Close-Up: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I'm a client and the finance director at my agency has told me I've got to fork out more money to pay Basbof to allow the ad industry self-regulation. To be honest, the matter is of little importance to me. Why should I pay it? A: Well, of course you needn't. As I'm sure you already know, if you get the timing right, you can always slip through a revolving door on someone else's push. I bet that sets you up for a whole day. Almost as good as finding a vacant parking meter with someone else's quid still on the clock.

And wasn't that you I saw last weekend in a Disabled Only bay at Tesco?

This is your favourite poem: "The rain it raineth every day/Upon the Just and Unjust feller/But more upon the Just because/The Unjust hath the Just's umbrella." You much enjoy the sight of the Just getting wet because that's exactly what they are, you think.

You pride yourself on being smart. And you despise all those who aren't smart; who stand their round when it's their turn and agree to pay the Basbof levy.

You're right, of course: self-regulation - and therefore your continued freedom to advertise responsibly - won't be seriously threatened by your own tacky little decision. Somebody else's umbrella will still see you covered. It's just that if everybody decided to be as smart as you, I don't suppose you'd think that smart at all.

Q: There seems to be an almost frenzied interest in virals at the moment. Aren't these spots merely an opportunity to get a knob/animal cruelty joke past the regulators?

A: Don't be so stuffy. Pioneers are often crude creatures. It's taken the ad trade a long time to work out what the internet can do and what it can't - and they still haven't. But no other medium can do virals.

Q: Dear JB, I am the managing director of an integrated agency and our most important client has asked us to put his entire budget into telephone marketing (the abhorrent variety as used by the utilities). However, after a torrent of such calls at my home, I cannot sanction this kind of unsolicited intrusion into consumers' homes. Obviously I put the account at great risk. Am I being completely naive?

A: No, you're not being naive - you're being surprisingly principled. You also run a serious risk of sounding priggish. What you must do is stop using phrases such as "I cannot sanction" and take your argument one stage further.

You've been infuriated by the torrent of cold calls you've received at home. So have I. You've probably made a mental note - or even a written record - of the companies whose luckless piece-workers have pestered you.

So have I. You may have resolved never to do business with any of these companies. So have I. You may have encouraged your friends, neighbours, relations and fellow travellers to boycott those companies. So have I.

And so, increasingly, will millions of other exasperated citizens, roused from their armchairs for the third time in half-an-hour with the news that their number has come up on a computer, that a design team is in their area, and that they can now get cheaper gas from their electricity supplier and indeed vice versa.

To categorise unsolicited telephone hucksterism as marketing is yet another blow to this long-suffering word. Quite soon, we worms will turn. Internet sites will bloom and flourish, overflowing with the names of the worst offenders; and the consuming public will desert those names in dreadful vengeance.

And that's what you need to say to your client: whatever the short-lived gain might be, the long-term consequences could be dire. Were you to underwrite some research into householder response to such calls, it would both strengthen your hand and confirm your sincerity. You need have no fears about the findings.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a director of WPP. He welcomes questions via campaign@haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP. "Ask Jeremy", a collection of his Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone: (020) 8267 4683.

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