CLOSE-UP: ON THE CAMPAIGN COUCH ... WITH JB

Q: Our agency has decided to introduce an agency initiative "in pursuit of excellence", the equivalent of Roosevelt's "100 days". So we've all set off with gusto - but in different directions. The traffic department sees it as a way to introduce longer timescales into the process, the account handlers to write off money with impunity, the planners to chuck the brief out of the window and the creatives to be seen to be right all the time (even when drunk after a Christmas lunch). Do you have any advice?

A: I'm having some difficulty understanding in what particular respect your agency's new behaviour differs from its old behaviour. The conflicting departmental enthusiasms you describe have been familiar to me since the middle of the last century (with the exception, of course, of those of the planners who hadn't yet been invented).

You've spent much of your time as an agency person encouraging your clients to be responsive to their consumers' needs; yet you lamentably fail to understand the needs of your own consumers - your clients.

Clients don't want departments. Departments are a corporate invention designed to occupy organograms and make administration tidier. Departments positively obstruct the creation of excellent advertising, produced within budget and on time. You have only to re-read your own question above to understand why.

No - clients don't want departments: they want the only agency unit designed to deliver what they came to the agency to buy. They want that quaint, old-fashioned, much-derided entity called the account group.

And by account group I do not mean what today it means: a bunch of suits with an occasional planner as group poodle. I mean a group that contains and represents the best of the entire agency in microcosm. I mean a group of people, inspirationally led by an advertising person, who have totally different skills but one shared determination: to produce work of rocklike relevance and divine originality.

Account groups are chaotic things. Each of their members should belong to at least three other account groups but not of course to the same ones.

They are a nightmare to run, which is why the best account runners are beyond price. But it is account groups, not departments, which produce the goods.

(The pursuit of excellence has always seemed to me an inadequate ambition. Why not attain it?)

Q: An anonymous advertising student writes: I recently had a first-round graduate recruitment interview. Although not a masochist, the experience was actually enjoyable. Until I realised my mistake. I put the name of one of the agency's accounts to the famous campaign of a rival brand.

Does this mean I will be consigned to the bottom of the pile of all future applications I make in the small world of advertising? Or, should the agency in question take me on for subtly making them aware that their ads haven't differentiated one brand from another, without having to undergo the expense of post-testing?

A: I'm sorry to disillusion you and delighted to reassure you. E-mails about you are not choking the ether.

No bulletin board has posted your shameful particulars. It will be a decade or two yet before your name is heard in Soho House. The little world of advertising remains wholly ignorant of your error - and indeed, even of your existence.

As an obvious worrier, perhaps that's what you should really be worrying about.

Q: My new year resolution is to get my face in Campaign as much as possible (not my arse as someone did last year). What's the best strategy?

A: I wonder why you want to get your face in Campaign all the time? You would only be scornfully dismissed as the sort of person who wants to get his face in Campaign all the time. What's more, I've now had my face in Campaign every week for two years and absolutely nothing good has happened to me as a result.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson and a director of WPP. He also writes a monthly column for Management Today. Address your problems to him at campaign@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.

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