On the Campaign couch
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch

My agency has been app-roached by a successful Turkish white-goods company seeking to develop its business in the UK. Its name is Ar├želik and, before we have even been briefed, my creative director is off and punning with ideas to launch its washing machine.

I can see this ending in tears, so should we withdraw, or is there another way around the problem?

Oh dear. I do try very hard not to get all po-faced and censorious, I really do. For example, I haven’t said "the trouble with young people these days…" for very nearly three weeks. But your letter makes it impossible for me not to move into admonitory mode.

In all good agencies, creative directors (although they may not think so) are granted extraordinary status and respect. This is as it should be. An executive creative director’s performance, and reputation, can affect the success and happiness of an agency more than that of any other individual.

This is not to say that others don’t count, or even that others don’t count as much. It’s just that if an agency can earn a reputation for consistently inventive, effective and brand-specific work, it will be a highly successful agency; and the only individual who is qualified to epitomise such work is the ECD.

Creative directors have all come up through the ranks. They started as irreverent iconoclasts, wonderfully inventive but not overly concerned about deadlines, appropriate corporate behaviour or clients’ profit margins. Excellent.

On promotion, some of them grow up and some of them don’t. And I know what you’re thinking. When I say they grow up, you’re thinking I mean they abandon their principles, lose all sense of the ridiculous, settle for compromise and happily agree to make five disimprovements to the edit because that’s what the client wanted.

Well, you’re wrong. That’s not at all what I mean. Being a grown-up means not throwing a tantrum because the philistine client refuses to spend £154 million on a new worldwide logo simply to accommodate this brilliant new script. It means not abusing your huge internal authority by making life intolerable for lowly account people. It means not finding Arçelik so convulsingly funny that an interesting new-business opportunity for the entire agency is blown for good.

From now on, I would like to think that whether or not a creative director has grown up will be determined by The Arçelik Test. Yours has failed it.

If you want to be a grown-up agency, you’ll need to employ a grown-up creative director.

We had a casting session today at the agency, and the models being recommended by the art director were all really young. I’m worried that my middle-aged female customers won’t relate to them. What’s your experience?

Much the best way to understand consumer attitudes and behaviour is to undertake some qualitative research and employ yourself as the sole respondent. From the start of your career, you’ve been urged to be objective – and that’s done you no good at all. The alternative – fearless subjectivity – is both free and priceless.

You’re a 42-year-old marketing manager. You have lost hair on the crown, your left ear still bears evidence of your lock forward days and two of the buttons on your slim-fit shirt are feeling the strain.

Confronted by a photograph of a suit worn by a balding 42-year-old man with a slight paunch and a cauliflower ear, do you exclaim: "My word! That man bears a striking resemblance to my good self! I must order an exactly similar suit forthwith!"?

No, you do not. You see another photograph of another suit, this time being worn by a young Jude Law, and you order that instead.

Why didn’t the Encyclopaedia Britannica see the internet coming?

It did. Just as Kodak saw digital photography coming. The difficulty arises when you have to do something about it. As the chief executive, you can either spend the next ten years and billions of bananas denying and destroying everything your company has believed in since 1884; or you can eke out a declining existence just long enough to be able to hand the company over to your luckless successor.

"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