CLOSE-UP: On The Campaign Couch ... With JB

Q: I'm falling desperately in love with a wonderful woman who is clever, sassy and gorgeous. Every time I see her, my heart skips like a Shakespearean hero's in the moonlight. I know she's single too, but the problem is that she's my client, and I don't want to ruin a professional relationship even though I sense there's a spark between us. Should I ask her out?

Ah, spring. You've gone quite soppy, haven't you? Well, that's just fine by me: I think it's wonderful. Nothing warms the old heart more than young people getting soppy in the springtime.

Now then: let's think seriously about the winter.

If you let your skipping heart rule your addled head, you may expect chill winds and heavy storms. You've got to decide soon which of the two relationships is likely to survive the longer: you can't back both. I'm no actuary, but I know for a fact that some client/agency relationships remain strong after 100 years or more. I'm aware of no emotional relationships of which the same can be said.

So if you're a true, thrusting advertising executive, for whom no professional peak seems unattainable, and conscious that all ambition demands some sacrifice, your choice is clear. Maintain a monkish distance from your client and wait until one or the other of you gets moved up or moved on. It won't take long and your heart will heal.

Such is the appropriate course of action for any intelligent, rational male. But it is not, however, my advice. My advice is to ask her out, have a wonderful time, see what happens and hope that, one way or another, somehow, who knows how, things will just sort of sort themselves out and you'll both live happily ever after ...

Soppiness can be quite contagious in the spring.

Q: I am a creative director with several young teams. Could you give me any tips for telling the Tobys from the Matts, let alone which one of them is art and which one is copy?

If, as a creative director, you'd had the intelligence to hire copywriters who could write and art directors who had some demonstrable graphic ability, you would not be asking me this depressingly familiar question.

It's also time you questioned the value of teams. More often than not, teams exist to protect two untalented people from exposure. (It was said of Thomas and Jane Carlyle that, by marrying each other, they'd at least ensured that only two people would be unhappy instead of four. That's about the only respectable justification for many teams.) Good and confident writers should want to work with a variety of good and confident art directors - and vice versa.

Try suggesting to Toby that he work some of the time with Matt and some of the time with Wally. Try suggesting to Matt that he work on at least one account with Peejay. Prise Scarlett away from Damon and introduce her to Gustav. After the storms and the tantrums and the threatened resignations, you'll be amazed by the freshness of some of their work; and by just how easily you can tell who's good at what.

Q: I worked in the US for a few years where most agencies present three, or even four ideas at the final presentation. Why do UK agencies only present one idea in a pitch?

Presenting the single idea is seen by certain UK agencies as evidence of manliness. In holding this belief, they demonstrate their ignorance of both human nature and advertising: what, in fact, they communicate is not manliness but stupidity and poverty of invention.

It defies logic and experience to claim that the needs of a brand can be perfectly met, at any one time, by just one advertising idea and no other. The only time that a campaign idea deserves such faith is after it's been running extremely successfully for ten years and now needs replacing.


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