Q: We've just returned from a five-day stills shoot for a
four-sheet campaign. My creative director now wants to go on some piece
of hi-tech kit to manipulate the images - totally unbudgeted for. The
client had a heart attack when we presented the original quote, now my
creative director wants to spend another 50 per cent on top. Help.
A: I'm far from certain you deserve help. The evidence suggests that
you're a lily-livered suit, cravenly surrendering to both client and
creative director but on alternate days. The predicament you now
describe is entirely self-engendered and I was sorely tempted to leave
you to get out of it under your own steam.
However, seeing as I'm a decent person, compassion finally conquered
contempt - so here goes.
The fact that your creative director, having spent a fortune on
photography, now wants to spend even more on hi-tech post-production
equipment can mean only one thing. He never had an idea in the first
place. The reason the owners of hi-tech post-production equipment are so
rich is because, by expensively manipulating mundane images, they
provide the illusion of originality. They disguise mediocrity and
protect the fraudulent.
Your creative director is therefore culpable on two counts: he is
neither creative nor responsible enough to be a director. If he doesn't
go, your client will. While you still enjoy the luxury of choice, you
and your chief executive must decide which.
But I bet I know what you'll really do. You'll behave with
characteristic cowardice, write off the cost of using the hi-tech kit,
expect to earn brownie points from both sides for doing so - and face
exactly the same problem in six months' time. Just don't come whining to
me again, that's all.
Q: The brand I work on as account director is an international one and I
have a local client who pays for the media and an international brand
vice-president who is responsible for all creative work we make. The
local client wants us to stress her latest price deals in the ad we're
running for her next month; the international vice-president insists
that the long-term brand message must be paramount.
They are coming in for a meeting tomorrow. They've both called and asked
me to make sure I back them. What should I show them?
A: The problem you face is not, as I suspect you believe, a structural
one but a creative one. It is a nightmare when two different clients
demand apparently incompatible strategies, but at the risk of incurring
your acute displeasure, I think you've missed an opportunity here.
This international brand vice-president: what exactly does he mean by a
'long-term brand message'? I bet he really means consistency. I bet he
sits on the 42nd floor of his corporate headquarters in Grand Rapids,
Michigan, gazing with pride at the identikit advertising from the
27countries he's responsible for and secretly wishing they could all be
Meanwhile, and understandably, your local client wants to push her price
deals. They're going to trim her margins so she badly needs the extra
Where you've gone wrong is in thinking that these two ambitions are
mutually exclusive. Despite the precious protestations of your creative
department, it is perfectly possible to develop a campaign that has both
a distinct and consistent brand style and the flexibility to talk news.
The best of media advertising does it and so does the best of retail.
You need some, too.
But I've no idea what you show your clients tomorrow. Contrition,
Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson, a director
of Guardian Media Group and of WPP, and the president of NABS. He writes
a monthly column for Management Today. A more serious look at problems
in the workplace, it both inspired and complements On the Campaign
Address your problems to him at Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Road, London
W6 7JP. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.