Close-up: On the campaign couch ... with JB

Q: Of all the many famous quotes about advertising, which is your favourite and why? A: George Orwell is commonly credited with having said: "Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket." I don't know where or when he said this and anyway it's sometimes attributed to G K Chesterton.

But it's a memorable thought and is regularly trotted out by those who misguidedly see it as evidence of advertising's essential vulgarity.

The reason it's my favourite is because it's succinct and it's true and it precisely sums up one of advertising's most valuable functions.

Swill is wonderful stuff, ecologically admirable. Instead of chucking kitchen scraps down the waste disposal unit, you put them in a bucket and take them out to the pigs. Swill is well balanced nutritionally and exactly what pigs need and like. All that's now necessary is for the pigs to know you've got it. To achieve this, simply rattle a stick inside the bucket. The pigs trot over to their trough, gobble up the swill, grow fat and healthy and quite soon provide excellent ham and bacon for their owners. Feeding swill to swine is as pure and perfect an example of recycling as you could hope to find. The rattling of the stick is a cheap and efficient method of connecting those who have with those who want, to the complete satisfaction of both.

You will by now have spotted that the above paragraph contains a perfect description of the function of classified advertising. Classified advertising is as pure and perfect an example of recycling as you could hope to find: like the rattling of the stick, it's a cheap and efficient method of connecting those who have with those who want, to the complete satisfaction of both.

Thank you, George.

The other reason I like the quote so much is that it's mercifully free of piety.

Q: My client has invited me to a two-day sales conference in Grimsby in order to get to know his team. I would rather boil my eyes in salt water. Is there any excuse that might wash?

A: Why waste time struggling to find an excuse when you have only to reach for the truth?

Tell your client you chose advertising as a career for its metropolitan chic and sophisticated status: you have always found its association with selling somewhat distasteful. It is your strong belief that enlightened clients should look upon their advertising not as a crude sales agent but as a passport to aesthetic acceptability. This being the case, your presence in Grimsby ("you're nearer to cod in Grimsby than anywhere else on earth" - your client may well find this amusing) is not only unnecessary but would seriously blunt those very sensibilities that make you unique among your client's counsellors.

Once you've made these views clear, I'm confident that your invitation to the sales conference will be swiftly withdrawn - and all without a single falsehood having passed your lips.

Q: The art directors at every agency I have worked with reduce the shot of my beautifully designed pack to the size of a postage stamp in their ads. In their words, it is to "give it a bit of air to make it stand out". I find this habit incredibly irritating; how best to get bigger pack shots in my ads without being seen as a thug, a moron or indeed both?

A: Much your best bet is to become a client. Then you can insist on it.

Q: I have invited my account director to an afternoon with the man who invented perforated teabags. His enthusiasm was so obviously false that it made me want to puke. What was the most boring event a client invited you to?

A: I was once invited to give my frank creative opinion of his 240 holiday slides. And now a question for you: how does an unperforated teabag work?

- 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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