On the Campaign couch: Was Radiocentre's rap a good idea?
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch: Was Radiocentre's rap a good idea?

Radiocentre's musical plea to Keith Weed to spend more on radio ads reminds Jeremy Bullmore of a 1960s Granada TV campaign.

What did you think of Radiocentre’s ad rapping about Keith Weed?

When I first saw it, I thought of 1965 and Granada Television.

In case you need to be reminded: in 1965, independent television was just ten years old and had only just gone national; Granada had the Manchester region franchise (Granadaland) and was the creator of Coronation Street; its advertising agency was Papert Koenig Lois – UK; and Harry Rael-Brook owned and ran a well-known shirt company.

Rael-Brook used television advertising – but not, it seems, in Granadaland. So PKL devised a print ad: "Dear Harry Rael-Book: It’s time you met John Evans." And the copy revealed that, when Mrs Evans bought a shirt for her husband last week, it wasn’t one made by Rael-Brook.

"Five nights a week, most Northerners watch Granada Television. Advertisements and all. Interested?" Other ads followed the same pattern: "Dear Man from the Pru"; "Dear Elizabeth Arden"; "Dear Charles Clore". And so on.

So you can see why I thought of all this when I saw Radiocentre’s Weed ad – and it took me a moment or two to spot the difference. Both make a direct appeal to named clients. But the Granada ads don’t put the clients they name on the spot. Rather, they encourage Rael-Brook – and the Pru and Elizabeth Arden – to have a word with their agencies: "Expect you’ve seen this cheeky ad from Granada? Do they have a point, d’you think?"

A few such conversations could easily repay the campaign cost; I seem to remember Granada claiming its campaign to have been a measured success. But how does Radiocentre expect Weed to respond? He may or may not be pleased to be told that if only he diverted more Unilever marketing money to radio, then he could be A Leader – but he absolutely cannot be seen to do so.

I know, I know: I’m boringly, tediously, pedantically missing the whole point here. Radiocentre and its agency never expected Weed to instruct his staff and his agencies to spend more advertising money on radio.

They wanted to show that radio was lively and hip and irreverent – and it could very well be that, as a result of this enjoyable piece of entertainment, other advertisers and chief marketing officers and their agencies will, consciously or otherwise, look upon the medium more favourably.

But it’s an unusual advertisement that makes it slightly more difficult for the country’s fourth-biggest advertiser to do what the advertisement set out to encourage them to do.

The management line-up at my ad agency is about as diverse as the membership at Muirfield golf club. Should I care?

You are sent a colourful brochure by a start-up advertising agency. Its management team is proudly pictured on the front cover. There are five of them; and you learn about each on pages 1 and 2.

One is an African-American male, aged 27, married with three children; one is an 18-year-old gender-fluid Indonesian who speaks five languages; one is a gay, female, Russian, ex-Olympic discus-thrower, single; one is of mixed heritage, female, single, 56, who has spent her past 23 years working around the world as a midwife; and one is an old Etonian, 47, white, twice divorced, the son of a stockbroker.

Given the choice, would you prefer your advertising agency to be managed by this heterogeneous group – or by five members of Muirfield? The only guaranteed advantage of having a diversified management team is that, as a management, you no longer have to fend off infuriating questions about why you don’t have a more diversified management team.

As a client, your only concern should be whether your agency has the sensitivity – the empathy – to understand what it’s like to be people other than themselves: an immigrant, a single mother on benefits, an insecure teenager, a hedge-fund manager, penny-poor pensioners; and, having understood them, to be able to speak to them in ways they understand.

Unless a diversified management team consciously recruits and trains people with such abilities – and such sensibilities – their own diversity is irrelevant. At the very least, your Muirfield members are likely to be quite competitive.

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, Bridge House, 69 London Road, Twickenham, TW1 3SP