Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: My promotion to run the agency's creative department presents me with a dilemma. I've a track record of producing award-winning ads and would like to carry on doing so. Will my staff see this as leading by example or will I piss them off if I'm seen snatching a plum brief?

A: What makes a brief plum? Obvious, easy opportunity, that's what. Creative freedom, big budget, sexy brand, star-struck client. Snatch all those and you'll not only be consigning the rest of your department to the dross but also making it clear that dross is what you think it is.

If you're good enough to be a creative director, you'll take on the dross yourself - and turn it into 24-carat shiny stuff. That really would be leading by example.

Q: Dear Jeremy, I'm the global creative director for a well-known FMCG, renowned for producing award-winning work. The trouble is, my agency wasn't the one behind the creative idea that won all the gongs - we merely adapted it for our market. How can I overcome my feelings of inferiority - which are stifling my ideas - and get back on the horse?

A: See above. I'm not quite sure why you fell off that horse in the first place; but as long as you go on thinking "merely", you'll stay grounded.

One of the most deliciously gratifying things you can do as a creative director is to take on someone else's idea and execute it with such style and elegance that the client insists that the originating agency runs it in their own market. Oh wow.

Q: Does advertising make one fat?

A: The Government seems to think so. To believe that banning the advertising of certain products until after 9pm will reduce the incidence of obesity among the young is deeply touching. On the other hand, of course, the advertising trade is once again caught in a web of its own spinning.

We regularly trumpet advertising's effectiveness; yet when particular sectors are threatened by legislation, suddenly, come to think of it, on second thoughts, it's actually not that effective at all. Advertisers advertise during children's programmes in the belief that children will buy more; if not, their shareholders would be entitled to ask why. So to argue that the absence of such advertising will have no effect on purchasing lacks a certain sturdiness of logic.

Unless, of course, on yet another hand, you believe that, in mature markets, advertising merely influences brand choice while having no effect on overall consumption. This is surprisingly true; so an advertising ban can make it more difficult for the less harmful brands to put their competitive case. In other words, no advertising may make one more fat than advertising did.

I bet you wish you'd never asked this question. And anyway, you probably meant something entirely different. See below.

Q: Dear Jeremy, Every year I find the wind-up to Christmas harder and harder to deal with, and this year the dreary round of parties and luncheons have started earlier than ever. Do you have any advice as to how I can avoid what is increasingly becoming an odious duty rather than a pleasure?

A: This is how advertising can make you fat. And the answer to your problem is also the answer to the obesity problem: learn to say no.

In your case, however, this won't be necessary. No-one of sound mind is going to invite you to anything twice.

The past few years have offered our business little in the way of fun and games. People in marketing and advertising enjoy fun and games. The better they are, the more they enjoy them - and the more they deserve them. Fun and games are not just fringe benefits in the advertising trade: they're as essential as oxygen.

Yet there you are, the ghost at the banquet, standing in the corner, Perrier in hand, unable to disguise your contempt and loathing for these odious duties.

All you need do is let your feelings show. Glance at your watch. Perfect that disapproving expression and glue it firmly to your face. Check your Blackberry. Talk your art director through those third-quarter case sales, region by region.

By this time next year, you will find your social diary wonderfully undemanding.

You should also have made a career change. I think that you would make an excellent actuary.

- "Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone 020 8267 4683

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haynet.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.


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