On the Campaign couch
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch

Accepting the idea that everyone has the potential to be creative, can we also stress there are certain processes and expertise that are necessary for successful implementation – this is not as easy as it looks, is it?

I don’t want to sound too harsh, but your phrasing of this question is far from elegant. I’m not even sure it’s grammatical. It certainly doesn’t suggest any latent creativity on your part. But I think I’ve worked out what you’re getting at.

And I must start by rejecting your first premise. I don’t agree that everyone has the potential to be creative. I think we’ve become so sensitive to the feelings of others that we have to pretend to believe that everyone has the potential to be creative when we secretly know that they absolutely bloody don’t. It’s probably true that most people could be rather more inventive than they are but that’s another matter altogether.

Not being very creative is nothing to be ashamed of. I can’t draw and it irritates me a great deal that I can’t, but it’s not because I’ve failed to realise my potential – it’s because I can’t draw.

I expect I could be taught, laboriously and expensively, to draw a recognisable great tit; but it would have none of the breathtaking flair and singularity of the great tit drawn in well under ten minutes by an eight-year-old grandson – who was also eating Jelly Babies at the time. He has something that I don’t have – and never will.

And, to return to your question, I suspect you don’t have either. But what you do have is a sense of resentment. I think what you’re saying (and probably writing from the production floor of an advertising agency) goes something like this: "Of course I accept that creativity’s important but that doesn’t mean to say, just because some louche creature in a black T-shirt comes up with half-a-dozen words (more than three weeks late, I might add) and the client buys them, that nobody else in the agency does anything important.

"People simply don’t understand that without meticulous planning and research and the mastering of complicated logistics – eg. certain processes and expertise that are necessary for successful implementation – those half-a-dozen words would probably never have been thought of in the first place and would certainly never have seen the light of day. (And if you want my honest opinion, I didn’t think much of those words anyway. Just about anybody could have thought them up, if you ask me.)"

It does seem unfair. Ten per cent of what a good agency does attracts 100 per cent of the attention.

The best agency managements know this and contrive to see that the otherwise invisible component parts of their companies are fully appreciated, at least internally. That’s one of the characteristics that mark out an advertising agency from an advertisement agency.

Dear Jeremy, Each year around this time, my marketing director asks the team to come up with a dozen New Year’s resolutions. Dutifully, we do so; he posts them on the departmental notice board, and then we all ignore them until about 11 months later, when he calls an NYRRM (see – it’s been going on for so long it’s even got an acronym) and points out that we’ve achieved none of them. Would we be more likely to succeed if we just agreed on one?

There was a time – a better time – when the word innovation was used to mean not just the invention of a brilliant new wheeze but the successful introduction of a brilliant new wheeze. It’s relatively easy to think up desirable new products (Stephen King invented bed-making fluid); it’s very much harder to make them work and get them going.

That should be the one and only absolutely indispensable core competence of a marketing director. So you’d be more likely to succeed if you got in a new one.
Dear Jeremy, At a Christmas party, someone told me a joke in which a solipsist meets another man at a party and greets him: ‘Glad to meet me.’ What’s funny about this?

Nothing whatever. (I imagine you’re quite pleased to be back at work?)

‘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