On the Campaign couch
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch

Is it true that the habit of wearing a gold ring in the ear was started by sailors who wanted a safe place to carry their burial money? I’m the marketing director of a hearing-aid company – I thought there might be something in this.

To start with, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d grasped the relationship of the second half of your question to the first; but, as you’ll discover below, I’ve rather brilliantly made the connection myself. (Loyal readers sometimes express surprise that, after so many years, there still seem to be fresh questions to be asked about the relatively restricted topic of advertising and marketing. While questions such as this keep flooding in, it’s clear that the subject is far from exhausted.)

As it happens, though never having worn them myself, I know a bit about earrings – and I think you’re almost right. Sailors are a superstitious lot and always have been. Shipwrecks and loss of life at sea were commonplace. For your carcass to be left to rot on a faraway shore was to know that, without a Christian burial, your soul would be left to rot in hell.

So sailors wore gold earrings in the pious belief that kindly strangers would recover their corpses and lay them to rest, having first helped themselves to an earring in due payment. Since, for obvious reasons, no sailor was ever in a position to check whether or not this ruse was successful, the superstition survived.

As the marketing director of a hearing-aid company, you must often have brooded about the totally different cultural attitudes that society holds towards the disabilities of sight and hearing. When considered dispassionately, spectacles can be seen to be primitive, comical, lashed-up constructions, perched on the nose and hooked behind the ears. Yet George Clooney wears spectacles – and probably would even if he didn’t have to. Warren Beatty wore spectacles, for God’s sake. People wear spectacles as a badge of pride – and the bigger, the better. Huge spectacles are cool spectacles. The most expensive shades spent most of their life on the tops of women’s heads.

Yet hearing aids cower away from the public gaze: the smaller, the less significant, the better. And all that hearing-aid publicity does is confirm the ignominy of having to wear a hearing aid by boasting of their near-invisibility. George Clooney would never wear a hearing aid for effect; but why not, I wonder?

Hearing aids need a total relaunch. Spectacles aren’t called seeing aids; they’re called spectacles or glasses or the affectionate specs. Hearing aids need a new name.

And why aren’t there designer hearing aids? Why aren’t there Paul Smith and Armani hearing aids? Why hasn’t Google got a GoogleAid? Why aren’t there huge, decorative hearing aids that shout: "Look at me, I’m a hearing aid – and ain’t I just amazing!!?"

In fact, why aren’t there hearing aids that aren’t just hearing aids but also Wi-Fi hotspots, FM receivers, GPS monitors and – come to think of it – earrings? (See? I got there in the end.)

As the marketing director of a?hearing-aid company, you should set yourself this heroic task: to so recast the hearing-aid concept, from name through design to brand positioning, that vain people with perfect hearing will pay £1,000 to be seen sporting one. If seeing aids can do it, it must?be possible.

I’m a qualitative researcher who has been in the field a few years now and I’ve got a question I don’t feel comfortable asking my boss, who has a large aquarium in his office. Why is it that so many women who recruit respondents for group discussions have fish tanks?

The life of the qualitative researcher is an unenviable one. You have only to travel on an omnibus or spend time in the saloon bar of a public house to know that the opinions of common people are not only mundane but also mind-numbingly expressed. Qualitative researchers are obliged to listen to such opinions, with interested expressions on their faces, five days a week, for years on end. Many find solace in the relative animation of a fish tank.

Is it too late to run a sales promotion based on a ‘selfie’ competition?


‘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, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington, TW11 9BE