Q: Dear Jeremy, as the marketing director of a major UK advertiser I pretty much conform to the cliche of spending about 10 per cent of my time thinking about my advertising and about 10 per cent of that time thinking about the media aspect of my advertising. But pesky trade press journalists keep calling me for comment on mysterious matters such as CRR and Ofcom. Should I really be up to speed on the minutiae of media issues? Sometimes I see quotes from my peers that make me think I'm the only one languishing in embarrassed confusion.

A: What you fail to disclose is how you spend the other 90 per cent of your time. If you are the kind of marketing director I suspect you to be, you will spend it as follows: with your R&D people, feeding them the consumer insights that will help them develop a better product; with your distributors, coming up with a deal that benefits both of you; with your finance director, getting to grips not just with the volume implications of your work but also the financial and business implications; with your own team, making sure they understand the smallest nuance of the brands they champion; with your CEO, demonstrating with numbers the ROI of your marketing budget; and with your international peers, quizzing them about any initiatives that they or their competitors have developed and which you could legitimately nick.

If this, or something like it, is how you spend your working hours, you've no need to fret about CRRs and Ofcom. You have your priorities right and your company is lucky to have you.

On the other hand, your driving ambition may well be to attain the sexy new status of Celebrity Marketing Director: in which case you'll find every one of the activities listed above profoundly unattractive.

You'll be drawn only to those activities that contribute instant turbo-thrust to your personal profile and vertiginous career.

So cultivate the media. Have controversial views on everything. Spend far more time with your agencies than your retailers. Hog platforms. Accept an invitation to the Oriana for the fourth year running. Sit on creative juries, preferably as chairman. Contrive to be on the marketing director shortlist for everything from Microsoft to Madame Tussauds. Deny rumours that you've been invited by Prince Charles to rebrand the monarchy. Date Jordan. And mug up on Ofcom.

Q: A creative writes: Like you, Jeremy, I am a man of letters with a classical education. As a copywriter in one of London's most famous agencies, I try to prepare advertising materials that contain crafted prose that both entertain and educate the consumer. My creative director, however, keeps telling me to "find the big f**king visual idea". Am I working in the wrong agency or the wrong industry?

A: You are kind, but wrong, to credit me with a classical education.

Having failed, for the third time, to translate quite simple passages of Virgil into English, I was invited to leave my university. Had it not been for this, I might easily, with Peter Cook, have become a judge.

Nonetheless, I have some sympathy for you. Only typography saves modern advertising writing from the universal obloquy it deserves. By setting text in 8pt, reversed out of lemon yellow, typographers thoughtfully render it indecipherable and thus protected from critical comment.

Advertising badly needs people with a feel for words. If the remark you quote is typical, your creative director isn't one. So I suspect you are in the right industry but the wrong agency. If it's "one of London's most famous agencies", the chances are it's blindly besotted by television to the exclusion of all else.

A tip. I'm glad you want to entertain and educate. But do embrace persuasion as well - otherwise you might be thought unworldly.

- 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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