Q: After an unexplosive number of years in mainstream advertising,
I saw a chance to transform my moribund career and jumped on the dotcom
bandwagon a few years back. I became a true believer and clients,
promotion and pay rises soon followed. The wheels have now fallen off
the boom and I'm having to make cuts to staff and my overspending habits
and, frankly, I feel quite exposed. Do I stick to my guns as a dotcom
prophet or do I start looking for the next big thing that clients and
agencies will be throwing their money into without a great deal of due
A: You're far too young to remember, of course, but you may find some
comfort in the events of 1955-1965.
Back in 1955, enthusiasm for commercial television was by no means
Many advertisers declined to use it. Many agencies openly described it
as a flash in the pan - and serviced such television clients as they had
from small, off-shore departments who were keen on entertainment values
but found the concept of brands and selling disturbingly, well,
commercial. The jingle prospered.
Myth has it that commercial television took off like a rocket. It
didn't. Commercial television took off like one of those brainless
beings who, once a year, strap on a pair of plastic wings, hurl
themselves from some south coast pier, and plunge into the sea some
seven yards out. One of the most potentially lucrative franchises was
held by Associated Rediffusion - of which a significant shareholder was
After a year or two of haemorrhage, Associated cut its losses and pulled
out. This was only shortly before Roy Thomson described a commercial
television franchise as a licence to print money - which by then it
Dotcommery and commercial television have this in common. Opinions about
both have been extreme. Both have experienced irrational exuberance and
a severe recoil of enthusiasm. Both, in an initial burst of untutored
excitement, chose to brush aside the basics of good business. And both
will have an important if competitive part to play long after you've
been elected vice-president of the bowls club. Apply the knowledge
you've so painfully acquired - and stop describing yourself as a
Q: I seem to be buying too much dodgy creative work. The problem is that
whenever the agency presents, I can't take my eyes off the account
director and, consequently, don't listen to a word that is said. I've
tried thinking about Anne Widdecombe or Michael Winner but it's no use.
When it comes to my turn to comment, I simply say it's wonderful work,
especially as I don't want to upset the apple of my eye. Shall I profess
my love or just start rejecting all the work?
A: Neither. Take your loved one aside and tell her that one of your
colleagues has confessed to losing his critical faculties while in her
presence (it would, of course, be a breach of confidence to tell her
which). Explain that, for this reason, your future comments on the
creative work may seem unduly critical, but standards must be
maintained. And suggest that any serious differences of opinion should
be sorted out between the two of you at subsequent off-the-record
meetings. Pretty nifty, eh?
Q: I am trying to change careers into advertising - I used to be a
teacher. I have already given up on recruitment agencies and I am now
contacting ad agencies direct. Are letters and CVs likely to be read or
should I consider painting myself blue and donning a sandwich board in
an effort to secure a foot in the door?
A: Attracting publicity to yourself is only a good idea if the way you
choose to do so shows evidence of wit, intelligence and originality.
That you should even consider painting yourself blue suggests to me that
you should return to teaching.
- 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.