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

On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

I'm the marketing director for a significant retailer; the account director at my agency and I have a very close relationship, perhaps verging on too close. While we're both single, I'm concerned about the ramifications this could have on my company's relationship with the agency should things turn sour. What would be your advice?

I'm not at all clear which things turning sour you're concerned about: is it things turning sour between you and your paramour or things turning sour between your company and your agency? Either could be difficult, I can quite see that, but there's a critical difference between the two.

If things turn sour between your company and your agency, you can draw up a shortlist of 12 other attractive agencies, enjoy being the most popular marketing director in London and continue the relationship with your paramour now happily freed from any sense of guilt. If things turn sour between you and your paramour, however, no such elegant solution is open to you.

It follows that the sooner things turn sour between your company and your agency, the better for both of you. I'm confident that, between you, you and your paramour can manage that.

There's always the possibility, of course, that your paramour finds you attractive because of your budget. If that's the case, you'll soon find out. Good riddance, I say.

It's good to see that the CDP brand may be getting a revival in the UK. For our younger readers, who may only think of it as a DM agency, could you explain how groundbreaking it was as an ad agency in its heyday?

You don't explain CDP. You look at what they did and then you know everything.

Inside Collett Dickenson Pearce, edited by John Salmon and John Ritchie, was published by Batsford in 2001. The last time I looked, Amazon UK had one used copy available for £190.34. It's worth much more than that.

As Alan Parker says on page 44, the agency really should have been called Dickenson Millward Pearce. If John Pearce was the intellectual standard-setter, Colin Millward was his creative equivalent.

Neither man would tolerate sloppiness: of thought or execution. Of all the adjectives deservedly bestowed on CDP, one seems to me to be conspicuously absent. For all its apparently chaotic working methods, CDP was intensely disciplined.

Their discipline was entirely self-imposed. But there was no inflexible philosophy - just the familiar Millward refrain: "It's not good enough, is it?"

Despite many of the eulogies accorded to them, they didn't break any rules or moulds. They did something infinitely more difficult: they worked with high intelligence and inventiveness within the rules. And they did this not because it was politic to do so but because they'd looked at the rules and put them to the test and found most of them to be of worth. So they didn't clamour for some cop-out concept called creative freedom; they welcomed the constraints of their trade and turned them through wit and inventiveness to glorious advantage.

I cannot think of a single CDP campaign where the brand or service was not the unashamed, celebrated centrepiece.

They never tried to sneak up on you or rely on borrowed interest: they took the task head-on. Every advertisement, whether for shoes or the Army or beer or pens or cigarettes or cars, featured (in the big, moviedom sense of that word) whatever it was that was being promoted. I doubt if anyone ever said of CDP work: "Fantastic ad. I wonder what it was for?" (Though the much-awarded Cinzano campaign might just be a lonely exception.)

They added value to every brand they handled. Their work reeked of class.

Under Millward's intolerant eye, CDP exhibited the relentless visual equivalent of perfect pitch. Layout, photography and typography - while never drawing attention to themselves - were spare and beautiful and invariably fit for purpose.

And the words! The words were written as if they not only expected to be read but to be read by intelligent, appreciative people. And so, of course, they were. Never treated contemptuously as some unfortunately necessary design element, copy was honoured. You will not find a single piece of CDP copy set in sans-serif 8-point and reversed out of lemon yellow.

CDP was groundbreaking not because they invented a new kind of advertising. I don't think they did. They were ground-breaking because, what other agencies might do very occasionally, CDP did every day on everything.

Do get that book.

"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