CLOSE-UP: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I'm a confused client (no, please don't laugh). Creative agencies - or creatives, anyway - hate Millward Brown; but come the IPA Effectiveness Awards, agencies quote MB all over the place. Isn't this hypocrisy of the first order?

A: I have an interest to declare: or rather, several. Millward Brown is a WPP company: but then so are some of the agencies. So I work on the assumption that interests, like negatives, cancel each other out.

The inconsistency you note is real enough - but has more to do with human nature than hypocrisy. Research people delight in revealing the truth. They make no distinction between validation and invalidation; they delight in both.

Creative people delight in the invalidation of creative work only when it is the work of others. For creative people, the ideal management summary at the start of a research debrief reads: "In the 55-year history of this company, we have never before had the privilege of pre-testing an advertising campaign so awesome in its originality and so clearly destined to propel this brand to marketplace dominance." Creative people are not paid to be reasonable.

Account planners (at least the good ones) find it slightly easier to remain dispassionate; and it is planners, remember, who write the submissions for the IPA Effectiveness Awards.

It's an endearing human characteristic to be selective in the acceptance of data. Stephen King, that patriarch of account planning, once persuaded a client to undertake some basic market research for the first time. On being presented with the results, the client commented on alternate charts, "I could have told you that for nothing" and "Bloody rubbish".

Q: Dear Jeremy, I've tried to get on to an advertising Graduate Recruitment Scheme for the past two years with no luck. Before you think I must be crap, hear more. I get through to final-round interviews quite easily. I get placements and work experience jobs every time I apply for one. I'm always told I'd be a fantastic account manager; that my passion, creative skills and people-handling methods are great. But I'm always rejected for odd reasons. These include: "you deal with stress too quietly"; "you're too experienced" and the most common one, "you're too nice". Why am I really being rejected? I have one more interview set up and if I don't get the job, I'm looking for another career! Not everyone can afford to wait three years to find a job they would love. Is there some adland rule that I can't be given a job? PS: I'm not ugly.

A: I suspect that the main reason for your serial rejections lies in your serial rejections.

Agencies are notoriously unconfident in their own judgments. They value only those valued by others. They voluntarily up the pay of people only when those people are under offer from elsewhere. They cut out and keep Faces to Watch because they know with a neurotic certainty that other agencies have better people than they have.

And then there's you: honest, open, calm, passionate, dedicated - and longing to be employed. You've had placements and work experience at a lot of excellent agencies: yet not a single one of them has offered you a job!

"Odd, don't you think, Daisy?" "Very odd, Nigel."

So at this last interview, conceal your excellent credentials and imply an interest in several other agencies, which you hint might be mutual.

You'll feel guilty about getting a job under slightly dodgy pretences only if you fail to do it brilliantly. Which of course you won't.

Q: I was not in Campaign's A List and would very much like to be in the next one. Should I start lobbying Gary Stolkin now?

A: No. Far more fun to lobby on behalf of your friends - and so keep them out.

- 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 or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.


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