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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.