A: Always a good one, this; a bit like "why is there only one Monopolies Commission? Nice to see all those Soho smoothie-chops wriggling around as they fail to answer what seems to be an entirely reasonable question. In fact, of course, if all those smoothie-chops had an adequate understanding of the business they're in, they'd smack the question to the boundary with effortless grace.
Advertising people still think that advertising is the only form of advertising there is. That's because it's the only form of advertising they do. But it's not advertising that makes brands and companies successful: it's being well known for being good at something. That means: first, being good at something; and second, making sure that people know you're good at something.
Publicity is the business we're all in. (Or, as Rupert Howell suggests, publicite: the word in French means something subtly different and is much more helpful. Or so Rupert tells me.) Advertising is just one part of publicite, and is already in the process of becoming a smaller part.
So any advertising (publicite) agency that's any good at its job will spend a good deal of time and money on its own publicite. Given the relatively small number of people it needs to reach, this is unlikely to include advertising. David Ogilvy did it brilliantly by writing books.
Q: Billy Mawhinney writes: Dear JB, after a great time in Scotland I'm returning to JWT for the Forth time. Any advice?
A: Dear Billy, yes. Your pun pains me. Art directors, however talented, should avoid puns. Word people will never respect you.
After their plunge down-market to No.1 Knightsbridge Green, you will find the agency exactly the same but noticeably better. Keep off the puns and that's exactly how they will find you. Welcome back.
Q: The chief of the advertising agency I use is always trying to meet my chief executive, who has no interest in our advertising and, sadly, not even much interest in our marketing. How can I explain this to my agency without criticising my boss or belittling my own role within the company?
A: I do not know which of the two irritates marketing directors more: the chief executive who takes absolutely no interest in marketing or the chief executive who was once a marketing man himself and still insists on re-writing the trade ads. On balance, you may be the lucky one.
As you should have worked out, the reason that the chief of your advertising agency is so anxious to meet your chief executive has nothing to do with professional conscientiousness.
It's pure self-protection. If your business ever takes its advertising account elsewhere, his regional president will demand a written explanation, together with an annotated diary detailing the number of personal contacts he's made with your chief executive over the past 12 months. To admit to never having met him would be tantamount to accepting total responsibility for the account's loss. You need to show some sympathy here.
Do not be deterred by the fact that your chief executive has no interest in advertising or marketing. They do not have to talk about advertising or marketing. If your agency man is anything like a professional, he will be able to feign interest in whatever it is that does interest your chief executive. By the sound of it, it could well be: a) your chief executive and b) your chief executive's passion for orchids.
So tell your chief executive's PA of your agency man's passion for orchids. Arrange for them to meet. And let them get on with it.
Your status will be deservedly enhanced.
- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson and a director of WPP. He also writes a monthly column for Management Today. A compilation of his business advice, Another Bad Day at the Office?, is published by Penguin, priced £5.99. Address your problems to him at campaign@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.