On the Campaign couch
A view from Jeremy Bullmore

On the Campaign couch

Jeremy, if you could bring back one extinct practice from the advertising industry’s past, what would it be and why?

I’m not sure that my prime candidate qualifies as a practice and it’s certainly not yet (quite) extinct. And I’m also well aware that, if my wish were to be granted, the immediate effect would be to condemn many deserving media first to bankruptcy and soon afterwards to extinction.

The practice I would dearly like to see reinstated is the universal, monitored, enforced, unambiguous, unmissable distinction between editorial and advertising. (I know, know: it never was quite as pure as that. But you know what I mean.)

An advertising feature is not a feature; it’s an advertisement. An advertorial is not a form of editorial; it’s an advertisement. Native advertising is an advertorial. (A couple of years ago, when I couldn’t find anyone who knew what native advertising was, I looked it up; and this is what I found: "Native advertising refers to a specific mode of monetisation that aims to augment user experience by providing value through relevant content delivered in-stream. The word ‘native’ refers to the content’s coherence with other media on the platform." I hope you’ve found that as helpful as I did.)

I’m opposed to any form of advertising, in any medium, that tries to pass itself off as editorial for two reasons.

First, it’s an admission of abject creative failure on the part of its creators. What they’re admitting is that they are unable to make the subject of their advertisement interesting or desirable (which is precisely what they’re paid for) without resorting to deceit.

Second, it’s cynically short-term and self-destructive. Native advertising – sponsored content – will be effective only as long as the consuming public remain deceived: and that won’t be for very much longer. And when that happens – when people grow cagey, as they’ve already grown cagey about advisory sites – it won’t just be the brands that forfeit trust: it will be the media that willingly colluded in this exercise in mass deception.

My other candidate is lunch.
How do you become a good judge of character?

The same way you become good at anything: through trial and error. But it’s no good distrusting everyone until they prove trustworthy. When people know you don’t trust them, they’ll never trust you – why should they? – so you’ll never know. You’ve got to trust everyone until they prove untrustworthy; and most of them never will.

Is the revival of so many brand mascots just an admission that advertising really was better in the ‘old days’?

No. It’s just further evidence that new chief executives, new marketing directors, new brand managers and new agencies are far too reckless in the way they ditch brand properties. It takes tens of years and tens of millions of pounds to invest a brand mascot with its unique recipe of brand properties: most so subtle that they defy verbal encapsulation. Then along come the new boys, driven more by vanity than professionalism, who condemn this priceless heirloom to a landfill. In a properly run company, brand mascots would never have to be revived: they would have been constantly cherished and nourished and reinvigorated. In real life, such is the vanity of man and the need to save face that there often has to be a generation break before brand mascots are allowed to stage a comeback.

I joined advertising under the understanding that it would offer plenty of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.

However, since arriving, I have been working bloody hard over long days and often evenings. Have I been sold a pup? Should I have become a Tory MP?

I can’t decide who’s the stupider: the person who thought that anyone lured into advertising by such a prospectus would be worth hiring; or you for falling for it. But you should still be pleased that you’re not a Tory MP.

I’ve just started a new job. How can I impress my new colleagues?

You should hit the ground listening.

Why are so few men taking up their paternity leave?

Because they’d rather be at work.

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, Teddington Studios, Broom Road, Teddington, TW11 9BE