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

Q: I'm a director famed for my beauty work, but I long to be taken seriously. I know I can do funny. How can I convince the TV department to re-evaluate my reel? Help! A: As every comedian soon discovers, doing funny is different from doing everything else. You can set out to make your audience think, to make them sad, to move them to pity, to make them want things: and you may never be absolutely certain if you've succeeded or not. There's no instant, visible, unequivocal reaction to confirm your success. Something may be going on inside them; and there again, it may not. You may have got through; but there again, you may not. You may never know.

But doing funny is different. As Arthur Koestler lumberingly observed, humour is the only form of human communication designed to elicit an immediate physiological response.

You do your funny: and the recipient either laughs - or doesn't laugh.

No need for discussion or research; no weaselly mutterings about long-term effect. You've either made a hit; or you haven't.

So you will be quick to see that continuing to show your beauty reel to TV departments as evidence of your ability to make people laugh is unlikely to deliver you a significant career boost.

People will know you can do funny only when you've done funny - and they've laughed. So it's going to cost you, I'm afraid.

Q: There's talk of introducing a procurement person at the agency where I work. I am dubious as to what effect he or she would have. What are your views?

A: Every modern agency should have a procurement person.

First, you will save a fortune on sandwiches, copying paper, magazines, travel, booze, entertainment, DVDs and conference badges.

Second, it is becoming de rigueur for agencies to field a procurement person of their own when faced by the growing number of clients' procurement persons.

Employing a procurement person needn't break the bank: you should always base their remuneration, in arrears, on an agreed proportion of their audited savings. Finally, do consider banding together with other agencies in your group so that you can procure several procurement persons at once.

Quantity discounts are seldom offered openly but may often be obtained as a result of tough negotiation.

Your procurement person should be able to help you here.

Q: I am a client who is seriously considering giving my direct agency the lead role on an integrated brief. How do I break the news to my long-serving ad agency without damaging their precious egos?

A: I cannot for the life of me understand why you should be worrying about the precious egos of an advertising agency. You're clearly suffering from budget fatigue. Just as compassion fatigue is when we exhaust our capacity for feeling compassion, budget fatigue is when we lose sight of the fact that marketing budgets represent real money. Budget fatigue leads us to think of marketing expenditure as Monopoly money, or Poppets at Club Med. "We've only got a couple of million for this promotion," we say apologetically. It's not real money; real money is the Friday tab at Tesco.

Your company has entrusted you with a great many millions of pounds.

The production director would have killed for it, the financial director nearly resigned over it - and you're worrying about Baz and Chunkie's fragile egos.

If you have serious reason to believe that your direct agency could help you invest those millions more profitably than your ad agency, you shouldn't hesitate for a second.

Just hold back enough from the budget to buy those egos a decent lunch, that's all.

- 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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