On the Campaign Couch...with JB

On the Campaign Couch...with JB

Q: I built up a high profile in advertising when I was younger, and now that I'm a certain age, I am being wheeled round to give talks to young creatives about how I got to where I am.

The last thing I ever wanted to do was talk about creating. I've always just wanted to create, but when you get to my age, you are not paid to do what you love any more. Am I just being ungrateful?

A: I'm not sure whom I feel sorrier for: you or the young creatives. Young creatives won't be in the least interested in how you got to where you are; not least because where you are is being wheeled round to give them talks about how you got to where you are, which is not somewhere they'd ever want to be themselves. The only thing young creatives might be interested in is someone who's still creating, which is exactly what you'd like to be doing yourself. So why aren't you?

By the sound of it, you haven't succumbed to the siren call of promotion. You haven't become an executive global network multinational client creative ambassador. You're not dividing your time between airports and conference centres; your only function being to leave clients with the fallacious impression that their agency is still a creative organisation.

So why have you surrendered in so abject a fashion? There are artists, inventors, novelists, directors, speculative scientists, designers, playwrights, journalists, choreographers and mathematicians all doing extraordinary work in their fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties. Are we to believe that advertising, and only advertising, is so demanding a discipline, so uniquely draining of the wellspring of creativity, that no work of originality can be expected from any practitioner over the age of 35?

Among other things, such an opinion is ignorant, presumptuous, shallow, destructive to all parties and demonstrably fatuous.

You're not being ungrateful in raging against your enforced marginalisation, but you are being supine.

So get your hands on a brief or two - and show them all. If you prove what you believe to be the case (that you're as capable now as you were when you built up that high profile of yours), then your agency and its clients will be delighted and those young creatives will throng to your talks. Only if your confidence proves misplaced might you have to resign yourself to gratitude.

Q: I'm an agency chief executive and we're about to hire someone who writes a very prominent industry blog. The blog is well-respected, but surely if he's spending so much time working on that, then he's not thinking about work?

A: If you want to fret, at least make sure that you're fretting about the right thing.

If this prominent blogger wasn't blogging, he wouldn't be thinking any more about work. He'd be thinking about Arsenal. In fact, since his blog is clearly work-related, he'll be thinking more about work than he would be if he wasn't blogging. In any case, there's a limit to the amount of time a person can usefully spend thinking about work, a limit that easily allows for blogging: particularly since most blogs read as if they've been not so much written as evacuated.

A more reasonable fret would be about his scope. It would, of course, be utterly outrageous were you to attempt to limit his freedom of expression. He's no slave: you've bought the man's skill, for eight hours a day, five days a week, not the man himself. It would almost certainly be in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights were you to itemise certain topics you would ask him to eschew. Indeed, perish the thought; it never crossed your mind.

But perhaps it should.

A major client, on your advice, has abandoned social media. The prominent blogger, a long-time, on-the-record social media enthusiast, uses his blog to mock your client, by name, as living in the Dark Ages.

Your agency is on the shortlist for a notoriously fickle piece of business with a mouth-watering budget. The prominent blogger uses his blog to list the average tenure of the named marketing director's last five agencies (17 months) and calculate the average discrepancy between his claimed annual advertising expenditures and the subsequent published figures (53 per cent).

You are negotiating with a sought-after ECD. Her fame owes much to a garlanded campaign featuring Alice In Wonderland. Your prominent blogger has been told about the work book of an intern who was then on work experience at her agency.

Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. But agencies, like all brands, do need to police their communications.

"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.