On the Campaign couch
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch

Dear Jeremy, I’m soon starting a placement at an agency and wanted to prepare with a little summer reading. What are the best books on advertising to prepare me for the industry?

With fortunate timing, Credos, the research arm of the Advertising Association, recently invited Paul Feldwick to nominate the best dozen books about advertising and advertising research.

It couldn’t have chosen a more qualified person; so I’ve raided his list and edited it down to suit your particular requirements.

In his commentary, Paul approvingly quotes James Webb Young, himself the author of an excellent book about advertising (and probably the best short book about advertising) – How To Become An Advertising Man – but it’s fiendishly difficult to get hold of these days.

Young wrote regular book reviews, the constant subheading being: The Best Books About Advertising Aren’t About Advertising.

That’s true; but, for primary summer reading, you need to start nearer the bullseye.

So go for these: Martin Mayer – Madison Avenue, USA (1955); and David Ogilvy – Ogilvy On Advertising (1983). Both extremely readable and they will give you a good flavour of the trade as well as an understanding of it.

To learn how it works today: Byron Sharp – How Brands Grow (2010);

Les Binet and Peter Field – Marketing In The Era Of Accountability (2007); Stephen King (and many others) – A Master Class In Brand Planning (2007).

Paul’s list finished by mentioning one of my own, More Bull More (2003). It’s lots of little bits rather than one big bit and is now hard to find.

You may find that theory and practice don’t always correspond. That’s one of the many joys of this business.

My agency has produced a film that has got lots of PR. My client has asked us for a value on ‘earned’ media. How can we work this out?

You can’t. For years, PR companies used to measure their contribution to their clients’ reputations by totting up the number of column inches devoted to their clients’ activities. They probably still do; and the number of hits, clicks, likes, mentions, tags, referrals, virals and memes as well. It’s easy to mock – but the need to measure something is all too understandable.

To place an actual value of your film, in base financial terms, would require you: a) to know precisely who had been exposed to this film; b) to measure the behaviour of each of these people after such exposure; c) to isolate the effect of such exposure from all other brand stimuli; d) to measure the cash contribution to your client company of each item of individual consumer behaviour attributable solely to exposure to this film; and e) to do all this over the next ten years or more, since the best favourable brand impressions deliver a very long-term beneficial commercial return.

Since no-one in the long and chequered history of PR had ever managed to do all this, and nor will they ever, you’ll need an alternative.

So just add up the mentions, exclude the unfavourable ones, lick your finger – and suggest a price. Your client will halve it, and you’ll settle.

The huge advantage of this is that you’ll now have a benchmark, however unscientifically derived. So when your next film delivers even more favourable mentions, with an absolutely straight face you’ll be able to ask for more money. (The reverse, of course, is also true.) We all need norms. And it’s amazing how quickly people forget where norms came from.

I’ve been in the game a long time and, frankly, I find it exhausting keeping up with developments in technology. I’m curious: how much do you keep up with new media? Do you ever tinker with Twitter or have a poke around on Vine?

If you’ve been in the game a long time, you’re likely to be of a certain age. People of a certain age are not expected to keep up with developments in technology; indeed, it’s important that we don’t. If we did, the young would have nothing left to feel superior about.

‘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