A: You should always try to do brilliant; but only as long as brilliant means what brilliant ought to mean and not what brilliant sometimes means.
Brilliant sometimes means the identity of the brand advertised remaining wittily undisclosed. Brilliant sometimes means the use of an internal reference that's amusing only to 14 other London-based creative directors. Brilliant sometimes means typography that renders the text impregnable. In other words, brilliant sometimes means indefensibly unprofessional.
If this is the form of brilliance that's currently eluding you, praise the Lord.
Here's a thought that may not have occurred to you. For a client to accept creative work with immediate enthusiasm is not ipso facto evidence of mental deficiency. Some clients are better judges of advertising than you are. So it's at least possible that the work you so despise is better than you think it is; it's just that it hasn't propelled you to a podium recently.
Remember the old saying: "Most advertising that wins prizes is good; but most good advertising doesn't win prizes." (Dave Flower - 1973)
You should feel deeply ashamed, however, of your awful work. Stop it at once.
Q: Do job titles really matter? I'm a senior account manager but want to be called account director because most of my friends are. My MD says it's not about the title but about the job you do and the respect you have from agency staff and clients alike. I'm not after more money, just status.
A: Your managing director is absolutely right. Managing directors always are. In fact, he's clearly such an exceptional talent himself, having earned such respect from both staff and clients, that there can be no case whatsoever for his clinging to that grandiose title. Next time you see him, make this point (it's a kind of compliment; I'm sure he'll see it that way) and offer him the following alternatives: graduate trainee, assistant procurement manager, janitor.
He'll respond testily by saying these are all honourable titles but applied to him would be inaccurate and misleading. To which you reply: "Aha! My point exactly! Since I direct my accounts rather than just manage them, I should clearly be called an account director." (Drop all that stuff about status.)
You should be aware that this advice, excellent though it is, may not necessarily advance your career.
Q: Are we in danger of taking this ethnic diversity issue too far? Sure, representing multi-cultural Britain in ads is one thing but sticking a black bloke in an ad for the sake of it is pure tokenism. Do you think ethnic minorities are taken in by this ploy?
A: I've no idea how ethnic minorities feel about their representation in advertising. Those of us who find ourselves members of ethnic majorities are notoriously insensitive.
But it's interesting that you take it for granted that sticking a black bloke in an ad is pure tokenism. I wonder why that should be. Perhaps you believe there are simply too few black blokes to make up a worthwhile target group? Or that black blokes have such inadequate disposable incomes that their inclusion in ads can never be commercially justified?
I suspect that the inclusion of the odd black bloke strikes you so forcibly because, until recently, there were a lot of black blokes and a lot of advertisements but only very rarely were they seen together. To me, that's progress.
- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson and a director of WPP. He also writes a monthly column for Management Today. He welcomes questions via campaign@ haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.