Q: Having convinced clients of the need to listen to consumers in

qual rather than just ticking them off in quant, how do you then

persuade them that consumers are still not necessarily saying what they

mean or really think?

A: I can tell from your inelegant abbreviations that you're a planner.

Welcome, anyway.

Though you may not know it, your problem is twofold. The first part,

convincing clients of the chronic mendacity of respondents, is

relatively easy - and I have yet to find a more effective method than

The Great Toothbrush Test.

Using both quant and qual, and accepting consumers' responses as gospel,

you will conclude that the average adult (excluding edentates) buys nine

new toothbrushes a year, replacing the old brush with a new one about

once a month.

Now study the statistics issued by the National Bureau of Oral

Technologists, Hygienists and Manufacturers.

From these audited figures you will discover what we in marketing call a

discrepancy. On average, the fully toothed adult purchases 0.8

toothbrushes a year, changing it on average every 19 months. Given the

nature of averages, this suggests some consumers are making do with the

same toothbrush for two or more years.

It is not at all difficult to persuade clients that consumers are liars

and should seldom be trusted; but this leaves your clients with the

bigger problem. If they can't trust consumers, who can they trust?

You would, of course, like it to be you. But this means you must earn a

reputation for always telling the truth, for never supporting dodgy work

and for interpreting consumer responses with unfailing accuracy.

You must, in other words, become infallible - the course of action I


I hope this helps.

Q: If the ad industry wants professional recognition, why doesn't it

encourage business schools to run advertising degree courses?

A: A friend of mine once said that the perfect examination question for

an advertising degree would read: "You are an account executive

ultimately responsible for a £12 million FMCG account. Arrange a

table-seating plan for 13 women."

I do not know of a single business school imaginative enough either to

define or assess the essential skills required of the true advertising


Q: My ad agency presented a campaign idea a few months ago, which I

didn't feel suited my brand. Now I see they have managed to sell exactly

the same idea to one of their other clients. It's not the first time

this has happened. Is it time I moved agencies?

A: What's touching about this question is your belief that you were the

first client to be offered this idea. You were probably the third.

Some agencies have a wonderfully carefree approach to their business,

modelling themselves not so much on Savile Row as on Gap.

So they don't wait to measure up a client before starting to make a new

campaign; they have a few racks of colourful, ready-made ideas available

at all times. If they really came clean, they'd escort you to their

stockroom and leave you alone for a morning to browse: running a few

reels, clicking on a few press ads, popping into the changing-room from

time to time to see what it looks like on. Or maybe with an account

person in attendance, topping up your coffee cup with the occasional:

"Oh, my! That might have been made for you, Nigel!"

There's nothing unrespectable about this off-the-peg approach to

creativity; it's just a shame it remains clandestine. Instead of turning

down three made-to-measure campaigns, one by one, over the course of

nine frustrating months, you could, in a single morning, take your

choice of twice as many and still have time for lunch.

Interesting you used the verb "suit". If your brand's well-suited, stay

with the agency. Who cares how they get there as long as they do?

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson, a director

of Guardian Media Group and of WPP. 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 Couch.

Address your problems to him at Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Road, London

W6 7JP. Or e-mail


Become a member of Campaign

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a member

What is Campaign AI?

Our new premium service offering bespoke monitoring reports for your company.

Find out more

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content