On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: Dear Jeremy, Is client conflict finally becoming less of an issue in advertising? Will we soon be able to claim "category specialisation" and handle rival brands?

A: As for the first part, yes. And as for the second part, no.

Client conflict is certainly less of an issue than it was - and for two reasons.

I've never myself seen this top table that agencies no longer have a seat at. (Where is it, I wonder? I have a mental picture of a dining hall in an ancient university, with a very senior client in a high-backed chair, surrounded by sage advertisement agents sipping claret and dispensing intuitive advice and enduring slogans; all a bit Hogwarts, really.)

But now that agencies are less valued by clients, the conflict problem is less acute. We should register this fact before fighting to reclaim that non-existent place. Passionate, exclusive relationships may flatter the ego but they severely limit one's portfolio size.

Then again, the bigger advertisers these days are at least as interested in co-ordination systems as they are in intuitive advice and enduring slogans. They need an established agency network to keep their own unruly outposts in order and monitor the size of the approved logo; and there are only a limited number of established networks. So technical conflict, particularly within holding companies, is increasingly tolerated.

But "category specialisation"? Draft a letter to your £50 million, 3G telecoms marketing director explaining why he'll be infinitely better served once you've taken on his £70 million, 3G telecoms competitor. See what I mean?

Q: Dear Jeremy, For some time I have admired the stylish leather cases carried by executives on the continent and on a recent trip to Germany I purchased one for myself. About the size of an average toiletry bag, it has a small, convenient wrist strap and carries every item essential to my business life: Blackberry, passport, currency, Kendal Mint Cake and whistle for use in case of emergency. It is the perfect solution for the man who doesn't want to carry an unnecessarily large briefcase or ruin the lines of his suit. Yet all I hear from my colleagues are whispered comments about handbags, women's soccer and White Maltesers. Have I gone too far in the name of progress, or does the real problem lie with those whose sexuality is more easily threatened?

A: Sniggerers, all of them. Envious people, ill at ease with themselves. Sad, sad creatures.

It says much for your modesty that you doubt yourself; but in your heart you must know you're a giant among pygmies.

So hold your head high, swing those hips, twirl your vanity bag around your index finger and whistle your way past those whispering workstations.

As I'm sure you must realise: deep down they revere you.

Q: Have you noticed how many furry animals there are in ads these days? Is this because we're all looking for comforting images that make the world seem like a less scary place?

A: You may not know that the Andrex puppy was invented by a Cornish art director hosing a 16mm camera round his back garden one weekend having just acquired a small Labrador and a case of red. The popularity of furry animals in advertising owes more to him than to 9/11.

Q: I am a creative and am desperate to get back into the advertising industry after a prolonged and unwanted break. Two months ago, I met a businessman who is setting up his own agency, despite having little experience in the industry. Since then we have met on four occasions and he has asked me to become his partner with a stake in the company. I don't want to rush into things but am desperate to get a foot back in the door. What should I do?

A: Before you do anything else, please sketch out the gist of your credentials presentation and let me see it. I look forward to learning why any client, with two or three hundred accredited agencies to choose from, would entrust his hard-earned advertising budget to an agency he's never heard of; with no existing business and no reel; and fronted by an unknown businessman and a creative who's been out of advertising for a prolonged period. This may be your greatest ever creative challenge.

You tell me, twice, that you're desperate. I think I might have guessed that.

- "Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone 020 8267 4683.

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.


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