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

Q: Has the world gone mad? A TV commercial gets banned for offending transsexuals while an ad to curb binge-drinking featuring a chimp gets primate lovers up in arms. Are we reaching a stage when political correctness is going to suffocate us advertisers?

A: I expect you're a great admirer of Saul Steinberg's famous View of the World from 9th Avenue? It makes you chuckle knowingly, and feel a delicious sense of superiority over those insular Manhattanites whose inverted perspective it so wittily captures. Yet your own question could well be entitled View of the World from Soho Square.

However daft the justification, if the banning of a couple of UK commercials is the strongest evidence you've yet mustered for questioning the sanity of the world, you must be living an enviably sheltered life.

In fact, I'm reasonably optimistic about the threat that political correctness poses. Much is extremely silly and some of it sinister. But I defy anyone to draw a clear and permanent distinction between undesirable political correctness and wholly desirable respect for the feelings of others. And the wilder examples should be warmly welcomed; their manifest absurdity will disarm the thought police far more effectively than any cumbersome alternative.

Q: Dear Jeremy, forgive my stupidity but I'm confused why ITV's trade marketing initiative is called "Values of Fame". ITV is one of the most famous brands going but that doesn't mean that it is particularly valued, does it?

A: I wonder what makes you say that ITV is one of the most famous brands going? On second thoughts, I don't wonder at all; I know exactly what makes you say that. You work in advertising - and to you it's been the most important and the most thrilling medium from the day you started.

What you may have forgotten is that, for the first fortysomething years of its life, as far as its viewing public was concerned, ITV wasn't a brand at all: and what's more, wasn't allowed to be by order of the Television Act of 1954. To anyone sitting at home, the brand was London Weekend Television or Border or Granada or Associated Rediffusion or Meridian. ITN was a brand in a way that ITV wasn't. In all but one critical respect, ITV was very much like the United States of America: a federation of widely varied states, each with its own name, territory and flag. The difference, of course, was this: unlike the US, ITV itself had no name, no flag and no president. The only nationally common factor (and even that wasn't inviolate) was a button with 3 on it.

When the regional ITV companies were the unchallenged suppliers of commercial airtime, the lack of any brand identity for ITV didn't matter very much.

Today, commercial television and ITV are no longer synonymous. Since 1955, independent television (as it quaintly chose to call itself) has made countless brands profitably famous. It seems only reasonable that it should now do the same for itself.

Q: I'm a client trying to decide where to spend my budget and have seen that digital is the new place to be. I thought the reason everyone clicks on those internet ads is to close them down though. Please advise.

A: I suppose, sooner or later, the fog will lift; but it's clear from your question that it hasn't yet.

You'd never have written this, would you? I'm a client trying to decide where to spend my budget and have seen that 16-sheet posters are the new place to be.

The belief that a new medium has a value simply because it's new has merit only for new-media owners and a few combat-trousered media planners.

Every time you find yourself mesmerised by the word internet, think 16-sheet posters. They are both established media - and may serve you well if you use them well.

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


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