Opinion: On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: I'm the commercial director at a national newspaper. Its circulation, along with that of most other nationals, is spiralling downwards each month. I tell our advertisers that everything is healthy but is there really a future for a printed daily newspaper in this internet age? And, by extension, is there any future use for me?

A: Here are just a few of the things whose demise has been confidently predicted over the years: paper, marriage, the handheld countersink drill, the office, Brillo pads, motor-cycles, history, internet companies, giraffes and porridge.

The introduction of every new medium has prompted dire prophecies about the prospects for all older media: TV would kill radio, the cinema would kill the theatre, colour would kill black and white, the internet would kill TV. Yet all survive. What endangered species do is adapt. That's why giraffes have long necks.

When newspapers first faced the reality of TV, they chose to ignore it.

No listings; no behind-the-scenes soap stories: if TV was ignored, then perhaps it would go away. Today, popular newspapers are dependent on TV for their popularity. The Cannes festival was started by cinema companies as a defensive measure against television; only cinema commercials were eligible. Today, thanks to television, Cannes rides high.

That's one reason why you should stay cheerful. You've a lot more adapting yet to do but newspapers are not about to die.

The second reason for cheer is that newspaper ownership appeals irresistibly to the vain, the rich and the power-crazed. To become a newspaper proprietor is still the surest ticket to Downing Street, Buckingham Palace, Wimbledon and the House of Lords. Unlike a television channel or a website, a newspaper (it is still widely believed) can make or break governments and political careers. While this remains true, and while there are otherwise perfectly sane businessmen happy to abandon all fiscal prudence in order to control one, both you and your paper are safe from extinction. But don't forget to grow that longer neck.

Q: Dear Jeremy, I'm thinking of wowing a potential client with an amusing and risque stunt in a pitch next week, but I'm terrified that it could backfire horribly. It involves a live cow, a sack of carrots and a snow dome. Should I err on the side of caution, or just go for it?

A: Sounds a bit risky to me. If I were you, I'd compromise and drop the carrots.

As the MD of an agency specialising in the health food sector do you think I should staff up in readiness to handle the COI Communications business that will soon be removed from agencies involved in "junk foods"?

Back in 1969, a date was set for the decimalisation of the UK's currency.

Citizens were nervous at the prospect of their much-loved shillings and half-crowns being snatched away from them, so it was clear that COI would need to appoint an agency to soften them up. And as it happened, J. Walter Thompson (as JWT was then quaintly called) had an in-house shop.

At the inspired suggestion of a member of staff, that shop was converted into the country's first decimalised retail outlet. People exchanged their ten-shilling notes for plastic 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, 1 and 1/2p coins; items in the shop were priced in decimal currency; and no-one found it in the least bit difficult. There was, of course, widespread suspicion that it was all a cunning ruse on the part of management to put up prices surreptitiously.

Senior persons from COI came to inspect the shop in operation. So did the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We were able to tell them that there was likely to be widespread suspicion that it was all a cunning ruse on the part of government to put up prices surreptitiously. An advisory council came to interrogate us. It was composed of people so stratospherically lofty that they seldom carried money. One of them looked over her lorgnettes and asked me what I thought of cartoons.

It was tough luck on the other agencies, really. They never stood a chance.

It's not often you get the opportunity to stage a national launch that's imposed on the entire population by an act of Parliament. We were able to claim 100 per cent success.

I do hope this gives you some ideas.

Q: Dear Jeremy, I've just been informed by our human resources department that my budget for my new company car is significantly down on last year's model. Are they trying to tell me something about the stability of my position in the company?

A: Yup.

- "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.