On the Campaign couch
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch

Malaysia's Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies makes it compulsory for all client companies inviting its member agencies to pitch to pay a fee. The winning agency returns its fee to the advertiser. Losing agencies keep 90 per cent of the fee. The rest goes to the association. Sounds like a good way of stopping frivolous and badly organised pitches. Should the IPA follow suit?

For this to work, the procurement executives of client companies would have to accept an expensive (and probably illegal) condition imposed upon them by a supplier organisation; and every agency member of that organisation, however desperate it might be for new business, would have to decline to pitch for a £50 million account unless the potential client first coughed up a few thousand quid.

Do you have any other questions?

As the marketing director of a major retailer, I’m very taken with the idea of facial-recognition technology that can offer tailor-made ads to our customers. My big worry is that we’ll have the civil-liberties lobbyists on our backs and that our reputation will suffer as a result. Is the whole idea going to be more trouble than it’s worth?

Forget about the civil-liberties lobby, how much do you know about the basic efficacy of such technology? Perhaps you think that it can identify Georgina Blunkett, age 43, from Rockingham Gardens, and then minutes later confront her with a message that says: "Lovely to see you again, Georgina. Given that Steve and Betty are coming to see you this weekend, we thought you might be interested in our delicious Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, now on offer for only £5.99."

Well, it doesn’t work like that; all it can do is identify people’s broad characteristics: height, age, colour, gender and so on.

And the safest thing you can say about people who share the same broad characteristics is that, in all other respects, they will be defiantly, totally different.

A message that presumptuously thinks it has got your measure but clearly hasn’t is much more offensive than an entirely general one that makes no assumptions about you at all.

Michalis Sarafidis writes: Can someone who grew up abroad and English is not his mother language come and thrive effectively in the UK ad scene? And how can he achieve that, considering the cultural differences that separate him from most of his peers?

Thanks, Michalis. It all depends. And that’s a phrase I’m going to use a lot, I’m afraid.

The overall answer is yes: it’s entirely possible for someone such as you describe to thrive effectively in the UK ad scene – but it ain’t easy and it all depends.

It all depends on what particular skills you believe you can bring to the party. At the risk of oversimplifying, I’d say that the closer you want to be to the final product, the harder it will be. But, at the same time, there’s a value in detachment – and that’s where your background could actually be an advantage. So you’re unlikely to be listened to when searching for the precisely nuanced images and phrases that will immediately grab the interest of 18-year-old girls in South Wales; but you might well be listened to with proper respect if you demonstrate a macro-understanding of universal cross-cultural teenage semiotics. At times like this, a non-English accent can lend credibility to just about anything; and if what you have to say is actually of real value (which I trust it will be), you’ll be a star presenter in no time at all.

So it all depends on the way you present yourself. If you try to get a job on the basis of being exactly like Nick, Sarah, Charlie or Jessamy (with the only trivial difference being that you come from Ukraine), you’ll get nowhere. As in advertising, identify your difference and show why it’s in the other person’s interest.

Finally, it all depends on your ability to get an interview or two. So you’d better have one or two pieces of evidence that you’re worth half an hour of a busy person’s time. And, brutal as it may sound, if you don’t have the skills to construct such evidence, I very much doubt if you have the skills to do the job you’re after.

"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