On the Campaign couch
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch

People keep talking about 'co-creation' as if it's a new thing - but it's not, is it?

Co-creation is one of those many useful marketing phrases that can give a presenter an air of intellectual superiority while effectively discouraging challenge. Where would we be without them?

Not only is it not new – all human communication, without exception, is the result of co-creation – indeed, it is dependent on it. The transmitter transmits: a creative act. The receiver interprets: another creative act. Only then is the communication complete.

Ernst Gombrich said: "The painter must leave the beholder something to guess." Arthur Koestler said: "The artist rules his subjects by turning them into accomplices."

A communication that is yet to be received and decoded – yet to be co-created – will fly forever round the cybersphere like a lost soul.

I’m told that failure makes you more successful but, if so, why am I so risk-averse?

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the value of failure is preached exclusively by the highly successful? That’s because, in the history of mankind, no error-free plodder has ever achieved heroic status. To achieve heroic status, you need to be seen to have been a bit of a goer; to have stuck your neck out; to have defied convention; to have pushed envelopes, invited risk, challenged orthodoxies and deliberately set out to flout the rules.

When these glorification tales are told, often autobiographically, they invariably have happy endings. We hear very little about those who obediently followed such advice; who piled failure upon failure, waiting in vain for the promised return; and who ended their lives puzzled and destitute, their tombstones reading: "I failed at everything. What more could I have done?"

Can creative inspiration derive from intoxication?

There has been a book about this recently.* What drink can do, it seems (as opposed to intoxication), is loosen up the imagination, overcome inhibitions; in other words, encourage writers and artists (and even
advertising people) to depart from the accepted; to take risks. (See above.)

But anyone who has scribbled down an inspired advertising idea at 2.30am will have learned that loosening up the imagination doesn’t always coincide precisely with the brief.

It could have been any one of hundreds, but I think it was Hemingway who said: "Write drunk, edit sober."

*Olivia Laing, The Trip To Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink

Are people kidding themselves when they make a distinction between ‘bought’, ‘owned’ and ‘earned’ media?

Only a bit. And only if it leads people to pretend that only "bought" media actually costs money. I still think it’s more helpful to make a distinction between media that goes looking for people and media that people go looking for. That’s the really important distinction and one that should influence every aspect of execution.

Our happy and profitable agency has been acquired recently on a three-year earn-out and all seemed well until the new owner brought in a feng shui expert of the Compass School to assess our building. Apparently, it’s inauspiciously oriented and the recommendation is to leave the premises and consolidate in the building occupied by two other agencies in the group. Will this mean bad karma?

Bad karma is already with you and there’s lots more to come.

As I’m sure you know, feng shui is one of the five arts of Chinese metaphysics. In the course of the next few weeks, you may expect the new owner of your agency to introduce you to the other four. They will be cited as persuasive reasons for you to: a) freeze all salaries over £50,000; b) limit client entertaining to £15.50 per client/meal; c) turn the agency bar into a profit centre; and d) replace your Christmas knees-up at The Dorchester with a BYOB party in the basement. It will be made chillingly clear that the consequences of failing to make these metaphysically determined changes would be dire, almost certainly involving degenerative disease at senior management level and a series of inexplicable account losses.

"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