's most inspirational thoughts can occur with a blinding unexpectedness at unpredictable moments - so she must be absolutely certain to shadow him closely at all times.

She'll drop you that instant.

All that should make four people extremely happy: your friend; your friend's daughter; KP; and not least your good self.

And who cares if it's KP who gets the Rioja?

Q: Dear Jeremy, I'm thinking of launching an agency that creates traditional ads based on accepted truths from the digital world. For instance, stick a cat up on YouTube and it gets the most hits. Ergo, put a cat in a TV ad and it will be the most-watched and liked on telly. Angry Birds is the most downloaded game app on iTunes, so take an animated yet irate bird and put it in a press ad, and it can't fail to shift a zillion chocolate bars. Surely I'm on to something. Would you like to be my non-executive chairman?

A: Every time advertising agencies finally begin to understand brands and what advertising can do to create, enhance and protect them, along comes some new medium or technique - and those same agencies get distracted all over again. Even allowing for this familiar pattern, your question reveals an unusual level of ignorance.

Please write out 500 times: "No event, angry animal, banana skin or wardrobe malfunction, however entertaining, will of itself add to the long-term desirability of the brand that features it."

Thanks to Burleigh B Gardner and Sidney J Levy, we have known since 1955 that "... it is more profitable to think of an advertisement as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image - as part of the long-term investment in the reputation of the brand". (Their emphasis.)

Nothing since has successfully challenged this truth. No new truth has superseded it. No disconnected series of high-profile, one-off stunts and spectaculars has ever been shown to come close to it - while countless great campaigns have confirmed it. Yet you, with eyes wide open, plan to borrow money, take on staff, launch an agency and lure in unsophisticated clients - all with the declared intention of ignoring it.

Many thanks for the thought; but I hope you'll understand why I'd rather not be your non-executive chairman.

"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.